Integration of the Republic of Kazakhstan into Global Educational Scenario: from Reforms in Education to Quality Assurance Enhancement and World Ranking Participation


PhD, Associate Professor and Head

Quality Assurance Department

Kazakh-British Technical University

Tole bi street, 59, Almaty, 050000

Republic of Kazakhstan


The paper deals with the important changes that are currently taking place in the system of education of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In order to integrate into the world educational community it strives to create its national competitive model which should correspond to the international standards. The paper highlights the educational reforms in the country which mainly include: Kazakhstan’s joining the Bologna process and changes coming out of it, emergence of new universities, international cooperation, development of quality management system, auditing and accreditation processes. It provides and shares the information on one of the leading Universities of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Kazakh-British Technical University, regarding its policy in the internationalization of higher education and accreditation. The author also analyses the world higher educational rankings and the possibilities of national universities to enter them. This paper could be of interest to a wide range of academics, graduate and post-graduate students and all those who want to know about the further educational strategies and policies of the post-Soviet states and do the research on the issues related to the developing countries of Central Asia which are in the socio-economic transition from a fundamentally resourced-based to a service-based knowledge economies.

Key words: educational reforms, national model of education, internationalization of HE, quality management, accreditation policy, world rankings


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been new independent states appeared on the world map. Being a constituent part of one big and powerful country they all pursued the common policy in the sphere of education which was centralized from Moscow. After the ruin of the USSR the 15 former Soviet Republics began their own independent way of development in all spheres including education. They have some similarities in this process and challenges to confront, but at the same time they also differ very much in their national development. Kazakhstan as one of the stable Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries has its peculiar way in educational policy. In fact, it has been actively introducing the principles of democracy into the political and social spheres, creating the civic society and modern system of education since the country got its independence in 1991.

In this paper I have tried to introduce its basic changes and reforms in the educational development which is the priority direction of the state policy. Its aim is to establish the national model of competitive education which could integrate into the global area and meet the demands of each individual and the society as well. The basic principles of the national policy laid the foundation of the new Law on Education (July, 2007). The educational expenditure is annually growing and in 2009 increased by 10.7% in comparison with the previous year, and reached 4.8 billion dollars.

Nowadays there are 140 higher educational institutions (HEIs), functioning in Kazakhstan, among them 9 national, 33 state, 14 non-civic, 84 private, including 13 joint stock universities. The total number of students is more than 717,000 people; 20% students study on the state educational grant basis. The ratio of students to 10,000 people is 512. The number of professors and teachers in HEIs is about 43,000, 41.3% of them have scientific degrees of doctors and candidates of science [18].

It’s worth mentioning, that the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) has certain peculiarities. Firstly, it has a favorable geographical and geopolitical location expanding on both continents: Asia and Europe. Ranked as the 9th largest country in the world, it occupies the territory of 2,724,900 square kilometers (greater than Western Europe), populated by 16 million people. It borders on Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and China. It is now considered to be the dominant state in Central Asia. Kazakhstan is a member of many international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the NATO’s Partnership for Peace. In 2010 Kazakhstan chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [9].

Secondly, Kazakhstan has a high literacy rate: 99.1% for males and 97.7% for females. When the former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Kazakhstan in October 2006, she said,

The future of any state depends on its level of education. This is my fourth visit to Kazakhstan, I have already been to Atyrau and Almaty and I have been able to see for myself the high level of education of your nation, which is a key to success of any country [2].

Thirdly, Kazakhstan is ethnically and culturally diverse. Now there are more than one hundred nations and nationalities living together in one state. The Kazakhs represent 59.2% of the population and Russians 25.6% with a rich array of other groups represented, including Tatars, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Belarusians, Uyghurs, Azerbaijanis, and others [3].

Fourthly, Kazakhstan is currently a bilingual country: the Kazakh language, spoken by 64.4% of the population, has the status of the state language, while Russian, spoken by almost all Kazakhstani people, is used for intercultural communication. Now the Republic is striving to become a trilingual state, having chosen English as a counterpart of Kazakh and Russian. As early as in 1997, in the Kazakhstan-2030 Program, the RK Nursultan Nazarbayev wrote,

Our young state will grow up and gain in strength, our children and grandchildren will grow up with it <…>. They will be prepared to work in contemporary market economy conditions <…>. They will equally well master Kazakh, Russian and English [11].

Since then a great number of measures for achieving these lofty goals have been taken by the RK Government, NGOs, HEIs, international organizations, by school and university teachers themselves.


2.1 Educational Reforms in the Republic of Kazakhstan

2.1.1 Joining the Bologna Declaration

In order to correspond to the international standards and provide qualitative and competitive education, the RK Ministry of Education & Science set the goal to enter the world educational community. There have been many changes at the national level. The government issued a number of laws and other normative documents concerning educational reforms in the country: Law on Education (2007), Conception of Education Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan till 2015 (2004), State Program of Educational Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2005-2010 (2004), Message of the President N. Nazarbayev to the People of Kazakhstan: Toward Competitive Kazakhstan, Competitive Economy & Competitive Nation (2004), and others.

Among the priorities identified in them there are: changes in the content of secondary and higher education, modernization of higher education and post-graduate studies, extension of non-governmental education, introduction of new standards and technologies, etc.

In 1997 Kazakhstan ratified the Lisbon Convention aimed at developing a normative foundation of international cooperation in the sphere of higher education, and gradual entering of the national educational system into the world area. In 1999 29 countries signed the Declaration in Bologna on their participation in the process of creating a unified educational community. After that event more than 40 countries, including the Republic of Kazakhstan, have joined the Bologna process. The application for Kazakhstan’s full membership and national report prepared by the country’s Ministry of Education and Science was submitted in December 2004.

In May 2007 in Taraz (a city in Kazakhstan), 18 HEIs signed the Memorandum of universities, the so-called Magna Charta Universitatum. The Taraz Declaration has become the basis of RK entrance the Bologna process. Later, in June 2008, at Kazakh National Agrarian University 27 higher educational institutions of Kazakhstan and universities from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan joined the Taraz Declaration. This laid the foundation of Central-Asian zone of higher education [18].

Since then, the number of Kazakhstani universities which signed the Great Charter has increased to 30. And finally, on 11th of March in Budapest and Vienna the representatives of 46 current members of the European Higher Education Area unanimously supported Kazakhstan to become a full member of the Bologna process. As a result, our country became the 47th country to enter the European Higher Education Area. Thus, the Republic of Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian state recognized as a member of the European educational area. This historical event testifies to the high estimate of the educational reforms held in Kazakhstan by European Educational Community and gives a new impulse to the modernization of the national system of higher education [4].

One of the Bologna reforms in the sphere of education is introducing credit technology. Following the experiences of the world’s leading universities, since 2002 Kazakhstan has begun the process of transforming the existing educational system into the credit one by stages: first at some departments and then at some universities. The government is currently pursuing the program of introducing the credit system at other universities as well.

This reform has completely changed the content of higher education and has resulted in the new requirements to education process, curricula and syllabi, a new role of a student and a teacher, a new type of a lesson, assessment and evaluation process, and others. Its aim is to sustain students’ and professors’ academic mobility, to make national programs and academic degrees recognized and acceptable in the international educational community.

The former system included the 5-year specialist diploma which led to post-graduate degrees, those of Kandidat Nauk (Candidate of Sciences) and Doktor Nauk (Doctor of Sciences). Due to the reforms, alongside with Bachelor’s programs new Master’s programs have been introduced. Since 2005 PhD programs have also been launched in the universities on an experiment basis. It should be mentioned that only 7 national universities are empowered this right.

At present there are 3 main levels of higher education in Kazakhstan: (a) the first level that provides fundamentals of a chosen field of study and leads to a Bachelor’s degree, (b) the second level that leads to a Master’s degree and (c) the third level that leads to postgraduate degrees of PhD. They were legalized in a new Law on Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan (2007) [6].

However, there is much misunderstanding between the former degrees inherited from the Soviet system: Kandidat Nauk (Candidate of Sciences) and Doktor Nauk (Doctor of Sciences), and the newly born, i.e. a Master’s and a PhD degree. Students and teachers who are actively participating in academic mobility and are looking for the qualification recognition sometimes face many problems.

For example, the degrees which existed in Kazakhstan before the reforms, as well as in other countries of the former Soviet Union, can not find the proper equivalents in the world educational community. Thus, a former 5-year diploma equals to a Master’s diploma in some countries as Sweden, but in other Scandinavian countries it equals only to a Bachelor’s diploma, and in some countries it is not accepted as one of higher education.

A holder of a Kandidat Nauk degree (Candidate of Sciences) isn’t adequately treated in different countries. Some of them equal this degree to a Master’s degree, some equal it to a PhD. This situation of the discrepancy in national and international degrees and titles very often puts the Kazakhstani scholars in an unequal position with other scholars and restricts their mobility and employment in an international area. There is a hope that the RK Bologna membership could fill this degrees’ and titles’ gap and equal the former degrees with the internationally recognized.

Anyway, the implementation of the principles of the Bologna Declaration allows:

  • to bring educational programs in conformity with the international requirements;
  • to ensure the consistent character of educational programs of different levels;
  • to adapt educational programs to the requirements of the labor market;
  • to adopt a competence based model for specialists’ training;
  • to enhance students’ mobility due to the unification of curricula and programs;
  • to ensure academic freedom of learners through a wider choice of educational programs.

Kazakhstan’s joining the Bologna process allows adjusting the national educational programs to European standards and guarantees the exchangeability of Kazakhstan’s degree certificates in Europe. This opens wide opportunities for the employment of Kazakhstan graduates in any of the states-signatories of the Bologna declaration. The integration of the country’s education into the European zone of higher education will promote raising its efficiency, reaching equitable position in the world community for educational institutions and citizens of Kazakhstan, addressing the problems of recognition of Kazakhstan degrees abroad, and strengthening positions on the international market of educational services.

It’s obvious that international contacts of Kazakhstan in the area of education have become much wider and more intensive. There were 170 contracts signed at different levels that formed the basis for starting new international universities, holding different competitions, developing international projects and students’ exchange.

Two biggest national educational institutions of the country – al-Farabi Kazakh National University and L.Gumilev Euro-Asian National University annually get $2 mln ($1 mln each) from the Republican budget for inviting foreign consultants – scientists with world names and Nobel Prize winners.

Due to this project L.Gumilev Euro-Asian National University was visited by 56 foreign professors and consultants from Great Britain, the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, China, Japan, Korea, etc. in 2008. There were 86 foreign teachers and consultants from the USA, France, Bulgaria, Austria, Israel, Russia and etc. working in al-Farabi Kazakh National University in 2007 [18].

International cooperation development between national and foreign HEIs creates conditions for the realization of joined educational programs. That’s why the new educational project for Kazakhstani HEIs is a program of double diploma. It will help to make Kazakhstani degrees recognizable in the world and Kazakhstani universities involved in joint projects and international rankings. At present 50 universities of the country provide a double diploma education with the partners from Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Check Republic, Germany, USA and others [18].

There are many examples of mutual cooperation. Thus, at Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU) in 2005 there was International School of Economics & Social Sciences (ISE) launched in cooperation with the London School of Economics & Social Sciences. Mutual efforts have resulted in the development of unique training programs and syllabi. Classes are conducted by the most experienced and skilled staff. Last year the first ISE graduates with International Bachelor’s degree received two diplomas: one of KBTU and one of the London School of Economics.

International cooperation is an effective instrument assisting Kazakhstan recognition and integration into the world educational area. This process is gaining momentum now in Kazakhstan.

2.1.2 New Educational Institutions in the Republic of Kazakhstan

With the adoption of Laws on Education and on Higher Education, a private sector has been established in Kazakhstani educational system and many new institutions have been licensed by the RK Ministry of Education & Science. So, there are two main types of universities and colleges at present: state and non-state.

It should be noted that within last dozen years there have appeared many private secondary schools and colleges in Kazakhstan as well, for example, Miras School and Kazakh-Turkish Lycée. One of the languages of instruction in them is English. The school-leavers of these educational institutions may continue their studies in English not only abroad, but at local colleges and universities as well. Most of the recently opened universities are also guided by the profound English Language teaching.

Although some old universities (such as al-Farabi Kazakh National University and Ablai-Khan Kazakh University of International Relations & World Languages) that were set up during the Soviet period of Kazakhstani history have launched some Bachelor’s/Master’s programs in English, the most significant segment in the Kazakhstani market of English-medium higher education belongs to newly born universities that were established recently.

Among the new universities where English is one of the languages of instruction there are Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU), Kazakhstani Institute of Management, Economics & Strategic Research under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KIMEP), University of International Business (UIB) in Almaty, Kazakh American University (KAU), International Academy of Business (IAB), Suleiman Demirel University (SDU), University of Central Asia (UCA), etc.

Building up a new university in Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) is considered to be the biggest Kazakhstani project nowadays regarding the higher education reforming. It is planned that it will comprise the Communication Technologies Institute, the Institute of Arts & Social Sciences, the Institute of Engineering & Technologies, and the Institute of Applied Sciences.

The project aims at the formation of academic environment in Central Asian region, a modern model of integration in the sphere of education, science and industry, an exchange of students and teachers, and joint educational programs. Pre-service and in-service staff training will be carried out by the accredited programs of universities-partners.

One of the consultants of the project is Jamil Salmi, a Moroccan education economist and the World Bank’s tertiary education coordinator [13]. His book ‘Creation of World-Class Universities’ was published in February 2009 in Washington. It was written in the framework of the World Bank’s policy to support the reforms in the sphere of higher education development in different countries and was based on the author’s his rich experience as a government consultant of 39 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America as well as in Kazakhstan. Jamil Salmi draws readers’ attention to the key aspects and main factors which are necessary for the creation of world-class universities. Among them he points out the following:

  • usage of the experience of the best universities;
  • search for and attraction of the best representatives of the world educational community;
    • realization of joint projects in science;
    • development of tertiary education.

The author also gives the formula to which a world-class university should correspond: concentration of talented learners and teachers, resource abundance and effective management [12]. In fact, there are different approaches for creating world-class universities, such as modernization of the existing ones, university merging and a university creation from a zero. Kazakhstan has chosen the third way for this project. As the author says, it will take approximately 10-15 years.

The creation of a new International University will be one of the next steps which will facilitate the integration of Kazakhstan into the world educational community.

2.1.3 Bolashak Scholarship for Studying Abroad

The ‘Bolashak’ (‘Future’ in the Kazakh language) Scholarship Program was created in 1993 by the decree of the President,

In Kazakhstan’s transition toward a market economy and the expansion of international contacts, there is an acute need for a workforce with advanced western education, and so, it is now necessary to send the most qualified youth to study in leading educational institutions in foreign countries [15].

The Scholarship is merit-based and the selection process regards not only academic credentials, but also competence in the language of study, a psychological testing and an interview process. The commitment to the development of Kazakhstan and patriotism are essential factors as well. The final decision is made by the Republican Commission, chaired by the State Secretary and composed of Ministers, members of Parliament, and members of the Office of the President. This Commission also approves the country of study and the program of study.

The Scholarship requires that after graduating all recipients have to return to Kazakhstan and work for five years inside the country. The scholarship pays for all costs related to education, including tuition and fees, traveling costs, and a living stipend. Scholars are expected to maintain academic excellence, which in the US, for example, corresponds to 3.0 GPA.

In 2008 there were about 1,800 scholarship recipients studying abroad in 24 countries, while in 2005 there were about 1,700. The most popular countries are the USA (about 700 students), the UK (about 400 students) and Russia (about 300 students) [9].


3.1 International Standards

At present Kazakhstani education undergoes great changes in the context of world-wide globalization and integration, and due to its membership in the Bologna process. The educational market is becoming more competitive. Every university is trying to prove that its educational services are the most advanced in the country and it could correspond to the market requirements.

Moreover, after integration into the European Educational Community within the framework of the Bologna Declaration, the situation could be deteriorated by the competitiveness of European universities. That’s why the urgent task is to raise the quality of the Kazakhstani education not only at national but at the international level as well.

In this respect quality management systems (known as QMS) at HEIs are very necessary though some years ago they were mainly functioning in the sphere of industry. At present there are many reasons why higher education quality issues are important, among them:

  • decrease of the quality of specialists’ training at Kazakhstani universities;
  • growth of competitiveness in the market of educational services;
  • transition to the complex performance evaluation of the HEIs, etc.

The legal basis for the evaluation of education quality has been created in the sphere of higher and post-graduate education. It implies mainly the transition from the principle of state control to the creation of quality assurance support system. The evaluation of the education quality is conducted by the representatives from academic society, employers and consumers of educational services.

The sphere of QMS application at HEIs is the academic process the main product of which is qualified specialists’ training. The direct beneficiaries of that process are the consumers (students, their parents, enterprises and organizations), the RK Ministry of Education & Science, the Board of Rectors of universities, employment services, mass media, secondary and professional educational institutions, university employees, etc.

Quality assurance enhancement is achieved by the system of external and internal mechanisms of quality guarantee. Alongside with the state attestation/accreditation of HEIs there are university own standards, procedures of attestation and self-attestation of its departments, and programs’ development. The introduction of QMS at HEIs helps to raise the university effectiveness. There are 3 components of QMS:

  • It is created on the basis of quality assurance program.
  • The model of quality management should be chosen.
  • The Quality Assurance Department coordinates the work of the system.

The most popular QMS model is based on the principles of TQM (Total Quality Management), which is becoming more and more popular in national and foreign organizations, including universities. In order to achieve a good performance of a HEI it’s necessary to create a corresponding QMS using TQM. On one hand, TQM should provide cooperation between people (employees, clients, employers), on the other, it should give the possibility to improve the process and final product [5].

Many universities already use the elements of QMS based on TQM. However, the process of QMS creation is not an easy one. It requires the elaboration of purposes, mission correction, introduction of new elements to the corporate culture, changes in the organization and management of a university. But the most important things are: to change the mentality, activity and responsibility of the administration and employees.

As the experience shows, the TQM model is very big in dimension for most universities. That’s why they use the international standards of ISO 9000 series, which contain the TQM criteria. The conception of ISO standards is that the requirements to the quality management at HEIs are quite applicable and contribute to the product quality – to the graduates’ knowledge and skills. The ISO standards are voluntary for applying them in the process of production and service.

At the initial stage it’s required for HEIs to use the ISO 9001-2000 which have many advantages. Its standards contain minimum requirements, the fulfillment of which guarantees the increase of the product quality and finally consumers’ satisfaction. 43 HEIs of Kazakhstan have already introduced these standards in their educational process. At the same time every university has its own system of practical realization of internal mechanisms of quality guarantee [18]. The new version of the standard ISO 9001-2008 is now replacing the operating ISO 9001-2000, which contains several changes in accordance with the modern requirements.

However, there are numerous factors which restrain QMS introducing. Among them: the absence of the methodology of its creation adjusted to the national educational standards, ignorance of management and quality issues, lack of specialists who work it out, lack of financial resources and knowledge in quality management and under-evaluation of the results of QMS introduction into the HEIs [7].

In order to overcome these drawbacks it is necessary to raise the knowledge level of the university administration, to stimulate its interest in the modern requirements to the quality issues, to create the atmosphere of trust, corporate spirit and unity in the organization.

3.2. Quality Assurance at KBTU

The QMS was introduced at KBTU in 2007. Its creation began from the analysis and self-evaluation of the university activity, identifying the strategic development direction, revealing necessary recourses, and providing all the university divisions and subdivisions with normative documents.

The general self-evaluation has allowed KBTU to get the many-sided picture of its activity, to know to what extent its customers, personnel and society are satisfied, what the purpose of its existence is, what its mission is, how it could be better than those of its competitors, etc.

Since the QMS introduction KBTU has been conducting regular internal and external audits which constitute an integral part of QMS and are the basic instruments of the continuous quality improvement. The advantages of auditing are:

  • Negative points are revealed.
  • Corrective actions are undertaken.
  • The efficiency of the former correcting measures is controlled.

Since 2007 the QMS at KBTU has corresponded to the current legislature and normative documents of the Republic of Kazakhstan. All the university activities which are necessary to the successful QMS functioning contain the main principles of the quality system. The QMS is registered in a number of documents and is maintained in the working condition.

The QMS functioning is implemented by the quality representatives of every university division and subdivision who are responsible for quality management and are united into working groups for the QMS development and its improvement. In order to coordinate their activity there was the Coordinating Council created at KBTU headed by the Administration Representative of Quality Assurance (usually Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs). It works in the following directions: the QMS documentation, organizing and conducting internal audits, analyzing the QMS results and effectiveness, the university recertification and preparation for accreditation.

The main QMS documents include:

  • quality handbook (I level) which includes the sphere of QSM application,
  • documented procedures (II level) which are executed by all university divisions and subdivisions,
  • different documents (instructions, regulations, results of the internal and external audits, customers’ satisfaction, annual reports on quality) (III level), etc.

The teaching staff and the university employees are acquainted with these requirements and act on their basis. The Quality Assurance Department provides the organization and monitoring of the activity oriented on the constant QMS improvement and perfection of the quality of education.

So far KBTU got a certification of the “Russky Registr” agency (an international certification agency) in 2007 and has been recertified in 2010. This is the procedure of the complex expert evaluation in terms of QMS correspondence to the requirements of the international standard ISO 9001. It guarantees that the system of quality at KBTU is capable of the quality provision of its activity. It allows to raise the university competitiveness and to get the international recognition of the quality of its educational services.


4.1 Accreditation of HEIs

The main instrument of quality assurance system is accreditation. There are also many changes in the RK in this respect. It’s worth mentioning that earlier HEIs passed the state attestation process by the RK Ministry of Education & Science on a regular basis. As a result they got attestation of their performance for 5 years. In fact, it was mainly dealing with the issue of licensing. However, attestation could not guarantee the quality. Moreover, due to the changes in the educational policy of Kazakhstan there appeared a new phenomenon ‘accreditation’ and as a result the National Accreditation Centre (NAC) was formed. Since 2006 it has been conducting the HEIs accreditation and ranking in correspondence with the experience of such countries as the USA, the UK, Germany, Poland, Russia, Japan and others.

Apart from it the Independent Kazakhstan Quality Assurance Agency in Education (IQAA) has also been formed in the Republic. It has already started the accreditation activity and is also involved in the ranking of HEIs process. There are two types of accreditation: institutional and specialized, and there are qualitative criteria and indicators. At the moment the national standards and criteria have been affirmed for institutional accreditation.

However, many Kazakhstani (especially non-state) universities are targeted not for the national but for the international specialized accreditation. This is one of the peculiarities of the national process. In order to correspond to the international standards national universities are competing to get an international accreditation for different programs. At the same time they ignore an institutional one which is more serious and requires much more time and efforts.

Thus, in 2007 Kazakh Architecture & Construction Academy was successfully accredited by the International Accreditation Commission UNECKO-MCA (International Union of Architects) in specialty ‘Architecture’. M.Auezov Southern Kazakhstan State University was accredited by the International accreditation agency ASIIN (Germany) in 7 educational programs in 2008.

Last year 5 National Universities – al-Farabi Kazakh National University, K.Satpaev Kazakh National Technical University, Abai Kazakh National Pedagogical University, Kazakh National Agrarian University and L.Gumilev Euro-Asian National University have started the accreditation of their 10 educational programs. They have already signed the agreements with the main accreditation agencies of Europe and the USA [18].

The private universities are also participating in the accreditation. Thus, KBTU as one of the leading private universities has already got the accreditation of 4 Bachelor’s programs of Oil & Gas Engineering in June 2009 at the British accreditation agency IMarEST. Now it’s applying for a new accreditation process for 3 programs of Computer & Electrical Engineering to the American agency ABET.

The International accreditation has become very popular among Kazakhstani HEIs. They strive to get the world level recognition by all means. But the question is: if it is the right way to raise the quality of education or just a spirit of the times and fashion? In the USA, for example, it’s impossible to get a specialized accreditation without passing an institutional one.

It should be noted that there is much dispute regarding accreditation. I quite agree with those who criticize the situation in the national system of education when simultaneously coexist different processes those of attestation and accreditation which create much confusion about their aims and activity. There should be measures undertaken by the Ministry of Education and Science in order to reorganize the existing complexity of several procedures and plenty of corresponding bodies which have the same aims and objectives [8]. Then, the HEIs have to pass the national institutional accreditation. And only after being recognized at the national level they could apply for the international recognition. There is much chaos in this respect in Kazakhstan.

Anyway, the Republic of Kazakhstan is seeking for its own way in the period of reforms by the method of trials and errors. I hope it will preserve much of its national peculiarities rather than imitating other experiences. And I want to believe it will come to some kind of mechanisms which will form its national strategy in future.

4.2 National Ranking Methodology

Less than a decade ago only few people in the RK heard of university rankings. Today, all has changed utterly. The ranking of universities and educational programs has become global issues. They have the following aims:

  • to provide the customers with the clear information on a university status, its innovative methods and technologies, technical equipment, international programs’ development, graduates’ competitiveness at the labor market, etc.
  • to stimulate the competitiveness among universities;
  • to justify the finance direction;
  • to assist in classifying different educational institutions, programs and disciplines.

Besides, they contribute to the understanding of quality issue of a university in the country added to the expertise and evaluation done by independent accreditation agencies. That is why ranking is an integral part of the national control and quality assurance, and more and more countries will develop ranking in future.

In 2004 the European Center on Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES) created the Strategic Institute on Higher Education in Washington and the International Ranking Group (IREG). Soon, the Berlin principles of ranking were worked out which are recognized by the NAC and the IQAA [1].

For the third year since 2006 the NAC conducts the ranking of Kazakhstani universities. The priorities of the national ranking development are the following: the preparation of the HEIs to the participation in the world academic rankings, the recognition of the national diplomas, the high level of education and competencies of the Kazakhstani graduates and their competitiveness at the international level.

In 2008 the ranking of HEIs was conducted independently by the IQAA for the first time as well. In this process the experience of the leading international ranking agencies was used when determining the ranking methodology. More than 60 out of 140 HEIs participated in the ranking of 2008.

The ranking was conducted in accordance with 53 positions. They formed the basis of 7 criteria and 42 indicators.

  • Criteria №1 – qualitative composition of students;
  • Criteria №2 – qualitative composition of faculty;
  • Criteria №3 – research potential of HEI;
  • Criteria №4 – financing, education expenses and the availability of a high quality web-site and portal;
  • Criteria №5 – selectiveness of students’ admission and the results of their academic achievements;
  • Criteria №6 – socio-cultural conditions for students;
  • Criteria №7 – the level of international cooperation [15].

The ranking was based on two major survey questionnaires: survey №1 which included academic, technical, social and financial resources of HEIs; and survey №2 which provided the data from employers: governmental and non-governmental organizations, major national companies, etc.

In comparison with the previous rankings of HEIs in Kazakhstan, in 2008 ranking points increase for survey №1 was made. More attention was paid to the academic life of a HEI and its activity. Apart from that, attention to international cooperation was raised. For the first time the employers’ opinion was taken in consideration. The aim of the ranking was not only to evaluate the activity of HEIs in Kazakhstan, but also to make their evaluation compatible on the international level [16].

The results of the ranking of 60 Kazakhstani universities were then published in the mass media. The ranking analysis has demonstrated that in many national universities there is a very low level of research, a shortage of new programs, including the international ones. Most universities lack the technical reconstruction and information infrastructure. In-service teacher training leaves much more to be desired.

The ranking system in Kazakhstan is under development now and of course there are many drawbacks: the system and especially the criteria need to be developed and perfected. The ranking culture needs to be cultivated in the country. Many universities don’t participate because they are not much interested in their level to be evaluated and publicized. The comparative analysis of the ranking criteria by NAC and IQAA is given in Table 1 [16].

Table 1. Ranking Criteria by NAC and IQAA (2010)

National Accreditation Center NAC Independent  Quality Assurance Agency IQAA
2006 2010 2008 2010
1. Qualitative composition of students

2. Qualitative composition of faculty

3. Scientific & Research potential

4. Financing

5. Selectiveness of the students’ admission & academic process results

6. Socio-cultural conditions

7. International Cooperation Level

1. High concentration of talanted students, teachers and research

2. Availability of resources

3. International cooperation

4. Graduates’ competitiveness

5. Outstanding research

1. Qualitative composition of students

2. Qualitative composition of faculty

3. Scientific & Research potential

4. Financing

5. Selectiveness of the students’ admission & academic process results

6. Socio-cultural conditions

7. International Cooperation Level

1. Students body

2. Students results & number of academic programs at the University

3. Faculty

4. Research & innovations

5. International cooperation

6. Information assurance

4.3 Results of International Rankings

Alongside with the national ranking Kazakhstan is striving to enter the international ones. The most famous global rankings now are:

  • Shanghai Ranking, ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities),
  • Times Higher Education Ranking, THE,
  • Webometrics Ranking of World Universities.

The information on their starting period, selection criteria and main aims is given in Table 2 [14,17,19].

Table 2. Global Rankings

Shanghai Times Webometrics
Starting year 2003 2004 2004
Priority criteria University  research performance Experts’ evaluation of Universities The degree of a University’s Web-presence & its network activity
Initial aim Bench-marketing of Chinese Universities in the world system Recognition of the best world Universities Web-publication promotion
Main current aim World Universities’ ranking World Universities’ ranking Universities’ evaluation on their Web-policy
Amount of Universities accepted 3 000 520 15 000
ranked 500 200 6 000

As it is seen from Table 1 all the mentioned above rankings have different priority, initial aims and what is more important – methodology. Though the initial aims differ from ranking to ranking, their current aims have changed to one similar– World Universities’ ranking. At the same time their methodology hasn’t changed in this respect. The main indicators of the 3 global rankings are given in Table 3 [14,17,19].

Table 3. Comparative Table of Indicators of Shanghai, Times and Webometrics Global Rankings

Shanghai Times Webometrics
1. Quality of Education


2. Quality of Staff


3. Research Output


4. Size of the Institution


1. Academic Peer & Employer Review


2. Faculty/Student Ratio & Citations per Faculty


3. International Faculty & Students


1. Size (25%)

2. Visibility (50%)

3. Rich Files (12,5%)

4. Scholar (12,5%)

The obvious leaders in the ranking race are American and British universities. It’s quite understandable because the ranking concerns English language countries. At the same time the English language is the language of globalization which forms the transnational culture. The top 10 Universities in three global rankings are given in Table 4 [14,17,19].

Table 4. Universities in Global Rankings (top 10) (2009)

Shanghai (Sh) Times (T) Webometrics (W)
1. Harvard University (USA)

2. Stanford University (USA)

3. University of California, Berkeley (USA)

4. University of Cambridge (UK)

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)

6. California Institute of Technology (USA)

7. Columbia University (USA)

8. Princeton University (USA)

9. University of Chicago (USA)

10. University of Oxford (UK)

1. Harvard University (USA)

2 University of Cambridge (UK)

3. Yale University (USA)

4. University College London (UK)

5. Imperial College London (UK)

6. University of Oxford (UK) (10-Sh, 42-W)

7. University of Chicago (USA)

8. Princeton University (USA)

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)

10. California Institute of Technology (USA)

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)

2. Harvard University (USA)

3. Stanford University (USA

4. University of California Berkeley (USA)

5. Cornell Univer. (USA)

6. University of Wisconsin Madison (USA)

7. University of Minnesota (USA)

8. California Ins. of Tech. (USA)

9. University of Illinois Urbana Champagne (USA)

10. University of Michigan (USA)

So far no Kazakhstani university has achieved the supreme goal to enter the world rankings. There are no national universities among 100 in Asian rankings as well where the leading positions are taken by Japanese and Chinese universities. Accordingly, there are no national universities among 200 and even among 500 at the most famous world rankings as Times and Shanghai. The information on the Russian and Kazakhstani universities is rendered in Table 5 with their places in brackets [14,17,19].

Table 5. Russian & Kazakhstani Universities in the Global Rankings

Shanghai Times Webometrics
Russian Federation Lomonosov Moscow State University MGU (88)

Saint-Petersburg State University SPSU


MGU (155)

SPSU (168)

Novosibirsk State University (312)

Tomsk State University (401-500)

Kazan’ State University (501-600)

MGU (226)

Higher School of Economics at MGU (591)

SPSU (834)

Novosibirsk State University (886)

Kazan’ State University (1122)

Tomsk State University (1163)

Republic of Kazakhstan —- Gulilyev Eurasian National University (501- 600)

Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (601+)

Satpayev Kazakh National Technical University KazNTU (601+)

Buketov Karaganda State University KarSU (601+)

KIMEP (5328)

KazNPU (Kazakh National Pedagogic University) (6757)

UIB (7007)

KarSU (7328)

KazATC (Kazakh Academy of Transport & Communication) (7522)

KazNTU (7570)

KBTU (11317)

According to Z. Zaitseva, the Director of QS World MBA Tour, being among 600 or 700 world universities is not honorable as compared with 500 or 200, but it’s not bad at all in terms of 17,000 world higher educational institutions [8]. There are four potential universities which can improve their performance in future and take the upper places. Among them: Gulilyev Eurasian National University, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Satpayev Kazakh National Technical University KazNTU and Buketov Karaganda State University KarSU.

According to the Webometrics data only one Kazakhstani university could be found among 6,000 world universities: Kazakhstani Institute of Management, Economics & Strategic Research (5328) and the other universities given in Table 5 take the places after 6,000 limit of the ranked ones.

It should be mentioned that according to different rankings the results are different due to the different ranking methodology. Thus, according to the Times ranking the Russian universities such as MGU and SPSU take different places correspondingly [10].

There are many reasons for the absence of Kazakhstani universities in world rankings:

  • They are thinly represented at the regional level and don’t have much or any information in the English language resources.
  • The world ranking methodology differs with that of Kazakhstani one.
  • There is a lack of contacts with international agencies.
  • The national scholars lack the publications in the English language which doesn’t give them an opportunity to be recognized in the international area.
  • They also don’t have an access to the calculation of the citation index which is also one of the important criteria.
  • Most international rankings like Shanghai and Times put a special accent on the research. The national scholars are very often restricted in it for a number of reasons.
  • The ratio of teachers to students is rather high.
  • The universities lack the wide international cooperation and international faculty staff is not sufficient, and others [20].

Nevertheless, the positive image of Kazakhstani higher education is being strengthened on the international arena. An example of it is the IREG conference “International and National Rankings: Similarities and Differences” which took place in Astana in June 2009. It was organized by the RK Ministry of Education & Science, IREG and UNESCO-CEPES. Among the participants there were 60 experts from 28 countries and rectors of 60 leading Kazakhstani universities. One of the main tasks was to get the international experts acquainted with Kazakhstani HEIs.

There is every ground to believe that by 2020 the country will be present in the international rankings. At least two Universities are supposed to enter the world rankings as determined by the RK President. And by the year 2015 10% of the national Universities will get the international accreditation.

On the whole, rankings positively change HEIs which fight for the better performance and thus improving the quality of education. They are important not for those who are at the top but mostly for those who are at the bottom.

It is important to note that although rankings are powerful and important instruments of improving quality of HEIs, they should also be combined with other ways of assessment, such as accreditation in order to ensure the full and better ways of quality assurance of higher education.


In this paper on the integration of the Republic of Kazakhstan into the world educational area I have concentrated on the recent educational reforms, implementation of quality management at HEIs, their participation in the national and international accreditations, and the importance of world ranking entrance.

It is obvious that Kazakhstani higher education system is developing fast. The educational reconstruction and reforms, creation of new universities and programs, joint international projects and students’ mobility will all work for the image strengthening and recognition of the national HEIs. As a result Kazakhstani scholars will have possibility to share their knowledge and expertise with their foreign colleagues for the universal benefit, national students will get more freedom in choosing programs and universities for their studies, foreign teachers and students will strive to Kazakhstan and will be attracted by its HEIs etc.

On the other hand there are arguments in favor of the RK national way of educational development. Instead of following the fashionable rankings and imitating other countries’ experiences that take much time and effort but finally don’t often produce the desirable results there should be more possibilities and conditions created in the country to develop Kazakhstani own model of education which could become competitive based on its own experience, traditions and reality.

Anyway, the process of changes in higher education of Kazakhstan will not happen in a minute. It needs time, facilities, governmental and international support. But the fact is that it has already begun and gaining momentum. The rapid economic development, political stability, national unity of all nations and nationalities of Kazakhstan will facilitate the process of Kazakhstan integration into the world educational community.

Though there are very few publications on the main issues outlined in this paper (most information is taken from the Internet resources) I strongly believe that its ideas and information will lead to better understanding of the current situation in higher education of Kazakhstan as a young independent state with its own culture, traditions, experience; and its image and reputation will grow for meeting contemporary challenges and international standards. I am also planning to widen the perspectives on the topic in my future studies and publications.


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