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 Kazakhstan

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.

To date, Kazakhstan has 131 higher education institutions (HEIs). 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. 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 (amended on 12/18/2013):

Bachelor programme - at least 4 years (depending on the field of study)

Master programme – 1 year (professional) or 2 years (scientific)

PhD programme - 3 years

From January 2019, Kazakhstan transferred to a new credit system, fully compatible with ECTS, with 240 credits for Bachelor, 60-120 for Master and 180 for Doctoral programmes. Before 2019, most universities of the country used the Kazakh credit transfer system. The student workload of 1 Kazakhstani credit and the transfer coefficient to ECTS depended on the level of study and the type of academic activity.

In 2018, the total student population was around 500,000 people with female students comprising 54.3%. There are around 14,000 international students enrolled in Kazakh HEIs.

The tuition fees vary from around US $1000 to US $5,500 per year, depending on the programme, institution and study level. HEIs offer a variety of scholarships for students with high academic achievement and/or financial difficulties.

223 academic programmes are taught fully in English at 21 Universities. 301 programmes are run jointly with international HEIs.

Ten universities in Kazakhstan are featured in the QS World University Rankings 2018/19, with Al-Farabi Kazakh National University taking 220th position in the World ranking.


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 programme accreditation according to international standards, internationalisation of higher education; development of academic credit mobility, double-diploma education, joint educational programmes and research projects;
  • Integration of education and science to strengthen the research capacity of universities, attracting leading scientists to teach, and facilitating closer cooperation between science and business;
  • 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.

The major changes in the field of higher education in Kazakhstan in 2018 were related to the new Law "On introducing amendments and addenda to some legislative acts on the expansion of academic and managerial independence of higher educational institutions" adopted on July 4, 2018 No. 172-VI. The Law introduces 16 types of commercial activities that HEIs now can engage in; 24 independent functions for all types of universities; 2 functions for universities with a special status, such as defining the content and awarding Doctoral degrees.

In accordance with the amendments to the Law on Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan, HEIs gained more autonomy in the following domains:

  • modernising the system of management of higher education institution;
  • developing and approving educational programmes;
  • defining internal standards for academic load, rules for admission, rules for organizing internships, rules on student flow and other procedures regulating academic activity of the HEIs;
  • conducting ongoing monitoring of student performance, as well as final certification of students;
  •  introducing modern forms of professional training, etc.


The existing functions of universities were complemented by the following new functions:

  • creating an endowment fund;
  • creating legal entities for scientific and educational activities;
  •  opening start-up companies;
  • establishing branches in foreign countries.


These changes led to the development or revision of 56 by-laws, regulating the operation of HEIs.The reform is aimed at increasing the competitiveness of universities. It allows HEIs to gain academic autonomy and managerial independence through the transformation into non-profit joint stock companies. It is expected that universities will increase the effectiveness of their activities through accountability to corporate bodies of governance. In addition, HEIs will be able to diversify their sources of income and introduce modern methods of management and budgeting.


Projects and initiatives


CACTLE - Implementing a Central Asian Centre for Teaching, Learning and Entrepreneurship


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ModeHEd - Modernizing Health Education in Universities (http://modehed.uz/web/)

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

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



APPLE - Applied curricula in space exploration and intelligent robotic systems (http://apple.erasmus.plus/)

TUTORIAL - Strengthening network education, research and innovation in environmental health in Asia (http://tutorial.ut.ee/)

WELCOME - Towards incoming international university communities (http://www.welcomeproject.net/)

LMPI - Licence, master professionnels pour le développement, l’administration, la gestion, la protection des systèmes et réseaux informatiques dans les entreprises en Moldavie, au Kazakhstan, au Vietnam (https://www.lmpi-erasmus.net)

InnoCENS - Enhancing innovation competences and entrepreneurial skills in engineering education (https://gidec.abe.kth.se/InnoCENS/)

SUSDEV - Lifelong learning for sustainable development (http://www.susdev.confer.uj.edu.pl)

ENINEDU - Enhancement of higher education and corporate sectors integration in accordance with new social environment (http://eninedu-erasmusplus.kaznu.kz/)

PAWER - Paving the way to interregional mobility and ensuring relevance, quality and equity of access (http://pawer.univaq.it)

DIREKT - Developing trans-regional information literacy for lifelong learning and the knowledge economy (https://direkt-cbhe.com/)

C3QA - Promoting internationalization of research through establishment and operationalization of cycle 3 quality assurance system in line with the European integration agenda (https://c3-qa.com/)



EduEnvi - Enhancing competences of sustainable waste management in Russian and Kazakh HEIs (http://eduenvi.blogs.tamk.fi/)

ProlnCa - Promoting the innovation capacity of higher education in nursing during health services´ transition (http://proinca-nursing.kz/)

CLASS - Development of the interdisciplinary master program on computational linguistics at Central Asian universities (http://erasmus-class.eu/)

AsiAxis - Enhancing university teaching in thermal power systems for cleaner environment with parallel improvements in PhD skills development (http://www.asiaxis.eu/)

ProdLog - Development of a bologna-based master curriculum in resource efficient production logistics (http://www.erasmus-prodlog.com/)

EDUQAS - Implementation of education quality assurance system via cooperation of university-business-government in HEIs (http://web.elth.ucv.ro/eduqas/)

TRUNAK - Transition to university autonomy in Kazakhstan (http://trunak.eu/)



NICoPA - New and innovative courses for precision agriculture (https://nicopa.eu/index.php)

HiEdTec - Modernisation of higher education in Central Asia through new technologies (http://hiedtec.ecs.uni-ruse.bg)

SMARTCITY - Innovative approach towards a master program on smart cities technologies

STEM - Integrated approach to stem teacher training

KUTEL - Kazakh universities to foster quality assurance processes in technology enhanced learning (http://www.kutel-project.eu/)

ChildCA - Improvement of children care teaching as a template for modernising postgraduate medical education in Central Asia

ENTER - Engineering educators pedagogical training

DECIDE - Developing services for individuals with disabilities

TALENT - Establishing master programmes in HRM and talent development in Central Asia

EEIHSR - Economics, ecology and infrastructure at high-speed railways



TAMs and SPHERE seminars in Kazakhstan 


Technical Assistance Missions (TAMs):

  1. National Qualifications Framework: from Methodology of Architecture to Implementation Practice, Astana, 8-9 June 2015
  2. Development and Administration of Double Degree Programmes, Almaty, 14-15 October 2015
  3. Training HEREs and university staff in using information-communication technologies (ICT) in the teaching and learning process, Almaty, 13-14 January 2016
  4. International credit mobility: management, recognition of results and quality assurance, Almaty, 14-15 April 2016
  5. Student-centred learning: modern approaches and instruments, Almaty 8-9 June 2016
  6. Corporate governance in higher education institutions of Kazakhstan: principles, forms and prospects, Almaty, 3-4 November 2016
  7. The role of national qualifications framework in higher education policy reform, Almaty, 19-21 April 2017
  8. Developing research capacity at higher education institutions of Kazakhstan: teaching research and supervision of PhD programmes, Astana, 17-18 May 2017
  9. Revising the content of teacher training curricula in line with modern approaches, Taraz, 14-15 June 2017
  10. European Best Practices on Major-Minor Educational Programme Development, Almaty, 13-14 April 2018
  11. Academic, Administrative and Financial Autonomy of Higher Education Institutions, Almaty, 11-12 June 2018               
  12. Recognition of the outcomes of formal and non-formal education and training, Karaganda, 19-20 June 2018
  13. Developing internal quality assurance system in HEIs, Almaty, 6-7 March 2019

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 https://online.zakon.kz/document/?doc_id=30118747#pos=4;-243

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

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

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

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