Chapter 5. Integration of education, research and innovation in Kazakhstan

This chapter focuses on how higher education can generate new knowledge through research and enable innovation processes outside higher education institutions. After setting out a framework for research and innovation in higher education, it analyses how the research system in Kazakhstan and recent developments fare according to this framework. It examines the current research capacity of higher education institutions and the PhD pipeline problem. It also discusses policies which can strengthen collaboration between higher education institutions and users of knowledge, as well as strengthen the diversity of the institutional mission of higher education institutions and clarify their role as distinct from that of research institutes. The chapter places particular emphasis on areas of priority for Kazakhstan such as increasing the currently low capacity for high-quality research and low number of doctoral graduates, and modifying the government’s too-narrow focus on a single aspect of innovation: commercialisation. The chapter also reviews approaches to diversification of the higher education system which lacks strategic coherence.


Framework for research and innovation in higher education

The triple mission of higher education

Countries or states that successfully compete in the global knowledge economy are generally those that value and implement innovation in every sphere. Research and Development (R&D) is an important component of an innovation ecosystem and higher education institutions carry increasing responsibility for the research part of R&D. Higher education institutions can create new knowledge underpinning innovation, and simultaneously train individuals to the PhD level who are skilled in innovation’s production and deployment.

In recent times, higher education has been expected to take responsibility for translating new knowledge and skills to practical use (OECD, 2013). Most research universities embrace this third mission (which they normally term innovation, even though innovation has a much broader meaning). They look to the American research university as a successful model (Atkinson and Blanpied, 2008) given its success since the 1940s. However, the traditional emphases on instruction and fundamental research still dominate university culture. A number of questions invite constant debate:

  • What is the most appropriate type of research for higher education?

  • What impact should be expected from university research?

  • How does innovation fit with the education and research mission more broadly?

Traditional and modern approaches to research

For many in the academic community, fundamental (or basic) research is central to the academic mission, as it advances knowledge for the public good. Many governments and users of knowledge, though, see applied research as the surest way to a return on investment. Higher education, by default, has almost exclusive responsibility for fundamental research, whose findings are openly disseminated by peer-reviewed publication and international networks. The new knowledge feeds into the curriculum and satisfies a basic human thirst to understand nature and what it means to be human. Fundamental research also underpins the future needs of a national innovation system (OECD, 2015) and is the basis for breakthrough technology (Lane, 2014).

Industry and other users of knowledge inevitably face complex challenges requiring solutions that transcend such simple distinctions as that between fundamental and applied research. Concentrated and co-operative effort by experts from different disciplines and application areas are often needed. Indeed, the distinction between fundamental and applied is no longer really useful. Stokes (1997) defined a third way which he described as Pasteur’s Quadrant and coined the term “use-inspired” where researchers simultaneously advance knowledge and solve specific problems. Others (Narayanamurti et al., 2013) have traced the intricate and cyclic connection between discovery (creating new knowledge) and invention (creating new technology). They cite historical evidence that advances in one depends on advances in the other over different timescales. They argue for public funding of both discovery and invention, taking a long-term view of a return or impact. They also argue that communication between scientists and engineers, and theorists and practitioners, should be deepened and sustained.

Two funding approaches have evolved in recent times which take these considerations into account, and which harness the advantages and strengths of research conducted in the higher education environment in particular.

One is the concept of frontier research which has become the mission of the highly regarded European Research Council (ERC). In the Council’s founding paper (ERC, 2005) frontier research was defined as creating new knowledge about the world and generating potentially new useful knowledge at the same time. The Council has been successful at identifying the best individual talent and ideas in the EU.

The other approach is research inspired by its importance to the strategic needs of industry – for example, nanotechnology, data science, advanced materials and manufacturing, molecular design for new drugs, and other areas. To be effective, any one of these areas needs a critical mass of highly talented faculty and researchers who can command industry attention and engagement, and can compete with other countries with similar targets. Centres to support the collaboration of faculty in different disciplines and institutions with industry and other users of knowledge can add value beyond the sum of their parts. The concept is analysed in a report by the OECD (2014) as part of a broader discussion of Research Excellence Initiatives.

Research impact and innovation: a broad definition

The concept of the impact of higher education research is often controversial (Blank, 2016) but is not novel. Impact is of two kinds. The first is the traditional impact of higher education research in advancing and disseminating knowledge formally and informally, and distilling truths from it. The second is the impact on technology, services, industry, and ultimately on job creation and sustainability (Dowling, 2015). It can be further broken down into commercialisation and engagement. Commercialisation is generally about patents, licences and spin-off companies. Engagement concerns people-to-people interaction and mobility between academia and industry, whereby tacit and other forms of knowledge are transferred and used.

It is reasonable to expect all researchers to consider impact and to examine whether their research topics are addressing significant problems. It is also reasonable for funders to take broad impact into account in making decisions on applications for funding. Difficulties arise when impact is considered too narrowly.

There is evidence (OECD, 2015) that higher education institutions have focused too much on the commercialisation of intellectual property based on patents, licenses and spin-off companies, and far too little on dissemination by personal engagement of researchers with the users of knowledge. Perkmann et al. (2013) have similarly concluded that engagement is under-valued. Graham (2014) has gone further to describe the potential of university-based entrepreneurial ecosystems covering entrepreneurship and innovation. Based on empirical evidence, she finds universities following one of two models. One is a top-down approach driven by a Technology Transfer Office focused on realising income from intellectual property. The other is a bottom-up, more informal and dispersed approach involving students as well as faculty focused on regional development in partnership with alumni entrepreneurs. A balance between, and a coming together of, the two models is recommended. It needs to involve the whole of the university and not just one office. This process deeply integrates education, research and innovation/entrepreneurship.

An OECD report on commercialising public research (OECD, 2013) puts commercialisation into perspective. Commercialisation or technology transfer offices are expensive to operate and require highly skilled people. Few patents filed generate a significant financial return. Ten percent of the EU’s universities account for 85% of total licensing income. The number of spin-off companies from public research is small worldwide. The top 100 US research universities spin off an average of two companies per university annually or 1.1 per USD 100 million invested. The statistics are somewhat better in the European Union, at 2.4 per USD 100 million invested. This does not mean that patents, licenses and spin-offs lack importance, but that other forms of knowledge transfer are just as important. It is not surprising that funders and stakeholders are often frustrated at the low return of investment in research if commercialisation is their only yardstick of success.

The more complex and often informal engagement by researchers with the users of knowledge is rich in potential. It covers the mobility of researchers, staff and students, from academia to industry and vice versa, bringing with them both clearly defined new ideas but also tacit knowledge. It can happen by exchange for periods of time, creating and fostering alumni associations, informal meetings and so on. It can create a common language and can be the basis from which more useful intellectual property can emerge.

System design: concentrating versus distributing research

Research benefits from scale and concentration. There are two approaches to achieving it. The first is concentration in a few strong higher education institutions. Salmi (2009) has written of the world-class research university – a single higher education institution standing above the rest, characterised by excellent and highly motivated faculty, high levels of funding and strong governance. He also discussed three ways of establishing it: merging existing institutions, developing individual institutions or creating a totally new model. Altbach (2011) has also written extensively of the importance of the research university as part of a hierarchy, but questioned (Altbach, 2007) whether small countries can afford one and whether developing countries should perhaps have more modest aspirations.

The second approach is a distributed version of the world-class university, that is, distributed among a number of higher education institutions. In this case, each higher education institution could have one or more areas of critical mass and strength that train students to PhD level, and that would be national and sometimes international leaders. The attributes of the single research university could apply equally to this distributed concept. The approach does not lend itself to individual institutions competing well in world rankings, and there is a danger still of dilution when resources are scarce. However, it could have the advantage of spreading best practice and a sense of excellence to all parts of those higher education institutions which have at least one leading area of research.

Research and innovation in Kazakhstan

The research system

In the time of the former Soviet Union, research was largely carried out in research institutes, some of which were operated by the Academy of Sciences and some by various government ministries. Higher education institutes focused on teaching and learning. However, the Academy of Sciences is now an honorary membership-only body. The MESRK took over responsibility for the former academy institutes, and some of these have been merged with higher education institutions to build higher education competence in research.

Today there are 126 higher education institutions (including Nazarbayev University) with different designations and functions – 85 universities, 21 academies, 18 institutes and 1 conservatory. Even though only universities formally have research as part of their mission, it is estimated that 105 higher education institutions are currently engaged in research (JSC Information-Analytic Center, 2015). In practice, the vast majority of higher education research is carried out in public institutions. Ten higher education institutions have been designated as national institutions with extra funding, autonomy and responsibilities, including for research and innovation.

The number of research institutes in 2014 was estimated to be 245. Their share of public research funding is greater than for higher education institutions. While research institutes were beyond the remit of this review, they must be taken into account when we consider the need for critical mass in research versus distribution across many institutions.

Recent developments

The evolution of research and innovation as part of the mission of higher education in recent years has been driven by a number of important national policies and laws. They include the State Programme of Educational Development 2011-2020, the Law on Science (2011), the Law on Commercialisation (2015) and the State Programme for Industrial-Innovative Development 2013.

The Law on Education (2007) and the State Programme for Education and Science Development 2016-2019 categorised higher education institutions into different types including universities, academies and institutes. Universities were defined as being able to carry out research and innovation alongside education. The policy made provision for independent research institutes to be incorporated into leading research universities. It outlined a number of key objectives for research universities which are central to the theme of this chapter:

  • integration of education, research and industry

  • creation of conditions for commercialisation of intellectual property and technologies

  • training highly qualified research and pedagogical staff.

The programme set very specific targets. Those of relevance to research and innovation are shown in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1. Targets for higher education research and innovation

Notes: There are different targets for investment in R&D for 2020. For example, the new SPIID (2015-20) policy has a target of 2% GDP for 2020. In the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, the goal set for expenditures for R&D to be reached by 2030 is 3% of GDP.

Sources: adapted from State Program of Educational Development 2011-2020. JSC Information-Analytic Center (2015), “Country Background Report”, prepared for the OECD follow-up review of higher education policy in Kazakhstan, JSC Information-Analytic Center, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana.

Significant progress has been achieved towards some targets, little towards others, while some targets are very imprecise. We will discuss the level of investment in R&D, the number of PhDs in later sections. For the progress on other targets, it is worthwhile observing that:

  • The number of higher education institutions in top world rank is a matter of interpretation. According to the QS world university ranking (QS, 2015), four higher education institutions were ranked in the top 700 universities, and the top two were ranked 275 and 371, respectively. Research performance was not a significant contributor. Hazelkorn (2011) has assessed the value of international rankings and identified risks of distorting the higher education mission if they become strong drivers of behaviour (see also Chapter 7 of this report).

  • According to state statistics for 2013 (NCESE, 2013), 3.25% of academic staff in higher education institutions published in non-zero impact journals in 2013, exceeding the target for 2015. The number of academic staff engaged in research increased from 8% in 2011 to 27% in 2014 (JSC Information-Analytic Center, 2015).

  • For the two targets relating to innovation/commercialisation structures, higher education institutions have accepted that they are important. However, simple numerical targets are not very meaningful since the extent and quality of structures can vary enormously.

The Law on Science enacted in 2011 laid out the formal principles and procedures for research and innovation, defined more precisely the function of the research university, and enabled individuals and institutions to apply for funding. In particular, it defined three significant funding instruments for research to replace the older arrangement (see Figure 5.2). They are operated by competitive bidding, peer review with some international involvement, and selection by new research councils made up of Kazakh and foreign experts. Oversight and selection of priority areas are controlled by the cabinet-level Higher Science and Technology Committee chaired by the Prime Minister. Implementation is managed by the National Center for State Science and Technical Evaluation.

Figure 5.2. Research funding instruments

Sources: JSC Information-Analytic Center (2015), “Country Background Report”, prepared for the OECD follow-up review of higher education policy in Kazakhstan, JSC Information-Analytic Center, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana.

The State Programme of Industrial-Innovative Development 2015-19 referred to the innovation sector as the third sector for industrial development and diversification based on R&D, innovation clusters and techno parks.

The Law on Commercialisation enacted in 2015 strengthened the role of higher education institutions in translating research outcomes to use, and activated incentives for researchers to identify intellectual property from their research and engage in its application. In particular, the inventors of patents and creators of other intellectual property are now entitled to a share of any profit that might ensue. The Law provided the legal basis for the creation of companies by higher education institutions.

A very important development since 2011 was the provision of free access by all higher education institutions in Kazakhstan to the world’s leading scholarly publications, and of the tools to mine databases of publications. Such databases are routinely used worldwide to find useful references, identify good journals and count the number of times a published paper is cited by other authors. The Ministry for Education and Science now covers subscriptions to two database resources – Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science and Elsevier’s Scopus – and to Springer’s Springer Link online delivery platform.

It is useful to link this review to the OECD/World Bank review of the Kazakh higher education system carried out in 2007. The review had 16 recommendations on research, development and innovation, and many issues raised in the review are still relevant. Considerable progress has been made, but a few key recommendations have not so far been adopted. A summary of the status of the recommendations is shown in Figure 5.3.

Figure 5.3. Implementation status of the 2007 OECD/World Bank recommendations

Sources: OECD/The World Bank (2007), Reviews of National Policies for Education: Higher Education in Kazakhstan, OECD Publishing, Paris,

The UNECE Innovation Performance Review of Kazakhstan (UNECE, 2012) made a number of recommendations relating to research and the engagement of higher education with industry. The National Center of State Science and Technology Evaluation has targeted implementation of some of the recommendations (Shevchenko, 2015) on the premise that funding should be for applied research with an emphasis on commercialisation.

Key research and innovation issues in Kazakhstan’s higher education system

It is clear that Kazakhstan is ambitious for its higher education system and for the contribution that higher education research can make to the national innovation system. Based on the OECD review team’s observations and discussions during its visit, analysis of data provided and further research, and mindful that a parallel OECD review of innovation in Kazakhstan is taking place, the team has identified a number of issues for attention. They are:

  • The low capacity and quality of the current research base as measured by publication volume and quality, linked to the low level of national research funding, non-optimised funding instruments and poorly developed institutional support.

  • Limitations on future capacity: the system is not producing enough doctoral graduates.

  • The innovation focus is narrow, with over-expectation of commercialisation and under-expectation of the power of broader engagement with the users of knowledge.

  • Unclear plan to create a system of diverse higher education institutions so that each can contribute to Kazakhstan’s needs according to its specific strengths.

In the following sections, this chapter carries out a deeper analysis of current performance for each of these issues and makes recommendations for improvement. The intention is to identify actions that are feasible to implement given financial, organisational and cultural constraints. This review brings to light two weak features of implementation capacity in Kazakhstan. These are the absence of an independent group or body to monitor implementation progress, assess effectiveness of initiatives and advise government, and an under-developed data-gathering mechanism to help in planning and monitoring.

Current capacity for high quality research

Publications and citations as a measure of performance

Considerable bibliometric analysis has been carried out by government agencies in Kazakhstan, based on the Web of Science and Scopus databases described earlier. The OECD review team has used the results of this analysis along with its own independent analysis to determine trends over time, relative research strengths in Kazakhstan in different disciplinary areas, and its position internationally. It should be noted that there is an intrinsic delay between research and publication, and between publication and impact as measured by citations.

Figure 5.4 shows the total number of publications in Web of Science journals from 2005 to 2014 for all researchers in Kazakhstan – higher education institutions, research institutes and others. A welcome upward trend is evident. Since 2010 the number increased three times. Publication in Scopus journals also increased by almost two times in the same period.

Figure 5.4. Total number of publications in Web of Science journals for all researchers in Kazakhstan, (2005-14)

Sources: Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan National Report on Science (2014).

The OECD review team was impressed by the fact that almost 50% of publications have international co-authorship, mostly with the United States and the Russian Federation. The healthy networking by Kazakh researchers with international colleagues can be a very effective way to improve research quality and increase citations.

The total number of publications in the Web of Science journals in 2014 was 1 168. While on an upward trajectory, the number is low by the standards of developed countries. However if the publication rate is normalised by country size and GDP, a different conclusion is possible.

In Figure 5.5, a comparison of total Web of Science publications for the period 2011-14 is shown with different degrees of normalisation for Kazakhstan and three highly developed countries. It shows that when normalised by population, publication output is still very low. When further normalised by GDP, performance compares a lot better. Of course, normalisation of this type is crude and ignores other complex factors at play. Nevertheless it is reasonable to conclude that while output is low, it is as good as might be expected given the further constraints: the low level of investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP (0.17%), which this chapter considers later, the importance of proficiency in the English language and lack of time for research at higher education institutions.

Figure 5.5. Publications in Web of Science (WOS) (2011-14)

Sources: GDP data from World Bank Indicators Database, World Bank; Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan National Report on Science (2014).

The distribution of publications across disciplinary fields is shown in Figure 5.6 for Kazakhstan. Also shown is the average distribution of all publications worldwide. The physical sciences and social sciences have higher shares of Kazakhstan publications compared to the world average while the life sciences share is lower. Engineering follows the world pattern. Humanities are poorly represented in Kazakhstan by contrast. While many factors contribute to the balance across the disciplinary areas, careful thought should be given to how this balance might be changed in the long-term interests of Kazakhstan.

Figure 5.6. Publications share by disciplinary fields (2011-14)

Sources: Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan (2014), National Report on Science.

The spread of publishing across higher education institutions in Figure 5.7 shows that a small number of higher education institutions dominate the publishing landscape with a long tail for the rest. The top-publishing higher education institutions are obvious candidates to evolve over time into world-class research universities if Kazakhstan so chooses.

Figure 5.7. Total number of publications by institution in WOS Journals across higher education institutions in Kazakhstan (2011-14)

Sources: Adapted from Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan National Report on Science (2014).

Figure 5.8 shows the citation impact for Kazakhstan in comparison with the Russian Federation, the European Union average, the OECD average and the United States. The vertical axis is the total number of citations in any five-year period per paper published up to that period. The positive message is that Kazakhstan is competitive with its neighbour Russia. The less positive message is that the impact of Kazakhstani papers is about 40% that of the OECD and European Union blocks of countries. The increased investment in research in Kazakhstan in recent years may result in a narrowing of the gap with other countries in the future.

Figure 5.8. Citation impact of publications by country/region in WOS Journals in a five-year period (1998-2014)

Sources: InCites Global Comparisons: Compare Countries/Territories 5 Year Trends, Thomson Reuters. Report created: 11 April 2016; Data Processed 12 October 2015; Data source: Web of Science.

Figure 5.6 also includes the citation impact for the different disciplinary fields. The highest citations are unsurprisingly in the physical sciences. It is noteworthy that life sciences/biomedicine and engineering/applied sciences have roughly the same citation rates. It is not surprising that the social sciences and humanities feature low on citations relative to the other fields – this reflects the fact that citations as a measure of impact are more appropriate to the scientific and engineering disciplines, where journal and conference papers are the norm.

In summary, the high-level analysis of publication and citation data available to the OECD review team indicates that the scale of research and its quality are low by international standards. However, the system is performing as well as might be expected given funding and other constraints, and is on an upward trajectory. There is strong concentration of research activity in a relatively small number of higher education institutions. Citation rates are highest in the physical sciences. The OECD review team believes that priority should be given to building the scale and quality of the research base, while being patient about realising economic impact from the research.

Investment in R&D

Funding of higher education, and its many needs, are considered in Chapter 6 of this report. In the case of research and innovation, a useful country comparison is offered by the indicator “gross domestic spending on R&D as a percentage of GDP”. This includes current and capital spending from all sources, public and private. Figure 5.9 shows the spending as a percentage of GDP for a range of countries and groups of countries. By this measure, Kazakhstan’s investment in R&D at 0.17% of GDP is clearly very low. It has remained constant since 2010. It is almost seven times lower than that of the Russian Federation and almost twelve times lower than that of People's Republic of China. While it is also much less than the European Union average, it is to be noted that there is a large variation across the European Union countries, from very high in Sweden to low in some of the former Soviet group of countries such as Romania.

Figure 5.9. Comparison of spending on R&D by country

Sources: OECD (2016), Gross domestic spending on R&D (indicators), (accessed 10 April 2016).

Figure 5.10 shows the public budget for R&D, including the portion available to higher education. The budget doubled in the 2010-14 period in line with the increase in GDP, while the higher education share increased three times to 2013 (with a small decline in 2014). The trend is moving in the right direction, even though the downturn in higher education institution share in 2014 is worrying. In the next section we will examine how expenditures on R&D have been used.

Figure 5.10. Public expenditure on R&D in Kazakhstan, KZT billion

Sources: JSC Information-Analytic Center (2015), “Country Background Report”, prepared for the OECD follow-up review of higher education policy in Kazakhstan, JSC Information-Analytic Center, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana.

Observations from this pattern of expenditure are as follows.

  • Overall expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP is low by international standards.

  • Actual expenditure has increased significantly as GDP increased, but the amount is still very low.

  • The share of public research funding available to higher education institutions is small at about 30%. Furthermore, a significant portion of the balance goes to research institutes. Many higher education institutions brought to the attention of the review team the poor state of facilities and laboratory equipment as a result of low funding levels.

If Kazakhstan hopes to develop into a knowledge economy with a strong innovation ecosystem, it will have to increase expenditure at a much faster rate than before, and ensure that the instruments used to invest its scarce resources are fully optimised.

Funding instruments as drivers for capacity building

From the policy statements and targets set by government, it is clear that public investment in research is focused on national priorities and the commercialisation of intellectual property. The priorities defined for the period 2014-16 were: rational use of natural resources and processing of raw materials; information and communication technologies; life sciences; and energy and engineering. A fifth category called the “intellectual potential of the country” has been added to the list. This is a broad category covering fundamental and applied research in the social sciences and the humanities and fundamental research in the natural sciences (Chapter 5). Whether it is in fact a priority is unclear.

The three research funding instruments established in 2011, and described earlier, are currently operating under the five themes. The instruments are Grant schemes, Basic funding and targeted Programmes, covering small projects, infrastructure and large targeted programmes, respectively. The allocations for 2013 under the three instruments are shown in Figure 5.11, along with the breakdown between higher education institutions and research institutes.

Figure 5.11. Grant and Programme spending (approximate amounts) (2013)

Sources: Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan (2013), National Report on Science.

Some key facts about Figure 5.11 include the following:

  • All grants and programmes are for three years. While this is not unusual elsewhere, building up a critical mass of good research will require sustained funding, in some cases, over much longer periods of time.

  • The share of overall funding for higher education institutions was 22% while the share for research institutes was over 70%.

  • The Basic funding level is much lower than either Grant or Programme funding and particularly low for higher education. Since this funding supports research infrastructure and is the only such form of funding, higher education institutions are highly constrained in their ability to develop a reasonable research environment.

Since the Grant schemes represent the largest source of income for higher education institutions, Figure 5.12 shows a detailed breakdown of the funding since 2011. It does not distinguish between higher education institutions and research institutes. Four competitions have been held. The figure shows the number of applications and awards for the five national priority areas for each funding round. Note that each project is funded for three years so that the latest round covers the period 2015-17. In total, 11 478 applications were submitted and 3 896 were funded, giving an overall success rate of 34%. While the average funding/grant was about KZT 8 million, the OECD review team does not have data on the breakdown among areas.

Figure 5.12. Research grants: number of applications and awards, and success rates (2011-17)

Sources: For the 2011-15 data: Shevchenko (2015), Innovations in Kazakhstan: Status and Directions for the Future Development, International Conference on Better Policies for More Information, Minsk, Belarus, 17-18 November 2015. For the 2015-17 data: Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan (2014), National Report on Science.

A key issue arising from Figures 5.11 and 5.12 is the number of Grant projects awarded and the funding per project. By way of comparison, the United Kingdom Research Councils (RCUK, 2014) in 2014/15 funded 814 projects in engineering and natural sciences, a little less than the number (860) of projects in Kazakhstan for 2015 in the first three priority areas, and at an average project funding level of 780 000 pounds sterling. In life sciences, it funded 514 projects in biology/biotechnology, compared to 367 for Kazakhstan, and at an average project funding level of 475 000 pounds sterling. The project funding level is about ten times that in Kazakhstan. Comparison between two very different countries is fraught because of different purchasing powers, varying exchange rates and other factors. Nevertheless it appears that the Kazakhstan Grant fund is spread too thinly to achieve sustainable critical mass. The success rate of applications in Kazakhstan is comparable to that in the United Kingdom.

A number of further observations can be made from the information in Figure 5.12:

  • Almost 50% of the applications were in the Intellectual Potential theme, suggesting that this category could be better served by broadening and redefining it more as frontier research.

  • Most of the priority areas are also priority areas in countries across the world, leading to aggressive competition for talent. To compete, Kazakhstan may need to focus on a modest number of sub-areas and build a critical mass of talented faculty with concentrated resources in each of them.

  • The area of ICT has the lowest number of applications, suggesting the need for special attention given its importance.

The criteria changed significantly across the four application rounds: from an open first call; to large involvement by industry in the second call; to a reduced requirement for industry involvement but greater international involvement in the latest round. Each project in the latest round requires a foreign partner and foreign project co-director. The rapid changes may account for the varying application success rates.

In summary, analysis of the data available on Grant funding indicates some good features: strong interest by researchers to apply for funding, good selection processes, and strong international collaboration. However, the expectation of commercialisation and industry engagement seems to take precedence over building a strong research base first. The spreading of scarce funding across a very large number of relatively small projects is unlikely to cultivate excellence or develop a critical mass of talented faculty in important areas. Rapid changes in criteria do not help institutional planning and prioritisation. Three-year funding cycles are too short to build sustainable critical mass (see Box 5.1 for the German example on five-year funding cycles). The co-existence of continual support for a large number of research institutes and emphasis on building higher education institutions as the basis for education, research and innovation is confusing. Finally, the Programme Fund is mostly associated with research institutes and hence beyond the remit of this review.

Box 5.1. Germany’s Excellence Initiative 2006-2017

Established in 2005 by the German federal and state governments and operated by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities, the Excellence Initiative aims to strengthen top-level research and to enhance international competitiveness. It has committed more than EUR 4 billion for this purpose in two phases (2006-17) over and above the regular budget. Funding is awarded for five years on the basis of competitive bids from universities in three areas:

  • graduate schools to promote young scientists and researchers in PhD programmes

  • clusters of excellence involving collaboration with other institutions including research institutes to promote excellence in disciplinary areas

  • institutional strategies to develop whole institutions that compete internationally.

Even though there are winners and losers, the view of proponents in Germany is that the initiative has had a positive impact on all universities.

Sources: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG),

Each awarded programme may be in place for three years, but the whole programme itself has been funded since 2011 and thus has been in operation for five years. It is reasonable that this period should be a time for evaluation and learning. Given the concerns raised, it is timely to review the effectiveness of the instruments and see what can be changed for the better. In particular, consideration might be given to using the concept of frontier research, based on excellence, as a new instrument to overcome the divisive nature of the fundamental/applied approach. With its own funding stream it could replace and broaden the Intellectual Potential theme. Consideration might also be given to redesigning the balance of Grant/Programme instruments into a single instrument to realise a greater concentration of resources for longer periods in a small number of Centres for Science and Technology spanning disciplines, institutions and sectors, which could build critical and sustainable mass in a few important areas with impact (see Box 5.2 for Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Centres Programme). These were described in the earlier section on approaches to research.

Box 5.2. Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Centres Programme.

Science Foundation Ireland was established in 2000 to develop a partnership between higher education, industry, and government and initially in two priority areas, ICT and biotechnology. It funded individuals to build capacity and new research centres to harness that capacity towards significant goals. Funding was for five-year periods with renewal based on new proposals.

The centres were modelled after the United States National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centres, and designed to build interdisciplinary, inter-institutional teams together with industry involvement, with this based on peer-review and driven by a mixture of open calls and targeted funding. Six centres were established in the early years. Initial industry interest was from the multinational sector. In the last five years, national policy has identified 14 priority research areas for economic and industry development, and new centres are being created of much greater scale and with greater contributions from industry (both financially and in terms of personnel).

Sources: Science Foundation Ireland (n.d.),

Institutional culture and support for research and innovation

Researchers in higher education institutions can compete for external funding, can profit from commercialisation of research and are encouraged to collaborate internationally. However, some key instruments that higher education institutions use to recognise and incentivise research and innovation remain underdeveloped.

Academic salaries are not competitive in recruiting and retaining talented research faculty in the face of international competition (although Nazarbayev University is an exception). In some institutions the OECD review team did find financial incentives for faculty publishing or patenting. However, greater flexibility in salary seems necessary for Kazakhstan to develop a strong research capacity in higher education.

Promotion is a powerful motivator for most academics. The relative emphasis that institutions place on teaching and learning, publications, engagement with users of knowledge and commercialisation will drive the behaviour especially of young faculty. From information supplied to the OECD review team, neither the criteria nor the procedures for promotion are transparent. One highly active research higher education institution informed the team that teaching still has higher priority than research. We recommend that higher education institutions ensure that their promotion policy is transparent, and that it explicitly include performance in research and innovation.

The workload model for academics has changed little since the 2007 OECD/World Bank review, though the review team this time observed flexibility at some institutions. All institutions complained about the high teaching load and lack of time for research. While workload models are generally difficult to devise and implement, it should be possible to establish internal consensus to take time commitments to research and innovation into account when assigning teaching duties to individual academic staff. The OECD review team notes that in Kazakhstan the ratio of students to academic staff at 12:1 is well below the OECD norm which is currently at 17:1 (OECD, 2016). However, the ratio of academics to all other staff at 3:1 is well above the norm (JSC Information-Analytic Center, 2015). A low student/faculty ratio seems more than offset by the administrative burden on academic staff. This needs to be taken into account in freeing up time for research.

Two other observations are warranted:

  • It was signalled to the review team that some higher education institution leadership has insufficient interest in engaging with industry or other users of knowledge. We deal with this and the broader culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in a later section on engagement with industry.

  • Research seems to suffer in the internal allocation of institutional resources. While this is most likely for historical reasons, a matching between allocation of resources and the aspirations of the institution should be transparent and fair, as discussed in Chapter 6 on Finance.

The OECD review team concludes that there is a need for dedicated evaluations of the efficiency and effectiveness of the instruments supporting research and innovation in higher education institutions and in research institutes. Strong leadership and patient government support are essential to drive and oversee a change in cultural behaviour of this magnitude.

The PhD pipeline for the knowledge society

PhD students are the lifeblood of university research. They advance knowledge while they are being trained. They are also the future faculty in higher education institutions and the engine for research in research institutes, industry and other knowledge enterprises. The postdoctoral system is common in many countries as further training for academic positions.

Most developed countries produce more PhD graduates than are needed for the faculty ranks in higher education institutions. In some countries (Cyranoski, 2011), up to 80% of graduates will have careers outside of higher education. This is good for industry, but raises questions of over-supply in some disciplines. The opposite situation holds in Kazakhstan. The pipeline of PhD graduates, though increasing, is insufficient to replenish faculty (Ibraev et al., 2015). Providing enough highly qualified researchers for research institutes and users of knowledge is a further challenge.

The two-stage Soviet system of training researchers (Candidate of Science and Doctor of Science) was replaced in Kazakhstan in 2011 by the PhD system in accordance with the European Bologna Process. At the same time, all PhD students were required to publish at least one paper in a non-zero impact journal before graduation. The Ministry now uses a licensing process to directly control the areas in higher education institutions that can offer PhD programmes, as well as the number of funded PhD places allocated to those areas each year. Institutions cannot take on PhD students unless they are funded by the state. The intention of this is to assure quality of the PhD experience. Furthermore, each PhD student has to have a foreign co-supervisor to improve the quality of supervision.

Figure 5.13. Enrolment of doctoral students

Sources: Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Committee on Statistics (MNERK) (2014-2015)

The change to the Bologna system and the introduction of more stringent publishing requirements had two significant effects: a low number of doctoral students in the system from 2011 on, and a low rate of successful defence of the dissertation. Figure 5.13 shows the situation since 2012. While there is a welcome increase in numbers over the years, the number of new entrants (794) in 2015 is short of the target of 1 000 (See Figure 5.1). The target for 2020 is 2 000. The merging of some research institutes with higher education institutions should increase the supervisory capacity. The 2020 target is achievable though highly challenging.

The number of PhD students successfully defending their dissertation following completion is worryingly low. In 2014 only 33% were awarded the PhD. A number of factors were cited to the review team to explain the low graduation rate: the period of funding is too short a time to write a paper publishable in good journals; there is insufficient time for the research project and too much time allocated to coursework; there is lack of effective engagement by foreign co-supervisors. The requirement to initiate and complete a research project, and publish a good paper in the three years of funding is a big challenge, especially when English is not the first language of the student. The very low percentage of time available for carrying out the research project (30%) makes the PhD more like a taught programme, rather than one that cultivates independent researchers. The involvement of a foreign co-supervisor is a very good development provided that the supervisor actively engages and the institution benefits from that engagement to improve the quality of home supervision.

Ibraev et al. (2015) have summarised the supply and demand situation for highly trained researchers and conclude that the current or planned pipeline of domestic PhD graduates is not sufficient to replace faculty and meet the needs of R&D. The significant “brain migration” of PhD graduates to the non-research sector is noted as a serious problem. Ibraev et al. go further and suggest that there is a case to reintroduce a second doctorate qualification similar to the German Habilitation or the former doctorate of Soviet times, which could improve the quality of researchers. From their paper, it is clear that the MESRK is conscious of the need to increase PhD quality.

Figure 5.14 shows the trend in the number of PhD places allocated to disciplinary groups by year. The trends reflect state priorities. Engineering is allocated a steady high number of places, reflecting the need to upgrade the qualifications of engineering faculty. This is a worthy goal but the fact that the number of highly qualified engineering faculty is low now could mean that the supervisory capacity is not available to handle the number of new entrants every year. If institutions struggle to fill those places, the quality of entrant may also be under stress. Natural sciences and social sciences show a decrease over time. The reason for this is not clear.

Figure 5.14. Doctoral places awarded by field of study

Sources: JSC Information-Analytic Center (2015), “Country Background Report”, prepared for the OECD follow-up review of higher education policy in Kazakhstan, JSC Information-Analytic Center, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana.

While it is of value to regulate the number of PhD places funded by public money to avoid over-supply in some areas, there is merit in allowing higher education institutions themselves to have much more control over the process. It could increase flexibility and responsiveness. Including funding for PhD students in research proposals could also help, in as much as supervisory quality and quality of research ideas would be assessed simultaneously. A highly performing higher education institution could be licensed as a whole rather than for individual programmes. As suggested by Ibraev et al. (2015), it may be time to reintroduce some flexibility. In addition to considering a two-tier doctorate system, a further option is the Industry Doctorate or PhD where the students are already working in industry, but they and their employers want to upgrade skills and research capacity (EPSRC, 2011).

The OECD review team noted that PhD students funded by the state must spend three years working in a research environment following completion. It is understandable that this is a mechanism to ensure graduates return value to the system following training. It may not be the most effective route to build a productive research or academic career, however, or to motivate talented graduates to pursue such a career.

The postdoctoral fellowship has become the norm for career progression beyond PhD to an academic position in many countries. It is a way for graduates to gain experience with different supervisors nationally and internationally (see Box 5.3 for a Swedish example). The OECD review team understands that the concept of postdoctoral positions does not exist in Kazakhstan. The importance of addressing this was emphasised to us by one higher education institution, which expressed considerable frustration that no action was taken in this regard at central level. It would make sense for Kazakhstan to develop a system of sending a number of freshly graduated Kazakhstani PhD students abroad to gain experience with the proviso that they return. It would also make sense to fund a small number of postdoctoral positions for foreign visitors. The Bolashak programme could easily formalise this.

Box 5.3. Sweden’s Industry Doctoral Student concept

In 1992, Saab AB (a medium-sized aerospace company) convinced the Swedish government to fund the planning of a new national programme in product development that would include a novel Industry PhD concept. As a result, the Engineering Design Research and Education Agenda (ENDREA) was established involving several universities.

The programme introduced new elements to Sweden which have had significant influence on the development of research and teaching and on industry practice: PhD students were employed by industry but spent most of their time at a university; students had an academic and industry advisor and dissertations were in English; annual reviews of the research projects which could include several PhD students were carried out.

The concept of the Industry PhD served as a bridge between universities and industry: it involved introducing industry-relevant problems to universities and disseminating knowledge from the university to industry. ENDREA was subsequently merged with another Swedish programme, PROPER, to form a national graduate school Pro-Viking, and today the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research directly funds Industry Doctoral students.

Sources: Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, Original proposal for ENDREA available on request to the Foundation.

In summary, addressing the PhD pipeline problem and instituting a postdoctoral structure as an intrinsic step in an academic or research career path are necessary for the future health of research, innovation and education.

Building the engagement between higher education institutions and users of knowledge

As discussed earlier, the over-arching emphasis of public research policy and investment in Kazakhstan is on commercialisation of intellectual property. Most of the higher education institutions engaging in research that the OECD review team visited seem to have followed the central lead and willingly embraced commercialisation as a priority.

With financial support from government, 13 higher education institutions have Commercialisation Offices in operation, three Technoparks have been set up in association with higher education institutions, and 20 special-purpose Laboratories offering shared facilities have been established (JSC Information-Analytic Center, 2015). The MESRK as well as the innovation agency (NATD) support the investment in projects with commercial potential through their own instruments and the Technology Commercialisation Centre established with the World Bank. Targeted funds in other ministries also support innovation in industry, but these were beyond the remit of this review.

The OECD review team was impressed to find that six higher education institutions have established Student Incubators, some of which are supported in part by research income. These have the potential to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of both undergraduate and graduate students, embed entrepreneurship and innovation in the curriculum, and engage with alumni entrepreneurs as mentors.

It was not possible, in the time available, to identify reliable data on patents, licences and spin-off companies and engagement with industry. However, from our many discussions with Ministry organisations and higher education institutions, the OECD review team could observe the degree to which commercialisation expectations have been met, and the health of engagement between higher education institutions and industry.

While there are some successes, the review team found general government disappointment with the level of commercialisation of intellectual property. Evidence provided includes the following:

  • The Science Fund carried out a survey of 1 627 projects funded by the Grant Fund and found only 3% of relevance to identified industry needs.

  • Of 785 recent applications to the Technology Commercialisation Centre, 33 projects were selected for funding, of which 25% were from higher education institutions. The balance was from research institutes and industry. The OECD review team was told that the industry projects were the most successful. More promising results for start-ups and licence agreements have been reported in recent months.

For the review team, such a low level of commercialisation is not surprising given the current low base of higher education institution research and the undeveloped culture of engagement with industry. The views expressed to the team on the state of engagement with industry can be summarised as follows:

  • There is a mismatch between what higher education institutions offer in terms of research and industry needs insofar as these are well articulated. Very few higher education institution patents are of interest to industry.

  • There is a lack of a common language, with each side saying that the other side has no interest in dialogue.

  • Higher education institutions consider that industry was undertaking very little R&D and showed little interest to do so.

  • Industry had no trust in the ability of higher education institutions to deliver research of value.

  • There is insufficient investment in research, and facilities at higher education institutions are below the standard expected by industry.

  • Faculties are too burdened with teaching commitments to devote time to research and have even less time to engage with industry.

  • Engagement is not a top priority for leadership in either sector.

These issues are surprisingly common in most countries. The recent Dowling Review of Business-University Research Collaboration (Dowling, 2015) in the United Kingdom summarised the ten biggest barriers to collaboration for industry and universities. They included lack of mutual trust, difficulty of negotiating intellectual property, lack of resources and time, different time horizons, emphasis on academic publishing for career development and others. Trust was the most important success factor. To quote from the Dowling Review:

“Building trusting relationships that enable the collaborating partners to have an open dialogue over a period of months, or years, provides an essential foundation for a partnership. Without this, it is unrealistic to expect a company to share their long-term vision with the academics in the collaboration and, if this does not happen, it is quite likely that the academics will fail to address the research challenges that really matter to the company.”

While the top-down higher education institution emphasis on commercialisation is important, the OECD review team believes that building trusting partnerships by the more dispersed form of people-to-people engagement between higher education institutions and industry at all levels deserves equal priority (see Box 5.4 for a good example of university engagement). Dissemination and take-up of useful knowledge by industry is more important than protecting intellectual property or generating income from it. Some of the ways to develop trust and engagement include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Higher education institution leaders could involve industry leaders in strategic planning, events and celebrations, and become members of industry organisations such as Chambers of Commerce where common ground on many issues can be forged.

  • Higher education could appoint experienced industry people as Adjunct Faculty or Professors of Practice.

  • Faculty could take sabbaticals in industry and not just in other higher education environments.

  • Experienced faculty in business and industry could provide consulting services with remuneration. It is common for universities in many countries to allow their faculty to consult for up to one day each week but under strict conditions. It is particularly common in Business Schools.

  • Commercialisation Offices could establish a distinct centre with contract R&D personnel, but also involving faculty, to provide professional problem-solving consultancy services to industry.

  • Commercialisation Offices could prioritise the take-up of intellectual property by industry over protection and income generation.

  • Higher education could explore the Industry PhD concept with industry leaders.

  • Kazakhstan could encourage and support student entrepreneurship, including elements of enterprise and innovation in the curriculum for undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Higher education could maintain contact with alumni entrepreneurs and engage with regional start-up entrepreneurs.

  • Kazakhstan could plan a small number of joint Science and Technology Research Centres with selected industries as proposed in the section on funding instruments, in which researchers work side by side on longer-term strategic issues of importance to the industries’ future.

Box 5.4. Intel Ireland’s road to university engagement

Intel established its first manufacturing operations in Ireland in the mid-1980s. Its engagement with higher education evolved in steps.

The first phase was focused on recruiting skilled graduates. It donated surplus equipment from its factory to the undergraduate teaching laboratories with good effect. This was followed in stages by co-funding of master’s and PhD students.

The second phase built on this with full-scale involvement in research centres relevant to its interests such as the CRANN (Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices) nanoscience centre in Trinity College Dublin and the Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork. It is also involved with three technology centres, and has itself established the Innovation Open Lab Ireland, focused on energy and sustainability and dependable cloud and services research.

The evolution from undergraduate engagement to research engagement is a good model for building trust from small beginnings.

Sources: Dr. Juan J Perez-Camacho, former Staff Engineer with Intel Ireland (private communication);

In summary, the OECD review team suggests that Kazakhstan focus in the short term on building a strong base of research and be patient about commercial return. Most importantly, it should balance its strong and important drive for commercialisation with the more complex but fruitful process of dissemination by people engagement.

Strengthening diversity of institutional mission

Two levels of research diversity are important in Kazakhstan. These are linked to the relationship between higher education institutions and research institutes, and among higher education institutions themselves. The policy of strengthening research in higher education institutions follows best international practice, but it leads to confusion about the distinct role of the research institutes. Moreover, within the higher education sector, there has been significant planned and organic diversity, but this raises the issue of coherence.

While research institutes were beyond the remit of this review, the OECD review team notes that some have merged with higher education institutions, but many remain independent. Spreading research funding and resources across a very large number of relatively small institutions, including higher education institutions and research institutes, is inefficient and wasteful. Concentration of effort in a much smaller number of larger institutions could be achieved, for example, by further mergers of research institutes with higher education institutions and consolidation within the research institute sector itself. Collaboration across the institutes would be important.

Within the higher education sector, research is concentrated mostly in public higher education institutions. Further concentration in the public system, beyond merging research institutes with some higher education institutions, is enhanced by the designation of eleven national higher education institutions with extra funding and the creation of Nazarbayev University as a new model with deep funding.

It is not clear how all of this planned and spontaneous diversity is coherent or sustainable. While the initiative to merge, allocate special stature and establish a new model is positive, much of it could be negated by the policy to have the large number of institutions with the title ‘university’ become research active. This could lead to a homogenous, not a diverse, system.

One approach to diversity is to differentiate between three groups of higher education institutions. The first group would be teaching-led, with little expectation to carry out research but with a strong commitment to excellence in pedagogy. The quality of graduates and their attractiveness to employers would be a key measure of success. The second group would be research-led with international focus, with responsibility for PhD training and for meeting the long-term strategic research needs of the knowledge economy. High-impact publications and important intellectual property would be key measures of success. The third group could be more focused on local needs, which might include consultancy, problem solving, and short-term research projects involving masters and undergraduate students, for example. The number of industry contracts would be a key measure of success.

There is a risk that higher education institutions will want to imitate those that they perceive as having the greater prestige. The Ministry could manage expectation by openly respecting the different missions, and insisting that each higher education institution operates to international standards according to its own mission.


Focus on building the research excellence of the faculty through a two-pronged approach.

  • Build a broad base of frontier research. Frontier research should be in any discipline and have the ability to create new knowledge about the world and generate potentially useful knowledge, in line with the European Research Council (ERC). It would be broader in scope than the Intellectual Potential priority and could include other parts of the Grant funding instrument. It could be based on 3-year project funding.

  • Achieve critical mass and impact in strategic areas. This will require two actions. First is the funding of university-led Science and Technology Centres (or equivalent) that are inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional and engage industry as partners, with significant funding for at least 5 years and renewable. Secondly, a special immediate initiative to recruit highly talented faculty by offering competitive salaries and generous funding for an initial 5-year period is essential, following which faculty compete for funding as normal. In all cases, stringent international peer-review is essential.

Take into account competing demands for funding within and beyond higher education, a carefully thought-out implementation plan to increase R&D investment to 1% of GDP over 5 years to 2021 should be devised.

  • Review the efficiency of the current investment process taking into account Recommendation 1 and using an international expert group.

  • With a revised process, increase public investment in R&D to 0.5% of GDP immediately but on condition that quality is not sacrificed.

  • Plan a further increase annually to 1% of GDP but including the beginning of participation by the private sector.

  • Review efficiency of the investment again in 2021 using an international expert group and plan further investment accordingly.

Higher education institutions should strive towards explicit and transparent policies on incentives and rewards related to research and innovation.

  • Promote between academic grades where there is a consensus on the weighting of teaching, research and innovation.

  • Implement equitable workload models to ensure that research-active faculty have reasonable time for research while not removing them from teaching. Recognising that workload models are difficult to devise and implement, a first step could be the broad acceptance of the principle of flexibility in allocating teaching duties at School level.

  • Ensure internal resource allocation that recognises the needs of research such as infrastructure, facilities and laboratory assistants.

  • HEIs1 should review salary levels to attract and retain the talented faculty who will deliver on the plans.

  • The Association of Universities could mediate much of this with government.

In view of its importance, and also in light of existing concerns at the MESRK, name a special task force to address the PhD pipeline and postdoctoral career path. Engaging higher education institutions in the task force will ensure that any solution gets implemented.

  • Revisit the one-size-fits-all policy for PhD graduation, with the possibility of having an Industry Doctorate/PhD strand ensuring a genuine engagement of the industry partners in the PhD project. The stringent publication requirement could be relaxed while maintaining an equally stringent dissertation defence process.

  • License a small number of the best research-intensive higher education institutions to operate PhD programmes in any area, and enable them to include funding for PhD positions in grant applications without quota. This approach would be self-regulating but responsive to opportunities and needs.

  • In the case where higher education institutions have more high-quality PhD applicants than places available, agree on a process with the Bolashak programme to fund more of these applicants abroad.

  • Formally establish the postdoctoral structure as a necessary stage of a career path in research and academia. This could include sending Kazakh postdocs abroad to get vital experience not available at home, and attracting some foreign postdocs to inject new thinking and dynamism in higher education institutions. Both could be operated by the Bolashak programme.

  • The implementation of well thought-out proposals from the Task Force should be of high priority for the Ministry.

A better balance between commercialisation and engagement should be established.

  • Policy makers, funders and higher education institutions should reach agreement about all of the tangible and intangible ways by which the outcomes of higher education institution research, in all of its forms and including people and ideas, can contribute to innovation in industry and other users of knowledge.

  • Co-ordinate funding instruments across ministries to ensure that all forms of contribution and impact are supported and realised.

  • Higher education institution leadership should engage systematically and intensely with the leaders of industry to develop mutual understanding and become members of industry organisations such as chambers of commerce.

  • Higher education institution leadership and senior management should work to embed a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the organisation and not leave responsibility to commercialisation offices only. This could be achieved by strategic actions including, for example, appointing Adjunct faculty and Professors of Practice, student and faculty exchange with industry, use of Industry PhDs, including entrepreneurship and innovation in the curriculum.

  • Commercialisation offices should be integrated into the strategic planning exercise of the higher education institution and bring industry needs and concerns to bear. They should prioritise the take-up of intellectual property by industry rather than protection and short-term income.

  • Foreign companies with manufacturing operations in Kazakhstan and R&D operations in their home countries should be particularly targeted for engagement.

Review how diversity of mission can be rationalised, optimised and sustained, given limited resources and high expectations of the system as a whole.

  • Clarify policy on the future of research institutes and explore how sufficient research concentration can be achieved by their further mergers with higher education institutions or consolidation into larger institutes.

  • Articulate the need for higher education institutions to differentiate themselves by mission so that the whole system efficiently meets the needs of Kazakhstan. Three types of mission are suggested: teaching only, research-led to PhD level, and local needs oriented to master’s level, respectively.

  • Accord each mission equal respect, but expect each higher education institution to perform to international standards according to its particular mission and not according to some generic mission.

  • For research-intensive higher education institutions, balance the need for investment in a very small number of universities with excellence in all areas, and the model where areas of excellence are more widely distributed.

  • Ensure funding that is equitable and adequate to the mission.


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← 1. HEIs can review salary levels, and it depends on the form of property of HEIs. According to art.138:2 of the Law on State Property the forms of remuneration, staffing, sizes of salaries, bonuses and other remuneration of the system are determined solely by the Republican State Enterprise on the Right of Economic Use within a specified payroll- state and national universities have the status of “Republican State Enterprise”.