Southern Kyrgyzstan is over-provided with universities keen to cash in on fee-paying students, but many offer little in return.
Fee-paying universities are a booming business in Osh, the main city in the south of Kyrgyzstan, but many people find themselves paying their way through college only to receive a substandard education which won’t land them a job.
Osh has 11 universities catering for more than 100,000 students, with a new one opening just about every year. More students attend local departments of these universities spread across the south of the country.
There is fierce competition for paying students, even in this particularly poor part of the country, and universities advertise the benefits offered by their courses. But education experts say that only a small percentage of graduates are properly qualified. Some of the course on offer appear pointless, while others seem reputable but fail to live up to expectations...
...Employers are less than enthusiastic about graduate entrants. IWPR was told by staff of the the regional police department, which recruits qualified lawyers, that only one in ten of the people they interview knows anything about the subject.
Erkin Dosmatov, who runs a commercial company in Osh, said part of the problem was that many students simply bribe their way through examinations.
Dosmatov blames the education system for churning out large numbers of economists, lawyers and interpreters with few real skills and little chance of getting a job. “Some 40,000 lawyers alone graduate in Kyrgyzstan every year. Universities today are just a machine for making money. Young people graduate, and no one needs them,” he said.
The practice of paying bribes to pass exams is widespread, though understandably, few students will admit to doing so. Sajida, who has two sons at university, told IWPR that she paid 1,500-2000 soms (40-50 US dollars) for each one’s pass marks.
...Alisher Mamajanov, who heads a youth-oriented non-government organisation, NGO, called Golden Goal, said students are exploited from the moment they enrol, when they have to sign a commercial contract which effectively allows the university to hike up its fees arbitrarily.
Mamajonov said the 150 applications for help his NGO has received from students in the past year have all been about payment problems, and not one person has complained about the quality of teaching.
Japanese graduate Rustam has an explanation: anyone who complains will be expelled...
IWPR reporting, August 3, 2004