PhD in Public Policy « Graduate School of Public Policy

PhD in Public Policy

Starting from 2017 GSPP launched its first doctorate level degree – PhD in Public Policy (a 4-year program). The aims of the PhD Public Policy program are:

  1. To provide a doctoral program of international standing which will attract high calibre candidates who will make a contribution to applied public policy.
  2. To contribute to the economic and social welfare of Kazakhstan through the supply of outstanding doctoral graduates in public policy with functional expertise in these areas.
  3. To build sustainability into the higher education sector in Kazakhstan through the provision of future faculty trained to international standards of teaching and research.
  4. To strengthen the research base of decision making in the public sector in Kazakhstan through the supply of highly trained researchers.
  5. To add to existing scholarship on public policy in Central Asia through peer-reviewed publications emanating from the work of PhD students/graduates.
  6. To raise the profile of GSPP as a School well-known for its research and scholarship.

The program structure comprises: 10 core courses, 2 electives, a thesis proposal and PhD qualifying examination taken the first two years, followed by the thesis preparation and written submission in years 3 & 4.  The two electives modules will be drawn from an existing list of approved courses currently available at Masters level in GSPP but with different learning outcomes and assessment strategies. The overall 4-year program equates to 240 ECTS.

The taught courses will prepare students with substantive public policy expertise through specialist courses alongside research methods modules, at the end of which the students will be well placed to write the doctoral thesis in years 3 & 4 of the program.

A key feature of the program is that in years 3 & 4, students will undertake teaching assistant duties under the mentorship of their supervisors as a way of ‘learning the craft’ of teaching and to build their CVs for a future academic/research career.

GSPP provides grants, covering tuition fees and a monthly stipend for students of 150,000 KZT in the PhD program. 

Students may be offered a 3-month international placement, subject to resources, in an institution identified as having research expertise in the subject of their thesis. In the first instance, given our strategic links with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and their supervision and mentoring role with PhD students and GSPP Faculty respectively, the placement option is likely to be in Singapore. However, It may be the case that the topic of the dissertation lends itself to placement at a Public Policy School in Europe or North America, the selection of which will be informed by the student’s supervisors. During the 3-month period, PhD students will conduct field research, offer a seminar on their topic in their host institution, and attend and present their work-in-progress at an international conference. In addition, students will use this period to gain access to a breadth of international literature and expertise which might not have been easily available to them in Nazarbayev University.

There are at least three distinctive features of the proposed PhD program. First, it is designed to be a high quality award comparable to those offered in top public policy schools in Asia, North America and the UK. Second, highly qualified, research active, faculty with a breadth of local and international experience will deliver the program and supervise students. The teaching and supervision will therefore be research-led. Third, our strategic partnership with Lee Kuan Yew offers extensive potentially global networking opportunities for our PhD students.

The learning outcomes of the PhD program are:

  1. Critically apply theories, methods and knowledge to address fundamental questions in the area of public policy, public administration and public management.
  2. Conduct relevant applied research by formulating, testing and generating hypotheses in key areas of enquiry.
  3. Collect, synthesize and analyse public policy data.
  4. Develop and demonstrate skills in oral and written communication, consistent with presentations and research papers disseminated at the doctoral level.
  5. Add to the body of academic discourse on public policy in Central Asia.
  6. Respect the principles of academic ethics and integrity.
  7. Develop and demonstrate academic research and leadership skills.




The program structure comprises: 10 core courses, 2 electives, a thesis proposal and PhD qualifying examination taken the first two years, followed by the thesis preparation and written submission in years 3 & 4.  The two elective modules will be drawn from an existing list of approved courses currently available at Masters level in GSPP but with different learning outcomes and assessment strategies. The overall 4-year program equates to 240 ECTS.

Please click here to download the PhD Curriculum



Public Administration and Management

Combining historical, contextual and theoretical perspectives, this module gives students a comprehensive overview of the discipline and focuses on the practical implications of public administration theory.

Public Policy and Analysis

This module will build on students’ understanding of the public policy process, It considers a number of fundamental questions including: 1) rationales for collective interference in private affairs; 2) limitations to collective action; 3) generic instruments of public policy; 4) how can social costs and benefits be measured; and 5) what are the appropriate roles of policy analysts in democratic societies.

Microeconomics in the Public Sector

The module is designed to develop an appreciation of how microeconomics concepts and tools can be utilized to analyze public policy issues. It covers traditional microeconomics topics, such as theory of consumer behavior, choice under uncertainty and behavior of firm under various market structures. Economic theory is applied to a wide range of policy issues. The module emphasizes application rather than formalism.

Statistics in Public Policy

This module provides students with a solid grounding in quantitative techniques used to analyze public policy. The major topics covered are: Sampling and survey design, linear regression and the classical model, model building for regression analysis and multiple regression analysis.

The Politics of Public Policy

This module addresses the question, ‘Regarding the political world, what do we need to know in order to have a critical understanding of the rationale, mechanics, and prospects of policy making in the modern world?’ The first part of the module explores the institutions, practices, cultures, interests, and actors of modern political systems, whereas the second part focuses on modern political theories and ideologies that have conditioned the possibilities and limitations of policymaking. Cases and examples will be drawn primarily from Asian experience but discussed in comparison with appropriate cases and examples from elsewhere.

Law and Public Policy

This course will provide an analysis of the relationship between law, institutions and development policies. The impact of legal and institutional frameworks in promoting development is the course’s core concern. Consideration will be given to key tensions between theory and practice that researchers and development practitioners have identified. Furthermore, the course will deal with the relationships among economic ideas, legal ideas and the development policies pursued at the national and international level in successive historical periods.

Macroeconomics in the Public Sector

The course aims to provide students with an in depth understanding of legal and institutional frameworks and their impact on development. It also aims to help students to develop necessary skills to analyse institutions, legislation and policies that are crucial in formulating developmental policies.

Research Design (qualitative and quantitative)

This module examines the essential of key macroeconomic policy instruments used in the attainment of policy objectives such as full employment, price stability, and economic growth. Short-term tools such as monetary and/or exchange rate policy, government expenditure and levy policy, wages and foreign labour policy will be examined. Longer-term policies such as saving and investment policy, ways of achieving international competitiveness, human resource policy and policies aimed at promoting economic growth and factor productivity will also be covered.

Advanced quantitative methods

The content of this module includes: the identification of, access to and analysis of, social science quantitative data bases relevant to public policy issues. Statistical techniques to explore relationships among variables (correlation; partial correlation; multiple regression; logistic regression; factor analysis; structural equation modelling). Statistical techniques to compare groups (non-parametric statistics; t-tests; multi-analysis of variance). Use of the above techniques to interrogate existing social science data bases. Critical review of quantitative research used as the basis of evidence in public policy.

Advanced qualitative methods

This module focuses on research design through the analysis of research papers using the various techniques of qualitative and mixed methods of empirical analysis. Major topics include qualitative policy research, descriptive qualitative analysis, participatory techniques, methods of research design, quasi-experimental and non-experimental designs, case study research, field research and quality control, and meta-analysis. Students are expected to apply these techniques to real-life case studies and present analyses in class.