The UNESCO Regional Leadership Forum for Quality Higher Education on the Internationalization of Policies and Practices in Asia-Pacific took place in Almaty on 22-24 May 2019. UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office and the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education co-organized the forum, with financial support from the Republic of Korea.
The forum brought together delegates from ministries of education and university leaders from Central Asia responsible for international cooperation. Leading experts from Europe (Czech Republic, Lithuania and the United Kingdom) and the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, and Thailand) participated.
The Forum deepened participants' understanding of frameworks and practices of the internationalization of higher education, including the Lisbon Convention in Europe, the Tokyo Convention in Asia-Pacific and the forthcoming Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications. It discussed issues related to international student mobility, recognition of qualifications, innovation and indicators of internationalization in higher education, etc.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan presented their systems and institutional experience and practices in the internationalization of higher education. For example, Kazakhstan's State Program of Education Development aims to increase the overall percentage of foreign students in the country. Currently, about 14,000 foreign students, including from Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and India, study in Kazakhstan. In Kyrgyzstan, the number of international students and foreign university branches are growing. Its universities are getting international accreditation by quality assurance agencies from neighboring countries like Kazakhstan, which are part of The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education. Tajikistan has a successful partnership on joint study programs with other countries, including Belarus, although there are issues with a visa attainment for outbound students. Uzbekistan changed the recognition of qualifications and diplomas, obtained from universities that were in top 1000 list in World University Rankings by Quacquarelli Symond (QS), Times Higher Education and ShanghaiRanking Consultancy.
During the forum, participants visited the Al Farabi Kazakh National University, which is the largest higher education institution in Kazakhstan and has the highest number of international students. The campus-tour explored student services and facilities of the university. Keremet, all in one student services center, has been introduced to adapt to the needs of learners and to attract more students from other countries.
To date, the internationalization of higher education has focused primarily on the international mobility of students. However, a majority of students in higher education may not have opportunities or financial means to go abroad for short- or long-term study. Therefore, in order for a larger proportion of local students to benefit from the internationalization without necessarily going abroad, the internationalization of programmes and the curriculum at home is also critical for a holistic and inclusive approach for all learners.
As a result, the forum promoted a regional network of key stakeholders for continuous collaboration on internationalization in Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. It identified priority areas and action steps towards the internationalization of higher education at regional, system and institutional levels. The action steps identified the following issues: outlining existing resources for internationalization, identifying international and national funding opportunities, strengthening research cooperation, etc.