In 2009, a delegation from Kazakhstan came to Madison to lay out its vision for a world-class research university and to discuss a potential partnership between UW and this nascent Kazakhstani institution. Following the visit to Madison, a UW–Madison team went to NU in 2010, where they conducted a feasibility study on the establishment of a School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS). Then, in early 2011, UW began contributing to the groundwork for this new School.

NU Construction 4
A UW–Madison Team surveys construction of Nazarbayev University in April 2010

Since 2010, UW–Madison has remained a strategic partner for NU School of Sciences and Humanities (SSH) [formerly SHSS] and continues to work closely with SSH faculty and staff regarding academic program development, faculty research and teaching capacity, and administration and student support services within the School.

In addition to partnering with SSH, UW–Madison has worked with a number of student, academic, and administrative support units throughout the institution including the:  Academic Advising Unit; Career Advising Center; Department of Student Affairs; NU Library; Psychological Counseling Center; Sports and Recreation; and the Writing Center Program, to name a few.

Since 2014, UW–Madison has welcomed NU students through its summer Visiting International Student Program (VISP), a study abroad opportunity with academic, social, and cultural components. UW–Madison also collaborated with NU’s School of Engineering (SEng) for two years (2016–2018), and in 2018 and 2019, it provided services to the Nazarbayev University Research and Innovation System (NURIS), a NU subsidiary. Currently, the UW-NU partnership is in its eighth agreement.

In addition to contributing to the development of a comprehensive teaching-learning-research eco-system at NU, the partnership has greatly impacted UW–Madison as well—it has facilitated collaborative relationships across more than 60 academic and administrative units, involved approximately 300 faculty and staff, coordinated more than 100 visits to Astana, and introduced 200+ Kazakhstani students to UW students and the academic and cultural opportunities offered on campus.

Each stage of this partnership has had its own formal agreement (1–7). For further details and activities of each agreement, please see Agreements 1–2Agreement 3Agreement 4Agreement 5, Agreement 6 (SSH and General), Agreement 7, and currently, Agreement 8. For an overview of select activities and some photo galleries, please visit the Photo Albums. For a narrative overview of the partnership, see chapter 29 “The UW–Madison Partnership with Nazarbayev University” by Virginia Martin and David McDonald in Wisconsin in the World: Internationalization at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Elise S. Ahn, ed)(2023), published by Information Age Publishing. The book may be found here and the chapter may be downloaded here.