Higher Education Reform in Kazakhstan

Jan 2012 to Present

This research project is examining how higher education institutions in Kazakhstan are responding to efforts to move from a system based on centralized ministerial control to one characterized by increased institutional autonomy and market sensitivity. The most recent phase of this project examined how academic leaders at six public and private institutions are preparing their institutions to become autonomous and encourage innovation. In particular, this phase sought to understand the role of newly established boards of trustees. The study has revealed both challenges as well as promising models for boards of trustees that other institutions in Kazakhstan and the region might emulate.

The specific questions guiding this study were:

  1. What strategies are academic leaders using to prepare their institutions for greater autonomy and promote greater innovation, including the establishment of boards of trustees?
  2. What are the current best practices for establishing systems of shared governance?
  3. What are some of the most challenging management issues facing academic leaders as they prepare for greater autonomy, and how are they responding to them?


This research was supported in part by Nazarbayev University with funds from the Republic of Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science.


Matt Hartley, Penn GSE and Aida Sagintayeva, Nazarbayev University GSE

Research Team 

Bryan Gopaul, University of Pennsylvania and Renata Apergenova from Nazarbayev University.


Hartley, M., Gopaul, B., Sagintayeva, A., & Apergenova, R. (Under consideration). Learning Autonomy: Higher Education Reform in Kazakhstan