Population (2017): 18,037,646

The Republic of Kazakhstan is situated in the north of Central Asia and with an area of 2,724,902 square kilometres it is the world’s largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest in the world. Strategically, it links the large and fast-growing markets of China and South Asia and those of Russia and Western Europe by road, rail, and a port on the Caspian Sea. The country’s 131 ethnicities include Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Germans, Tatars, and Uyghurs. The Kazakh language is the state language, and Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes. Kazakhstan has transitioned from lower-middle income to upper-middle income status in less than two decades. The country moved to the upper-middle income group in 2006. Since 2002, GDP per capita has risen sixfold and poverty incidence has fallen sharply, showing a significant progress in country performance in the World Bank’s indicator of shared prosperity.


Education is a high priority for Kazakhstan and in 2011, Kazakhstan was ranked first on UNESCO’s “Education for All Development Index” by achieving near-universal levels of primary education, adult literacy and gender equality.  In 2017, Kazakhstan had an estimated GDP per capita of USD 8,792. As Kazakhstan’s overall economy has expanded in recent years, public expenditure in education has gradually increased to 3.7% of GDP in 2017.

Kazakhstan was the first country in Central Asia to sign and ratify the Lisbon Convention (1999) and in 2010 joined the Bologna Process. Higher education in Kazakhstan is provided by 131 higher education institutions. Most higher education institutions now offer the 3-cycle higher education system although some 5 or 6-year Specialist Diplomas are still available, especially in the field of medicine.

At the beginning of the 2018/2019 academic year, 824 VET institutions were functioning in the Republic of Kazakhstan, 477 of which are state and 347 are private. The total number of students is 489,8 thousand. Compared with the 2017/2018 academic year, the number of students increased by 1.0%7. Although the share of VET in secondary education is only approximately 7%, VET is seen as an important driver for economic developments, and evidence-based policies and strategies are well integrated.

Country Brief

The Central Asia HE and VET Briefs are intended to provide a review and update of the current education policies in the CA countries with a clear focus on the thematic priorities identified both in the Riga and Astana Ministerial Meetings in 2015/2017 respectively, in order to summarise and share the findings from the CAEP 2 with education practitioners and experts both in the EU and CA countries for further discussion among policy makers, education practitioners and related stakeholders in HE and VET.