Student Expertise

Our students are required to conduct capstone projects which tackle real-world issues faced by public or private organizations.

In line with Nazarbayev University’s mission GSPP’s own is vision to become a leading school of public policy known for impactful research. Each year, GSPP offers approximately 5 different workshops and completes about 10 different capstone projects with an increasing involvement of clients from public and nonprofit sectors.

Capstone Student-Consultant Teams

A group of two to three graduate students serves as a consultant team for a client organization. A capstone project is, in essence, the applied version of the traditionally theoretical Master thesis. It includes defining and structuring the problem, preferably in the Kazakhstan or Central Asian context, its analysis from a theoretical or empirical perspective, and in case of a practical exercise, the formulation of a policy proposal and a feasible program of implementation.

There are 2 types of capstone projects at GSPP: (i) Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) is conducted as part of Master in Public Policy degree requirement, and (ii) Master’s Project is carried out as part of Master in Public Administration degree requirement.

Faculty involvement

Each capstone project is determined in consultation with GSPP faculty and a faculty supervisor, with specialized expertise or interest in the area of the capstone project, who will mentor and guide students through the process. An Advisory Committee will also be set up for each project. With respect to the Advisory Committee’s membership, all committees will include at least two members from the GSPP faculty, and one external member from a recognized university or comparable institution, which may be a partner institution or one of the NU schools.

Development of Agreement

Capstone student-consultant teams negotiate an agreement with their clients that defines a problem, project focus, scope of work, client and student responsibilities, and deliverables.

Capstone Components

To learn more about students’ requirements, learning objectives, and core competencies for the capstone project follow the respective links below.
MPA capstone project: Master’s Project
MPP capstone project: Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE)

Capstone Projects

Typically, projects involve analyzing a public policy or management problem and include a research component. The final products provided by the student-consultant team to the client are negotiated at the beginning of the study, but typically include a presentation and a written product. Examples of completed capstone projects:

  • A
  • B
  • C

Become a Capstone Client

Each year, Graduate School of Public Policy at Nazarbayev University aims to provide pro-bono services to pubic and nonprofit organizations as part of capstone projects completed by students as a Master’s degree requirement. Students work in teams for a client, conducting independent and rigorous research and producing professional, high quality analysis, recommendations, and solutions.
It is expected that students finalize their area of interest and topic by the end of their 1st semester. Nevertheless, we accept applications from potential capstone clients year-round. The student-consultant teams develop the tools and methods to complete a given project, working with faculty supervision and University resources. Client deliverables ideally include professional reports, briefings, research, materials, and other specific tools that can be implemented immediately to address issues at hand. If you are interested in applying to become a client, please complete this form, describing your project and providing contact information.
If selected, clients must sign an agreement with the student-consultant team that further details the capstone proposal’s scope, requirements, and responsibilities. Clients assist the student-consultant teams by providing appropriate background data or relevant resources and arranging for a professional presentation to the respective organization’s decision-makers near the end of the academic year (May annually).

Tip for proposing capstone projects

  1. Create a project that involves real policy work.
  2. Have clear deliverables and make sure the project is of a manageable scope for the timeline.
  3. Think about how you will explain the project to students and why they will find it interesting. Often it is not the subject matter but the type of work the students will perform that gets them excited.
  4. Communicate frequently. This may be more than the students think they need. One mid-semester meeting is required, but this is generally not enough.
  5. Think about what needs to happen to this project after the students are done and how you can position the project for future implementation. No one wants to work so hard on something that will be of no use.
  6. Plan on spending a lot of time on the project and plan to make yourself accessible during the project time.
  7. Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. If we already knew the answers we would not be turning to the students for help.
  8. Do not insert your own “solution” into your problem statement. The students are not there to prove your point to someone else.


Assel Mussabayeva
Graduate School of Public Policy
Nazarbayev University
Address: 53 Kabanbay batyr ave.,
Astana, 010000, Republic of Kazakhstan
Tel: +7(7172)709149