DOI: 10.1002/berj.3949 ISSN: 0141-1926

A geopolitics of knowledge analysis of higher education internationalisation in Kazakhstan

Munyaradzi Hwami
  • Education


This critical interpretive paper deploys Walter Mignolo's geopolitics of knowledge concept to examine higher education internationalisation in Kazakhstan. Amidst growing concerns about economic and environmental sustainability, elitism and cognitive justice, among other critical issues, internationalisation remains a vital government policy. By tracing Kazakhstan's development since independence from the Soviet Union and focusing on key higher education development policy frameworks, the paper argues and illustrates that: (1) the internationalisation of higher education in Kazakhstan promotes a specific representation of the world that is considered universal and modern; (2) the internationalisation of higher education in Kazakhstan illustrates the existing hierarchical global higher education system that is dominated by the West as centres of knowledge and learning while allocating other countries peripheral roles; and (3) the geopolitics of knowledge concept enables the reading of higher education internationalisation beyond what is knowledge to who, why and where knowledge is produced. The data for this paper came from a qualitative study that involved 15 semi‐structured interviews with graduates who studied abroad at Western universities through the government‐sponsored Bolashak Scholarship. Three focus group sessions with 21 graduate students at Nazarbayev University complemented the interviews. The qualitative data suggest that Mignolo's geopolitics of knowledge offers a close‐to‐perfect description of the internationalisation of higher education in Kazakhstan. The conclusion drawn from this post‐Soviet study is the universalisation of Western knowledge as nations utilise it for meaningful development, despite decolonial and cognitive justice concerns.

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