This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 7/1/2019


  • Over 542,458 students in higher education institutions in Kazakhstan

  • 147,023 high school students graduate on an annual basis on average

  • Over 100,000 students study abroad and 1,865 studied in the United States (2017-18)

  • Education technology; secondary, vocational and higher education are key priority areas

  • The program for the Development of Education and Science budget is 1.2 billion U.S. dollars for 2018-2020 period

According to Kazakhstan’s Committee on Statistics, there are 542,458 students enrolled in higher education institutions in 124 universities nationwide in Academic Year 2018-2019, with the highest concentrations of students in Almaty, Shymkent,
Karaganda and Aktobe.  Additionally, slightly more than 70% of the students are self-funded and 27% are on state scholarships.

The country’s 2050 Strategic Development Plan which includes the adaptation of the education system to the new socio-economic environment, creates opportunities for U.S. higher education institutions and education technology companies.  The State Program of Education includes the adoption of the 12-year education model, construction of schools and kindergartens, modernization of vocational and technical education, e-learning education projects and professional development systems for teachers. 

State financing of education in 2018 is taking around 5% of the whole country budget coming second after social security spending.  The government has earmarked more than USD1.2 billion on education for 2018-2020, with USD2.7 billion allocated for 2015, USD3.3 billion for 2016, and USD3.4 billion for 2017.


The Unified National Testing

In 2018, 147,023 students graduated from Kazakhstani high schools.  Students completing high school courses take a final examination that certifies graduation.  Those who proceed to enter higher education institutions undertake Unified National Testing.  Students who successfully pass with 50 points out of 140 are then allowed to apply to local universities and other higher educational institutions.  The UNT is not obligatory for those students applying for foreign universities on a self-funded basis. 102,447 of them took the test in 2018, leaving 44,576 students to self-fund or seek scholarships in order to study abroad.


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.  Since 1993 over 12,898 Kazakhstan students have received Bolashak Scholarship with a capacity of 1,000 scholarship recipients a year. 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 83 educational institutions worldwide, of which 31 in the United States.   Bolashak is considered a good partner by U.S. universities.

Local Higher Education Institutions

Higher education institutions in Kazakhstan include universities, academies, and technical institutions.  From 124 higher education facilities in Kazakhstan, the number of mostly private or partly private universities decreased from 150 in 2010-2011 to 75 private universities in 2018, following the government’s reform on ‘optimization’ of higher education in Kazakhstan.  This reform attempts to resolve the disproportionate spread between degrees offered by the local universities and market demand for them. The reform also tightens licensing regulations and qualification requirements of local universities in order to assure higher quality of programs and adherence to international standards. 

Nazarbayev University (NU) located in Nur-Sultan is a state-funded science-focused educational institution, which started admitting students in 2010, and currently has around 3, 060 students.  The university is a unique American-based model institution, which originally worked with a team from the University of Pennsylvania to design its academic and governance procedures.  In the beginning of 2015, the University of Pittsburgh established NU’s Medical School which will admit students in September.  With a curriculum instructed in English only, it is currently cooperating with Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cambridge University, University College London and the National University of Singapore to help run its academic programs.

Secondary education in Kazakhstan is represented by general secondary schools, training schools, and lyceums that provide general secondary and initial vocational education, as well as by colleges providing secondary vocational education.  There are in total 779 private and state-funded colleges in Kazakhstan that offer technical and intermediate vocational programs.

In late 2007, the World Bank proposed plans to upgrade and ‘commercialize’ the nation’s research and development efforts.  Part of the Bank’s blueprint called for the creation of a network of university-housed, market-oriented research and development centers based primarily on U.S. models. Subsequent World Bank proposals for the revamping of the country’s technical and vocational education followed suit.

Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS) are a part of a wider program of educational reform, which includes the establishment of Nazarbayev University, the Center for Educational Excellence and further initiatives to focus on teacher training and development.  NIS are a group of 20 existing schools in Kazakhstan and students are educated in a tri-lingual environment in Kazakh, Russian and English.  Most NIS schools are for children aged 12 to 18.


U.S. Higher Education Competition

Overall, there are approximately 89,505 self-funded Kazakhstani students studying overseas.  In 2016, there were 69,895 people studying in Russia, 4,907 in Kyrgyzstan, 1,963 in the United States, 1,545 in the UK and 1,002 in Malaysia.  The rest are studying in other countries including Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and other European countries.  Only 10% of all the students studying abroad are awarded with the Bolashak Scholarship, the rest are self-funded.

Competition from other countries, admissions deadlines, fees and policies, current testing availability, perceived visa difficulty, limited access to high schools for recruitment and lack of institutional relationships tend to severely hamper the growth of enrollment in U.S. higher education institutions.

Leading Sub-Sectors                                                              

Education Technology

  • More than 200 new schools planned to be built in the next few years with a budget of USD1.45 million for building and reconstructing education facilities

  • Kazakhstan received a World Bank loan to develop its Education system from the World Bank in the amount of USD60 million

  • Over 50% of Kazakh educational institutions will join e-learning projects and the modernization figures are expected to reach 90% by 2020


U.S. Higher Education

The government reform to tighten licensing regulations and qualification requirements of local universities in order to improve education quality in the country offers opportunities for U.S. higher educational institutions to attract students from Kazakhstan.  At the moment, fewer than 5% of potential Kazakhstani studying overseas are studying in the U.S., and out of 50,000 students studying overseas, 80% are self-funded.


U.S. Community Colleges

Vocational education is underdeveloped as many vocational colleges and technical training schools were closed or transferred to other uses in the 1990s.  Vocational schools offer professional training for students who are not able or do not wish to pursue higher education.  Community colleges offering associate degrees in the U.S. could be a good fit for this specific category of students.


Although there is very high demand in Kazakhstan to study overseas at both undergraduate and graduate-levels, the total numbers for Kazakhstanis choosing to study in the U.S. has remained flat over the past five years (1,865 students in 2017-18 academic year). Unlike the rest of Central Asia, Kazakhstan’s per-capita GDP has increased significantly, creating a burgeoning middle and upper-class youth eager to travel and study abroad.  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.

Degrees in Demand

The labor market demand for certain qualifications do not match its supply, mostly in technical professions. Major multinationals on the scene from the mid-1990’s regularly note a “skills gap” – an insufficient supply of up-to-date technicians, engineers, scientists and professional managerial types capable of filling increasing demand. 

Demand among students gearing towards business, humanities and social studies with some increase in technical education.  The breakdown in demand within the country is as follows: Social Sciences, Economics and Business represents 13% - with 18,484 students in 2017-18 and Technical/Engineering: 21% with 28,581 students in 2017-18.


Web Resources

Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Committee on Statistics of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Bolashak Program
World Bank for Technical and Vocational Education Project
For more information contact Commercial Specialist: Aliya Shaikhina

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Kazakhstan Education Trade Development and Promotion