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 students can 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.


Upon completion of an academic program, students will be awarded the PhD in Public Policy degree.

GSPP provides grants, covering tuition fees and a monthly stipend for students of 217,500 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

As a core subject in the DPP this course aims to introduce you to key concepts and practices in public sector administration and management. It seeks to familiarize you with the theoretical and analytical perspectives and debates surrounding the field. Over the past decades there have been widespread changes to the nature and operations of the public sector which have posed significant challenges and opportunities for public managers. Through a series of interactive seminars and case-based discussions this course provides a forum to debate, interrogate and analyze these changes, and the challenges and dilemmas public managers face under contemporary approaches to public administration and management. Complex public service environments are examined together with the trends and transformations, their underlying values and practical/managerial implications. The course modules are divided into two broad themes. First, we consider the environment in which public managers operate and key theoretical perspectives including the reinvention of the public sector- reform processes that have spread across the globe including those that are currently underway. The second part focuses on emerging issues in public management and service delivery approaches.  It also examines the application of newer approaches in developing countries drawing on examples and lessons from Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Public Policy and Analysis

This module introduces doctoral students to the public policy process, various theoretical and analytical frameworks, and an overall evolution of the discipline and its possible future directions. The module helps students appreciate substantive policy issues as well as theoretical issues across policy areas. The first part mainly focuses on various theories of the policy process and how to apply them in policy analysis. In that, the module draws on inter and multi -disciplinary approaches to policy analysis focusing on real world cases. The second part of the module brings in comparative public policy perspectives with special reference to contemporary developments including globalization, global governance, and transnational policy problems. The module takes a research seminar format, where every week the teacher leads the discussion while students critically appraise various theories and frameworks given in the weekly readings. Each student is expected, on a particular week, to summarize scholarly readings in an insightful and critical fashion as well as to contribute a thoughtful question for the seminar’s consideration.

Microeconomics in the Public Sector

The purpose of this course is to provide an economic framework for the analysis of public policy. The course uses microeconomic concepts to examine when and how the government should intervene in the economy, and the consequences of that intervention. The course pays particular attention to how people and firms behave as well as how they are likely to respond to policy interventions.

Statistics in Public Policy

The purpose of this course is to equip students with the necessary statistical tools and model building expertise that are related to the empirical analysis of public policy problems in a professional environment. Students can apply these tools for descriptive as well as inferential purposes: policy evaluation, and explaining bivariate and multivariate relationships in general. The course begins with an introduction to statistical and probability theory, probability distributions, types of data, inferential statistics, hypothesis testing, correlation analysis and ends with bivariate and multiple regression.

Politics of Public Policy

This core course introduces doctoral students to relationship and interplay between public policy and politics. This course covers key topics such as the role of government; public and private sector relations and dynamics; political-administrative relations; collaboration and networks; performance management; stakeholder management; and ethics and anti-corruption strategies. Case studies and class discussions throughout the course will ensure that students are able to link research insights and conceptual frameworks to practice.

Law, Governance and Public Policy

This course offers a critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories of rule of law and justice, including discussion of present-day applications. The course examines debates prominent in moral and political philosophy, and invites students to subject their own views on these controversies to critical examination. The readings for the course include texts by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. Other assigned readings include excerpts from Jeremy Bentham and contemporary writers such as Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel. It combines theoretical insights as well as more practical components (legal cases and public policy case studies). There are no prerequisites.

Macroeconomics in the Public Sector

This course will introduce students to macroeconomics for public policy analysis. The goal is to prepare the students with the fundamentals of macroeconomics that will enable them to study the subject further and do research in the field. In particular, it will give them a foundation of both short run and long run macroeconomics. First introduced are facts and definitions, further covered are macroeconomics models, and lastly real world policy relevant issues and research in the field.

Research Design (qualitative and quantitative)

This course prepares doctoral students to design and conduct research in applied public policy settings. Topics include theories of the research process and research design for quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. The characteristics of good research are emphasized, including epistemological issues in research design, methods of data collection and analysis, and defensibility of conclusions drawn from evidence. Upon completing the module, students will understand how to formulate research questions, design and execute a research plan to completion, and communicate the results. More broadly, students will acquire an understanding of how research design and execution are contextualized within the public policy arena and are bounded by practical constraints.

Advanced quantitative methods

This class is for the 2nd year PhD students for public policy. This course intends to provide relevant Statistics and Econometrics skills for future researches in various academic fields in GSPP. The contents of this course will be theoretical and practical, including hands on work using stat programs such as Stata, HLM, or Eviews.

Advanced qualitative methods

This course is aimed to provide a detailed overview of qualitative research methods and techniques used in social sciences, including public policy and public administration. Although the course will focus on different types of research designs, conceptual models, techniques and sampling procedures, much attention will be given to data analysis in qualitative research. In this course, students will learn to critically choose and apply appropriate methods for conducting original research in the sphere of social sciences. Most important, students will learn how to use and analyze data with the help of NVivo Pro software applied in qualitative research in the lab tutorials. Students will be exposed to exemplary scholarly publications with qualitative studies and be involved in original research projects to demonstrate acquired research skills. It is expected that students have some knowledge of conducting research.