PhD program

The proposed PhD program will expand the role of the mathematics department, from currently teaching mathematics and building fundamental mathematical skills and mastery of all students in general to carrying out excellence in research. This research activity will ensure that, at Nazarbayev University, mathematics as science will develop and advance, at least at the same pace as the other sciences, from which the other areas of research can also benefit.


As Kazakhstan strives to become one of the top 30 most developed countries under the ‘Third Modernization of Kazakhstan’ model of economic growth, we anticipate growing demand from local, national, and international sources for highly trained English speaking Ph.D. holder in mathematics, thus, providing a healthy job market for our graduates in academic, corporate, and government sectors. Graduates of this program are expected to find highly respected positions in academia and industry.

Graduates of the Ph.D. in Mathematics program will be prepared to play important roles in Kazakhstan’s economy, especially with respect to research, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. In this regard, this program will serve as a key building block in the research-driven economic and technological development of the region, and as a key amplifier of the influence of the Nazarbayev University within Kazakhstan and beyond its borders.

The proposed PhD program is a 4-year program and comprises compulsory coursework, research, and dissertation writing. The program aligns with the structure of similar programs in North America, and is in compliance with the Bologna process, adopted by the Republic of Kazakhstan and the revised Graduate Programs Framework of Nazarbayev University.


Application package checklist for Ph.D in Mathematics program

Applicants applying to the Ph.D in Mathematics are expected to have:

1) an undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s degree or equivalent) and master’s degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline, to be determined by the Admissions Committee (Admission Committee is in charge to decide what discipline is relevant or not);

During the application period final year students may submit official current transcript for consideration. Applicants may be enrolled conditionally based on evidence from graduating university the applicants have completed the educational program and the applicant expects formal issuance of final transcript and/or diploma by certain date. In that case, the decision on enrollment shall prescribe the period of time within which the applicants shall provide the necessary documents to the University.

Applicants who obtained their degree diplomas/certificates from foreign education institutions must request their official transcripts to be sent directly to the Admissions Department of the University. In exceptional cases that the foreign education institution does not provide such service, the transcript can be submitted to the Admissions Department directly by applicant upon confirmation by foreign education institution via corporate electronic mail. When applicants provide a certificate of nostrification of a diploma issued by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan or an apostilled document by a foreign education institution, sending an official transcript directly to the University Admissions Department is not mandatory;

2) a minimum CGPA of 2.75 out of 4.00 in their highest degree;

3) The absolute minimum requirement for English language proficiency test reports for admission to the Ph.D program is:

overall IELTS test score of 6.5 (with sub-score requirements no less than 6.0), or the equivalent TOEFL score as posted on the ETS website.

Applicants to the Program, at the discretion of the Admissions Committee, can be exempted from submitting the language proficiency test report if:

  • one of their earlier academic degrees was earned in a country with English as the language of official communication, academic instruction and daily life;
  • a Master’s degree or equivalent was earned in a program which was officially taught in English;
  • the applicant is a graduate of University.

    4) an official electronic score report of a valid IELTS/TOEFL certificate from the Test Administrator and its scanned copy (if applicable) must be submitted;

    5) two confidential letters of recommendation in English (or with notarized English translation). One of the two recommendations must be written by a current or previous employer or research supervisor. The second referee may be chosen at the applicant’s discretion;

    6) a statement of purpose not exceeding 500 words, explaining the motivation to enroll on the Ph.D program in Mathematics, and the tentative choice of the research subject;

    7) valid GRE Test Report (general test). An applicant must indicate University as a recipient when registering for the test. In case the applicant passed the test earlier, he/she can contact the test center and indicate Nazarbayev University as a recipient. Although an official GRE score is not an essential requirement, an applicant can enhance her/his application with a competitive GRE score;

    8) The relevance of the academic and experiential background, and the equivalency and appropriateness of earlier degrees, will be determined by the Admissions Committee.

Application package checklist for the Ph.D in Mathematics program:

  • complete Application form for Ph.D in Mathematics program;
  • official copy of undergraduate and graduate degree diplomas/certificates with transcripts (with notarized English translation);
  • IELTS or TOEFL test report/certificate valid as of date of online documents submission to the Ph.D in Mathematics program. An applicant must indicate University as a recipient when registering for the test. In case if the applicant passed the test earlier, he/she can contact the test center and indicate the University as a recipient. Applicants can provide official electronic score report of valid Academic IELTS or TOEFL IBT certificates from Test Administrator and its scanned copy;
  • document confirming English as the language of instruction (only for applicants who earned their degree in a program which was taught in English and request an exemption from submitting IELTS or TOEFL);
  • official copy of Passport/national ID (with notarized English translation);
  • GRE test reports/certificates (optional) valid as of date of online documents submission to the Ph.D in Mathematics program;
  • two confidential letters of recommendation in English (with notarized English translation) written within the last 12 months (to be provided by referees electronically or in hard copy);
  • resume (up to two A4 pages);
  • a statement of purpose not exceeding 500 words, explaining the motivation to enroll on the Ph.D in Mathematics, and the tentative choice of the research subject;
  • consent for Prospective Student’s/Student’s/Graduate’s personal data processing.
  • Applicants recommended for admission must provide hard copies of IELTS and GRE results (if applicable) as requested by the Admissions Department.

4 years

Career and Internship Support

Student support is provided by a combination of services, centrally in the university, by SSH and at the PhD program level. Much of the support focuses on developing students’ skills to enhance their performance in the program.

This support is provided through the main Supervisor and Co-supervisors, who are the primary point of contact for all matters relating to students’ welfare and progress including career counseling. The Supervisor(s) and PhD candidate work together to identify the student’s Advisory Committee. The Supervisor is the key faculty member responsible for guiding the student through the PhD program, and especially through the process of identifying and designing his/her dissertation topic. The Supervisor is also expected to work closely with the PhD student in planning the research work and in the analysis of the data. Finally, the Supervisor must approve the draft of the dissertation prior to it being sent for external review. The Supervisor(s) will work with the student to address the comments and suggestions of the external examiner and will then determine when the dissertation draft is ready for the final defense at the University.

Academic staff delivering taught modules and lectures will provide students with necessary material, in classrooms, laboratories, and workshops, by print and electronic material such as Moodle. Students will be encouraged to attend Professional Development Workshops organized by CAC, SSH or the Department.

All students are required to take part in a 6 to a 12-month internship at an international host laboratory. The host supervisor and supervisory team at NU will maintain communication with the student throughout the student’s stay. The internship supported by supervisor or co-supervisor’s individual faculty grants or from the School budget.

Program structure

The four-year 240 ECTS credit Ph.D. in Mathematics is a research intensive third cycle program designed according to the Bologna requirements. The curriculum of the program consists of three different types of courses:

core pillar courses (20 ECTS),
elective pillar courses (40 ECTS), and
research pillar courses (Thesis Research and Thesis Dissertation) 180 ECTS).

Core pillar courses consist of one disciplinary core course (6 ECTS), and two department core courses (14 ECTS). These courses are designed to give a solid and broad base of advanced knowledge in technology and data-driven areas of mathematics that provides the students with an opportunity to acquire the necessary theoretical and methodological knowledge to succeed in their research. These courses are planned for the first year.
A selection of department elective courses (40 ECTS) in Semesters 1 and 2 will permit students to define specialization areas according to future research and professional career goals.
The Research pillar course Thesis Research spans Years 1-2. In Semesters 1-2 and Summer Term 1 students develop their Thesis Proposal. Semesters 3-8 and Summer Terms 2-4 are dedicated to thesis research only.
Courses may be waived on admission for students who are deemed to have completed equivalent work and have achieved an acceptable level of understanding (min. grade B+) and replaced by Level-8 course(s) (the max. ECTS waive possible 40% of taught elements, i.e. 24 ECTS from
core or elective of equal credit value) selected by the student’s supervisory committee and approved by the corresponding departmental committee.

The list of courses for the Ph.D. in Mathematics is given below:

Discipline CoreCourses (1)
DENG 782 Research Methods & Ethics (6 ECTS)

Department Core Courses (2)
MATH 701 Real analysis (8 ECTS)
MATH 791 Topics in Mathematics (6 ECTS)

Department Electives (8)
MATH 702 Functional Analysis with Applications (8 ECTS)
MATH 711 Advanced abstract algebra (8 ECTS)
MATH 721 Nonlinear Differential Equations with Applications (8 ECTS)
MATH 722 Advanced Partial Differential Equations and Applications (8 ECTS)
MATH 741 Computational Fluid Dynamics (8 ECTS)
MATH 751 Probability Theory (8 ECTS)
MATH 761 Mathematical Finance (8 ECTS)
MATH 771 Operations Research (8 ECTS)

Research Course(2)
MATH 799 Thesis Research(0 ECTS)
MATH 800 Doctoral Thesis (180 ECTS)

Learning and teaching methods utilized in the courses will include
class discussion,
reflective assignments,
literature review,
research paper writing,
research project,
research poster design, and
oral presentation


**Ample funding is available for local and international students, with the majority receiving a full scholarship and stipend.**

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