The University of Wisconsin signed a deal Thursday solidifying a partnership with a university currently under construction in Kazakhstan.
The agreement means UW is in a trial period of sorts with the New University of Astana, located in Kazakhstan’s capital city. The Kazakh government is setting up the new university and asked UW and around 30 other schools to help.
Cynthia Williams, director of international relations for the division of international studies, said the government reached out to other universities because it wants to establish a high quality, English-language institution.
Harvard University, Duke University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and University College London are also partners.
Uli Schamiloglu, UW central Asian studies professor and chair of the Central Asian Studies program, said the signing of the deal signifies the process is in the feasibility stage, meaning UW gives the other school an opinion or model and they decide if those options will work for them.
One such model is UW’s College of Letters and Sciences, which Schamiloglu said is a possible proposal because of its success in integrating non-Letters and Science majors into humanities and social science courses.
Upon termination of the feasibility stage in May, UW and the New University of Astana will sign a contract in the fall for what Schamiloglu called “a strategic partnership.”
This phase of the partnership means UW will treat the humanities and social sciences like branches of itself.
“They want the universities to guarantee quality, to hire faculty and staff that would be the equivalent of the quality as their home campuses, appoint administrators and explore the possibility of dual or joint degrees,” he said.
Schamiloglu said including the humanities and social sciences in the partnership happened through a chance conversation.
A representative from Kazakhstan toured potential partner schools in the fall and traveled to Madison Nov. 4 when President Barack Obama gave a speech at Wright Middle School.
Schamiloglu said extra security measures and delays for Obama’s visit severely set back the representative’s schedule.
“So I took him out to dinner and as we were talking he explained to me the proposed structure of the new university,” he said.
Schamiloglu said he informed the representative that UW is the only school in the United States teaching the Kazakh language and one of the only universities with courses involving Kazakh history.
While the benefits for the New University of Astana are clear, the benefits for UW will develop as the school does.
Schamiloglu said he thinks professors finishing Ph.D.s at UW looking to visit another university or to take a sabbatical would find the New University of Astana a reasonable option.