15 September 2021
Central Asia’s science and higher education systems have undergone widespread reform in recent years, with the adoption of the three-tiered bachelor’s–master’s–PhD degree system and the certification of scientific personnel.
The number of PhD students leapt by 23% between 2015 and 2018, despite public expenditure on higher education shrinking from 11% to 6% of overall education expenditure, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
Persistently low investment in R&D has implications for countries’ plans to use science, technology and innovation (STI) to modernize their economies. Researcher density is down in all countries.
As we shall see from the country profiles that follow, countries are taking steps to remedy this situation. One encouraging sign is the rise in PhD enrolment across Central Asia between 2015 and 2018.
Now women dominate most scientific fields and have achieved parity in engineering (46% in 2017), a rare feat for any country. Overall, researcher density has dropped since 2015 but there has been a 220% increase in the number of technicians per million inhabitants, albeit from a low starting point.
Meanwhile, the scientific community is ageing. As the older generation retires, researcher density has been dropping, a trend that continued between 2014 and 2018, as the number of full-time equivalent researchers dropped from 500 to 476 per million inhabitants. There was also a slight drop in researcher density by head count. This has prompted the government to introduce moves to attract younger scientists to a research career.
The good news is that Central Asian governments are taking steps to overcome these obstacles. There are a growing number of technology parks, which benefit from advantageous tax regimes, for instance.
Governments are also working with international partners to access green finance, in order to embark on a more sustainable development path, such as through Uzbekistan’s ‘solar auctions. One challenge will be to balance competing demands for innovation from the mining sector, which forms the bedrock of Central Asian economies.
For more information about the official launch of the UNESCO Science Report 2021 please follow the link.
The full version of the Report or its executive summary can be downloaded on the official website.
The video just summarizing the UNESCO Science Report can be found at this link.