Mixed methods were used in this study to explore the official discourse of the significance of IOs in the internationalization process of higher education in Kazakhstan, as well as to examine the reality of IOs' operations at institutional level, in particular, their strategic cooperation with different agencies at various levels to implement Bologna Process principles. Multiple sources, including government policy, institutional strategic documents, interviews and a national survey provided rich data. The questions that guided the collection and analysis of data were:

• What forms of strategic cooperation are considered necessary for effective engagement in achieving Bologna process goals related to internationalization?

• Do International Offices have the capacity to engage effectively in strategic

cooperation for Bologna process goals?

• What do International Office staff perceive as necessary to develop their pro-

fessional capacity to achieve these goals?

Government decrees and action plans issued by the MoES were analyzed, as were reports published by CBPAM, and mission statements and development strategies of 27 out of 57 national/state universities. Our understanding of how national policies are interpreted and implemented at institutional level was deepened through a national survey, a roundtable discussion and interviews, all of which involved directors and staff members of IOs. In this preliminary research, 48 responses were received from the national survey. In-depth interviews were then conducted with three university International Officers and two senior leaders at CBPAM.

This combination of document analysis, survey and interviews at various levels provided material to explore international, national, and intra-institutional strategic cooperation between IOs and other agencies.


This section is organized around the three research questions guiding this inquiry, and focuses on the following topics: (1) forms of strategic cooperation considered necessary for effective engagement in achieving Bologna process goals; (2) perceived IO capacity to engage effectively in strategic cooperation for Bologna Process goals; and (3) perceived IO professional development needs for Bologna Process work.

What Forms of Strategic Cooperation Are Considered Necessary for Effective Engagement in Achieving Bologna Process Goals?

Three dimensions of strategic cooperation required for Kazakhstani university IOs to achieve national and institutional goals for internationalization emerged from data analysis: international; national; and intra-institutional.

5.1.1 International Dimension

One form of strategic cooperation identified was the development of links between universities internationally (partnerships, strategic relationships, international cooperation, and joint projects). Combined, these forms of international linkage between institutions were identified in the questionnaire as areas of success for 19 of 41 International Officers asked to “describe a specific example of one activity that has been successful in your university”. Given this perceived success, it seems fair to assume they are considered key forms of engagement necessary for achieving national and institutional Bologna Process internationalization goals.

5.1.2 National Dimension

National level strategic cooperation also emerged as important in the study, particularly with the MoES. Results from the survey of 48 university International Officers indicates that such support is unevenly perceived across Kazakhstan. International Officers were asked, “To what extent do you think the Ministry of Education and Science in Kazakhstan supports internationalization in your institution?” (Fig. 1).

While 79 % (37 of 47) respondents reported MoES support either “to some extent” or “very much,” interestingly, 21 % (10 of the 47), reported “not at all” or “very little.”

A key aspect of internationalization in HEIs in Kazakhstan relates to engagement with the CBPAM.[1] One of the interviewees formulates what seems to be a broader sentiment among the sample, namely that national policy for the Bologna Process is a very centralized strategy:

The policy for Bologna is very centralized. The national Bologna Centre dictates our policy, and the universities only act as implementers. Universities do not act as policy makers. They don't produce their own strategy of the Bologna Process. Someone dictates to you, [and] you just do what they want you to do. And you need to send these reports back

Fig. 1 Q3. To what extent do you think the Ministry of Education and Science in Kazakhstan supports internationalization in your institution?

to them. Every three months, the Bologna Centre sends these questions to every university and you have to fill in these numbers.

The work of the CBPAM appears, therefore, to be very clearly delineated for International Officers, suggesting more compliance than creativity or collaboration. This theme is elaborated by another International Officer as a division of labour between the IO and the Bologna Office (in those situations where institutions have both offices) on the main area of their work, student mobility: “Academic mobility is the work of the Bologna Office. They do the paperwork. The International Office is responsible for establishing partnerships. The Bologna Office works out the details.”

This International Officer describes a situation in which Bologna Office staff within universities work directly with individual university administrative departments, such as Human Resources and Finance. In this context, not only is the IO bypassed by the Bologna Office, but the IO does not interact much with administrative departments: “The IO does not interact frequently with administrative departments, but the BP Office does.” Understanding relations between IOs and Bologna Offices in universities that have both seems to be important to understanding internationalization of higher education in Kazakhstan.

5.1.3 Intra-institutional Dimension

Within institutions, there appears to be strong strategic cooperation between International Officers and senior leadership. The key indicator of this strength is that International Officers report participation in the development of internationalization strategy with senior leadership. As one International Officer described in an interview, “The IO makes its part of the whole strategy of the university and other departments do the same”.

As the figure below shows, 90 % of respondents reported they “strongly agree” or “agree” that their IOs are able to influence strategic decision-making for

Fig. 2 Q13. The International Office is able to influence strategic decision-making regarding internationalization in our university

Fig. 3 Q14 The senior leaders of our university are supportive of the activities of the International Office

internationalization in the university (Fig. 2). This important strategic cooperation between International Officers and their senior leadership suggests a strong organizational foundation to build the capacity and role of IOs in further implementation of institutional and national goals for internationalization. It should be noted that we did not ask whether they believed they should have such a role, which limits any interpretation of whether an increased role in strategic planning is desired.

Similarly, when asked whether they feel senior leaders of their universities were supportive of the activities in their IOs, 94 % of respondents stated they agreed they were supported, while only 6 % disagreed (Fig. 3).

These results raise a further set of questions to be explored in the next round of inquiry: (1) What type of influence do International Officers seek to have with senior leaders in strategic decision-making processes? (2) What would facilitate that influence? (3) What forms of senior leadership support are currently being experienced by International Officers? (4) Which forms of senior leadership support would be most helpful for International Officers?

Another area of intra-institutional strength in developing strategic cooperation reported by respondents relates to the importance of all stakeholders understanding institutional strategy (Hayward et al. 2003). When asked whether they agreed that the strategic goals of internationalization were understood by all university administrative staff, 13 % (6 of 47 respondents) stated they “strongly agree,” 70 % (33 respondents) said “agree,” 15 % (7 respondents) stated “disagree,” and 2 % (1 respondent) said “strongly disagree.”

  • [1] The interviewees often referred to CBPAM as “the national Bologna Centre” or “the Bologna Centre”
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