Mina Scholarship

Title

Mina Scholarship

Name of the institution(s)

New Generation Academy (NGA) American University of Central Asia (AUCA)

Qualification level concerned

EQF 6

EQF 7

Country concerned

Kyrgyz Republic

Theme(s)

Mission/Role of Professional Higher Education

Keywords 

Access, social dimension

Summary

The main objective of Mina scholarship program is to give access to higher education to students from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds across the country. For example, in the past three years 20 full orphans (having lost both parents) completed NGA and were admitted to universities, including AUCA. In total, in three years 208 Mina scholarship students, who come from the most remote regions of the country, graduated from NGA and 151 were admitted to AUCA, which is the best university in the entire region. It is very challenging even for students from cities to be admitted to AUCA because of its high admission and education standards.

In selecting candidates for the Mina scholarship program, we target students who exhibit hard work and a strong dedication to succeed, but cannot afford paying for their studies. We recruit students from the most remote regions of the country who are less likely to enter higher education, as the quality of education in the regions is very low in comparison to schools in big cities. At NGA, students complete a rigorous program in the English language and College Mathematics, as well as in Kyrgyz and Russian languages. During the prep year, students gain knowledge and skills that are necessary for students to succeed in their undergraduate studies. To help students in deciding on their future departments and professions, we organize guest lectures and a peer mentoring program. One of the favourite activities of our students is a tour to the Parliament of Kyrgyz Republic, where they also meet deputies.

Students on Mina grant receive full scholarship from the donor and the university. In total, 5000 USD is spent for one student’s study at NGA, of which 3 300 covers the tuition fee and the rest is given to students for housing expenses and as a monthly stipend. As the average monthly salary in Kyrgyzstan is about 200 USD, most of the families would not afford paying for their children’s higher education.

The students’ costs are shared – the university covers tuition, the donor covers housing and stipend; the administrative costs are also shared – e.g. the university covers the teaching, but materials, books etc are funded by the donor. The donor is an international energy services and infrastructure company.

Re-cap: the stated targets are 70 students each year, not less or more; it is now implemented for a fourth year; the size/scope – students with disadvantaged backgrounds from rural schools in each of the 7 regions are eligible and invited to apply. Out of 140 NGA alumni, 30 students were chosen to study at AUCA’s undergrad program with a full scholarship from Mina grant. The first two cohort of students, in total 30 students, are studying now at AUCA on a full scholarship from Mina Corp.

Lessons learnt 

Sustainability is a big challenge. They are constantly trying to find new donors who would continue supporting students; look at international and local actors. This is done on an ongoing basis by a separate Development Office (and by the President), which specifically looks for money from different actors. Because the Mina scholarship has been a resounding success, other companies like Kumtor Gold Mining company and local businessmen are sponsoring kids from villages to study at NGA.

In total, in three years 208 Mina scholarship students graduated from NGA and 151 were admitted to AUCA. In addition, 27 students from the first two cohorts chose to study at other universities in Kyrgyzstan and three are pursuing their studies abroad. It is worth pointing out that over the past three years 20 full orphans (having lost both parents) completed NGA and were admitted to universities, including AUCA.  In terms of geographical representation, we have reached out to some of the most disadvantaged parts of Kyrgyzstan such as Leilek in Batken, Chon Alay in Osh, Chaktal in Jalal-Abad, and Lahol in Naryn.  Thus, given that the basic goal of the New Generation Academy is to identify students from disadvantaged backgrounds who would otherwise not have the opportunity to get higher education and prepare them to study at AUCA or other universities, we believe the program has been a resounding success.

In terms of NGA alumni at AUCA, the Mina graduates of 2013 and 2014 studying at AUCA have shown excellent academic results. The overall GPA for the class of 2013 is 3.12 and for the class of 2014 is 2.94 (this compares well with the overall AUCA average GPA which is around 3.05). Nine students from the first cohort were placed on AUCA Dean’s List for excellent academic performance. Even more important, the retention rate for Mina graduates is significantly better than for AUCA students as a whole: so far 96% of the students who began studying at AUCA are still enrolled, compared to the school wide average of 80%. A number of NGA graduates are participating in competitive international exchange programs; so far, three students have gone to South Korea, USA, and Poland on such programs. In the summer, six students travelled to USA on the Work and Travel program and eight attended summer schools in countries such as Turkey, Latvia, Spain, Germany, and Georgia. One of NGA alumni travelled to Antarctica, as part of a photo contest that he won.

Additional information 

The project is initiated by AUCA president, Andrew Wachtel. He wanted the talented students from low-income families across the country to improve their knowledge and skills at NGA and then be prepared to enter higher education institutions. Without this scholarship, these students would not even dream of studying in AUCA and other top universities in Bishkek because of their low financial stand and lack of knowledge to study at a university setting.

The scholarship is conceived as a combined merit- and need-based opportunity that prioritises the geographical representation. By supporting high schools kids in the villages, the president also wanted to have more students to apply for undergraduate level programs, because recently there are fewer students who are applying to universities. The preparatory programme is not mandatory at the university, it is offered just to those who need it. However, the focus of the scholarship is on increasing opportunities in the villages.

The donor, on the other hand, wanted to help develop education in Kyrgyzstan as a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programme. Their assumption is that the best way to invest is in education through supporting talented students to study at AUCA.

There is no particular theoretical framework, but the University had had experiences implementing similar scholarship projects, so MINA is based on past experience and the needs above.

http://www.nga.auca.kg

Contact details

New Generation Academy (NGA) American University of Central Asia (AUCA)

duisheeva@gmail.com

nga@auca.kg

First collected by

IDEAS (Identifying Effective Approaches to Enhancing the Social Dimension) project – EURASHE, 2013-2015

 

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