The diploma disease in Central Asia: students' views about purpose of university education in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan

Dilrabo Jonbekova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper examines students’ views about the purpose of university education and its role in their future employability in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Data was gathered through focus groups with 172 undergraduate students. Findings suggest that due to socio-economic pressures, students largely see the purpose of university in terms of its economic value, namely enhanced access to employment opportunities and improved financial wellbeing. While future career prospects are key motivation to pursue a university degree, this study shows that the perceived role of university credentials in employability is declining. Due to an oversupply of graduates and limited employment opportunities, employers have raised the bar for qualifications to select job candidates. Coupled with an undergraduate degree perceived as an ‘incomplete degree’, students are driven to earn more educational credentials; leading to a greater supply of graduates and what appears to be a widespread occurrence of ‘diploma disease’.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes



  • Central Asia
  • employability
  • Kazakhstan
  • purpose of higher education
  • Tajikistan
  • university credentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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