Dr Weng Tat HUI, Dean of the NU GSPP about the Kazakh way of public management and innovations in the civil service

The public administration sector in Kazakhstan is undergoing a transformation. What model is most preferable for this? What priorities should come to the fore? How can universities help with this? All these questions have been discussed with the Dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy at Nazarbayev University Dr. Weng Tat Hui.

You have been the Dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy at Nazarbayev University since 2015. What goals did you set for yourself before starting your work at this position?

I joined NU GSPP towards the end of 2015 under a joint appointment arrangement with our strategic partner, the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP). Using my experience as the founding Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at LKSPP my goal was to help put in place the people, processes and procedures, to raise the quality of the degree programs at NU GSPP to provide world-class public policy education and to strengthen the research capacity of the School, with the view to promote good governance in Kazakhstan and beyond. After coming here, I found that although the task of moving towards the goals set was challenging, it was most satisfying and meaningful in implementation. Many of these goals have been achieved.  

Can you, please, share your vision of the current public administration and public policy in Kazakhstan. What model does it look like?

In theory, Kazakhstan civil service system has adopted a framework that is aligned with best practices found in OECD countries.  The challenge is in its implementation. 

There is a need to attract and retain talented and well-trained professionals, working in environment of meritocracy, integrity, transparency, who are committed to public service to raise the quality of life of the population. It is necessary to cultivate innovative professional civil servants, shielded from the turnover of political leaders, in a system that works collaboratively and cohesively across ministries, focusing on evidence-informed policy making to resolve present and pre-empt future challenges, with sustained and effective follow-through to achieve desired outcomes of improved the wellbeing of people. 

Strategic communication and engagement are also essential to convince stakeholders and to build confidence and trust of people on new policy initiatives. There is some way to go and NU GSPP is well-positioned to be able to contribute to this transformation.

This year, NU GSPP celebrates its 10th anniversary. What are the School’s achievements over these years?

GSPP mission is focused on the promotion and enablement of good governance that will further the progress and development of Kazakhstan to improve the wellbeing of the population. Since its launch, the School has maintained a strong strategic partnership with the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Together we have been working closely to establish NU GSPP as the public policy school of choice in Central Asia. NU GSPP incorporates scientific research into its teaching to provide one of the most innovative and progressive master’s programs in the Central Asian region.

NU GSPP master’s programs are fully accredited by the European Association for Public Administration Accreditation (EAPAA), that guarantees high-quality European standards. We are currently the only School in Central Asia that has the EAPAA formal accreditation received in 2019 for 7 years.

Starting from 2017 GSPP launched its first doctorate level degree – PhD in Public Policy (a 4-year program). In 2021, the first cohort of PhD students graduated from our School.

Within our advanced training programs, we run short-term courses for leaders and managers of the public and quasi-public sectors, as well as for non-governmental organisations. One of the recent large-scale events in this area was the “Leader of the New Formation” (LNF) program, conducted in 2020 and 2021 jointly with the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. High-level civil servants including vice-ministers, deputy akims of regions, cities and districts, heads of Departments of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as reservists of the President’s youth personnel reserve took part in the LNF program.

Who is recommended to apply for the School’s programs?

NU GSPP offers three degree programs: Master in Public Policy (MPP), Master in Public Administration (MPA), PhD in Public Policy. All three programs aim to train a new generation of forward-thinking professionals and policy researchers to deliver an effective, efficient, sustainable and credible public service at the national and international levels.

The program of the Master in Public Administration is designed for working people – professionals who want to receive a quality education and professional training. The Master in Public Policy is a two-year, full-time program designed for university graduates or early career professionals who have a little work experience. The PhD program aims to provide doctoral degree training of international standing which will attract high calibre candidates who will make a contribution to applied public research. Our graduates receive multi-disciplinary training and acquire professional competencies in the form of leadership, management skills, communication skills, as well as critical thinking, analytical, problem solving and decision making skills.

We hope to contribute to the economic and social welfare of Kazakhstan through the supply of outstanding and qualified professionals. Beyond that we aimed at building sustainability into the higher education sector and strengthen the research base of decision making in the public sector in Kazakhstan. The peer-reviewed publications emanating from the work of our PhD students and graduates will add to existing scholarship on public policy in Central Asia.


How to apply

The application can be submitted online. To do this, you need to register at the admissions.nu.edu.kz, select a program, fill out a questionnaire in which you must specify 2 reviewers and attach the relevant documents in your personal account:

  • Diploma
  • English Proficiency Certificate (IELTS)
  • GRE/GMAT certificate (if available)
  • Essay / motivation letter / research proposal (depending on the program)
  • ID/passport
  • CV
  • Proof of professional experience (if available).

Application is valid till April 18.

We will host the Virtual Open House Days on March 16, April 1, April 14 at 7:30 pm.


All applicants are interested in the following question: Who may apply for the fully-funded scholarships at the NU GSPP?

NU GSPP offers fully funded scholarships for citizens of Kazakhstan.

The international students may apply for the University’s internal (Abay Kunanbayev) scholarship that covers tuition fee and monthly stipend.

While applying for the scholarship, the citizens of Kazakhstan should ensure that they did not obtain the state grant for the same program level before. In other words, if a candidate has previously received a state grant for a master’s program, he cannot apply for the state grant for a master’s program again. In addition to this requirement, the candidate must be fluent in English since the training is entirely in English. Thus, the required threshold level is a total score of 6.5 IELTS (or the equivalent of TOEFL), but not lower than 6.0 in each section. Also, for admission, the applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree with an overall GPA of at least 2.75 out of 4. Candidates with a score below, but with a sufficient level of professional experience, may be admitted to the competition at the discretion of the Admissions Committee.

It should also be noted that for the MPA program, we require a mandatory work experience of at least 3 years. Thus, we strive to create a learning environment in which theoretical knowledge is discussed by practitioners through discussions and the exchange of professional experience. Under the MPP program, having 2 years of work experience is preferred but not required, thus providing an opportunity for recent graduates to gain in-depth and professional knowledge in the field of public policy.

Very often, our applicants think that for entering the MPA, they need to have knowledge in public policy, political science or other similar disciplines, but this is not at all the case. It is more important to have work experience that involves contacts with the work of state, quasi-state, national and non-governmental organisations, i.e. the applicants should have an idea of how the system as a whole works. This is necessary so that they could actively participate in discussions, as well as know how the acquired knowledge and skills can be used to improve the quality of life from the point of view of public administration. Our MPA program is attended by students with a variety of professional backgrounds and majors.

Who is eligible for accommodation and are there any discounts on tuition fees?

Nazarbayev University can provide accommodation for graduates only in case of availability, as priority is given to students enrolled in the undergraduate programs. Beyond that, non-residents of the city who do not have any house/apartment in Nur-Sultan can apply for accommodation. Accommodation is not free, but inexpensive.

If, for some reason, applicants cannot get the fully funded scholarship, the University may offer tuition discounts. Discounts for civil servants may reach up to 90%, for persons with disabilities – up to 100%. Students enrolled in the doctoral program can work as a teaching assistant at the University.

Do you have the student exchange programs?

MPP students get a chance to spend one full semester in one of partner universities as part of the exchange programs offered at NU GSPP: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore; KDI School of Public Policy and Management, Republic of Korea; Renmin University School of Public Administration and Policy, China.

Due to the pandemic, two MPP students studied at KDI online in the fall of 2021. In 2022, we are planning to resume the exchange programs and send students to Singapore and Korea for full-time study. NU GSPP also accepts exchange students from partner universities, for example, we trained two students from LKYSPP in the fall of 2019.

Is the practice of public administration taught in the Partner Schools applicable in Kazakhstan?

The public administration in Asian countries is one of the most advanced in the world. For example, in Singapore, South Korea, Japan and other countries of the region, we can observe how it is possible to combine Eastern culture with Western democratic and economic development. Kazakhstan has much in common with Asian high-growth economies and there is much to learn. NU GSPP graduates learn the best practices of our partner universities, and we hope that all this will be seen in practice.

Tell us about the School’s faculty. What unique knowledge can the NU GSPP faculty offer to students and why?

Our Faculty members come from 9 different countries, such as the USA, the UK, Canada, Singapore, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan.

The research areas of our professors cover a very wide range, ranging from state policy, government and nation-building, to issues of energy, climate change and health care, which is most relevant in recent times. Most of the faculty members, in addition to academic experience, also have practical experience.

What makes NU GSPP alumni great?

We are proud to be an Alma Mater for about 300 alumni from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. NU GSPP Alumni Community has diverse backgrounds and occupations. With the help of the Community, we keep in touch with our alumni, monitor their achievements and sincerely rejoice in their success.

What are the School’s plans for the nearest future?

Our plans at NU GSPP are to gain global accreditation status for our programs, building on strong European accreditation credentials, to further strengthen our research profile in niche areas, thus contributing to Nazarbayev University’s growing international reputation, and to become the School of choice for public sector scholars in Central Asia and beyond.

Source: Informburo