Higher education system

Since the independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Government has implemented large-scale educational reforms. In 2010, Kazakhstan became a member of the Bologna Process, taking 47th place out of 48 in the list of countries of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). 

Today, the higher education system of Kazakhstan in the context of the parameters of the Bologna process has the following structure:

  • Bachelor's degree – higher education, the educational programs of which are aimed at training personnel with the award of a bachelor's degree in the relevant specialty. The training period is 4 years.  
  • Master's degree – postgraduate education, the educational programs of which are aimed at training personnel with the award of the master's degree. The master's program, in turn, is divided into specialized programs with a duration of 1-1. 5 years,and scientific and pedagogical programs with a duration of 2 years.
  • Doctoralstudies – postgraduate education, the educational programs of which are aimed at training personnel for scientific, pedagogical and (or) professional activities, with the award of the degree of Doctor of philosophy( PhD), doctor in the profile. The duration of doctoral studies is 3 years.

To date, the number of universities in the country is117, из них национальные вузы – 1,17, including 11 national universities, 2,7 state –27owned (non – profit joint – stock companies), 2 international universities2, 1 5 corporatized universities15,47 privateuniversities,1 autonomousUniversity (Nazarbayev University),14 non –citizen universities.

In 2018, the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On Education" was amended to expand the academic and managerial independence of universities. Universities can develop their own integrated and flexible educational programs, which are created taking into account the results obtained in the course of training and are oriented to the modern labor market. Thus, the bachelor's degree program will be completed in an accelerated mode, which will reduce the financial and time costs of obtaining higher education in the country, and students will receive up-to-date knowledge about the profession.

Today, Kazakhstanis have the opportunity to receive higher education in the following forms of study:

  • Full-time or inpatient training. In this form, the student must attend seminars and lectures.
  • Remote control. Classes are held via the Internet. Tasks and training materials are posted online for self-study. Online consultations are held. The defense of theses is carried out within the walls of a higher educational institution.

The most important aspect of the development of higher education in the country is the formation of a culture of academic integrity. For this purpose, the Academic Integrity League was established in 2018 as an independent and independent organization following the example of the Ivy League in the USA, Russell Group in the UK and C9 in China.

Admission to higher education institutions 

Higher education is acquired by citizens who have general secondary or technical and vocational education, or post-secondary education (Part 1 of Article 35 of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On Education"). It is possible to organize the educational process according to reduced educational programs with an accelerated period of study for persons with technical and professional, post-secondary or higher education with the procedure of credit transfer and accounting for previously mastered disciplines, provided that their volume and continuity of the educational program are sufficient.

In Kazakhstan, admission to higher education institutions is based on the results of passing the Unified National Testing (UNT). Over the years of the UNT's existence, more than 1.8 million school leavers have been tested. Since 2017 they pass the final certification in the form of final exams at school for obtaining a certificate of secondary education and "Altyn Belgi" and UNT for admission to universities and receiving state grants for studying at universities. Since 2019, school graduates have the opportunity to pass the UNT 4 times a year. Admission to the university after repeated testing is possible only on a paid basis. State grants are distributed after passing the main UNT (in June).

After completing the bachelor's degree, the student gets a deep knowledge of the profession. Master's degree programs have a narrower focus. In Kazakhstan, undergraduate students can study in one specialty, and continue their studies in the master's program – in another. As a result, the student gets the opportunity to master two specialties and reduce the financial and time costs of obtaining a second higher education.

Thus, in Kazakhstan, the conditions and rules for implementing a three-tier higher education system are regulated at the legislative and industry-specific regulatory level, which corresponds to the same component of the group of mandatory parameters of EHEA participants.

Education in higher educational institutions of Kazakhstan is carried out both on the basis of a state educational order and at the students ' own expense. In1-202the 2012-102-2 academic year, 624,263 young people study at all levels of education in higher education institutions of the country624 263 , 30% of them – at the expense of state educational grants. The largest number of state educational grants is allocated for the training of technical specialists and teachers. Almost half of the total number of educational grant holders are representatives of a socially vulnerable group of the population. In addition to state educational grants, universities are also expanding access to higher education through internal grants and tuition discounts.

In order to encourage young students and provide opportunities for higher education in higher education institutions within the country, the Government pays students a State scholarship. The state scholarship is divided into:

  • Minimum or basic value. It is paid to students who finished the session with "good" and "excellent" grades.
  • Advanced (+15% to the base). Assigned to students who closed the session with an excellent score.
  • Presidential card (+100% of the base card). Students who have special merits can count on the presidential scholarship: creative, research, sports, social and cultural, etc.

The state also pays an increased scholarship for students with disabilities (disabled people) and those who are left without parental care.

Tuition fee

Today, the cost of studying at Kazakhstani universities varies on average from 800 to 5500 US dollars per year, depending on the region, university, program and level of study.

To receive education on a paid basis, both within the country and abroad, the state also offers assistance in the form of a savings deposit under the State Educational Savings System (GONS) through JSC "Financial Center". In 2018, GONS received its own brand, AQYL. This innovation was initiated with the aim of popularizing GONS among the population, increasing the number of depositors and developing a culture of savings among the population of the country. The concept of the new AQYL brand makes education accessible to every citizen of Kazakhstan the main message.

Bolashak Program

Kazakhstanis have the opportunity to get higher education abroad on a paid or free basis. Many European universities are ready to accept students from Kazakhstan. The Government of Kazakhstan has established the Bolashak International Scholarship for citizens of Kazakhstan who apply for a doctorate or master's degree abroad.

The Bolashak International Scholarship has become a unique initiative that provides talented young people with access to the best universities in the world. For more than 25 years of implementing the scholarship, a pool of highly qualified specialists has been formed in the country, including scientists, engineers, doctors, government managers and other professionals in their field. Graduates of the scholarship contributed to building international relations, integrating Kazakhstan into the international community and transferring world knowledge and technologies to the country.

International students in Kazakhstan

All over the world, universities, educational consortia, and countries are struggling to attract international students. In Kazakhstan, admission of foreign citizens with a state educational order is carried out on a competitive basis:

  • educational grants under the Scholarship Program of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
  • educational grants within the framework of international agreements of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
  • educational grants for studying at international universities established on the basis of interstate agreements (implemented by universities independently).

Also, admission of foreign citizens to study at universities on a paid basis is carried out based on the results of an interview conducted by the admissions committees of universities or scientific organizations during the calendar year.

At the same time, enrollment of foreign citizens is carried out in accordance with the academic calendar 5 days before the beginning of the next academic period.

In recent years, the number of foreign students in Kazakhstan's universities has increased 3 times.

In Kazakhstan, the share of international students is a key indicator of the Strategic Development Plan of Kazakhstan until 2025.

There2-2023 учебном году в Казахстане обучаются 2are 2,6 080 (4.5%) foreign students studying in Kazakhstan in the 2012-202 3rd academic year5.

Number of international students by region, pers.:

Preparatory courses or "Foundation"programs are aimed at preparing the applicant for admission to the university. Foundation programs are designed to reduce differences in pre-university training and ensure equal access of applicants to the university. These courses at universities are organized in order to increase the level of general education and language training of citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan, foreigners, the Kazakh diaspora and stateless persons living in Kazakhstan for admission to universities.

International cooperation

An important area of development of the higher education system in Kazakhstan is the process of internationalization. Today, the country's universities conclude international agreements with leading foreign universities, participate in international projects, invite foreign scientists to work, and implement joint and two-degree educational programs.

Within the framework of cooperation on the implementation of the SOP, Kazakh universities have developed partnerships with 31 universities from 13 countries of the world.

Number of partner universities for implementing SOP by region, units:

Since 2012, universities of the Republic of Kazakhstan have been actively introducing and implementing training in three languages (multilingualism) and educational programs in English, training teachers for teaching in English in the specialties "Biology", "Chemistry", "Physics" and "Computer Science" (natural science cycle). The purpose of this training in higher education institutions is to train highly qualified, competitive specialists of various specialties who have language competence based on English proficiency, are mobile in the international educational space and in the labor market.

The opening of branches of higher education institutions contributes to improving their reputation abroad. Kazakh universities are working on the issue of opening representative offices on the basis of universities in the CIS countries. Thus, within the framework of the agreement, reception offices of S. Amanzholov EKSU were launched in the Republic of Mongolia. A training and consulting center of SKSU named after M. Auezov has been opened in Uzbekistan to provide educational and methodological assistance to applicants and students. This was one of the reasons for the increase in the number of accepted applicants from Uzbekistan to 60.6% of the total admission to universities in Kazakhstan.

The development of Kazakhstan as an educational hub in Central Asia encourages access to higher education for foreign citizens. The entry of Kazakhstan's higher education into foreign markets is a task of the Strategic Development Plan of the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2025 and will contribute to increasing the competitiveness and demand for the national higher education system.

Thus, the higher education system of the Republic of Kazakhstan today is fundamentally reformed according to the leading European model. Moreover, the country's educational system is constantly being improved so that every citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan will always have the opportunity to receive high-quality competitive education in the labor market.    

Since 2010, Kazakhstan, as a signatory to the Bologna Declaration, has been actively implementing the parameters of the Bologna process in the higher education system. The mandatory parameters of the Bologna process, in addition to the three-tier system of higher and postgraduate education, include: the introduction of ECTS academic credits; academic mobility of students, teaching staff and administrative staff; and the European Diploma Supplement.

Kazakhstan takes an active part in the work of the organizational structures of the Bologna Process:

- is a full member of the Bologna Follow-Up Group;

-has already been a co-chair of the BFUG twice, from 1 July to 31 December 2022 jointly with the Czech Republic and in 2014 from 1 January to 30 June jointly with the Hellenic Republic;

- advisory member - 8 international organizations. These include the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the European University Association (EUA), the European Association of Higher Education Institutions (EURASHE), the European Union of Students (ESU), the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), Education International and BUSINESSEUROPE.

Academic credits ECTS (European Credit Transfer System European system of transfer and accumulation of points). The ECTS credit transfer system makes it possible to assess the assimilation and development of educational programs in terms of labor intensity. This system is mainly focused on the transfer of credits to ensure academic mobility.

For the first time in the world, ECTS was introduced in 1987 as a pilot scheme within the "ERASMUS" program. Kazakhstan's transition to credit technology was initiated in 2002. The main goal of implementing the ECTS system is to switch to a modern scheme of organizing the educational process based on the use of a system of transferable and cumulative credits.

According to the State Higher Professional Education Standard, in Kazakhstan, bachelor's degree programs have 240 credits, specialty programs have 300 credits, master's programs have 60-120 credits, and doctoral programs have 180 credits.

Academic mobility of students, teaching staff, and administrative staff. The beginning of the implementation of the academic mobility program in Kazakhstani universities dates back to 2011. In the period from 2011 to 2020, the number of trainees who left under the mobility program as a whole at the expense of budgetary and extra-budgetary funds amounted to 17,007 people.

Today, academic mobility in Kazakhstan is implemented in three forms: external outgoing, external incoming, internal. The geography of outbound mobility includes leading universities in Western and Eastern Europe.

Extra-budgetary sources of funding for academic mobility are: personal funds of students, university funds, funds of Erasmus programs, the German Exchange Service DAAD, etc. In modern conditions, there is a tendency to increase the number and quality of sources of extra-budgetary funding, which indicates the breadth of choice of educational programs by Kazakhstanis.

European Diploma Supplement.The Diploma Supplement, according to the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education in the European Region (1997), as well as the mandatory parameters of the Bologna process, is an integral attribute of the development of the EHEA.

At the normative level, this parameter is regulated by the provisions of the State Mandatory Standard of Higher and Postgraduate Education (paragraphs 37, 64). Since 2019, the Diploma Supplement has become a mandatory document issued to university graduates together with a university graduation diploma. This document is the result of the implementation of the Paris Communique (May 2018).

In addition to the above-mentioned provisions, the parameters of the Bologna Process also include ensuring the quality of education, ensuring the recognition of qualifications at the level of the European educational process education through life, etc.

To improve the quality of education and regulate processes in this area, Kazakhstan introduced independent accreditation of educational institutions and programs in the field of vocational education and training in 2012. During the second meeting of the Ministers of Education of the member States of the European Union and Central Asian countries, held on June 23, 2017 in Astana, when signing the Astana Declaration, it was noted that"measures to improve the quality of higher education and vocational training have been taken in all Central Asian countries".

In the context of "lifelong learning", the Bologna Process, launched in 1999, has evolved into an international movement for the recognition of non-formal and informal learning. Non-formal education refers to training that takes place outside the formal education system, such as training, on – the-job training, instructing sessions, self-study, and other forms. Informal education includes those skills and abilities that a person receives in the process of life without resorting to targeted training – skills in working with equipment and other forms. The development of procedures for recognizing non-formal and informal learning is an indicator of the effectiveness of the results of any training, regardless of its form of implementation.

The Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On Education" has approved the official status of non-formal education. The next step in the concept of lifelong learning and continuing education should be the formation of an integrated system for recognizing the learning outcomes of non-formal and informal education.

Sincethe State Educational Standard of Higher and Postgraduate Education (Order No. 2 of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated July 20, 2022), the results of non-formal education are taken into account, the OVPO independently recognizes the results of non -formal education, including micro-qualifications, nano-credits and Stackable degrees