Kazakhstan: Cambridge Distances Itself from Brand Nazarbayev
Cambridge University has gotten a little too close for comfort to Kazakhstan's long-serving authoritarian leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.The university’s Churchill College has suspended plans to award one Kazakh student a six-month postdoctoral scientific placement scholarship this year, after mistakenly promoting a “Nazarbayev Fellowship.” Richard Partington, a senior tutor at Churchill College, said in a statement that the advertisements should have read “Nazarbayev University Fellowship” but had unfortunately been marketed using only the president's surname. The Kazakhstan branch of the financial services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers – which operates independently from the UK firm – would have paid for the fellowship to bring a Kazakh citizen from Nazarbayev's namesake university in Astana to Cambridge.Officials at Churchill told The Times Higher Education (THE) supplement they decided to change the fellowship's name after the college became nervous about any association with Nazarbayev himself. Schools in the UK have become increasingly wary of getting into bed with dictators since the furor surrounding the London School of Economics' suspicious dealings with the late Libyan dictator’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and lecturers’ protest when London's Metropolitan University proposed links with a university in Uzbekistan."Churchill College council had the nature of Kazakhstan and its government in mind from the beginning of our considerations," Partington explained to THE. "Factors that we have borne in mind in our discussions have included the importance placed upon education in Kazakhstan and the substantial academic freedom of [Astana's] Nazarbayev University.""It [was] not the college's intention to celebrate President Nazarbayev in making this appointment."
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.