Kazakhstan has embarked on an ambitious journey to internationalize its higher education sector, aiming to become a global leader in education. A key indicator of this progress is the increasing number of international students, which has tripled to over 26,000, constituting 4.5% of the total student population. The strategic development plan outlines a goal to raise this to 10% by 2025 and 20% by 2050. Additionally, the government aims for three Kazakh universities to be ranked in at least two internationally recognized league tables by 2025 and five institutions in the world’s top rankings by 2050.
Competing in the international education market poses significant challenges, with established players like the US, UK, Europe, and emerging forces like China and India dominating. Kazakhstan must articulate its unique offerings to stand out in this competitive landscape. One distinguishing feature is its special geopolitical situation—being stable, developed, and fostering relations with both the US and China makes it attractive to students from the region, including Russia.
Besides geopolitical advantages, Kazakhstan has implemented substantial reforms in its education sector, such as joining the Bologna Process in 2010, becoming the first Asian country in the European education space. The commitment to education reflects in the country’s 56th ranking on the UN’s Human Development Index, falling into the category of “very high” HDI scores.
The attention of international rating providers is increasing, with 31 Kazakh universities included in this year’s QS Asia University Rankings. While there are 117 universities in Kazakhstan, including 47 private institutions, the stereotype that commercial universities lack quality education is debunked. Private universities like Narxoz, supported by entrepreneur Bulat Utemuratov, focus on a non-profit model, directing resources to enhance the university’s quality, infrastructure, and student grants. Narxoz has earned a 5-star rating in QS rankings, emphasizing the quality of education and career opportunities.
In conclusion, Kazakhstan’s progress in the education sector is commendable, showcasing its commitment to human resources and scientific development. The government’s goals to boost education exports are justifiable and achievable, but it’s crucial to balance this pursuit with a focus on genuine development rather than a blind pursuit of ratings.