Education in Uzbekistan has a long history. During the medieval Islamic period important madrassas (Islamic colleges) where established in this area. These institutions continued to enjoy a reputation for excellence until the early modern period. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, under Tsarist rule, a number of Russian, and mixed ‘Russo-Native’ schools and colleges were established in the main cities. In the 1920s, the Soviet state introduced free and universal education for male and female students alike. Schools, and then a growing number of higher educational establishments were founded during these years. A high rate of literacy was achieved (over 99% of adults above the age of 15 were able to read and write).
In the 1990s, after independence, the educational system was radically reformed. The Soviet-era academic institutions required significant modernization. At the same time, new universities, specifically designed to provide the academic and practical foundations to support Uzbekistan’s growing links with the global community, were established.
Currently, there are over 60 higher education establishments in Uzbekistan, covering general and specialized professional training in a wide variety of fields. The great majority of such institutions are public (i.e. state-funded), but some public-private partnerships are beginning to appear. The most prestigious universities are based in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Andijan, but there are good universities and institutes in smaller provincial towns, often linked to ‘parent’ bodies in the capital.
All the leading state universities have partnership-and-cooperation agreements with foreign institutions of a similar profile. Great emphasis is laid on developing fluency in foreign languages, especially English, which facilitates collaboration. Increasingly, too, international ‘joint ventures’ between Uzbek and foreign universities are being created; the language of instruction in these ventures is English, whatever the native language of the partner institution. The foreign JVs have two main goals: firstly, to encourage a more flexible way of thinking; secondly, to fill skill gaps in industry and business management.
Below, samples of two types of institution are given: a) leading Uzbek universities, offering a full range of degree courses; b) ‘joint venture’ universities, which provide internationally accredited undergraduate (bachelor) degrees and are currently developing master’s programmes. NB Student numbers are 2017 estimates and will vary from year to year.