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Mike Titelbaum

UW-Madison is very proud of its partnership with NU. For a while we had NU undergrads coming to take summer classes in Madison every year. They were great, their English was excellent, and they were among the top students in my logic class every summer!


This is really fascinating. Thanks!


I'm wondering whether the author could have been more critical of the democratic deficit of the country. How many students from families critical of the government could enter the university? How prevalent is corruption? Is there any corruption at the university?

And the names are ridiculous — Trump University in Donald City.


I, for one, am happy to be spared of unsolicited political commentary on this blog. I thought the entry was informative, and expat academics rarely have any insight on the politics of the country where they live that one can’t learn from a Wikipedia entry. Anyone who considers moving to a foreign country will likely brush up on the place and can decide for themselves whether the country’s political system is something they can make peace with.

Vladimir Krstic

I apologize for not discussing the political situation in Kazakhstan but (1) I thought that this was not relevant since it does not affect expats and this blog is principally designed for people looking for jobs in KZ and (2) I actually cannot tell you much more than what you can find out yourself. This is indeed a hybrid regime (an authoritarian system that ‘looks like’ democracy) but I am not sure that there is a significant lack of freedoms here. In fact, this seems like a well-functioning society; speaking from a position of a person who speaks Russian and has close connections with many ‘locals.’ I, for example, feel as safe as here I felt in New Zealand, much safer than how I felt in the USA – and I am not trying to be mean; I am just being honest. I regularly leave my stuff when I am in a coffee shop to go to use the restroom, and other people do this as well. And, to my knowledge, we haven’t had any real violence in the streets or a serious case of police brutality ever since I came here two years ago (I don’t follow government-owned media but independent sources). There are protests and demonstrations here and there but not violent. And the country is dealing with the Covid pandemic brilliantly.

Corruption in Kazakh society is, more or less, a normal thing but none of this applies to our university (in fact, this is why Ethics is a mandatory course for all of our students!). I have clearly said in the text that acceptance is merit-based. Let me stress that here: acceptance at NU is strictly merit-based, period!! We will accept any gifted student, regardless of their religion, skin colour, hairstyle, sexual orientation (people don’t look favourably here on this but I am unaware of any incidents, and I read local newspapers regularly), political views (many of the students are critical of the government), social or financial status (we have a very high number of intellectually gifted children from extremely poor families), or any other characteristic. As a member of this and last year’s admission committees, I can personally guarantee that this is true. Children of wealthy or influential people can enrol but, if they are not good enough, they will pay for their education. And if they do not study, they will fail. At NU, we are principally interested in knowledge transfer. We are here to teach. And this is the main reason I accepted my position at this university (thank you God for this decision).

This is not Trump University in Donald City. This analogy is mean and misleading. This is Washington University in Washington (state) or Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Carnegie Mellon University, Lincoln University, to name a few. Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev, notwithstanding his flaws, has managed to secure independence and relative prosperity for Kazakhstan while not shedding an ounce of blood and while keeping great relationships with all neighbouring countries. As a person coming from Former Yugoslavia, I assure you that this is an amazing achievement. Nazarbayev is, in a sense, a father of this nation (perhaps, they could have had a better one but this is beside the point here) and its first president. If Washington or Lincoln can have universities named after them, perhaps Nazarbayev can have one as well. Nazarbayev is also the founder and a patron of this university and so it carries his name. There is nothing strange or ‘Donaldish’ about it (though I did subtly hint in the text that they could have gone for a better name, for practical reasons mainly).
I hope that this resolves all concerns that may arise. I am happy to reply to any other questions. Just flick me an email.

Daniel Weltman

Please note that Washington University is in Missouri, not Washington state as you suggest, Vladimir. Only the University of Washington and Washington State University are in Washington state. There's also Washington & Lee University, which is in neither Washington state nor Missouri, and George Washington University, which happens to be in Washington, D.C. So, Americans at least are perhaps not in a position to complain about this sort of naming scheme.

While we're at it, I'm writing this from the Rajiv Gandhi Education City in India, which I arrived at having flown into the country a few years ago via the Indira Gandhi International Airport and then having driven north past the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex and the Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women. I am not sure that Kazakhstan deserves to be singled out when it comes to the name conversation!

Helen De Cruz

I also want to gently remind commenters (many of whom reside in countries that have great freedom of speech) that we have to be delicate and careful with political commentary, specifically on some countries/places. I've had difficulties soliciting posts for some countries because even a carefully worded post could have unforeseen consequences. We want to put the safety and wellbeing of our authors first! They offer us a valuable sense of what it's like to live and work as a philosopher in a given country, we don't intend to give an evenhanded report on the local political complexities.

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