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N. Pak1, S. Agbo2

1Kazakh-British Technical University (KAZAKHSTAN)
2Lakehead University (CANADA)
In order to be integrated into the global educational community, Kazakhstan has been restructuring its system of higher education for the last two decades. Recently, several government policy initiatives that require universities in Kazakhstan to establish high standards and quality educational services have been put in place. Among the initiatives is the great importance accorded English language, making it the language of instruction in postgraduate programs in the universities and moving it to becoming one of the three basic languages functioning in the country. This paper discusses the implications of the English language policy in higher education in Kazakhstan and examines the challenges posed by the policy on faculty, students, and administrators. As a condition for graduation, PhD students, for example, have to publish a stated number of articles in English language impact factor journals. Continuous employment of university faculty depends on English proficiency and publications in the English language. Similarly, administrators are being required to place their universities on the world map by raising institutional standards to the levels in accordance with international accreditation and ranking organizations. Current government policy also calls for trilingual competence of the population, implying that the country is striving towards a policy that posits English as a core language along with the Kazakh and Russian languages. The trilingual competence policy is a move from the previously bilingual status where the Kazakh and Russian languages were equally recognized as official languages. To carry out some of these initiatives, provisions have been made for higher educational institutions to invite foreign professors and specialists, create dual diploma programs, apply for different types of accreditation, and participate in world academic rankings. But is there a chance that the English language policy initiative can make higher education competitive? This paper looks closely at the future of Kazakhstani universities and concludes that in order to become competitive globally, universities need to rethink their role in the contemporary global context by developing new attitudes, new organizational structures and improved practices to match the pace of knowledge increase and exponential growth of information in recent years.

If the English language policy is to sustain its momentum and advance productively in coming years, at least it should meet four conditions:
1) certain constraints or contradictions internal to the implementation of the policy will have to be resolved;
2) universities need to employ appropriate change strategies by providing a framework for the transition from the Russian and Kazakh languages policy to the English as the language of instruction policy;
3) universities are confronted with the task of developing new attitudes, new organizational structures, resources and improved quality assurance to match the pace of international standards;
4) universities and their administrators need to find the key symbolic and structural characteristics on which to build core competencies for global competitiveness.