A PhD is a research degree where you spend a significant amount of time investigating and analyzing your chosen topic. A PhD usually takes three to four years full time. You conduct a piece of research that makes a substantial original contribution to knowledge or understanding in your chosen field. You graduate with the degree title Doctor of Philosophy.

Who supervises me during my PhD?

It is vitally important that your research project proposal is discussed with potential supervisors before you submit your application. This ensures that a supervisory team is assembled and you have a clear idea of what topic you will be working on from Day 1. Changes can and often do happen during the course of your PhD, but to eliminate surprises, it is important to have communicated with your potential supervisor prior to submitting your application. They will help you to refine your research project and produce a realistic research plan. In the progress of your research, you will need to work well independently to complete a PhD, as your supervisors will not tell you exactly what to read or how to design and carry out work on your thesis. However, the supervisory team will guide you along the path.

What is the typical structure of a PhD?

  1. Plan your research
  • In your first year, after your induction and meetings with your supervisors, you write a detailed research plan.
  • For some research projects, you may need to gain ethical approval before any fieldwork or data collection can start.
  • Your supervisor will advise you on this.
  • At the end of your first year you will present and defend your detailed research plan in front of your supervisory team and the members of the Progress Review Committee (PRC) who are typically two members per each PhD student.
  1. Complete your annual review and progress reports
  • Each subsequent year you will submit a report outlining your progress to your supervisors. This is called the annual review report.
  • In your report, you need to show a suitable amount of progression in order to continue with your PhD. Progression during the year is generally measured by courses approved, research papers presented in conference(s) and published in Scopus/WoS indexed journals (Q1/Q2). It is expected that the most relevant part of your thesis work be published with your name as lead author.
  • Your supervisors also write a confidential report on your progress and hand it out to the members of your PRC to complement your annual evaluation.
  • You will undertake a formal review meeting with the members of your PhD Progress Review Committee and discuss about your progress reports. Your progress must be approved by the PRC to grant your continuation in the program.
  1. Write your thesis
  • You need to write up your research in a thesis. After your third year, you may be able to apply for a writing-up year.
  • You can only apply for a writing-up year under certain conditions.
  1. Submit your thesis
  • You submit the thesis to be reviewed by a committee integrated by at least two examiners with expertise in your area of research and the committee chair.
  • One examiner will be external to Nazarbayev University and will be an international expert in your field.
  1. Complete your viva
  • After the examiners have reviewed your written thesis, you have a viva (oral exam).
  • The viva is open to the public (unless confidentiality requirements prevail).
  • During the viva, the examiners ask you questions about your research.
  • Other members of the audience may also ask you questions.
  1. Make corrections
  • After the viva, the examiners may ask you to make some changes to your thesis (known as corrections).
  • You must make these corrections before you can graduate.
  1. Graduate
  • When you’ve passed your viva and made any corrections to your PhD thesis, you are awarded with the degree title Doctor of Philosophy.

Is there financial support for conducting my research project?

There is a PhD budget that PhD students can apply for in order to support their PhD-related activities, however, it is expected that the majority of the infrastructure for your project is in place at the commencement of your PhD.


Nazarbayev University is committed to the pursuit of excellence in learning, teaching, research, and service. This PhD Student Code of Conduct is intended to identify the University’s standards for and expectations of our PhD students. It is the student’s personal responsibility to be familiar with and to follow all aspects of this PhD Student Code of Conduct in addition to Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures of the University.

All students enrolled at Nazarbayev University are expected to:

  • Conduct themselves honestly and in compliance with all University policies and procedures;
  • Behave in a way that is conducive to the proper functioning of the University;
  • Avoid any behavior which threatens the academic freedom of other persons, faculty or students, to pursue their research or to participate in the life of the University;
  • Not behave in a way that disrupts or interferes with any teaching or academic activity of the University, including political, cultural, social or sporting gatherings conducted under the auspices of the University, or authorized to be held at the University;
  • Behave in an ethical manner at all times, and avoid any behavior or action that might unfairly or unreasonably disadvantage or advantage another student;
  • Never use, possess or supply any illegal substance on campus;
  • Never participate in any campus activity while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs;
  • Treat all members of the University community (including faculty, staff, students, and visitors) with appropriate courtesy, tolerance and respect. This includes behavior that takes place off-site but in the context of University research or training;
  • Recognize the rights of all members of the academic community (including faculty, staff, students, and visitors) to be treated fairly and equitably, free from all forms of harassment, including respecting the basic human rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of belief, as these rights are necessary prerequisites for academic freedom;
  • Avoid any behavior that is dangerous, discriminatory, harassing, or bullying toward any member of the academic community;
  • Seek to participate in an active and participatory manner in the learning process;
  • Attend scheduled classes, meetings and other required events, except where exceptional circumstances have arisen;
  • Submit all required coursework, projects, etc., in a timely manner;
  • Make use of copyrighted materials only in legal ways;
  • Not engage in plagiarism or any other kind of academic misconduct, including following the normal conventions and procedures of academic scholarship;
  • Ensure that all research activities undertaken have been carefully reviewed by the appropriate bodies with respect to the ethical requirements for research;
  • Make appropriate use of University resources (including buildings, equipment, the library, technological facilities, etc.) in a lawful and ethical manner; and
  • Ensure their actions do not harm, or bring into disrepute, the University’s reputation or good standing in the nation and world.