Higher education policy is the key to lifelong learning and this is particularly important as the ageing population is increasing in many countries. It is a major driver of economic competitiveness in an increasingly knowledge-driven global economy and it also brings social cohesion and well-being. Countries are increasingly aware that higher education institutions need to foster the skills required to sustain a globally competitive research base and improve knowledge dissemination to the benefit of society. Kazakhstan’s higher education system has made progress over the past ten years. However, there is scope for improvement in delivering labour-market relevant skills to Kazakhstanis, and in supporting economic growth through research and innovation.
In examining the higher education system in Kazakhstan, this report builds on a 2007 joint OECD/World Bank review: Reviews of National Policies for Education: Higher Education in Kazakhstan 2007. Each chapter presents an overview of progress made in the past decade across the main areas explored in the 2007 report. These include quality and relevance, access and equity, internationalisation, research and innovation, financing and governance. The report also examines policy responses to evolving dynamics in higher education and the wider socio-economic changes.
Who is the OECD?
• An international organisation of 35 member countries.
• A forum for governments to share experiences and seek solutions to common
problems across many areas -- from taxation and science policy to education.
• In education we build shared knowledge by measuring spending, attainment,
learning, and skill use – through, for example, PISA, PIAAC, and other studies.
• We also work with partner and non-member countries at their request –
including China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Russia – and Kazakhstan to
share and compare their experiences, and offer advice for improvement.
• Wide collaboration with Kazakhstan – PISA, PIAAC (round 3), and reviews
including higher education, early childhood, and school resources reviews.
Why was this review done?
We were invited by Ministry to follow up on 2007 World Bank/OECD Review,
measuring progress and suggesting directions for continued improvement. Each
chapter contains a figure showing 2007 recommendations and implementation
Who Did the Review and Why
o A self-study (Country Background Report) was produced by the IAC
o A fact-finding mission by an international team with members from OECD,
World Bank, and higher education leaders from Australia, Canada, Ireland
and the US.
o They conducted interviews with government (Ministry and other state
agencies) and visited more than 20 universities.
University visits included rectors and senior management of universities,
faculty members, employers, students.
Visits included a representative set of universities: state and national;
public, private and mixed; those offering broad and specialised
o Report drafted by OECD based upon input from its country experts, and
submitted to Ministry for fact-checking.
o All findings and recommendations are the responsibility of the review team,
not host governments.
How the Review Was Done
Six areas of focus:
1. The quality and relevance of higher education
2. Access and equity in higher education
3. Internationalisation and higher education
4. The integration of education, research, and innovation in higher
5. Financing of higher education
6. Governance in higher education
Today’s presentation: begin with key findings, then recommendations
What was the focus of the review?
Quality and Labour Market Relevance
o Educational quality depends upon inputs (student and teachers), the
educational process, and processes to assure quality
o 2012 PISA results show comparatively low skills among 15-year
olds in international comparison (0.9% high performers vs. 13%
o UNT is not well-suited to:
development of student capabilities that HE should foster
the identification of students most likely to succeed in HE
(UNT correlation with year two grades: r = .32)
o Formal faculty qualifications (degree levels) remain below
international standards, and vary widely among regions.
o Curriculum design has been decentralised in principle – but local
willingness and capacity among HEIs to develop curriculum is limited.
o Work experience is part of all programmes, in principle. However,
may be brief, weakly supervised, not linked to educational programme.
o Faculty teaching workload and administrative responsibilities
are heavy, and opportunities for high quality professional development
limited. (135-180 instructional hrs./yr. in N. America vs. 400 to 750 in KZ)
o Examinations at end of study could – in principle – support deep
learning rather than memorisation. As presently designed external test of
student achievement (VODE) does not.
Teaching and Learning Practices
Quality Assurance Processes
The Bologna Framework
o Steps have been taken to implement Bologna Process – including
alignment of national and ECTS credits, and degree duration.
o Implementation not yet sufficient to achieve full benefits of Bologna:
credit-based learning that leads to mobility and flexibility for learners.
Institutional accreditation and quality assurance processes
o External, voluntary accreditation is underway.
o Accreditation competes with traditional forms of central control (licensing,
attestation, recurring and ad hoc inspections, the EASA). These limit the
ability of quality assurance to drive institutional improvement.
Employment Outcomes: Right Numbers, Right Skills?
o Right Numbers?
o Policymakers do not yet know whether graduate supply is well-
aligned to labour market demand – these data do not yet exist.
o Labour market information for students that permits them to
match their interests and aptitudes to careers is not yet available.
o Right skills? National employer appears to be broadly satisfied with
graduate skills, while international employers said additional post-
employment training is sometimes needed. Kazakhstan may not be
producing the skills it needs to succeed in a global marketplace.
Quality and Relevance: Recommendations
o Develop a National Qualifications Framework aligned to international
benchmarks and 21st century competencies.
o Use it to as basis for further development of curricula, course content,
teaching approaches and assessment.
o Revise the UNT in the same direction.
o Provide local professional development opportunities to all core staff, and
review faculty workload to enable adequate time for other instructional and
o Strengthen accreditation processes to align to Bologna principles and
standards. Strengthen internal quality assurance using peer review and
o Establish and disseminate labour market information that reports on the
outcomes of higher education graduates.
o Poor and uneven student preparation in primary and secondary schooling
o UNT increases transparency -- but favours students from better-resourced
schools and those whose parents can afford tutoring
o The Complex Test aims to create VET pathway – but has not established an
effective alternative to direct entry after high school
o The financial aid system has negative effects on equity.
o State scholarships are awarded based UNT – which measures ability as
cultivated by uneven learning opportunities
o Public loans for study expenses are underdeveloped and underused
o Private loans typically come with high interest rates
o Savings plans little used and does not assist those in need
Academic Preparation and Financial Aid
Access and Equity: Recommendations
o Allocate more grant funding to mean-tested financial support, and make
students loans more accessible and affordable to students who are not in
receipt of a grant.
o Improve the quality of primary and secondary schooling, and increase
efforts to raise the educational aspirations of rural and low SES students.
o Expand technology-enabled learning and distance education to provide
high-quality learning opportunities for students in rural areas.
o Accelerate reform of the Unified National Test (UNT), and consider how to
address educational disadvantage (for example through “bonus points”).
o Improve transferability of VET qualifications. Develop formalised credit
transfer, and recognise articulation pathways between universities and VET
colleges. Reform of the Complex Test.
o A small but stable number of Kazakhstani students study abroad (40 out of
50K in Russian Federation or Kyrgyzstan).
o Few international students come to Kazakhstan – about 2% of enrolment-
principally Georgia and Central Asia.
o The curriculum does not yet have a strong international perspective.
o Staff mobility levels similar to Russian Federation, Azerbaijan and the
Republic of Korea. Standards of facilities, services and infrastructure in
institutions; limited capacity to provide instruction in English language;
and restrictive visa conditions all contribute to a lack of competitiveness
o Significant recent efforts to promote the internationalisation have been
adopted -- including the Bolashak scholarship programme, the creation of
Nazarbayev University, and adoption of the Bologna Process.
o The Bologna Process: many agreements between established
between Kazakhstani higher education institutions and foreign HEIs --
but many are declarative in nature and do not result in real partnerships
o The Bolashak programme: Successful, but costly, with scope for
much wider use of its principal asset – its alumni network
o Nazarbayev University: Intended to be a model and mentor for the
wider higher education system. There has been limited support and
structure to share learning from this model in ways that can be applied
by higher education institutions that are less well resourced.
o Limited academic autonomy restricts institutions’ ability to engage in
partnerships and develop joint programmes.
o Limited English language competency of staff limits extent to which
academics can engage in research collaborations, international research
publication, programme collaboration and joint teaching.
o Low English language proficiency of students limits choice of destinations
o The lack of a fully operational and effective system of external quality
assurance reduces other countries’ (and other countries’ students) interest
in Kazakhstani higher education.
o The remaining rigidity in the curriculum can make it hard for students to
gain credit for international experience.
Impediments to wider internationalisation
• Continue the current relaxation of curriculum and prescribed content to
enable a more internationalised curriculum and enhance student mobility.
• Establish indicators on student, programme, and institution-level mobility
that allow international comparison. Publish these regularly.
• Expand the current scholarships scheme, and introduce new forms of
financial support for study abroad
• Better leverage the Bolashak programme.
• Encourage collaboration among higher education institutions, and reinforce
efforts to identify and disseminate lessons from Nazarbayev University and
the national universities for the internationalisation of higher education.
• Increase the English proficiency of youth and faculty members
• Increase investments that exploit digital technologies to expand in-country
“internationalisation through the curriculum”.
o The establishment of new research grants streams, and the acceleration of
investments at Nazarbayev University and the national universities are
important positive developments.
o Four key challenges remain.
1. Low capacity for high quality research, due to
• low public funding for higher education (both for research and for instruction);
• gaps in current funding instruments; and,
• poor readiness at the institutional level to support research
2. The low number of doctoral graduates, and the absence of a post-doctoral stream
to help graduates establish their careers;
3. Overemphasis of policy on a single aspect of innovation – commercialisation
4. Lack strategic coherence in diversification (e.g. some research institutes merged
with universities, others independent)
Research and Innovation
o Develop a broad base of frontier research and a critical mass of research in areas
of strategic importance to industry and other users of knowledge. Support this
by recruiting and training highly talented faculty with expertise in strategic
areas and creating university-led science and technology centres that are inter-
disciplinary and inter-institutional, and engage industry as partners.
o Increase R D investment to 1% of GDP over 5 years to 2021 (and review
efficiency of investment with expert panel)
o Encourage higher education institutions to adopt explicit and transparent
policies for faculty incentives and rewards - e.g. flexibility in allocating teaching
duties at institutional level, and promotion between academic grades.
o Establish a special task force to address the PhD pipeline and postdoctoral
career path problems. Re-examine the one-size-fits-all policy for PhD
graduation and establish a postdoctoral structure.
o Review diversity of mission. Consider three types: teaching only, research led to
PhD level and local, needs-oriented teaching and research led to master’s level.
Research and Innovation Recommendations
o Low overall public spending on tertiary education relative to
economy (0.3% of GDP vs. 1.5% average in OECD, 1.1% in newest
EU members, 1.6% Ukraine)
o Very high share of public spending (1/3) focused on two initiatives:
Nazarbayev University and the Bolashak programme.
o State grant programme (main funding vehicle for public higher
education institutions) subsidises enrolment of students that often
would have occurred without public investment.
o Controls on how higher education institutions spend their funding
are excessive and counterproductive.
o Increase the size of its public investment in higher education
bringing it more in line with levels in peer countries
o Re-evaluate and modify the state grant system. Provide grants
based on the financial need of qualified students, and expect greater
financial contributions from higher income students
o Reduce the level of financial controls on institutions. Emphasise
post-audits rather than pre-audits, and allow institutions to retain
and accumulate funds to strengthen their financial flexibility and
provide incentives for greater efficiency.
o The government has adopted “supervisory boards” and loosened
regulatory controls on the curriculum in an effort to introduce some
measure of institutional autonomy.
o Four governance challenges remain:
o Financial regulation of higher education institutions is excessive;
o Limited academic autonomy discourages faculty and
institutional creativity, initiative and responsibility;
o The organisational/managerial autonomy of higher education
institutions is weak;
o The regulation of both the public and private sectors is both
excessive and distinctive roles of the two sectors are not
o Strengthen institutional governance to support greater decentralization and
flexibility. Develop in public universities governing boards with the power
o select chief executives,
o provide oversight of institutional operations, and,
o support the improvement and effectiveness of institutions.
o Shift from government control that depends on regulatory and procedural
controls to an audit approach to assure financial integrity.
o Shift from top-down quality assurance process that relies on attestation and
inspections to an institution-led accreditation approach to quality
o Clearly identify purposes of the public and private sectors of the higher
education system. Promote governance arrangements in each sector that
match its purpose. Allocate to public higher education institutions
functions unlikely to thrive in private institutions.
REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN
launch of OECD report
March 15, 2017
Context for World Bank Involvement
• The World Bank is increasingly
providing support to Central Asian
countries to enhance the education
sector’s (particularly higher
education’s) ability to produce high-
quality, labor-market relevant skills
• Following examples are from World
Bank’s engagement in Europe and
Central Asia. Engagement is
typically at the country-level but
can also be at the regional level or
• While not explicit in the
presentation, it is acknowledged
that these reforms require both
financial and technical support.
Strengthen higher education system managerial capacity, and to improve
both the labor market relevance and the learning environment of selected
higher education institutions.
Type Investment Project (45M USD)
• Establishing a Higher Education Management Information System
• Improving the Quality Assurance System (Internal and External)
• Improving laboratories and associated academic and research systems
in priority areas (basic teaching laboratories and advanced scientific
• Establishment of a national e-library for Uzbek HEIs
• Establishing a Competitive Academic Innovation Fund
(a) strengthening university-industry links
(b) improving teaching and learning practices within HEIs.
(c) promote mechanisms for inclusion and empowerment of female
Develop mechanisms that improve and monitor the quality and labor-
market relevance of higher education
Type Investment Project (15M USD)
• Just-in-Time Grants to Re-/Up-Skill Workforce
• Competitive Grant Program for Universities (Quality and Labor-
Market Relevance with focus on female students)
• Quality Assurance Enhancements
• System-wide Higher Education Curriculum Reform
• Assessment of Higher Education Financing
Develop mechanisms that enable financial support for low-income
Type Technical Assistance (Bank-financed)
• Minister of Education asked 10 HEIs to each pledge a small number of
study places at their respective institution as an in-kind contribution.
• Selection of the candidates is based mostly on the following criteria:
citizen of Azerbaijan; not older than 25 years; pursuing a bachelor
degree in one of ten founding universities or a partner university; GPA
for the previous years is 71% or higher; and annual family income
• Innovative: 1) Eliminated the need for upfront investment from
government or private sources; 2) loan maintenance costs should be
relatively low since in-kind contributions eliminated the need to
finance the spread between the interest rate to be paid by the student
borrower and the costs of borrowed funds; and 3) mitigated risk by
targeting upperclassman who have demonstrated some degree of
Institutions Engagements between World Bank and HEIs..
Type Reimbursable Advisory Serves (client-financed)
• In Kazan city, university strategies developed allowing 3
universities-participants to win a national competition: one became a
Federal University and two others became National Research
• In Surgut city, strategy for the university complex development,
prepared with the Bank support, facilitated technological consortia
with several companies/research centers. Partnerships with European
• Higher School of Economics with support of the Bank team
developed an institutional strategy. The Bank is strategic partner for
HSE under the 5/100 program.
• Russian Academy of National Economy and Public
Administration after the merger of 14 institutions, introduced a
strategy for regional network development, strategic framework for
internationalization, institutional quality assessment procedures and
reviews of all the programs in regions. A new Master program
prepared and successfully launched attracting many international
Financing Higher Education: Implementing a Strategic Vision
• March 14, 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan
• Senior officials from ministries of education and finance
• Republics of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
• Objective of the workshop is to facilitate knowledge sharing among
senior government officials on recent trends and promising practices
for aligning higher education funding strategies with specific policy
• Presentations and discussions focused on implementation approaches
and lessons learned from real-life experiences revising approaches to
financing higher education.
• In the process of preparing a Graduate Tracer Studies Toolkit focused
on university graduates. The toolkit will be a reference and starting
point for Central Asia countries.
• The toolkit will compile existing research and international experience
into a practical set of tools and templates that can be customized by
Senior Education Specialist
The World Bank Group