This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 9/19/2018
This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
  • Over 496,209 students in higher education institutions in Kazakhstan
  • 145,000 high school students graduate on an annual basis on average
  • Over 40,000 students study abroad and over 1,700 study in the U.S.
  • Education technology; secondary, vocational and higher education are key priority areas
  • Government budget expenditures on education amounted to 1.4 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 25% from previous year
  • The program for the Development of Education and Science budget is 4.4 billion U.S. dollars for 2016-2019 period
According to Kazakhstan’s Committee on Statistics, there are 496,209 students enrolled in higher education institutions in 122 universities nationwide in Academic Year 2017-2018, with the highest concentrations of students in Almaty, Shymkent, Astana and Karaganda.  Additionally, slightly more than 85% of the students are self-funded and 14.7% 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 $9.4 billion on education for 2015-2017, with $2.7 billion allocated for 2015, $3.3 billion for 2016, and $3.4 billion for 2017.
The Unified National Testing
In 2018, 147,023 students graduated from Kazakhstani high schools. Students finishing high schools take the final examination in schools that grant the completion of high school. Those who proceed to enter higher education institutions take the 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 are taking the test in 2018, leaving 44,576 students to self-fund or seek scholarships in order to study abroad.
Local Higher Education Institutions
Higher education institutions in Kazakhstan include universities, academies, and technical institutions. From 122 higher education facilities in Kazakhstan, the number of mostly private or partly private universities decreased to 86 in 2017, 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 Astana 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.  Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools are a group of 20 existing schools in Kazakhstan. Uniquely, the children in Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools 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 30,000 self-funded Kazakhstani students studying overseas.  In 2016, there were more than 15,000 people studying in Russia, 10,000 in China, 3,000 and nearly 5,000 in Europe and USA.  The rest are studying in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and other European countries.  Less than 10% of all the students studying abroad are awarded with the Bolashak Scholarship, and the rest are self-funded.  Fewer than 5% of potential Kazakhstani applicants are studying in the U.S.
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 $1.6 million for building and reconstructing education facilities
Over 50% of Kazakhstan’s educational institutions has joined e-learning projects in 2015 and 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 enter this market.  At the moment, fewer than 5% of potential Kazakhstani studying overseas are studying in the U.S., and out of 30,000 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.  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.
U.S. Five-year Visa Regulation for the Kazakhstani Citizens
Starting from January 1, 2017 the United States began issuing the first-ever ten-year visas to citizens of Kazakhstan for travel to the United States.  That fact is a great benefit for future students wishing to study in the U.S. as it will reduce their travel costs and encourage parents and relatives to visit. This is generally viewed to have a positive impact on the U.S. educational industry.
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. 
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 11,126 Kazakhstan students have received Bolashak Scholarship with a capacity of 1,200 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 200 educational institutions worldwide, of which 47 in the United States.
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.
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.  Since 2015 scholars take language courses in accordance with “6+6” model – six months in Kazakhstan, another six months – abroad. 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. It is considered a good partner by U.S. universities.
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