The Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education is responsible for the higher education system and its restructuring. During the transition period, higher education was hindered by a shortage of laboratories, libraries, computers, data banks, and publishing facilities to disseminate research findings; however, progress can also be seen. There are 62 higher education institutions, including 2 academies (in Uzbekistan, as it was in the Soviet system, the word academia means the top-level research and educational institutions), 16 universities (universitet), and 44 institutes (institut). In 1999 to 2000 the system provided education to about 166,000 students.
The Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences is the leading institution in all types of research. Only top graduate studies can be conducted within the Academy. Universities and institutes are both research and educational institutions. Universities are educational institutions responsible for the preparation of skilled professors and teachers, as well as academic staff and researchers in a variety of disciplines. Institutes are responsible for the preparation of various specialists.
Institutions of higher education belong to different Ministries:
- The Ministry of Higher Education administers 32 universities and institutes to offer students a variety of programs including economics, engineering, finance, languages, oriental studies, architecture, chemistry, and technology.
- The Ministry of Public Education administers six institutes for the training of teachers in elementary, secondary, and higher education.
- The Ministry of Health administers seven institutes for medical and pharmaceutical training.
- The Ministry of Agriculture administers four institutes for training students in agriculture, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, and economics.
- The Ministry of Justice administers one law institute in Tashkent.
- The Ministry of Culture administers three institutes for the study of art, music, theater, and cinema of which all are in Tashkent.
- In Samarkand, Uzbekbirlashov, the cooperative company administers the Cooperative institute.
Finally, there is the Uzbek State Institute for Physical Training, the Tashkent Institute of Railway Engineers, the Institute for Civil Aviation, and the University of World Economics and Diplomacy. The latter comes under the auspices of the President and prepares students majoring in journalism, world diplomacy, and economics.
The number of majors offered in higher education in Uzbekistan is over 270, and the number of specialties is over 600. The Soviet-style higher education system differed greatly from the western model. A five-year education was equal to the Master's degree level in the West, for example. Today this causes confusion in recalculating the degrees. Educational authorities therefore decided to adopt the western system and reduce higher education programs to four years. According to some sources, the transition from five-years of higher education to the international system with Bachelor's (four years) and Master's degrees (two years) has been completed. However, according to American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Study (ACCELS) administering the American Educational Advising Center (EAC) in Tashkent, only some of the accredited higher education institutions have changed. One example is the University of World Economics and Diplomacy that offers Bachelor's degrees after four years of study and Master's degrees after two additional years of study. Medical institutes have five to six year programs depending on specialty.
In Uzbekistan, all universities and institutes are public. Private institutions of higher education are not yet available. To be admitted to university-level studies, an individual must complete any form of secondary school and have either a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education or a Diploma equal to this certificate. Because higher education in the Soviet system was free and the government provided assistance in the form of stipends, the demand for the university seats was always very high. Thousands of people competed for the limited slots (sometimes over 10 candidates per slot). This system allowed universities and institutes to select the best individuals by giving entrance exams, but caused millions to be deprived of the opportunity for higher education. Additionally, admission occurred only once a year for the same program. Unfortunately, results of these examinations and selections were too often influenced by high-ranking officials and senior leaders trying to help their youngsters. This was the area where nepotism, clannishness, and even corruption were normal. This caused even the most talented and gifted school graduates to be rejected.
Since 1993, entrance exams have been changed to tests. All entrance tests take place simultaneously on 1 August throughout the republic. Admission to higher educational institutions is based primarily on merit. However, in some institutions, authorities require an interview to determine the student's aptitude and motivation in a given field. Universities and institutes also require a basic medical check to ensure that students are free from all types of infections and fit to pursue their studies.
Traditionally, universities and institutes were divided into fakultets. Facultets are like schools (of business or of education, for example) in American universities. They are structural units reflecting major fields of specialization. Fakultet is further divided into specific kafedras or chairs (departments) dedicated to narrower specialties. As an example, it may be the German language kafedra (chair) and French language kafedra (chair) within the fakultet of Foreign languages. The latter may belong to the Pedagogical Institute that also has a facultet of physics and math (educating teachers of physics and math), a facultet of geography (educating teachers of geography), and a fakultet of biology (educating teachers of biology). Each institution of higher education is headed by a rector with the fakultets led by deans and the kafedras (chairs) led by chair chiefs.
In addition to normally enrolled students, universities and institutes often accept some candidates with marginal scores compared to the already enrolled students that can replace poor performing students or possible dropouts. Teaching styles and techniques at the higher education level differ greatly from, for example, a pure lecture style to absolute improvisation. Using technology, such as TVs and VCRs, is possible (if the equipment is available), but computers and LCD projectors are quite rare because of the high cost, inferior maintenance structure, and high probability of theft. In the Soviet system, studying in the institutions of higher education was free of charge, and moreover, the government paid students some stipends. These stipends covered at least some of life's expenses because students did not have any time for work. Many students had to have their parents' support or work at night to sustain them.
Since 1995, due to the processes of democratization, many institutions introduced admission on a contractual basis with tuition charges paid by the student. In the 1999 to 2000 academic year 25 higher education institutions admitted 2012 students to the undergraduate courses and 830 of them (41.3 percent) were on the contract basis. In general, out of 39,500 students studying for their bachelor degree, 17,600 (44.6 percent) have been admitted on the contract basis. Further commercialization of the educational system will make this situation normal.
Classes generally last five to six hours a day every day of the week. Students often study on Saturdays and usually have 30 to 36 hours of studying a week. Semester courses have an exam at the end of semester. If courses last for more than a semester, then there is zachet (test with no grade that is pass or fail) at the end of the first semester and an exam at the end of the course. Semester requirements allow no more than five examinations (two exams plus three zachets or three exams plus two zachets) to be taken. During the last two to three years of education, students also have some writing examinations in the form of a "diploma paper" that shows the student's ability to conduct research. Students also take one or two State Exams that cover all the specialty material studied. Generally, the State Examination Commission includes the industry representatives or science authorities from other universities. Successful graduates get a Diploma of a Specialist that is accepted at all jobs.
With the decline of the Soviet system and lack of financial support, professional education and training for specialists has also declined. What was previously called kursy povysheniya kvalifikatsii (qualification raising courses) seldom occurs. Conferences and symposia for teachers and other professionals to exchange experiences are often canceled. Professional journals and magazines are no longer available, and foreign editions are often too costly. Some industries and commercial entities that have their own centers can afford retraining and targeted training. Otherwise, teachers and many other specialists are left on their own in their quest for perfection.
In 1998, almost 300 educational and research institutions employed over 25,000 scientists and researchers. Most talented graduates from the university or institute enter aspirantura (postgraduate training—first level). After three years of study, two to three exams, and the writing and Defending of a dissertation, a Kandidat Nauk degree (Candidate of Sciences, which is equivalent to a Ph.D.) is conferred by the Cabinet of Ministers. Kandidat Nauk (unlike the Ph.D. in the United States) is not a terminal degree. The highest scientific level is the Doktor Nauk (Doctor of Sciences) degree, which is approximately equal to the postdoctoral level in the United States. Because this degree is highly honored and influential, the government places significant requirements on those pursuing it. To apply for this degree and/or to enter doktorantura, an individual must:
- become a distinguished researcher in their chosen field
- provide a very broad generalization for the field of study,
- patent and implement a very important (revolutionary) invention
- discover or establish a new field of research or new science.
To obtain this degree, the scholar must also have many years of experience and publications in major scientific journals. Such a scholar either enters a doktorantura (no exams, only a competitive dissertation proposal and the highest credentials), or writes the dissertation during his or her free time. There are no formal classes or exams because the student is practically the first "specialist" in a particular field. The dissertation (two times longer than the Ph.D. dissertation) is formally and publicly defended in the presence of the scientific council with 10 to 20 specialists of the Doctor of Sciences level. So after two to three years of doktorantura, if the dissertation is accepted and successfully defended, the scholar earns the Doctor of Sciences degree conferred by the Cabinet of Ministers (not by University authorities as it is traditionally done in the West). His or her contribution opens new areas of research for future Ph.D. candidates, and the scholar becomes a scientific mentor in their research or establishes a school. Government requirements, defending procedure, and conferring authority are what differentiates the Doctor of Sciences degree from Western postdoctoral studies. This former Soviet system-based degree, which is required to get a full professorship, is available in Uzbekistan (as well as in many other European and Asian countries, including Denmark, Latvia, and so on).
All top administrators and rectors of universities and colleges, deans of schools, and heads of departments have a Doctor of Sciences degree. Finally, in order to become a full member of the Academy of Science, this degree is a must. In very rare cases when the quality of research and dissertation is exceptionally high, a Doctor of Sciences degree may be awarded right after the Kandidat Nauk dissertation. From 1994 to 1998 the number of Doktor Nauk (Doctors of Sciences) in Uzbekistan grew by 8 percent and has reached 2.5 thousand, while the number of Kandidat Nauk (Candidates of Sciences) grew by 9 percent and reached 155,000.
In order to be admitted to the university, foreign students should hold a Complete Secondary Education Certificate (or its equivalent) and fulfill certain entry requirements. Applicants must contact the proper embassy to obtain information on visa regulations and educational requirements. Since the languages of instruction in the educational institutions of Uzbekistan are Uzbek and Russian, most institutions offer Uzbek and Russian courses for foreign students. Uzbekistan, as is the case with many other developing countries, builds its international future through educating new generations abroad. In addition to over 700 students and young professionals studying abroad thanks to the sponsorship of the Umid Foundation, the Ustoz foundation was established to ensure the re-training of teachers on leading pedagogical technologies and innovations both in Uzbekistan and abroad. American specialists and organizations also help to identify talented and gifted students for study in the United States.
Most schools have their own libraries. The majority of school libraries have only 70-75 percent of required materials. As a result, pupils have inadequate access to information. Some of the higher institution libraries, such as the Samarkand State University library that contains over three million volumes (including 10,000 unique medieval manuscripts,) are big. Others are small and contain a few hundred books. Libraries also offer a number of current magazines and periodicals. In addition to the school libraries, regions, towns, and cities have their own public libraries. Libraries traditionally play a significant role in education and the daily life of the citizens.
New electronic libraries are being introduced with the help of the international community. For example, LIBANTA (LIBrary ANtverpen TAshkent) was built as an international project with Belgium at the Tashkent Electrotechnical Institute of Communication. It includes a graduate center equipped with lecture halls, computer classes with Internet access, and a scientific-technical library with automation data. It also offers students video-cassettes and CD-ROMs.
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