Academic Autonomy in Higher Education in Kazakhstan: Beliefs and Experiences of Faculty Members in a National Higher Education Institution
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Educational Leadership
Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education June, 2018
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Academic Autonomy in Higher Education in Kazakhstan: Beliefs and Experiences of Faculty Members in a National Higher Education Institution
In the rapidly changing and knowledge-driven 21 century higher education has become even more prominent across the globe. This has resulted in the increased role of higher education institutions in society and the need for the institutions to be adaptive and
innovative, aligning to the demands of the labor market and responding to the needs of the variety of the stakeholders. Given this, higher education entities require environment conducive to such endeavors. As a solution, governments worldwide have given universities increased institutional autonomy, including the capacity to decide upon academic affairs. While Kazakhstan has also pursued this route, granting national universities more flexibility in the decisions on academic issues, there is lack of understanding of academic dimension of institutional autonomy. Therefore, this non- experimental quantitative case-study research explores the beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of academic autonomy from four schools in a national university in Kazakhstan. Overall 77 faculty members were surveyed. Data analysis revealed obscured understandings of academic autonomy in relation to the notions of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, considerable generation gap in the awareness of institutional autonomy and academic autonomy components, challenges faculty members face, and a range of factors that predict certain faculty members’ beliefs and experiences of academic
autonomy, such as work experience in higher education, satisfaction with the job, and attitude to change. Thus, this research fills in the gap in the previous literature on
institutional autonomy, focusing particularly on its academic dimension and bringing the perspective that of the faculty members.
Key words: institutional autonomy, academic autonomy, academic freedom.
Академическая автономия в высшем образовании Казахстана: понимание и опыт профессорско-преподавательского состава национального высшего
учебного заведения Абстракт
В быстро меняющемся и сконцентрированном на знаниях 21 веке высшее
образование приобрело еще большую значимость. Как следствие, повысилась и роль высших учебных заведений в обществе и возникла необходимость университетов быть адаптивными и инновационными, отвечая потребностям рынка труда и заинтересованных сторон. Принимая это во внимание, высшие учебные заведения нуждаются в среде, которая бы способствовала достижению поставленных целей.
Для создания необходимых условий государства во всем мире предоставили университетам институциональную автономию, в том числе самостоятельность в принятии решений по академическим вопросам. В то время как Казахстан также встал на данный путь, предоставляя национальным университетам большую гибкость в принятии решений по академическим вопросам, академический аспект институциональной автономии понимается в недостаточной мере. Так, данное не экспериментальное количественное кейс-стади исследование направлено на изучение понимания и практических знаний профессорско-преподавательского состава четырех факультетов национального университета Казахстана о
академической автономии. Всего в опросе приняли участие 77 преподавателей вуза.
Анализ данных выявил недостаточное понимание термина академическая автономия, которое соотносят с понятиями институциональной автономии и академической свободы. Вместе с тем, было выявлено, что на понимание
институциональной автономии, а также компонентов академической автономии существенно влияет разница поколений. Другие факторы такие как, опыт работы в сфере высшего образования, удовлетворенность условиями труда и восприятие изменений являются определяющими в формировании понимания академической автономии и практический знаний о ее применении среди преподавателей. Также исследование показало, что существует ряд проблем, с которыми сталкиваются преподаватели рассматриваемого вуза на практике касательно академической
автономии. Таким образом, данное исследование восполняет пробел в литературе об институциональной автономии, уделяя особое внимание его академической
составляющей с перспективы профессорско-преподавательского состава.
Ключевые слова: институциональная автономия, академическая автономия, академическая свобода.
Қазақстандағы жоғары білімінің академиялық автономиясы: ұлттық жоғары оқу орындары кафедрасының профессор-оқытушылар құрамының түсіну және
Тез өзгеретін және концентрацияланған 21 ғасырдағы жоғары білім, білімнің маңыздылығы өте зор. Соның салдарынан, қоғамда жоғары оқу орындарының рөлі өсіп, университеттер адаптивтік және инновациялық қажеттіліктерге, еңбек
нарығының қажеттілігіне және мүдделі тараптарына жауап беру керек. Осыны
назарға ала отырып, жоғары оқу орындары алға қойылған мақсаттарға қол жеткізуіге ықпалын тигізетін ортаға мұқтаж етеді. Бүкіл әлемнің университеттерінде
институционалдық автономия, оның ішінде дербестік, академиялық мәселелер бойынша шешімдер қабылдау үшін қажетті жағдайлар жасады. Ал Қазақстан сондай-ақ, бұл жолды ұсына отырып, ұлттық университеттерге академиялық мәселелер жөніндегі шешімдер қабылдауға үлкен икемділік беріді, бірақ академиялық аспект институционалдық автономиясын түсінуі жеткілікті емес.
Осылайша, бұл эксперименттік сандық кейс-сатысында бағытталған зерттеу, профессор-оқытушылар құрамының Қазақстанның ұлттық университетінің төрт факультеттің академиялық автономия түсіну және практикалық білімдерін анықтау.
Сауалнамаға 77 оқытушы қатысты. Талдау, академиялық автономия терминин жеткіліксіз түсінуін анықтады, ол институционалдық автономия және академиялық еркіндік түсінігіне теңелді. Сонымен қатар, институционалдық автономия, сондай-ақ
академиялық автономия компоненттерін тусінуі ұрпақ айырмашылықтары айтарлықтай әсер ететіні анықталды. Жоғары білім беру саласында жұмыс
тәжірибесі, еңбек қалыптастыруына қанағаттанушылығы, өзгерістер қабылдау және академиялық автономия түсінуін қалыптастыру, оқытушылар арасында практикалық білімдерін айқындаушы, оны қолдану сияқты басқа да факторлар болып табылады.
Сондай-ақ, зерттеу көрсеткендей, академиялық автономиға қатысты ЖОО-ның бетпе-оқытушыларының қаралып отырған тәжирибиесінде бірқатар қыйындықтар бар. Осылайша, профессор-оқытушылар құрамы және оның академиялық құрамына ерекше назар аудара отырып,аталған зерттеу әдебиетте институционалдық
автономия туралы бос орнын толтырып отыр.
Түйін сөздер: институционалдық автономия, академиялық автономия, академиялық еркіндік.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Introduction ... 1
Background of the study ... 1
The seeds of autonomous education institutions: Early 90s. ... 2
Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area ... 2
Kazakhstani legislation. ... 3
Problem statement ... 5
Purpose of the study ... 6
Research questions ... 6
Significance of the study ... 6
Thesis structure ... 7
Chapter Two: Literature Review ... 8
Understanding institutional autonomy ... 8
Academic autonomy reshaped ... 11
Substantive autonomy. ... 11
Policy autonomy. ... 11
Individual autonomy. ... 12
Academic freedom. ... 13
Towards a comprehensive academic autonomy definition. ... 14
Academic autonomy: international outlook ... 15
Autonomous institutions in Kazakhstan: A dream or reality? ... 17
Conceptual framework ... 19
Chapter Three: Methodology ... 20
Research paradigm ... 21
Research design ... 21
Research site ... 22
Sample ... 23
Instrument ... 24
Procedures ... 27
Data analysis ... 29
Ethics ... 30
Limitations ... 31
Chapter Four: Findings ... 32
Academic autonomy beliefs ... 34
Institutional autonomy. ... 34
Academic autonomy. ... 37
Academic autonomy and academic freedom. ... 37
Academic autonomy components. ... 40
The role of the Ministry of Education and Science. ... 45
Academic autonomy experiences ... 47
Academic autonomy principles in the internal university documents. ... 47
Admission. ... 50
Student intake. ... 52
Content of the degree programs... 54
New programs introduction. ... 55
Program termination. ... 57
Academic autonomy implementation constraints... 58
Chapter Four: Discussion ... 59
A matter of the Soviet past? ... 60
Formal-real autonomy tension ... 62
Academic autonomy: Independence from the state or increased accountability? ... 64
University faculty: Empowered or powerless? ... 65
Chapter 5: Conclusion and Implications ... 67
List of Tables
Table 1 Demographics of the Sample ... 34
Table 2 Spearman’s rho Correlations on the Beliefs ... 35
Table 3 Factors Predicting Understanding of Academic Autonomy as Academic Freedom .. 39
Table 4 Factors Predicting Beliefs About Academic Autonomy Components ... 43
Table 5 Factors Predicting Awareness of Academic Autonomy in the Internal Documents .. 48
Table 6 Factors Predicting Perceived Experiences of Setting Admission Criteria ... 50
Table 7 Factors Predicting Perceived Experiences of Student Intake ... 53
Table 8 Factors Predicting Perceived Expriences of New Programs Introduction ... 56
Table 9 Factors Predicting Perceived Experiences of Program Termination ... 57
Chapter One: Introduction
In order to explore the beliefs and experiences of faculty members of academic autonomy at one of the national universities in Kazakhstan, it is crucial to understand why academic autonomy is important and what are the underlying reasons of such a reform.
Thus, elucidating the Kazakhstani context under which the need for autonomy has emerged, this chapter depicts the problem under investigation, introduces the purpose of the research and its research questions, highlights the significance of this study, and
concludes with the thesis structure, providing a precise outline of the subsequent chapters.
Background of the study
Triggered by the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90-s the country had to initiate major transformations in all domains of societal life, including higher education (Ahn, Dixon, & Chekmareva, 2018) that has been recognized as a primary driving force for Kazakhstani economic, social, and political development. In the transition to the market economy in the post-Soviet Central Asian countries Heyneman (as cited in Anderson & Heyneman, 2005) discerns four groups of challenges faced in higher
education: structural changes, governance, academic, and finance related issues. Although some of the aspects still pertain to the Kazakhstani higher education sector today, including heavy financial dependence of universities on the government (Sagintayeva &
Kurakbayev, 2015) and weak curriculum flexibility (Hartley, Gopaul, Sagintayeva, &
Apergenova, 2015), Kazakhstan has considerably progressed on its higher education modernization endeavors, gradually moving away from the highly centralized system (OECD, 2017).
According to Salmi (2007), “universities need the capacity to react swiftly by establishing new programs, reconfiguring existing ones, and eliminating outdated courses without being hampered by a conservative mindset and bureaucratic practices” (p. 231).
Admittedly, given that there is a wide array of demands from the society, state, employers, professors, and students that universities are struggling to satisfy (Bladh, 2007; Salmi, 2007), in todays’ volatile world the reduced state control over higher education institutions (hereinafter – HEIs) is one of those positive developments that can provide universities with a room for manoeuver. To understand the rationale, standing behind the emergent need for institutional autonomy in Kazakhstan, and academic dimension in particular, the context is provided first.
The seeds of autonomous education institutions: Early 90-s. The shift from a planned economy inherent to the Soviet system triggered a series of amendments (OECD
& The World Bank, 2007; Brunner & Tillett as cited in Hartley et al., 2015), including modernization of both the content and the organization of the educational process (Kuvanysheva, 2013) as well as alterations in the HEIs’ operation, calling for more autonomy and accountability given to all stakeholders (OECD & The World Bank, 2007).
The first steps towards decentralization of higher education, particularly, the creation of the legislative base made in the early 1990s (Kuvanysheva, 2013; Yeseyeva &Anarbek, 2015) preceded the current long-term ambitious goal of granting greater autonomy to universities.
As an example of the earliest efforts, in 1993 Al-Farabi Kazakh State University was announced to be granted autonomous status (Mutanov, 2014; Anarbek & Gumerova, 2015). The same year regulations on HEIs accreditation and autonomy were enforced by the Cabinet of Ministers, yet, interestingly, in 1996 it was eliminated (Yeseyeva &
Anarbek, 2015). Although the reasons for such an immediate change are not clear, it is an apparent indication of the state’s commitment towards granting greater independence to HEIs.
Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area. A critical alteration that gave an impulse to institutional autonomy implementation was the accession of
Kazakhstan to the Bologna Process and its integration into the European Higher Education Area in 2010 (Hartley et al., 2015; Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015). This accentuated an urgent need for providing universities with greater autonomy, paving the way for higher education institutions to enhanced institutional flexibility. Obviously, the integration into the Bologna Process has had an immediate effect on “the transition to new decentralization policies of higher education governance geared to the market economy and accountability”
(Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2014, p. 200).
Referring to the Magna Charta Universitatum (1988), the Bologna Declaration is considered as one of the key documents underpinning the Bologna Process (Tomusk, 2011) that emphasizes the main principles of institutional autonomy (Hartley et al., 2015, p. 282). Signed by the rectors of the European universities the Magna Charta served “as a re-statement and as a reassertion of the traditional values and rights that had been attached to higher learning and very particularly to the freedoms to teach and to learn” (Thorens as cited in Neave, 2012). As of 2017, 66 Kazakhstani HEIs have become the signatories of the Charta (OECD, 2017).
Kazakhstani legislation. Since joining the Bologna Process, the state has gradually started developing new policies and strategies in granting universities more independence.
University autonomy has been underlined in the “State program of education development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020” (hereinafter – SPED for 2011-2020)
(Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan [MoES], 2010) as one of the priorities in bringing higher education in compliance with the Bologna Process. One of the most recent legal documents, underpinning the reform initiative, is the Draft Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On introduction of the amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the issues of higher education
institutions’ academic and administrative autonomy enhancement” (MoES, 2017).
Although the document is still under development and has only recently been presented to the consideration of the deputies of the Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Davydova, 2018), it clearly points out the state’s strategy towards enhancing universities’ independence from the state. This document is underpinned by the 78th step of the National Plan “100 Concrete Steps” (President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2015) and the Presidents’ Annual Address to the People of Kazakhstan “Kazakhstani path - 2050:
Common aim, common interests, common future” (Annual Address of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 2014). Thus, the phased expansion of academic and administrative autonomy of HEIs has become one of the central concerns in the higher education
Referring to the “Law on education of the Republic of Kazakhstan” (MoES, 2016), national HEIs are defined as HEIs that are considered as the leading research and
methodological centers of the country that have the special status. The operation of such universities is further reinforced by the “Regulations on the special status of higher education institutions” (Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2017). Thus, having the special status, national universities in Kazakhstan guarantee the provision of a high quality education, conducive conditions for educational and moral development of individuals, and monitors international trends in higher education and research
(Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2017). Moreover, national universities have the rights to decide upon the rules on attestation, to determine faculty-student ratio, to make decisions on the academic load, to design and introduce degree programs, and to determine student admission criteria (Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2017).
Whereas the latter two aspects are not accentuated as academic autonomy characteristics, the depicted ‘powers’ national universities are provided with imply that these universities
have already been granted the opportunity to exercise greater independence from the state on academic matters.
As Kazakhstan has only recently embarked on the university autonomy expansion, discussions on the pathways to institutional autonomy and relevant legislative basis for the reform have not been yet properly elaborated (Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2014, p. 200), nor have the studies addressed academic dimension of institutional autonomy in-detail within the local context. While this transition of universities to institutional autonomy is a step towards “greater innovation” (Hartley et al., 2015, p. 70) that will enable them to efficiently respond to the labor market needs, hardly prior studies separately examined academic autonomy, or specifically looked at academic autonomy from the faculty’s perspective. Instead, previous research has focused on financial sustainability of universities (Chiang, 2004; Kohtamäki, 2011), took more comprehensive approach, investigating all autonomy dimensions at once (Turcan, Reilly, & Bugaian, 2017), or dwelled on new governance models within the autonomy conditions (Shattock, 2012;
Sagintayeva, 2013; Varghese & Martin, 2014). Additionally, the perspective that of the faculty members, who are among the key stakeholders, has scarcely been addressed. It was rather the lens that of university leadership or policy makers through which autonomy was studied. Finally, what is important is that academic autonomy is being misunderstood on the state level, being confused with academic freedom (Saginatayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015). This might, in turn, negatively affect academic autonomy implementation in Kazakhstan. Thus, the delineated issues point out the need for academic autonomy to be investigated and to give the prominence to the faculty members’ perspective.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this non-experimental quantitative case study was to explore the beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of a national university in Kazakhstan of academic autonomy during the gradual transition of HEIs to institutional autonomy with an aim to provide insights into how much has been captured by the faculty members.
An overarching research question for the study was as follows: “What are the beliefs and experiences of the national university’s faculty of academic autonomy?”
Within the broader research question the following sub-questions were addressed:
− What are the beliefs of the faculty members of academic autonomy in relation to institutional autonomy and academic freedom?
− How do these beliefs vary between the schools within the university?
− What are the experiences of the faculty members of academic autonomy?
− What factors do influence faculty members’ beliefs and experiences of the academic dimension of institutional autonomy?
Significance of the study
The present study fills in the existing gap in the literature on academic autonomy, unveiling the beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of academic autonomy.
Furthermore, the findings of this research might be beneficial for the stakeholders on both institutional and national levels. Thus, taking part in this study, it is likely that the
participated faculty will benefit from the findings of the research, as it will allow them to reflect on their practices at the university. Within the broader institutional autonomy reform initiative the research has significant implications for the development of the relevant trajectory for the reform, providing valuable and opportune insights into the current on-site issues of academic autonomy, as experienced by the faculty. Policy makers
are likely to profit from the results of this study, as better understanding of the beliefs of faculty and their experiences of academic autonomy might point out the areas for further improvement, specifically, in terms of communicating autonomy reforms to the
stakeholders, as “reform is not simply a matter of establishing new policies; it is a negotiated process in which participants must establish new understandings about how they should conduct their work” (Christensen as cited in Hartley et al., 2015).
This thesis comprises five chapters, each focusing on the specific area of the research. Followed by the introductory chapter that depicts background of the research, its research problem and purpose, research questions, and significance of the study, the second chapter dwells on the existing Kazakhstani and international literature in the field of institutional autonomy, and academic autonomy in particular, critically analyzing the notion of academic autonomy in relation to the overlapping concepts of substantive autonomy, policy autonomy, individual autonomy, and academic freedom. The chapter is concluded with the conceptual framework that this research followed. The third chapter scrutinizes the methodology of the study, elaborating on the research paradigm, research design, research site, sample, instrument, data collection and analysis procedures, ethics, and entailed limitations. The findings of the research are reported in the fourth chapter and depict the revealed beliefs and experiences of the participated faculty members of
academic autonomy at the Kazakhstani national university. These results are further interpreted and discussed in the fifth chapter of the thesis, emphasizing the significance of the findings in relation to the previous literature. The concluding chapter of the thesis summarizes the results of the study, referring to the research questions posed in the beginning of the study, stresses the benefits of the conducted research, and provides implications for further research in the field.
Chapter Two: Literature Review
As this study explored the beliefs and experiences of faculty members of academic autonomy, it was rational to scrutiny academic autonomy notion and examine prior
literature on the topic. Thus, this chapter unravels the diverse approaches to academic autonomy, drawing the precise line between the interrelated notions of institutional
autonomy and academic freedom and coming up with academic autonomy interpretation as conceptualized in this study. Moreover, previous research conducted both on international and local contexts, depicting academic autonomy implementation in Kazakhstan at its initial stage, is also introduced. Finally, this chapter of the thesis delineates the conceptual framework that guided the research throughout.
Understanding institutional autonomy
Before proceeding to academic autonomy, it is pivotal to set the scene and understand the broader concept of institutional autonomy that embraces a range of dimensions, including its academic constituent. Whereas it is true that autonomy is not a new concept in academia, the way it is interpreted nowadays has radically changed since the Magna Charta Universitatum was adopted back in 1988. Following significant reforms in higher education systems worldwide that were related to the changes on the national level, the alteration in the discourse on autonomy mainly lies in the shift of rhetoric from individual to institutional level (Neave, 2012). Thus, institutional autonomy as a
phenomenon which emergence in higher education today is often associated with the adoption of countries of a “market-like behavior” (The World Bank, 2012, p. 128) has only recently become extensively investigated (Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015). Most recent research on institutional autonomy both on the international and local levels is
predominantly concerned with the relationship between the state and the university (Raza, 2009), the balance between autonomy and accountability (Berdahl, 1990; The World Bank,
2012), or the definition of the concept (Cotelnic et al., 2015; Wermke & Salokangas, 2015). The latter is explored in this section of the chapter.
Gaining in importance, the issue of autonomy has become a focus of abundant studies that boosted a number of definitions of the concept (Estermann & Nokkala, 2009).
Thus, diverse interpretations of institutional autonomy have emerged in education (Estermann, Nokkala, & Steinel, 2011; Wermke & Salokangas, 2015), and given its
multifaceted nature, resulted in the absence of a single definition (Salter & Tapper, as cited in Yokoyama, 2007). Following Raza (2009), institutional autonomy can be referred to as the reduced state control over higher education sector that allows universities to make their own decisions regarding its operation. In a similar vein Nokkala (2010) in defining the term highlights that institutional autonomy exempts universities from economic and political forces as well (as cited in Gül, H., Gül, S., Kaya, & Alican, 2010).
A relatively traditional approach to the phenomenon is that of Berdahl (1990) who defines institutional autonomy as a synthesis of substantive and procedural branches of institutional autonomy. While the former constituent denotes the ability of university to determine “its own goals and programmes” (Berdahl, 1990, p. 172), the latter is considered as the way through which these are to be accomplished (Berdahl, 1990). Contrary to the views of autonomy as institutional right (Raza, 2009; Meek, 2010), personal liberty (Dworkin, 2015), or procedural in nature (Berdahl, 1990), Neave and van Vugh (1994) suggest to move away from such narratives and describe autonomy as “the condition under which academia determines how its work is carried out” (as cited in Bladh, 2007, p. 244).
Similarly to the one proposed by Nokkala (as cited in Gül, H. et al., 2010), such an approach considers operation of universities in relation to the external forces and actors.
An interesting perspective on institutional autonomy present Turcan, Reilly, and Bugaian (2017), as they take a holistic approach in defining the term, examining university
autonomy within the government-university, university management-academic staff, academic staff-student, university-business, university-internationalization interfaces. It is argued that by isolating institutional autonomy into academic, organizational, financial, and staffing dimensions, the concept cannot be fully grasped. Instead, it can only be understood when the complex interrelations within which autonomy is realized are taken into account. Just the opposite position take Estermann and Nokkala (2009), as they assert that “systematic mapping” (p. 6) is required to allow reliable measurement of institutional autonomy. Thus, to elucidate how institutional autonomy is exercised it is important to look at each dimension separately.
Within the Kazakhstani context, in the “State program of education development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020” institutional autonomy is understood in terms of a university’s independence in “carrying out its educational, scientific, financial, international and other activity, on the model of the Nazarbayev University” (MoES, 2010). In this research it is argued that this interpretation is narrowed down to the specific experiences of Nazarbayev University which operation is regulated by the special law that is distinct from the regulations under which other Kazakhstani universities have to operate.
Hence, such a definition seems to be very limited to the specific practices of a quite distinct institution.
While institutional autonomy as a complex phenomenon deserves a separate scrutiny, it seems that no unified definition of university autonomy can be developed, so that is could be universally applied, as different nature of higher education institutions and their legal status cannot be ignored. Despite, obviously, it would be precipitate to propose institutional autonomy definition within the local context, as rigorous study on the very concept is required, this study followed the definition proposed by Raza (2009) for it provides more flexible explanation that seems to fit in the Kazakhstani realities.
Academic autonomy reshaped
Falling within the institutional autonomy notion, academic autonomy on its own evokes great interest. Academic autonomy is certainly characterized by some degree of obscurity, especially lacking explicit differentiation from academic freedom (Thorens, 2006). Thus, associated with academic autonomy terms are explicated first to elaborate on the distinctions between the seemingly synonymous concepts.
Substantive autonomy. Proposed by Berdahl (1990) differentiation of autonomy into substantive and procedural types goes back to the beginning of 90-s. Being heavily influenced by the ideas of Ashby (1966), Berdahl (1990) defined substantive autonomy as
“the what of academe” (p. 172). Specifically, substantive autonomy was meant to denote the power of an institution to set goals and programs. Giving an account to the time when it was suggested, this definition seems to be out of the contemporary discourse, as it does not take into consideration the outside controls, such as the government, universities have to comply to. Moreover, the provided definition of substantive autonomy barely touches upon the decisions on academic affairs made by universities, except for the programs. Therefore, while apparently substantive autonomy cover academic and research areas (Raza, 2009;
Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015), similarly to academic autonomy notion, it seems that it lacks comprehensive approach that would specifically outline which academic aspects it refers to.
Policy autonomy. Scrutinizing institutional autonomy from the ‘New Public Management’ standpoint, de Boer and Enders (2017) distinguish between formal autonomy and autonomy-in-use within which they highlight 5 dimensions: managerial, structural, financial, interventional, and policy autonomy. The latter dimension is the one that seems to denote academic autonomy delineated in the Lisbon Declaration (European University Association, 2007), as it also incorporates the capacity of university to make
decisions on student intake, new programs introduction, and student selection criteria (de Boer & Enders, 2017, p. 67). At the same time, compared to the academic autonomy proposed by the European University Association (2007) that incorporates the capacity to decide on overall student numbers, select students, introduce and terminate programs, choose the language of instruction, select quality assurance mechanisms and providers, and design content of academic programs, it encompasses a wider range of components,
including determining research programs and themes as well as university leadership impact on teaching (de Boer & Enders, 2017). Thus, de Boer and Enders (2017) especially stress the importance of research within academic autonomy conditions.
Individual autonomy. Autonomy is a multidimensional construct that is quite arduous to embrace. Given the academic profession of the faculty members, academic autonomy is also associated with individual autonomy (Schmidt & Langberg, 2007).
Thorens (2006) raises the issue of ambiguity between university autonomy, academic freedom, and fundamental freedoms of human beings and questions whether autonomy and liberties have to be limited to universities or they should be scrutinized in a broader
fashion. Delving deeper into the issue, Dworkin (2015) brings philosophical moral into the discussion. According to Dworkin (2015), autonomy is “a second-order capacity of
persons to reflect critically upon their first-order preferences, desires, wishes and so do forth and the capacity to accept or attempt to change these in light of higher-order preferences and values” (p. 14). Whereas autonomy might be considered from diverse perspectives, including the basic human rights, as far as the liberties of academic personnel is concerned, it seems that the distinction between academic autonomy and autonomy in a broader sense is obvious. Nevertheless, it is here when the interrelated notion of academic freedom comes into play. Henkel (2007), for instance, highlights that within Anglo-Saxon tradition academic autonomy is connected to individual freedom of the scholars. This is
further discussed in the chapter, as it is crucial to understand how academic autonomy is exactly differs from academic freedom.
Academic freedom. Widely contested and tightly linked to the individual
autonomy academic freedom is another concept that adds to the blurred understandings of academic autonomy (Warnock, 1992). Given that historically autonomy was rooted in the ability of universities to self-govern, its meaning was closely related to the autonomy of individual academics (Enders, as cited in Enders, de Boyer, & Weyer, 2013) as well as their rights to teach and research, while pursuing the scientific truth (Berdahl, 1990).
Therefore, overlapping with academic autonomy, this tight interconnection remains to present challenges in setting the precise distinctions.
Schmidt and Langber (2007) consider individual professional freedom of
academics as an autonomy dimension, defining it as scholars’ freedom of determining their own research and publication. Contrary to Schmidt and Langber (2007), Nybom (2008) contends that university autonomy is aimed at reinforcing their ability to be responsive to the “short-term demands coming from society” (p. 136), and it does not intersect with academic freedom. Likewise, Thorens (2006) precisely states that academic freedom, being “the necessary freedom” (p. 97), pertains to members of university, but not the institution. Contesting with such a straightforward understandings of academic freedom, Altbach (2001) points out that it cannot be that easily grasped and, being at the core of the academia, it remains lacking universally accepted definition. Interestingly, whereas the majority of the authors either seek to distinguish between academic autonomy and academic freedom or emphasize their complex interrelations, both Ordorika (as cited in Yang, Vidovich, & Currie, 2007) and Wang (2010) assert that academic freedom falls into academic autonomy of universities. Meek (2010), on the other hand, declares that
universities might have academic autonomy, but that does not necessarily leads to
academic freedom. While this seems reasonable, enhanced academic autonomy might still allow universities to put academic freedom in practice (Fielden, 2008).Whereas the tight links between academic autonomy and academic freedom cannot be denied, these two do not coincide in the meanings (Bladh, 2007). Thus, whereas this study is not intended to define academic freedom, as it would require a deeper analysis, it argues that academic freedom is a freedom of the academia to pursue the truth in their research and teaching endeavors that can be either individual or institutional right, whereas academic autonomy concerns with institutional capacities of universities described in the next sub-section of the thesis.
Towards a comprehensive academic autonomy definition. Whereas various authors address academic autonomy differently, probably the most comprehensive definition of academic autonomy seems to be the one provided by Chekmareva, Dixon, and Ahn (2016). They define academic autonomy as the ability of a university “to manage its academic affairs, by being able to determine its degree profile, degree titles, and degree program objectives, content, teaching and learning methods, and assessment methods and standards” (Chekmareva, Dixon, & Ahn, 2016 p. 43). Such a description precisely outlines each aspect a university with academic autonomy can decide upon and draws on its ability to do so. Nevertheless, the proposed definition only takes the perspective of university as an actor, failing to encounter its relation with external forces. Additionally, referring to the academic autonomy-academic freedom tension, it can be argued that teaching and learning methods as well as assessment should be under academic autonomy umbrella. What should be included instead are the components delineated in the study conducted by Estermann, Nokkala, and Steinel (2011), such as the capacity to determine student intake, select students, choose the language of instruction, and decide on quality assurance mechanisms and providers.
All things considered, it seems that in order to grasp all the nuances of academic autonomy and highlight its distinctive nature from other notions, the definition should incorporate broader spectrum of characteristics than it was proposed in the earlier works.
Thus, based on the literature review academic autonomy is conceptualized in this study in the following way: “Academic autonomy refers to as the reduced external control over university’s decisions on internal academic affairs, including determining student intake, setting admission criteria, introducing and terminating programs, designing content of degree programs, choosing the language of instruction, and selecting quality assurance mechanisms and providers supported on the legislative level.”
Academic autonomy: international outlook
While rarely have the researchers delved into academic autonomy on its own, a number of studies that have previously studied academic dimension within broader institutional autonomy provided some insights into the academic autonomy practices globally. In particular, the experiences from 4 developing countries are discussed. Worth to mention is that only a few studies have investigated academic autonomy specifically from the faculty’s perspective; instead, they examine it on the policy level.
Having similar to Kazakhstan Soviet background, Russian higher education has also undergone some changes stipulated by joining the Bologna Process (Gushchin &
Gureev, 2011). While Kazakhstan has been systematically implementing the Bologna principles in its higher education (Ahn, Dixon, & Chekmareva, 2018), Gushchin & Gureev (2011) question whether Russian higher education should have followed European
pathway, as they contend that it would be more legitimate to determine their own trajectory for higher education development. The extent to which academic autonomy is exercised in the Russian universities is institution-specific, but generally is concerned with the
decisions on programs, curriculum, methodological support, and assessment of academic
progress of students (Guschin & Gureev, 2011). In Moldova, however, according to Cotelnic et al. (2015), academic autonomy undergoes several problems when it comes to the decisions made on the areas for granting autonomy. Normally though, universities in Moldova have the right to introduce bachelor programs, admissions criteria for
international students, and design content of programs (Cotelnic et al., 2015).
In the case of Vietnam, the challenges in implementing academic autonomy were found to be rooted in the poor planning on both governmental and institutional levels (Nguyen, Hamid, & Moni, 2016). Investigating academic autonomy practices from the perspective of university leadership and lecturers, in particular looking at how admission criteria were set by universities and what decisions were made on the curriculum, Nguyen, Hamid, and Moni (2016) found that despite some positive changes, universities faced quality assurance issues. Additionally, despite the granted academic autonomy, universities could not manage their programs properly, as the regulations on academic content were continued to be exposed (Nguyen et al., 2016). Indeed, while autonomy is the flexibility that can enable universities to be more responsive and adaptive to the societal needs, rigorous planning as well as evaluation and monitoring are crucial not only on the state level, but also within institutions.
A slightly of a different focus study was conducted by Okai and Worlu (2014) who examined the awareness of the faculty of autonomy and academic autonomy and the extent to which they were practiced at three Nigerian institutions. Following the definition of substantive autonomy and quantitative method, Okai and Worlu (2014) found significant awareness among the participants of substantive autonomy; however, autonomy was practiced to a lesser extent than it was expected. As one of the recommendations to further develop academic autonomy awareness, Okai and Worlu (2014) suggested that universities
should conduct workshops on autonomy and create conducive to autonomy implementation conditions.
Whilst Kazakhstan has quite a different context and follows different autonomy implementation procedures, international experiences in academic autonomy realization might provide valuable insights into the potential threats and challenges academic autonomy entails. Having briefly outlined how academic autonomy is being granted and how universities react to its implementation internationally, the following sub-section draws on the domestic reports and studies that examined academic autonomy in the Kazakhstani HEIs.
Autonomous institutions in Kazakhstan: A dream or reality?
As the decision to grant Kazakhstani HEIs autonomy on the legislation level has only relatively recently became at the forefront of the policy discussions, quite limited research on institutional autonomy, and particularly academic autonomy, has been
conducted. Nevertheless, this study draws on the existing literature that has been published in the last four years.
Following the analytic report on the level of preparedness of universities to operate under the autonomy regime conducted by the Information Analytical Center (2014), based on the sociological study 260 out of 500 participants, including 190 administrative staff and 310 faculty members, from 7 national and 18 state Kazakhstani universities expressed their unpreparedness to institutional autonomy implementation. Moreover, 72.4% of the respondents reported that Kazakhstani universities are ready for academic autonomy;
however, only 48.4% stated that universities are capable of designing their own degree programs (Information Analytical Center, 2014). Given this, it was revealed that the participants tend to think that academic autonomy has nothing to do with program
introduction (Information Analytical Center, 2014), which showed that the respondents lack academic autonomy understanding.
Taking into account the perceived readiness of university staff to be granted institutional autonomy, the Diagnostic Report on the Development of Strategic Directions for Education Reforms in Kazakhstan for 2015-2020 (Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education, 2014) studied institutional autonomy at universities, as progressed since the first steps of weakening the state control. The report highlighted that Kazakhstani universities continue to face legal constraints in exercising their autonomy, specifically, in the decisions on curriculum and academic programs development (Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education, 2014; Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015). According to Sagintayeva and Kurakbayev (2015), to introduce new degree program universities are still required to obtain the license from MoES. Likewise, the OECD report (2017) points out that although the State Standards have become more lenient, providing national research and national universities with the right to determine programs’ content for 70% and 55%
correspondingly, Kazakhstani HEIs still have limited academic autonomy, which is in turn,
“discourages faculty and institutional creativity, initiative and responsibility” (p. 17).
Therefore, in the light of expanding academic autonomy of HEIs in Kazakhstan,
Chekmareva, Dixon, and Ahn (2016) emphasize the strong need for capacity building to innovate and lead the change. It is also suggested that as one of the ways to enhance
academic autonomy student admission criteria at universities should be diversified, moving away from the nationwide university entrance standardized testing system - Unified
In sum, the need to comply with the list of specialties prescribed by MoES (Sarinzhipov, 2013; Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015), lack of academic autonomy
understanding among university staff and faculty members (Information Analytical Center,
2014), and overall centralized regulatory academic mechanisms (OECD, 2017)
considerably restrain Kazakhstani universities in exercising greater academic autonomy.
Having conceptualized academic autonomy for this research and explored the existing literature on academic autonomy, in order to explore the beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of the national university of academic autonomy an appropriate conceptual framework that would guide this research was required. Thus, this study adopted the framework designed by the Estermann, Nokkala, and Steinel (2011) that outlines that academic autonomy rests on the capacity to decide on student numbers, select students, introduce programs, terminate programs, design content of degree programs, choose the language of instruction, select quality assurance mechanisms and providers. To take into account the peculiarities of the Kazakhstani realities, the framework was further adapted, as illustrated in the Figure 1. Specifically, when looking at the experiences of faculty members, this study was not intended to explore the ability of universities to choose the language of instruction and select quality assurance mechanisms as well as providers. Moreover, as according to the “Regulations of academic process organization based on the credit technology of education” (MoES, 2011), the content of elective courses can be determined at the discretion of universities, increased number of elective courses was added to the academic autonomy component ‘capacity to decide upon the content of the degree programs”. Additionally, according to Enders, de Boer, and Wyer (2013), autonomy can be explored from two perspectives. It can be seen from the object’s self, pointing out object’s capacity or ability, and can be explored within the object-subject relationship that is independence of the object from external influence. Hence, the relationship of universities, operating under academic autonomy, with MoES, as the primary controlling body, is also depicted in the Figure 1.
Figure 1. Institutional Autonomy Dimensions, Academic Autonomy Components
Guided by the proposed framework, this study followed precise methodology underpinned by the post-positivist research paradigm in order to explore the beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of one of the national universities in Kazakhstan. The research design, research site, sample, instrument, data collection and analysis employed are described in-detail the next chapter.
Chapter Three: Methodology
This chapter presents the methodology of the research. Specifically, it delineates the paradigm that underpinned the study, design of the research, the instrument used to collect the data, the research site, and sample. Procedures for data collection and data analysis, including ethics protocol followed to ensure participants’ protection and confidentiality, are also depicted in this chapter.
Epistemology of the research is described first, as it manifests “how educational researchers can know the reality that they wish to describe” (Scott & Morrison, 2006, p.
85). Philosophical worldviews hold by researchers drive the study conducted and affect the research practice (Creswell, 2014, p. 57), as often hidden assumptions of the researcher have “very real and practical implications” (Slife & Williams, 1995, p. 2) for a study.
Therefore, it is vital that the worldview that this research is grounded in is clearly stated and articulated.
This research was driven by the post-positivist research paradigm that disputes the static idea of the absolute truth that of the positivists (Creswell, 2014). Instead, knowledge is viewed as “practically adequate” (Sousa, 2010, p. 485) that “informs and guides practice in the world” (Sousa, 2010, p. 485). Through a post-positivism lens numeric data and measures are critical in examining the problem and looking at the interested relationships.
Given this, beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of academic autonomy were explored and understood primarily based on the evidence derived from the numeric measures. At the same time data was not limited to quantitative data only, as the designed survey also incorporated open-ended questions. The instrument is elaborated further in this section.
In order to understand and shed the light on the faculty members’ beliefs and experiences of alterations in the academic affairs of the university under study during the transitional stage of the Kazakhstani universities to institutional autonomy, quantitative non-experimental research method was opted for. Compared to experimental studies that manipulate the environment, non-experimental research allows examining the variables within the real circumstances, in the way they occur in practice (Muijs, 2004, p. 13). In
particular, the study followed survey design to explore the relationships between dependent and independent variables, “occurring in particular real-life contexts” (Muijs, 2004, p. 49).
Cross-sectional survey that is administration of the survey at one point in time (Edmonds
& Kennedy, 2017, p. 135) was preferred, as it is beneficial when measuring present beliefs and opinions and examining “actual behaviors” (Creswell, 2011, p. 377). Additionally, for the inquiry case study research design was chosen, as it helped to investigate the national university in-detail, enabling “to probe, drill down and get at its complexity” (Arthur, Waring, Coe, & Hedges, 2012, p. 102). As Yin (as cited in Arthur et al., 2012) argues, case studies offer options of evaluating and explaining certain phenomenon (p. 102). Thus, this research primarily scrutinized academic autonomy as understood and practiced at one national university.
The research dwelled on a single case – a national university in Kazakhstan. The institution with a status of the national university was chosen due to its peculiarities that make it distinct from other types of HEIs in Kazakhstan. Specifically, according to the Government Decree of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Enactment of the Provisions of the Special Status of the Higher Education Institutions (2017), national universities unlike other types of HEIs, receive greater public funding, have the capacity to design and implement their own Bachelor, Master’s, and Doctoral programs. They also have the capacity to set their own admission criteria to select their students. The latter two traits particularly highlight certain degree of academic autonomy provided by the state.
Having the special status, the chosen university has approximately 2000 faculty members across 10 schools and around 15000 students. The university has been enjoying its accreditation status by both national and international accreditation agencies, such as Independent Quality Assurance Agency (IQAA), Accreditation, Certification and Quality
Assurance Institute (ACQUIN), Independent Agency for Accreditation and Rating (IAAR) to name some. The university is also considered as among the leading HEIs that have increased the number of students who hold the merit-based state education scholarship.
This mainly speaks for the quality of students being selected into the university and their academic standing which in turn speaks for the quality of education attained in the university.
The participants for the survey were selected based on cluster sampling that simplified the process of identifying and locating participants (Creswell, 2011), as this study attempted to explore the beliefs and experiences of academic autonomy of diverse representatives, particularly, in terms of the area of expertise of the faculty members: hard sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The chosen schools were School of Mechanics and Mathematics, School of Philology, School of Social Sciences, and School of Physics and Technical Sciences. The participants from these schools were selected through convenience sampling that rests on the availability of the participants (Scott & Morrison, 2006) owing to the limited access to the e-mails of the faculty members and their
availability at the research site while administering paper-based surveys. Random sampling instead would allow generalization (Creswell, 2009). The convenience sampling as a threat for external validity is further explicated in the limitations of the study.
The survey was disseminated to the faculty members in four selected schools of a target population of approximately 600 faculty members. Following the general rule of thumb, 150 faculty members were targeted to be surveyed; however, only 77 faculty expressed willingness to be involved in the research and participated in the study that is 51.3% response rate. Whereas Edmonds & Kennedy (2017) suggest that the researchers should reach at least 80% response rate in order to allow generalization to the entire
population, they admit that such numbers are unrealistic for students conducting studies for theses (p. 134).
Among the respondents for the period of conducting the research some of the faculty members were not only engaged in teaching, but also fulfilled administrative work, holding such positions as a department chair and dean of school. This has added more value to this research study because, not only are all participants faculty members, but also as those who are administrators (in addition to their position as faculty members) has enriched data collected to provide a thorough understanding of the issue of academic autonomy and its implementation around the specified university.
The survey was chosen for it could provide a numeric representation of the concepts studied and reach greater number of faculty members. A survey was developed from scratch specifically to answer the research questions of this study. As suggested by Benson and Clark (as cited in Creswell, 2011), in designing the survey there are certain steps that need to be maintained. Thus, in the planning phase the literature on academic autonomy was reviewed and analyzed, conceptual framework developed, and objectives identified. Based on this the survey was constructed and divided into sections,
corresponding to the constructs the research focused on, namely, beliefs and experiences.
Background information section items depict general information about the
participants, including work experience in higher education and at the case institution, their satisfaction with the job at the university, and overall attitude to change. Whereas beliefs and experiences are the latent variables that cannot be directly measured, the questions constituting the survey were used as manifest variables to “tease out an underlying latent concept” (Muijs, 2011, p. 57). Thus, the designed survey incorporated both close-ended, using Likert-scale for responses from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ as well as
multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. Whereas close-ended questions allow unequivocal answers and prevent from the leading questions (Scott & Morrison, 2006), open-ended questions allow more individualized and deeper answers on certain items.
Thus, the following items were included into the section devoted to the beliefs of the faculty members of the case university:
Have you ever heard and/or read of institutional autonomy?
Institutional autonomy is the same as academic freedom.
Academic autonomy has the same meaning as academic freedom.
Academic autonomy means individual independence of the faculty members in designing the curriculum.
Please indicate the dimensions you think academic autonomy includes.
The increased number of elective courses is related to academic autonomy.
Following academic autonomy principles, the number of students admitted to the bachelor degree programs at university should be determined by.
Following academic autonomy principles, the number of students admitted to the master’s degree programs at university should be determined by.
Following academic autonomy principles, the number of students admitted to the doctoral studies at university should be determined by.
If the university has academic autonomy, the Ministry of Education and Science cannot exert any influence on academic affairs of that university.
To measure the experiences of the faculty members of academic autonomy, the following items constituted another section of the survey:
Academic autonomy is outlined in our university’s strategy and/or policies.
Student admission criteria are set and regulated by the university.
To my knowledge the content of some of the bachelor degree programs at our school is created by the faculty members of our school.
As far as I know, the content of some of the master’s degree programs at our school is created by the faculty members of our school.
Are there any constraints in designing the content for the programs at the university?
New programs at our school can be introduced only through obtaining the permission from the Ministry of Education and Science.
The decisions on the student intake are made by the university.
If one of the degree programs is no longer in demand among students, the
university has the right to terminate this program without getting approval from the Ministry of Education and Science.
As the research was underpinned by the post-positivist epistemology, it was
important to ensure validity and reliability of the instrument to ensure that the survey had a valid measure. In designing the questions Scott and Morrison (2006) caution about the word choice in the questions, “appearance, length, and layout” (p. 192). Thus, the survey was carefully developed, taking into account these nuances. The survey was piloted twice to ensure construct and content validity. In the first piloted survey 4 peers from the M.Sc.
in Educational Leadership program, higher education track, were involved to review the questions. Having received the feedback, in 3 questions wording was changed.
Specifically, the question ‘Institutional autonomy is synonymous to academic freedom’
was changed to ‘Institutional autonomy is the same as academic freedom’, as the word
‘synonymous’ could be unclear for the participants. Furthermore, in the item ‘The increased number of elective courses is an important component of academic autonomy’
was changed into ‘The increased number of elective courses is related to academic
autonomy’, as it was crucial how the respondents would perceive the meaning of the question. For instance, they could consider increased number of electives as not as
important to academic autonomy. So, instead, the question focused on whether the faculty members related increased number of electives to academic autonomy of the university.
The third question on the decisions made on the content of the bachelor, master’s, and doctoral programs was advised to be separated into three questions, each corresponding to the education level, as all three combined in one question could be misleading and
confusing. Moreover, the question on the changes in the content of courses was excluded after deeper literature analysis, as it was overlapping with academic freedom.
The revised survey was piloted for the second time to six people, including the same four peers, one more student from the M.Sc. in Educational Leadership program, higher education track, and thesis supervisor. As was advised by the thesis supervisor, an item ‘How do you cope with change in general?’ was added to the background information section, as academic autonomy being granted to universities is a significant reform that affects established practices at the universities. Additionally, the question on satisfaction with the job at the university was recommended to be included and categories for multiple- choice questions on years of work experience in higher education and at the case university adjusted. In the question on academic autonomy components it was advised to enable the participants also to comment on their answers. The final revised version of the instrument was used.
After obtaining ethical approval from the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education Research to conduct this research, data collection process was conducted in a few stages. As the Research Committee granted approval to this study with minor changes to be discussed with the thesis supervisor, relevant amendments were considered with the
supervisor. Following the revision, having decided upon the schools of the university to be examined in this research, cover letters with request for conducting this research at the case university addressed to the deans of the schools were obtained from the Nazarbayev
University Graduate School of Education. Then the deans of the four selected schools were contacted and requested to administer the survey among the faculty members.
As Scott and Morrison (2006) assert, depending on the contexts, the conditions under which surveys are administrated considerably vary. Within the Kazakhstani realities, where many processes are not yet digitized, disseminating the survey online only could maximize to the risk of low response rate. Thus, to avoid such an issue those participants who are not used to the use of new technologies were taken into account. Additionally, not all schools were willing to provide access to the e-mails of the faculty members; rather schools’ leadership only allowed to administer paper-based surveys through personal communication with the faculty members. Given this, quantitative data was decided to be gathered through both online and paper-based means.
As the instrument was properly developed and validated, consent forms were prepared and incorporated into the surveys as the first page for the participants to learn and understand the nature of the research, its implications, and confidentiality considerations.
Ethics protocol followed is described further in detail under a separate sub-section. The deans of the School of Mechanics and Mathematics, School of Philology, and School of Physics and Technical Sciences provided access to the corporate e-mails of the faculty members to disseminate the survey through the Qualtrics survey software platform, which Nazarbayev University has subscription to. To the faculty members from the School of Social Sciences printed out copies of the survey were administered. The surveys were prepared and disseminated in both Russian and Kazakh languages based on the preferences
of the participants. Out of the 77 responses, 42 surveys were completed online and 35 on paper.
Given the quantitative nature of the study, data obtained from the survey
administration was predominantly entered and coded in a numeric representation. At the same time, some of the data was also obtained from the open-ended questions and comments provided by those faculty members who filled the survey using pen and paper method.
The obtained quantitative data results were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (hereinafter – SPSS) supported by the Windows operating system.
Although a wide variety of statistical analysis software packages are being exploited by researchers, SPSS allows all kinds of tests and is largely being utilized for educational research (Muijs, 2011). Thus, SPSS availability at Nazarbayev University and its relevance to data analysis in educational research were the reasons it was selected.
A number of analysis methods were conducted in SPSS in order to answer the research questions of this study which explores the beliefs and experiences of the faculty members of academic autonomy. Specifically, to look at the individual variables,
univariate analysis was conducted. It enabled to gain general descriptive statistics on frequencies, missing values, and percentages. Further bivariate analysis was applied.
Cross-tabulation method was utilized to compare a nominal variable and an ordinal variable as well as two ordinal variables (Muijs, 2011, p. 99). In particular, in the cross- tabulation output Pearson Chi square test was of interest, as it shows whether the
differences found arouse “due to chance sample fluctuations” (Muijs, 2011, p. 108). For the purpose of exploring the relationships between the variables correlation coefficient was calculated. As most of the variables were ordinal in nature, Spearman’s rho correlation