Kazakhstan's strategic initiative to introduce branches of esteemed foreign universities within its borders marks a significant leap in the advancement of higher education in the country. The establishment of these branches within the country not only elevates the standard of education but also catalyzes the fostering of global connections, attracting a diverse pool of students, and fostering a culture of academic excellence within the nation.
QazMonitor has studied the impact of the initiative and what updates on opening branches of foreign universities have been made so far. While many partnerships and negotiations are underway and updates still keep coming, one thing is clear already — Kazakhstan is becoming a higher education hub of Central Asia.
Original plan: five by ‘25
Back in 2022, Minister of Science and Higher Education Sayasat Nurek presented the project of the Concept of Higher Education Development for 2022-2026 and announced plans to open branches of five foreign universities. The initiative had been proposed by President Tokayev, who also emphasized that it was necessary to open two branches of universities with a technical profile in the western region of the country.
By 2023, it had become apparent that the original plan of ‘five branches by 2025’ was more than achievable — branches of four foreign universities opened in Kazakhstan in 2022.
“We have already opened four branches. The task here is not really to catch up. There are certain problems when you open such a large number of universities. Our task is just to maintain quality and attract strong universities. Therefore we are now taking a very selective approach to this process.
As I said, we have opened British De Montfort University, which operates in Almaty. Two leading Russian universities - MEPhI and Gubkin - have opened their branches. The University of Arizona already has a full-fledged campus here,” Minister Nurbek told QazMonitor reporter in an interview last October.
Which universities can we expect soon?
This year the Ministry has been delivering announcements on opening new universities and special academic programs practically every month. This proactive approach underscores the commitment of the country to providing a robust, internationally competitive educational environment.
In February 2023, Sayasat Nurbek announced work on opening branches of the following six renowned universities:
Heriot-Watt University (the UK) at Zhubanov University in Aktobe
Seoul National University of Science and Technology (SeoulTech, South Korea) at Korkyt Ata Kyzylorda State University
Gazi Üniversitesi (Turkiye) at South Kazakhstan State Pedagogical University
Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Agricultural Mechanization Engineers (Uzbekistan) at M.Kh.Dulaty Taraz Regional University
University of Calgary (Canada) at New Ulytay University, a new university in Zhezkazgan that will specialize in mining (announced earlier)
Kazakhstan-German University - a consortium of four German universities at the Caspian State University of Technology and Engineering named after Sh.Yessenov
"This year we are also attracting Canadian universities, the strongest British technical university, a consortium of German universities, a top South Korean university, the strongest Uzbek national research university, and one of Russia's leading chemical-technology universities,” summarized Minister Nurbek on the sidelines of Astana International Forum held in June.
In addition to opening new branches, strategic partnerships between Kazakh and foreign universities were also announced — for example, the one between Auezov South Kazakhstan State University, KAIST (South Korea), and UCLA (the US).
It’s fair to say that the higher education system in Kazakhstan is experiencing massive changes, and we will see the results in a few years with a new batch of graduates putting their knowledge to the test. The only question that remains is what other academic programs and areas will be improved in the future. Even the updated ‘Twelve branches by 2029’ plan seems to be implemented ahead of time and, hopefully, the trend of diversifying the options available for Kazakh students will see even more advancements.