Higher education in Kazakhstan

The higher education system in Kazakhstan

Recent policy updates, major reforms and related news

Projects and initiatives

TAMs and SPHERE seminars in 2016 and 2017

Relevant links


The higher education system in Kazakhstan

The basis of the state policy in the field of higher education in Kazakhstan is the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan (1995). In accordance with paragraph 2, Article 30 of the Constitution "All citizens shall have the right to receive free general secondary, technical and vocational education, and on a competitive basis a free post-secondary, higher and post–higher education provided that the education at these levels is received for the first time". Higher education is acquired by citizens who have completed secondary general, TVET or further (post-secondary) education.

Depending on their form of ownership, Kazakh universities are national, corporatized or international institutions, or they have the status of an autonomous organisation of education (AOE). They are divided into public or private bodies according to their source of funding. To date Kazakhstan has 131 higher educational institutions, among them are 10 national, 32 public, 14 non-civil, 1 international, 18 corporatized, 55 private and 1 AOE (Nazarbayev University). The establishment and operation of both public and private higher education institutions is regulated and monitored by the Ministry of Education. Private universities are on an equal footing with public ones and holding a license is required, since all universities are subject to regular certification and accreditation.

In 2010, Kazakhstan signed the Bologna Declaration, which was followed by a series of changes in the education system.

A three-level model was introduced based on a credit system measuring the acquired knowledge. Full transition to a new structure took place in 2010 and its major changes were incorporated into the State Programme of Education Development 2011-2020 and the amendments to the Law on Education (2015). In 2012 Kazakhstan adopted a National Qualifications Framework (as amended on 12/18/2013).

Most universities of the country use the Kazakh credit transfer system compatible with the ECTS. The credit used in Kazakhstan corresponds to 45 hours of student workload to study the discipline in the academic period of a semester lasting 15 weeks.

The first level of education is the Bachelor programme lasting at least 4 years. In order to complete a Bachelor’s degree, a student must have obtained at least 129 credits in theoretical training and at least 6 credits of practice, not less than 2 credits for writing and defending a thesis (project) and at least one credit for preparation and passing the state exam in the specialty. According to the specialty, the amount of credits varies from 160-180 in the Art disciplines up to 190-224 in the "Health and social welfare” disciplines (medicine).

The second level (postgraduate education) includes professional Master and scientific-pedagogical Master programmes. The duration of study in the scientific-pedagogical fields corresponds to 1.5 to 2 years, while for professional Masters is 1 year (from 60-120 ECTS).

The third level includes the PhD programme, which replaced the previously existing system of "candidate-doctor of science", and aims at training highly qualified scientific and pedagogical staff. The duration of doctoral studies is 3 years (minimum 60 credits). It is organized in the framework of the clinical, post-graduate, internships, doctoral programmes, research fellowships, etc.

Graduates of Kazakhstani universities can obtain the European Diploma Supplement.


Recent policy updates, major reforms and related news

In the field of higher education, reforms are being implemented in the following areas:

  • Improving the quality of higher education through institutional and specialized accreditation according to international standards, internationalisation of higher education; development of academic credit mobility, double-diploma education, joint educational programmes and research projects;
  • Since 2014 a project for the integration of education and science is being implemented to strengthen the research capacity of universities, to attract leading scientists of scientific research institutes to teach, and to facilitate closer cooperation between science and business;
  • Gradual increase of the academic and managerial autonomy of higher education institutions;
  • Strengthening practice-oriented educational programmes, close cooperation of universities with the labour market, development of educational programmes based on professional standards;
  • Further development of the National Qualification System including NQF, Sectorial Qualifications Frameworks and professional standards. Currently, the draft of a national law on Professional Qualifications is being discussed in the Government. Its adoption will also allow for the coordination of national policies in the field of Lifelong Learning.


Projects and initiatives

Implementing a Central Asian Centre for Teaching, Learning and Entrepreneurship - CACTLE (https://management.cactle.eu)

The mission of Erasmus+ CACTLE project is the sustainable development of human capital in the Central Asian countries and enhancing the competitiveness of universities, businesses and industries in the region.

Accessibility and Harmonization of Higher Education in Central Asia through Curriculum Modernization and Development –АСADEMICA (http://www.academicaproject.eu)

ACADEMICA aims to contribute to the modernization and improvement of Higher Education in the field of Engineering Sciences in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Establishment of Computing Centers and Curriculum Development in Mathematical Engineering Master Programme – ECCUM (http://eccum.famnit.upr.si/en/)

Five universities from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are developing a joint Master Programme in Mathematical Engineering under the mentorship of European partners.

Training Against Medical Error –TAME (http://www.tame-project.org/)

The overall objective of the TAME project is to introduce innovative pedagogy methods that will provide training for students against medical error.

Enhancing Competencies of Central Asian Universities in Agricultural Policy Focused on Environmental Protection & Land Management – ECAP (http://ecap.uniag.sk/)

ECAP is aimed at enhancing and strengthening the awareness in environmental protection and land management via innovative curricula addressed to students of Uzbek and Kazakh universities.  

Establishment of Centers for Competence and Employability Development – COMPLETE (http://www.cced-complete.com/)

The aim of COMPLETE project is to encourage employability and foster interaction between HEIs and employers through establishment of Centers for Competence and Employability Development.

Development of Two Cycle Innovative Curricula in Microelectronic Engineering – DOCMEN (http://www.docmen-project.pl/)

The project supports the modernisation of the higher education in microelectronics through innovation of two cycle curricula in line with the new development in the area and the labour market demand.

Enhancing Capacities in implementation of institutional quality assurance systems and Typology Using Bologna Process Principles –IQAT (https://www.project-iqat.eu/)

The project is focused on enhancing capacities in implementation of Bologna process reforms at institutional level at HEIs in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with the emphasis on internal quality assurance and institutional typology.

Trans-Regional Environmental Awareness for Sustainable Usage of Water Resources -TREASURE-WATER (http://treasure-water.eu/)

The project aims to empower universities in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan by enhancing synergies between higher education and enterprises in the field of trans-boundary water resources management.

International University Cooperation on Land Protection in European-Asiatic Countries – IUCLAND (http://www.iucland.eu/)

The aim of IUCLAND is to foster international cooperation among partner Universities through the implementation of training activities dedicated to the topic of Land Degradation.

Modernizing Health Education in Universities –ModeHEd

The project is aimed at the modernization of Curriculum of Health Sciences in universities of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and bring innovative teaching technologies into training process.

Development and Implementation of the Master Programme - “Green Logistics Management“: Advancing Trans-Eurasian Accessibility through Sustainable Logistics Management and ICT Competence – LogOn-U (http://green-lg.com/)

LogOn-U sets the ambitious goal to advance Trans-Eurasian accessibility through strengthening Logistics competitiveness, and bringing Partner Universities in Kazakhstan and Russia on international level in fields of sustainable, i.e. “Green” Logistics Management.

Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development -SARUD (https://sarud.uni-hohenheim.de/startseite)

The project is focused on the development of a professional master program in sustainable agriculture and rural development at three Russian and three Kazakh agricultural universities.


TAMs and SPHERE seminars in 2016 and 2017

Technical Assistance Missions (TAMs) in 2016 and 2017:

  1. Training HEREs and university staff in using information-communication technologies (ICT) in the teaching and learning process, Almaty, 13-14 January 2016
  2. International credit mobility: management, recognition of results and quality assurance, Almaty, 14-15 April 2016
  3. Student-centred learning: modern approaches and instruments, Almaty 8-9 June 2016
  4. Corporate governance in higher education institutions of Kazakhstan: principles, forms and prospects, Almaty, 3-4 November 2016
  5. The role of national qualifications framework in higher education policy reform, Almaty, 19-21 April 2017
  6. Developing research capacity at higher education institutions of Kazakhstan: teaching research and supervision of PhD programmes, Astana, 17-18 May  2017

SPHERE Seminar:

Students in focus: Student as partners in higher education governance and quality assurance, 5-6 April 2017, Almaty, Kazakhstan


Relevant links

1) Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan http://www.parlam.kz/en/constitution

2) Law on Education in the Republic of Kazakhstan of 27.07.2007, № 319-III (amended and restated as of 04.12.2015) http://www.edu.gov.kz/ru/documents/zakon-respubliki-kazahstan-ot-27-iyulya-2007-goda-no-319-iii-ob-obrazovanii

3) State Programme of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 http://www.edu.gov.kz/en/state-program-education-development-republic-kazakhstan-2011-2020

4) "Strategy Kazakhstan - 2050" http://strategy2050.kz/en/page/message_text2014/

5) Ministry of Education and science http://edu.gov.kz/ru

6) The Bologna Process and Academic Mobility Center  http://enic-kazakhstan.kz/en/

7) National Erasmus+ Office in Kazakhstan http://www.erasmusplus.kz/index.php/en/

8) Higher Education Reform Experts (HEREs) in Kazakhstan http://www.erasmusplus.kz/index.php/ru/here/contacts

9) HERE team Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HEREteam.kz/

10) Independent Agency for Accreditation and Rating - http://iaar.kz/en/

11) Independent Kazakh Agency for Quality Assurance in Education- http://iqaa.kz/en/