Faculty in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan: Reactions to Reforms


  • Martha Merrill Kent State University
  • Janara Baitugolova Kyrgyz State University named after I. Arabaev
  • Chynarkul Ryskulova American University of Central Asia




After Kyrgyzstan’s independence, reforms were implemented in higher education: new degrees, credit hours, private institutions, tuition in public institutions, and independent accreditation. However, faculty reactions to these reforms have not previously been studied. The authors conducted 57 interviews in four locations over three years. Our findings show that, first, interviewees discussed all kinds of changes in higher education and society. Second, participants were undergoing “concurrent stresses” (Anderson, Goodman, and Schlossberg, 2012) – their personal as well as professional lives were changing. Third, opinions differed. We analyzed these according to three of Schlossberg’s “4 S’s”: differences in faculty selves, situations, and support systems. However, few participants described strategies for dealing with the changes. Fourth, nearly all spoke of the reforms as something not under their control. Fifth, very few faculty members described the changes as unilaterally negative or positive.  Most said, “I like this, but not that.”

Author Biographies

Martha Merrill, Kent State University

ORCID 0000-0001-6777-5650



Martha C. Merrill worked on higher education reform in the Kyrgyz Republic from 1996 to 2001, and has returned regularly for research and consulting with funding from Fulbright, IREX, NCEEER, and the Asian Development Bank. Her research on Central Asia has been published in the journals Asian Education and Development Studies, Higher Education in Russia and Beyond, European Education, International Higher Education, and Central Eurasian Studies Review, as well as in local journals in Kyrgyzstan, and in the books Globalization on the Margins: Education and Post-socialist Transformations in Central Asia; Reimagining Utopias: Theory and Method for Educational Research in Post-Socialist Contexts; Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan: Political and Social Challenges; and The European Union in Central Asia.


Dr. Merrill is Associate Professor of Higher Education at Kent State University in Ohio (USA) and Coordinator of the program's International Education Certificate. Her degrees are in Russian literature (BA, Michigan), Creative Writing (Master's, Boston University), College and University Administration (Master's and Ph.D., Michigan) and Islamic Studies (Master's, Columbia University).

Janara Baitugolova, Kyrgyz State University named after I. Arabaev


ORCID 0000-0001-7886-6478

Janara Baitugolova is Acting Associate Professor at the Institution of Retraining Teachers at  I. Arabaev Kyrgyz State University, in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic. She holds a Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences degree in Theory and Methods of Higher Education. She has written approximately 30 publications on learning outcomes, competency based education, using portfolios in teaching languages and assessment in education. 

Chynarkul Ryskulova, American University of Central Asia

ORCID 0000-0002-9100-7739

Chynarkul S. Ryskulova, Ph.D.(USA) and Candidate of Philological Sciences (Ph.D., Kyrgyzstan) is an Associate Professor and Co-chair of the General Education Program at the American University in Central Asia (AUCA), Kyrgyzstan. From 1984 to1998, she taught English language to Kyrgyz and Russian speaking students at the Kyrgyz National University. She worked at AUCA in various teaching and administrative positions including Dean of Academic Affairs and Coordinator of Writing and Academic Resources Center from 1998 to 2014. She did her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration at Kent State University (USA) from 2014-2019, and returned to AUCA in 2019. She is one of the four editors of English –Kyrgyz Dictionary and published several articles on comparative linguistics and issues of higher education in Kyrgyzstan.




How to Cite

Merrill, M., Baitugolova, J., & Ryskulova, C. . (2021). Faculty in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan: Reactions to Reforms. FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education, 7(1), 97–114. https://doi.org/10.32865/fire202171236