The Bolashak International Scholarship was established on November 5, 1993 by the Decree of President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. At the dawn of independence, Kazakhstan needed highly-qualified professionals capable to conduct further reforms and worthily represent the country at the international arena. For the first time in history of the post-Soviet countries, talented Kazakhstani youth got a chance to study abroad. The Bolashak Scholarship has become some kind of guarantor of successful career growth and professional self-realization of its graduates. Year by year the Program had been gaining pace and was adapted to the implementation of state objectives.
The object of the Program is to train personnel and specialists for priority sectors of the country's economy. The Program includes both academic studies (Master and PhD degrees), and research and production internships at leading world companies and universities.
For 25 years of its implementation, the Bolashak program has gone through several development stages.
1997 is one of the milestones in the country's development. The Head of State presented 2030 Kazakhstan Development Strategy. For ensuring effective implementation of the goals and objectives of the Strategy, amendments have been brought to the Bolashak Program as well. Regulations have been developed and approved by the Decree of the President of Kazakhstan No.3375 of March 3rd, 1997. It handled the procedures of documents applications and candidates’ selection process, as well as job placement of alumni in state authorities and civil organizations of Kazakhstan.
The disproportion in the areas of study had been another important issue that required resolution. In 1994–1997 the Bolashak Scholarship was granted primarily to the graduates of Kazakhstani universities holding degrees in economics related fields and in humanities. The number of graduates of technical faculties among the Scholarship holders was quite small. This can be explained by the fact that the volume of foreign language courses in technical and engineering programmes is much lower compared with economics related majors and humanities.
In the first years of implementation of the Program the scholars studied in four countries only — the USA, Great Britain, Germany and France. Later on, geography of the countries was expanded due to development of cooperation with foreign universities as well as introduction of amendments to the Rules of Applicants Selection as per which the candidates were chosen among those studying abroad on a self-paid basis.
Since 2000, in compliance with the Presidential Decree No.470 of October 12, 2000 “On Approval of the Rules of Applicants Selection and the Bolashak International Scholarship Award” the applicants with technical and engineering degrees were permitted to partake in the competition for the Bolashak Scholarship regardless to foreign language proficiency requirement.
In the period 1994–2004 the number of 780 scholarships had been awarded to study in 13 countries.
In 2005 President N. Nazarbayev in his annual State-of-the-Nation-Address “Kazakhstan on the Road to Accelerated Economic, Social and Political Modernization” announced the importance of sending annually 3,000 young talented Kazakhstanis abroad for studying at the leading higher education institutions of the world.
The necessity of increasing the scholars’ number had become the solution to the challenges of that period. Within the formed market conditions, the state chose the development path that was based on the model of competitive economy and sustainable growth in Kazakhstan's priority areas with constantly increasing need in the specialists in the following sectors: industrial innovative development, education and science, management, marketing, logistics, new information technologies, housing and utilities, etc.
The “Center for International Programs” JSC was established by the Governmental Resolution No.301 of April 4, 2005 to implement the objectives set.
The agreements base has been developed, in accordance to which the requirement of compulsory return to the country for the five-year job placement was assigned to the scholars. New Rules on Applicants’ Selection Process have been approved, the geography of foreign universities expanded from 13 to 33 countries. Eastern direction has got its development – higher education institutions of China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as of the post-soviet countries, were included in the List of Recommended Universities. In 2005–2006 the number of scholarships awarded reached its record amount in Bolashak all-time history – 2 574.
In 2008 access to the Program has been expanded due to the necessity of increase of rural education’s level (“rural youth” category had been established), state machinery reform (“civil servants” category), and development of scientific-research potential of the country (“research and teaching staff for master programs” and “research staff for fellowships” categories).
Since 2011 training of bachelors was discontinued. New program-targeted method has been introduced to regulate the process of training specialists in according with specific request from the employer and signing of tri-lateral agreement between the scholar, employer and “Center for International Programs” JSC.
Since 2012 the internships program has been expanded with the categories for engineering, medical and teaching staff.
Since 2014 the minimum level of foreign language (from IELTS 3.0 to IELTS 4.0) and Kazakh language (from 75 to 85 points) has been increased, pursuing the aim of selection process’s quality improvement. New categories for master programs have been established – arts and mass media professionals.
Since 2015 candidates with Kazakhstani Master/PhD degree has got access to foreign Master/PhD programs. New Split-PhD program has been integrated in the educational process of state universities chosen as leading institutions of training professionals for country’s industrialization. Process of language training in Kazakhstan has started, since 2015 scholars take language courses in accordance with “6+6” model – 6 months in Kazakhstan, another 6 – abroad.
Throughout the whole period of its realization, from 1993 to 2018 as of October 1, the Bolashak Scholarship has been granted to 13,244 Kazakhstan citizens for study in 200 best universities of 33 countries.
When choosing a country and a city for study, the Bolashakers mainly focus on several criteria which include the status of the university, the short-term education programs, the close location to Kazakhstan, the level of internationalization of the educational system, the presence of foreign students and favorable infrastructure.
The most popular specialties in which the Bolashak scholarship students were trained are management in education, public health, international policy studies, IT, public administration, finance and economics, law, engineering, building, surgery.
The most popular universities among graduates of the program:
- Pennsylvania State University (USA);
- Queen Mary University of London (UK);
- University of Birmingham (UK);
- University of Leicester (UK);
- University of Manchester (UK);
- University of Nottingham (UK);
- University of Reading (UK);
- University of Sheffield (UK);
- University of Warwick (UK);
- Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov (Russia).
Most of the Bolashak graduates hold main positions in state and private organizations within Kazakhstan. As of October 1, 2018, the number of Bolashakers is 10,405 people. 4316 alumni are under monitoring for the implementation of labor activity. Bolashakers work in the following areas:
- Government agencies - 12%;
- Diplomatic representation - 0.4%;
- State institutions - 30.1%;
- Quasi-public sector - 16.2%;
- Foreign organizations in Kazakhstan - 6.9%;
- International organizations - 0.7%;
- National companies - 1.6%;
- Public associations - 0.9%;
- Private companies - 32.1%;
As a result of a stable and purposeful policy of Program’s implementation process improvement, at the VIII International Going Global Conference in Miami in 2014, the Bolashak Scholarship has been named the best one among 11 academic mobility programs. Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev attached great significance to the Program name because the word "Bolashak" is translated into English as "Future". But as far as we are aware the future of a person depends on his education.