Higher education institutions in Kazakhstan: quality assurance and internationalization

Higher education institutions in Kazakhstan include universities, academies, and technical institutions. At the moment there are 122 HEIs in Kazakhstan, 75 of them are private. According to Kazakhstan’s Committee on Statistics, there are over 496,000 students enrolled in Kazakh HEIs nationwide in Academic Year 2017-2018, with the highest concentrations of students in Almaty (40 HEIs), Astana (13), the South-Kazakhstan region (12) and Karaganda (9). Slightly more than 85% of the students are self-funded and 14,7% are on state scholarships.

The number of mostly private or partly private universities has decreased following the government’s reform on ‘optimization’ of higher education in Kazakhstan. This reform tightens licensing regulations and qualification requirements of local universities to assure higher quality of educational programs and compliance with international standards.

State HEIs work on their stage-by-stage expansion of academic and managerial independence. HEIs are supposed to become major financially independent associations in the form of a non-commercial joint-stock company. Kazakhstan has been implementing the State Program of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2016 – 2019.

This program aims to enhance HEIs' competitiveness, ensure that higher and postgraduate education graduates are fit for industrial and innovative development of the country. Its main objectives are internationalization of higher education, integration into the European Higher Education Area; integration of education, science and industry, creating conditions for the commercialization of intellectual property products and technologies, preparing highly qualified teaching and research staff.

Universities need to be more flexible, aimed at generating new knowledge, susceptible to innovations and able to adopt them to maintain their international reputation in a new competitive environment. The higher education system in Kazakhstan faces an increasing internal competition among higher education institutions and Kazakh HEIs can compete with foreign universities.

Also, there is very high demand in Kazakhstan to study overseas at both undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition, government policy encourages this and has also dramatically increased English-language education nationwide over the past decade. The quality of the students has been improving and with the introduction of new reforms and high-quality school technologies, student academic performance has improved by 15-20% since 2010. A recent reform initiative would introduce curriculum taught in English at senior high school classes, resembling education systems in Malaysia and Singapore. As to inbound student mobility, Kazakh HEIs enroll about 14,000 foreign students from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, India, and other countries.

The number of international students is expected to reach 50,000 by 2025. For this purpose, Kazakstan is planning to create a Central Asian educational hub, on the model of Dubai and Malaysia, that will help Kazakh universities attract more international students, adopt the best educational programs, invite the best professors of the world, open the branches of the best international universities where students can receive a world-class education. Now Kazakhstan pays much attention to the development of educational tourism and attraction of foreign students.

The Bolashak Scholarship

One of the most common initiatives as part of internationalization of higher education in Kazakhstan is the Bolashak Scholarship. The Bolashak is a national government scholarship established in 1993. It aims to assist talented young people in obtaining quality education abroad. The scholarship covers all costs related to education including tuition and fees, costs of travel, and a living stipend. The program requires all Bolashak recipients to return to Kazakhstan upon completing their education and to work for five years in Kazakhstan. From 2011, the program provides scholarships for masters and doctoral programs only.

The most popular countries for study are the U.K., U.S., Germany and Russia. The Bolashak program currently has agreements with 33 countries and 200 educational institutions worldwide. Requirements for foreign universities have been raised – first 200 positions in QS ranking, Times Higher Education (THE) and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) international rankings, first 30 positions in national rankings and in QS 50 under 50, Times Higher Education 100 under 50 rankings.

Since 2015 candidates with Kazakhstani Master/PhD degree has got access to foreign master/PhD programs. New Split-PhD program has been integrated in the educational process of state universities chosen as leading institutions of training professionals for country’s industrialization. Process of language training in Kazakhstan has started, since 2015 scholars take language courses in accordance with “6+6” model – 6 months in Kazakhstan, another 6 – abroad. As a result of a stable and purposeful policy of Program’s implementation process improvement, at the VIII International Going Global Conference in Miami in 2014, Bolashak Scholarship has been named the best one among 11 academic mobility programs worldwide.

Kazakh universities in national and international rankings

Higher education institutions of Kazakhstan are evaluated by the following quality assurance agencies of the country: theIndependent Agency for Accreditation and Rating (IAAR), the Independent Kazakh Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, the national chamber of entrepreneurs of the Republic Kazakhstan "Atameken". The IAAR ranking is based on the evaluation of educational programs by the following parameters: concentration of talented teachers, researchers and students; student and staff mobility; training quality and graduate employability; a high level of interaction between HEIs and employers; competitiveness of scientific publications of teachers, doctoral students and Master's students.

The ranking of the Independent Kazakh Agency for Quality Assurance in Education has three components: an evaluation of quality of HEI's academic resources; an expert evaluation of the quality of HEIs' activity (15%; an evaluation of HEIs' activity based on the survey of employers and government authorities. The Atameken ranking is focused on graduates' opportunities and evaluation of HEIs by employers.

The QS Ranking 2018 featured a total of 8 Kazakh HEIs:

  • Al-Farabi Kazakh National University - 236
  • N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University - 336
  • Satbayev Kazakh National Technical University - 411-420
  • Kazakh National Pedagogical University - 491-500
  • Auezov South Kazakhstan State University - 501-550
  • Karaganda State Buketov University - 651-700
  • Kazakh-British Technical University - 651-700
  • Kazakh Ablai Khan University of International Relations and World Languages - 801-1000

Al-Farabi Kazakh National University became the first HEI of Kazakhstan and the only one in the Central Asia region to be awarded a four-star rating out of possible five in the QS Stars Development Roadmap international ranking.

Table of Contents

Danish Government Scholarships under the Cultural Agreements

Over 7,000 foreign students will study IT at Russian universities

European Universities Initiative – Chances and challenges

Belgian students demand free higher education

Uganda and Russia signed a Memorandum of cooperation in higher education

Angola and Russia signed an Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Education, Qualifications and Academic Degrees

The 10th ENQA General Assembly took place in Yerevan

Students supported by the Global Education Program choose Australia and Great Britain as study abroad destinations

Call for participation – Webinars under the aegis of APQN devoted to Quality Assurance

Regional universities move up in QS University Rankings: Emerging Europe & Central Asia

New Model of State Control (Supervision) in Education

HED Webinar under the aegis of APQN took place on October 10, 2019

Joint Master's programs to be launched by RANEPA and University of London

III Ufa International Education Fair

II Baikal International Education Fair

Adalat Muradov talks about digitalization of education in Azerbaijan

India has a too high number of arts students

Dmitry Peskov names key trends for Russian universities for 5-10 years

Webinars aimed at establishing cooperation between Quality Assurance Agencies and Russian universities

Russia and Iraq have signed a Memorandum of understanding

US will provide a $50 mln. grant to support the education reform in Uzbekistan

Presentation of the Global Survey on Internationalization of Higher Education by the International Association of Universityies (IAU)

The Jean Monnet 30th Anniversary Conference

World Teachers' Day ELT Web Conference

Is it worth relying on all rankings?

The IAEA Annual Conference is taking place in Baku

World universities meet at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University

QS Graduate Employability Ranking 2019 features 13 Russian universities in Top 500

UWC announces that the applications for Russian candidates are open till November 15, 2019

The 7th Forum of Rectors of Russian and Chinese Universities was held in Saint Petersburg

Russia and China are planning to raise the number of exchange students to 100,000 in 2020

The Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uzbekistan and RANEPA signed an agreement on cooperation

KBSU and Uludag University will exchange medical students under the Erasmus + program

The prospects for Russian education export were discussed in Vladivostok

Uzbekistan took part in the International Summit on Development of Global Education in Zurich

Iraq and Belarus discussed cooperation in education and science

The international center of Uzbek culture opens at Kazan Cooperative Institute

Techno-optimists vs techno-skeptics: the International Open Innovations Forum will take place in Skolkovo

LSTU and University of Science and Technology Liaoning have signed a new cooperation agreement

X International Russian Higher Education Conference will take place at Higher School of Economics

Moscow State University holds top spot in Round University Ranking (Russian version)

Finland wants to abandon school subjects by 2020

Russia and Turkey have signed an agreement on cooperation in quality assurance of higher education

BRICS countries are stepping up technology transfer and transformation

India and Russia are reaching new heights of cooperation

The 'Study UK: Discover You' Exhibition will take place in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in October, 2019

Belarusian universities offer English-taught programs

The first foreign branch of MEPhI opened in Uzbekistan

Novosibirsk expands geography of international cooperation

Uzbekistan and the United States intend to develop cooperation in the field of higher education