Tuesday, 4 June 2002

Concerned about KIMEP

Dear KIMEP community, This is to express my serious concerns about the future of KIMEP and comment on some issues mentioned in the article.

"It is the responsibility of the students of the Republic of Kazakhstan to question their instructors, professors and administrations. It is their duty, the duty of their parents and of the citizens of their nation to demand that education in this Republic is honest. Without such an outcry, and without the moral indignation to demand rights and respect, both inside and outside the classroom to ensure honesty in education, no government or administrator will care." Richard Faillace, Ph.D., "Freedom of Education in Kazakhstan", KIMEP Times, #5 (38), February 2002


CONCERNED ABOUT KIMEP

Dear KIMEP community, This is to express my serious concerns about the future of KIMEP and comment on some issues mentioned in the article.

Firstly please be noted that all below-mentioned statements are based on my own observations, some documents and interviews with some people most of whom wished to stay anonymous. For the reasons of protecting my sources and myself, I cannot disclose and refer to any specific names.

Let's start with "nationally recognized" statement from the article. I should remind you that we were promised twice by the administration that KIMEP would get accredited by the Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan. Once it was supposed to happen in November 2001, but later it was explained that there are some problems with the ministry. We were told again that accreditation would be complete by April 2002. However, as you see we are not still accredited even by the Ministry of Education not to mention any other foreign accreditation agencies. The explanation that we have a different language of instruction and documentation is not a very sound reason for this delay since Suleyman Demirel University, another similar western-style institution in Almaty, was accredited long time ago by local government bodies.

Next comes Dr. Bang, USA scholar (?!) and the president of KIMEP. To be frank, I would have called him a smart businessman rather than a scholar interested in KIMEP's development as a non-profit educational institution. There is an evident conflict of interests about his presence at KIMEP. He has great business interests in Kazakhstan. He has wide network of warehouses across the country and he owns real estate properties such as many villas in Almaty countryside mostly rented to foreign ambassadors.

USKO, his private company in Kazakhstan, has already entered diversified local markets varying from construction to telecommunications. Though KIMEP is still a state-owned institution, which requires administration to organize open bids for any significant acquisition, I could not see any other supplier except USKO supplying all new furniture and equipment, doing most of the repair works. According to some undergraduate students who have done a research project about construction industry in Almaty, USKO offers one of the highest prices for its products and services. So I'm really doubtful that KIMEP organizes open bids and USKO is doing all these works at fair market prices. The cost of new canteen is estimated to be more than $400,000 which is really a waste of money while we do not have enough appropriate reading materials and qualified staff and faculty. In Dr. Bang's perspective, investing in books and teachers may not be a very wise investment decision since he cannot expect any financial return later. According to KIMEP's balance sheet as of December 31, 2000, "Property, plant and equipment, net" is valued at less than $700,000 which is a really funny figure for all KIMEP's premises including nice centrally-located buildings, huge land, dormitory, etc. Only new canteen makes up more than half of all these real estate properties!

According to Dr. Bang's Entrusted Management Contract concluded with Kazakhstan government, he has to make certain amount of investments each year to fulfill his obligations as the president of school. All his investments mentioned above would be considered as part of his price offer to buy out KIMEP next year in August when it will be offered for privatization. So with all his investments up to this moment, which come back to his pocket through USKO maybe even in a greater amount, would probably be just enough to acquire all KIMEP's property next year at a very cheap cost for him. So his strategic goal looks like as to become owner of KIMEP's real estate property. Otherwise he would consider bringing teachers and buying books instead of illegally distributing them and charging money for copies (?!). We cannot think of any accreditation if KIMEP continues breaching copyright laws. Teachers and books are direct costs relevant to KIMEP's core business that is to provide high quality education, and these costs should be given a priority instead of wasting money on nice toilets and canteens. It's funny that the Department of Business Administration, the core department at KIMEP, has only one professor with a western Ph.D. It's really funny to see "Masters teaching Masters"! Next issue in the article is about donor organizations and universities KIMEP claims to have cooperation with. I have not seen any significant cooperation except with all those listed universities except with the Korean Women's university. All other relations just seem to be spontaneous but not intended strategic network building, e.g., Dr. Leibert has brought James Karlin from North Dakota university and called this as "cooperation". Maastricht School of Management (MSM) was here because of TACIS, European Community sponsored project, and all other relations don't seem to be the first intended step of KIMEP's administration.

Story with donors is also misleading information. TACIS has finished its project after investing in KIMEP more than 10 million euros in almost 10 years, and I don't think they will stay here any longer. Dr. Eric Cornwell, who once used to be a dean here, hinted during conference devoted to accreditation issues held in Bishkek last fall that KIMEP would never get accreditation in Europe unless Dr. Bang leaves KIMEP. My impression is that European Union is not willing to invest any money in a place which is not transparent and where conflicts of interests exist. I remember how Dr. Ottavio Angotti left KIMEP. Dr. Angotti, our loveliest dean and guru of accounting who was provided and paid by USAID, faced significant difficulties in implementing his ideas and encountered strong resistance from administration. We still remember him saying "...don't believe them..." pointing out Mr. Rahman's side. After this conflict, USAID withdrew Dr. Bojan Popovic, another professor provided by them. I am really suspicious about USAID's support to KIMEP nowadays. So due to the lack of transparency and mismanagement at KIMEP, we have lost most of our sponsors and donor organizations. This is quite normal matter of facts because anyone would be reluctant to invest in such a stinking place. I think I should also mention the case of Dr. El Namaki, our previous dean who suddenly left KIMEP after being only several months here. Dr. El Namaki, a scholar and consultant to many international organizations, a board member of several foreign well-respected accreditation agencies, founder and reformist of many business schools around the world including MSM and many other programs, honored us by his acceptance to manage KIMEP's academic programs. However, he was surely disappointed by what he found here. He also faced strong resistance from Mr. Rahman, Vice-President and key person of Dr. Bang at KIMEP, Ph.D. physicist or whatever he claims to be, and all other management people who are probably seriously concerned about keeping their jobs. Dr. El Namaki, a person with a vision and great experience in strategic management, offered administration to restructure KIMEP. Dr. Bang accused him of being undemocratic, but I have personally witnessed his open-door policy. He created taskforce teams consisting of faculty members to research current situation of academic programs and to assist him formulate improvement strategies. Of course, Dr. El Namaki was right by expressing his unwillingness to work with physicists! Dr. Bang naturally preferred Mr. Rahman instead of Dr. El Namaki who might have threatened his business interests in KIMEP. Dr. El Namaki had a vision about KIMEP and proposed many ways to make KIMEP truly leading institution in Central Asia. Under his management, KIMEP would receive foreign accreditation much easier and earlier than what our current administration promises us because he has personally participated and managed accreditation applications for other institutions whereas none of current professors at KIMEP have ever dreamed about it! Dr. El Namaki was tired of endless attempts of communicating his vision and ideas to the management. He had better alternatives to opt and now, he is the president of Montreal International School of Management (MISM) in Canada. Upon his departure, I heard that all people who supported him were pressured by the administration.

Well, I could not see anything meaningful about administration except those endless plots and games going on behind the scenes. As you should have already heard, KIMEP didn't apply for membership in Central Asian Foundation for Management Development (CAMAN) which is engaged in accreditation issues for Central Asian schools and supported by European Union. CAMAN was founded by Almaty School of Management, part of International Academy of Business. University of International Business, another competitor of KIMEP, is also an active participant in CAMAN activities. Recently, CAMAN members have been invited to world forum in Bangkok dedicated to management education to introduce Central Asian business schools to a global community of management institutions. CAMAN's 3-day trip to Thailand is to be sponsored by USAID.

I cannot just close my eyes behind the fact that KIMEP is not there! By the way, another important competitor is entering market. Kazakh-British university has recently been founded in Almaty by the support of British government. I also heard that it's informally backed by very influential people. They got Akimat's old huge building and many professors from Europe are invited to teach there. So the competition is getting tougher. I remembered a funny story about President's scholarships. Some people told me how our administration arranged this scholarship that is claimed to be from Mr. Nazarbaev. They just contacted President's assistants and asked if they can use his name but pay money themselves. So what KIMEP administration calls "Presidential Scholarship" is actually our own money. This is surely a clever PR strategy as well as using President's name aside with KIMEP's.

To sum up, I think we are being mismanaged and misinformed. I am sure that if the President and other government people knew our problems, they would have taken necessary actions to prevent this gradual degradation of our school. I am really upset that most of KIMEP students are not concerned and interested in KIMEP's future. I guess many people think that they will just cut ties with KIMEP after graduation and walk out without any concern getting a diploma which actually is only a piece of paper. However, we must be concerned about KIMEP since its reputation and quality of education would become an intangible asset for the rest of our lives. I don't want to see one day that KIMEP will be traded in auctions as a nice real estate property. I remember Dr. Chinapah, UNESCO official who had a guest lecture at KIMEP, saying "Nowadays, students, as the major customers of modern and progressive educational institutions, are being empowered greatly, and even in some place given authority to fire their deans. This tendency of active participation of students in important management decisions should be celebrated...."

As I told before, no names of sources are disclosed, but most of things mentioned could be verified if you investigate the situation. If you are interested in making your contribution to change this situation, please keep track of all events happening around you and don't hesitate to say your "YES" or "NO". This is our school, and if you are convinced you should do something, DO IT NOW and do it smart! I welcome KIMEP administration to give explanations to my concerns if they have any comments..

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