American University of Central Asia - AUCA - STUDENT ADMINISTRATION FORUM

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Dear AUCA Community,


A forum was held on April 26th with students, faculty, and administration, to discuss and debate concerns about the future of the university.  Although many questions were answered, there was not enough time to get to every single question.  Several questions were given to the administration in written form, and they are answered here below.  Below you can also find a link to the 2011-12 AUCA budget.


In addition, there will be another forum on May 10, at 17:00, in room 403, to which we invite everyone who is interested.




Andrew Wachtel.


Why weren't students aware of the changes before the decisions were made about fall and spring break, as well as tuition fees?


            The Faculty Senate was involved in the decision to start that academic year later than usual to accommodate those students who chose to work and travel on various programs in the United States, as well as to provide faculty and students with a longer summer break. Because of the rescheduling, fall break was not possible to schedule next semester. A member of the Student Senate takes part in the Faculty Senate and was therefore aware, or should have been aware, of the schedule change. 

            As agreed at the meeting, there will be a vote as to what will happen to spring break.  The vote will take place as a part of class evaluations.


Is the new campus being built on tuition money?


            No.  Construction of the new campus is being funded by local and international donors.  Absolutely no tuition money goes toward construction of the new campus.  Furthermore, the money that will be used for new campus construction was donated for that express purpose and AUCA does not have the right to use it for anything else.


Is it possible for IBL department to have older and more experienced professors that we have now?


            AUCA believes that its faculty are some of the most talented and hardworking faculty in the region.  For every department, we would like to attract the best faculty possible.  AUCA works hard to give its faculty opportunities for professional development, international exposure, and a chance to conduct research and finish their PhDs.  We do not believe that the age of the faculty member has anything to do with the quality of teaching.  Indeed, in the United States, students regularly complain about older faculty members, who, they say, are less well aware of new developments in their fields and are less inclined to understand newer generations of students.


Why, year by year, do the passing requirements of English language decrease?


            As was mentioned in the forum, the correlation between English test score and ability to succeed at AUCA is not significant to plus or minus 50 points.  In other words, a student who scores 480 is no more likely to succeed or fail at AUCA than a student who scores a 510.  Therefore, we are trying to look for different indicators of a student's success, such as the essay, and other measures that can help us to identify the best student body we can put together.


We expect high quality of education, not high quality of diploma.  Are you ready to sacrifice the quality of education to the international diploma?


            No.  Although students in 9 departments now receive Bard diplomas in addition to their Kyrgyz State diplomas, the partnership in Bard is rooted in both institutions' commitment to deepening the liberal arts experience of the students, helping them to think critically, and preparing them to face the challenges of the 21st century.


            Over the past three years, AUCA's partnership with Bard has given opportunity to faculty to improve their teaching through workshops conducted both here and in New York.  Through the Bard partnership AUCA has developed First Year Seminar, exposed students to a number of visiting faculty, given students the opportunity to travel to Bard College, and brought American exchange students to AUCA.  In all, this partnership has made, and will continue to make AUCA much stronger in almost every aspect of university life.


Students must know about the expenses of the university, and should participate in the decision-making process regarding tuition.  Is it possible?


            Yes.  The university expenses are published, in a truncated form, on the university website (AUCA 2011-12 Budget).  The administration has never hidden expenses from students, nor will they ever. Undergraduate tuition income covers less than 40% of the university budget. Donor funding covers more than 60% of expenses.

            In terms of tuition decisions, the students are certainly entitled to have a voice.  Tuition must account for inflation. Inflation was officially between 8-10% last year, and unofficially much higher.  Expenses such as faculty and staff salary, utilities and maintenance costs, and services such as internet, student life, and many others all increase year on year, and increasing tuition is one way that the university must meet these rising costs.

            We also constantly look for efficiencies in our administration, and invite the students to tell us where in the university they see money being spent unwisely.


Why can't the administration make winter break shorter?  3 weeks is too long.


            We could make it shorter, but judging from our experience with fall and spring break, this is probably something that we would like the entire student body to vote on.  

            Also, 3 weeks is what students get off, but faculty, in reality, only get one week because of grading final exams.


Could you tell us the main reason for changing the tuition fee to $5400?  Isn't it too high?  What about increasing financial aid?


            $5400 is enough to cover the expenses at AUCA if every student were to pay full tuition.  In reality, 93% of students receive financial aid, including 99% of Kyrgyz students.  Financial aid for students will also increase by 10%, the same amount as tuition was increased, so that students will pay approximately the same percentage of tuition that they paid last year.


            The average student at AUCA receives over $3,000 in financial aid, and that will be true next year as well.


Will there be any changes in top administration?


            There are always changes in staff and faculty at AUCA, and we are thankful for everyone's effort in making this the best university in the region.  The current administration has only been in place for 2 academic years, and has achieved concrete results in moving the university forward academically, making the new campus a reality, and increasing the overall sustainability of the institution. 


There are no current rumors to share, unfortunately, about changes to the top administrators.


Why is AUCA turning into a dictatorship?


            AUCA is one of the only universities in the region that engages its students in open dialogue, and sincerely lets the student body have a voice in the way the university is governed.  Through open forums, Student Senate, and Academic Senate, AUCA has several bodies that take part in decision making on campus.  Furthermore, no student or faculty has been denied access to information or meetings with administrators at any level.


Why does the quality of education at AUCA fall while the tuition rises?


            In terms of tuition please see question 5 and 7.  In terms of quality of education, we feel that the quality has, in fact, risen (question 4).  Quality can be conceived of in many ways, however.


            In terms of student services, AUCA does more to offer its students help, both academic and advising, than any other university in the region.  AUCA students have resources for career planning, tutoring, networking, travel, and other experiences that are simply not on offer at other universities in Kyrgyzstan.


            In terms of employment, AUCA graduates still demand some of the best positions in Bishkek and around the region, and do not face the same levels of unemployment that their contemporaries at other universities face. 


            In terms of entering masters and PhD programs, AUCA students have more options than students of other universities, are more successful in their application process, and benefit greatly from having access to an American diploma.


All teachers who don't know English but have great experience and knowledge are ready to return to AUCA.  However, the policies do not allow them to do so.  Why do we have such policies?


            The policies for English-language instruction were implemented in recognition of the fact that AUCA is an international university.  While required courses will always be offered in English, AUCA is open to the idea of having some elective courses being taught in Russian and Kyrgyz.


Is it true that this year is going to be the last summer school ever?




How long will we pretend like SFW is in English?


            Until it is in English.  SFW students learn multiple languages while at AUCA, and many of the programming languages that they learn are written in English. 


            AUCA works with all its students to make sure they can do university-level work in English.  As part of this plan, incoming students who are identified as having weaker English skills will be asked to study for one year in the preparatory program before starting their undergraduate work at AUCA.


Have you seen dirty classes, broken chairs, and outdated boards?


            Yes.  PPD does what it can to clean up after our university students, and maintain the equipment in the classrooms.  In general, there will be no upgrades to classroom furniture until AUCA moves to the new campus.  Computers, projectors, and technology will be purchased and replaced, as is done every year at AUCA.


Do you know that the professors', instructors', and staff's salary is the same?


            No, this is not true.


There are not enough foreign language options for students who do not speak Russian, since foreign languages are taught through Russian.  What should international students do?


            Most of the language faculties at AUCA teach through Russian, and this is indeed a problem for international students.  Currently Russian and Kyrgyz are options.


Why is the Student Senate allowed to vote to cancel fall break and not all of the students?


            This is a good lesson in how a representative democracy works.  You, the students, elect the senate to represent you and your issues.  So the simple answer to your question is that the Student Senate is allowed to vote because you gave them the power to vote for you.


            If you want a more responsive Senate, or a different form of institutional representation for students, then you should vote for your senate with more care next year, or have the student body agree on an alternative way to be represented in administrative decision-making.


Why is English Composition being subsumed by FYS?


English Composition is not being subsumed entirely by FYS.  In addition to FYS, we are increasing the number of courses at the advanced level in which writing in the discipline is a focus.  But overall, the idea is that the formal part of writing (English Composition) should not be separate from the content. Rather the two are intimately related and as a result it does not make sense to have a separate English composition program. This, by the way, is standard practice at US universities.


Why do we not have an English Department?


See question 18.  We do not have such a department because we do not think that there would be a demand for such a major among students.  However, we expect to increase the number of literature courses available to our students over the next few years in the General Education program.


Required courses should be the same from the time we enter university to the time we leave.  Why do they change?


            Required courses do not change once you have entered a department.  Requirements may be different for juniors versus freshmen, but they do not change for an individual class.


Why were "X" and "AU" grades removed for next year?


The “X” grade was being used almost exclusively as a substitute for an “F”.  If a student does not fulfill the requirements for a course he/she should fail the course.  If a student cannot attend a course because of illness, he/she will still be able to receive the equivalent of an “X” grade.

The Academic Senate also voted to extend the withdrawal period for students until the end of the tenth week of the semester so students could make better decisions regarding the choice of the courses they make and regarding their responsibility to manage their course loads.  

"AU" grade was not removed.


Why was the ticket for Junior's Ball so expensive?


            The Junior's Ball is organized and paid for by students. 


Why are we forced to make course evaluations against our will?


            Nobody forces students to evaluate courses.  Course evaluations, however, are very important to helping AUCA know where it is doing well, and where it needs to improve.  By filling out evaluations, you are making an AUCA education better for yourself and for the students that will follow after you.


Why aren't students with high GPAs paid?


            Students with high GPAs are motivated by learning something new, challenging themselves to solve difficult problems, listening to interesting ideas, and the reward of knowing that the skills they are accumulating at AUCA will be with them their entire lives, and benefit not only themselves, but also those they work and live with.  They don't do it for money.


Why are international students being discriminated against at AUCA events like Junior's Ball, which was held in Russian?


            International students are not discriminated against at AUCA.  Junior's Ball is perhaps not the best example, because, again, it was a student-organized event.  Official events such as Initiation and Commencement are conducted in English and Russian, as well as Kyrgyz, in acknowledgement of our international student body. 


            There will always be a balance at AUCA between events in English and events in Russian.  Many informal events at AUCA are conducted in Russian because many of our guests and performers are more comfortable speaking Russian.  We would note that the previous student forum was conducted mostly in English.  Having translation available at all events would be prohibitively expensive, but we are open to suggestions on how to include more international students in events at AUCA.


Why do we have limited access to the library?


            All students have full access to the library, and electronic resources can be accessed 24 hours per day.


Why isn’t security friendly to students?


            The security staff is here to protect the students, which they do very well. They are very friendly and are always ready to help.


Students are not allowed at AUCA on holidays.  Why?


            Holidays mean that all staff and faculty are away, so there is no way to open places such as the library or computer labs.


Will AUCA have new ID cards that look more official?


            Yes, at the new campus everyone will be issued new ID cards that function like debit cards and grant students remote access to various areas of the building, and give students discounts at shops around Bishkek.  You current ID can already get you discounts at many stores, including Life Fitness and the Россия-theater.


The next forum will take place on Thursday, May 10, at 17:00 in room 403

American University of Central Asia
205 Abdymomunov St.
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic 720040

Tel.: (+ 996 312) 66 11 19 + ext.
Fax: (+ 996 312) 66 32 01

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