Rector of Al Farabi Kazakh National University, Mr Galimkair Mutanov conversed with the Editor-In-Chief of Diplomacy Today Mr Akhlaq Usmani where he spoke on mutual concerns and cooperation in the education sector between the two countries.
Q. How do you see that al-Farabi University as the best destination for Indian students?
First of all, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to the show and for your questions. I would say that al-Farabi Kazakh National University is not only one of the well-known universities of the post-Soviet Union, but the one among the leading universities of the world. It can be demonstrated by the University positions in the world universities rankings. According to the QS World University Rankings 2019, KazNU was positioned on the 207th place being the first among Kazakhstan and the 2nd after Lomonosov Moscow State University among the Post Soviet Region. In other rankings, it was ranked 173rd among the environmentally sustainable Universities (UI Greenmetrics), and 137th among the technologically advanced universities.
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And now we are observing a growing interest of foreign citizens in studying at KazNU. This is due to the recognition of our university as a leading university. Recently, lots of students from India, Pakistan, as well as from the USA, Arab countries, Korea and China have been enrolled. The reason for this is, firstly, the top position in the world rankings, and secondly, high quality of education. And it is very advantageous from the regional location – as it is in the heart of Eurasia it is a good opportunity to learn many languages including Kazakh, Russian and study different cultures of multinational Kazakhstan and its neighbouring countries. Along with offering good knowledge, I would like to outline that KazNU does its best to help students become citizens of the world in the future.
Q. What is the kind of personality was al-Farabi and how do you get the University compatible of his personality?
Al-Farabi is a world-famous personality. At that time, thanks to his scientific works and achievements, he was titled as the Second Teacher of the world after Aristotle. His scientific legacy is huge. During the Inquisition taking place in Europe, he continued the teachings of Aristotle at the world level, returned science to Europe and connected East and West. He continued and developed scientific areas led by Plato, Aristotle, and their ideas of the perfect society, paying special attention to the humanistic approach to the development of world civilization. His work “Al- Madina, al-Fadila” is about citizens of virtues city. It is very important and essential for the modern world to find answers to the questions on how we can develop this perfect society, an ideal society to values, how to be kind and responsive in this society, how the society itself will be preserved and developed in the future. What are the characteristics of virtue society, its leader and citizens and the ultimate purpose of mankind? In general, the main purpose and well-being of mankind by al-Farabi lies on their happiness. Therefore, al-Farabi’s legacy is very important. We are doing a great job in this direction and, as you said, we have launched the House of al-Farabi in India, in another large developing country. Firstly, we believe it brings the two countries together, and secondly, I think it will help to develop the idea of virtue society, creating good opportunities for peace and sustainable development in the world. As you know, KazNU is the United Nations Academic Impact Global Hub on Sustainability. One of the core missions of the UNAI sustainable development is ensuring peace in the world, the promotion of human relations to a good level. That is why the idea of al-Farabi is very important at this time. As for al-Farabi himself, as you said, the world recognizes him, all of them be it Persian, Arab or other countries they think al-Farabi was their prominent figure. He was indeed a personality of the entire humanity. Why we pay special attention to this, it is because we are National University bearing the name of great philosopher Al-Farabi, and we came from the al-Farabi’s motherland. Regarding the historical facts and studies, in his own writings and from his students’ works, it was proved that the native land of al Farabi was in the South of Kazakhstan in the city of Farab, the city of civilization at that time, which is now Otrar. With the aim of studying in Arab countries, he came to Bukhara, Samarkand, Baghdad, and Damascus and gained good knowledge, became a prominent scientist and wrote his valuable works there. That is why al-Farabi is important to all of us. We have launched more than 10 Al Farabi Centers in the universities of different countries to promote al-Farabi’s teachings, heritage and ideas on maintaining human dignity and bring them to the public. We believe that the Centers including the one in India will bring together our two countries, enhance humanitarian relations and will contribute to the sustainable development of the world.
Q. There has been a great contribution of the youth and the visionary leaders of Kazakhstan in Nation-building? What is al-Farabi University’s contribution in this regard?
As you may know, in Soviet times science and education developed very well, recognized at the world level and qualified equal to the United States. I believe that now, being the part of that post-Soviet Union, our country has retained a good education and science. On the basis of that science and education, we are now mastering new technologies. Our country is rich in mineral resources, but it cannot serve as a basis for sustainable development. Therefore, in our country, more attention is paid to knowledge and science. The role of universities is increasing. As for our University, al-Farabi Kazakh National University is the centre for not only education and science but for new technologies as well. For instance, two years ago, the University nanosatellite al-Farabi 1 was launched from the Indian Sriharikota. This year we have launched al-Farabi 2 nanosatellite with the support of Elon Musk in the USA. This is also a great indicator in science. In addition, I would like to note that there are good indicators for nanomaterials, biotechnology and new materials. Now we are mostly focusing on IT, which is indeed important. I would like to share that in the near future at the university there will be installed a supercomputer, which is included in the TOP 500, and as a result of our efforts, I believe that the University will become one of the leading universities in the world. Yesterday we visited the National Cyber Security Coordinator in the National Security Council and we agreed to train specialists to work on cybersecurity and agreed to develop technologies in the field. I confess that the role of universities is not just to train a specialist, but also to create a centre for innovative technology development. Yesterday, we discussed this question with Delhi University as well.
Q. What do you think are the principles and the working that giving you this high ranking among the world’s top universities?
This is a very good question. Recently, according to the QS rating, our university has shown good dynamics and moved to 400 positions. No university in the world has shown such dynamics, so our university is called a phenomenon. First of all, we have changed the management system and infrastructure. Introduced a result-oriented management system. Each faculty and department jointly carry out their work in compliance with the development strategy of the University. This is the outcome of our staff loyalty, result-oriented management system and availability of the infrastructure advanced on the base of public-private partnerships. Over the last five years, the University facilities have been enhanced by 50%. I would like to note that KazNU credited for recognition as one of the leading universities of the post-Soviet region which has been successfully developing science and technologies in cooperation with world universities.
Q. Does your university have collaboration with different universities including India and sub institutes?
India is a very important country for us in a strategic direction. Because India is now developing very well, especially in terms of technology. Therefore we express great interest and willingness to set up good relations with Indian universities. Yesterday, we discussed the potential areas of our cooperation with the University of Delhi, in particular, collaboration in the field of IT and Humanities. Our university has cooperation with Jawaharlal Nehru and other universities, intentions to cooperate with Manipal University and so on. During recent years, a growing interest among Kazakhstan youth in India has been observed. Our University is the first university in Central Asia training specialists in Hindi. The University offers courses not just in Hindi but provides good knowledge on the Indian economy, its role in the region and the globe. We train good specialists Indologists. I think this is a good step towards bringing the two countries closer together. The University launched Mahatma Gandhi Center at the University on the occasion of his anniversary last year. We are very proud to have such a Center and it facilitates research and cultural relations between the two countries. As I have mentioned earlier we are interested in Indian civilization, and culture, especially in Yoga. Thus the KazNU opened a yoga Center at the University. All these endeavours are targeted to enhance collaboration with India. Kazakhstan Embassy headed by Bulat Sarsenbayev has been also making every effort to ensure dynamic partnership relations between two countries. We have great opportunities to work together.
Q. Language could come up as a constraint for connecting with the world, what is the University’s regard in President’s Tokayev’s tri-lingual policy?
A very important question for us. When it comes to communication the language is true can be a barrier. After the independence of Kazakhstan learning English became one of the important issues. As you know, our country is developing trilingualism but our University began its trilingualism policy more than 10 years ago. Now up to 60-70% of our training programs are in English. Before that, Kazakh and Russian languages prevailed. For example, I finished school in Kazakh, after that 14 years of graduate and post-graduate studies gained in Russian in Moscow. But today the situation has changed and young people have more opportunity to go abroad and study there at the top universities than we had. Every year the number of training programs in English is increasing and the number of students and population who speak English is going up. I think the more it moves, the more the language barrier will disappear. If learning English along with Hindi and Urdu was developed very well in India it is getting the same in Kazakhstan with English in line with Kazakh and Russian languages.
Q. What has been the university’s contribution to the competitiveness with the World University?
Ensuring competitiveness and becoming a well-developed nation is the priority issue in every country over the world. It is possible by introducing innovative technologies based on knowledge and science. Hence, the role of the university is essential. The university should be a driver of the new knowledge-based economy. Our mission is also to become that very driver of the knowledge-based economy. This is what we were doing and what we are working on now. All the previously mentioned University activities are focused on that.
Q. Your message to Indian students
Our people are very fond of India. We grew up watching Indian movies from young ages. Good attitude of the people of my generation towards Indian people, a culture based on those movies, watching Raj Kapoor and others. In general, we know India as a country with a great history and rich culture. After our independence, we would like Indian youth to learn more about our country too. If we get insights into our history we can find common history, common culture, and probably a common future. Thanks to the rapprochement of young people, we will be able to bring together the two countries to create a common educational scientific space. It is with great pleasure to invite Indian youth to Kazakhstan. I have every confidence that in the context of the market economy for Indian students visiting Kazakhstan for learning languages and cultures, studying at universities would be more feasible and will contribute to the economic development of the two countries.
Akhlaq A. Usmani is an eminent international journalist and an expert on Islamic matters Click here to follow on Twitter