In recent years, the Russian government have been driving initiatives to urge Russian students to pursue an overseas education.
54 percent of the people in the Russian Federation also known as “Russia” held tertiary degrees as of 2015, making it one of the most educated nations worldwide. However, its higher education system, particularly universities are in need of contemporary adjustments, especially in the area of research. As of mid-2017, the nation is confronted with various pressures that are impacting its education system, especially at the tertiary level.
However, the Russian government has put forward an ambitious higher education objective aimed at enhancing quality and international branding. The nation is looking to wholly improve the global ranking of its universities by 2020 and to attract a significant proportion of internationally mobile tertiary-level students from across the world. Simultaneously, the government has been purposefully seeking to send scholars abroad and incent them to return home as part of a broader effort to improve the weakening economy.
Economic Trends: A recession drives a push for a modernised economy
From 2015 to 2016, Russia underwent a recession that can be pinned on two fundamental causes (1) Economic sanctions imposed by western countries in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Ukraine (2) Decline of crude oil prices. The economic fallout of the recent price decline has laid bare the country’s dependence on energy exports, giving new urgency of efforts to improve the Russian economy.
Demographic Trends: Declining birth rates affect the higher education system
Demographic trends have an immense impact on Russia. The number of students enrolled in tertiary institutions dropped from 7.5 million in 2008/09 to 5.2 million in 2014/15 and is reckoned to further decline to approximately 4.2 million students by 2021. The United Nations predicted a slide in Russian population in the next 35 years, from 143.4 million in 2015 to 128.6 million in 2050. According to the World Bank, Russia’s labor force is not only shrinking by an estimated one million workers annually due to an aging population but is also facing a brain drain situation. In addition, the greying population is said to drain pension funds while increasing public debt.
Reforms, Mergers and University Closures
The Russian government carried out a process of reforms and mergence due to concerns about the educational quality of the nation. Therefore, the main objective of the reforms is to merge poorly performing universities with high quality institutions.
The initiative has resulted in a reduction in the number of institutions by over 14 percent by 2017. In 2015, it announced the intention to close or merge up to 40 percent of all tertiary institutions by the end of 2016, especially for the private sector. It also planned to decrease the number of branch campuses operated by universities by 80 percent.
Other objectives include the modernisation and effort to shift the education focus to technical innovation, and the pursuit of a shift in increasing international student mobility by attracting 10 percent of academics and 15 percent of students from abroad onto the Russian campuses.
International student mobility
The proportion of international students are viewed as a measure of the effectiveness of tertiary institutions. Therefore, as part of the Russian government’s effort to boost the university rankings, it has made it a priority to drive international enrollments. In 2015, Russia has not only increased the international student quota at its universities by 33 percent but also made available more scholarship funds to foreign students. In addition, a few top Russian universities involved in the newly established Global Universities Association will jointly recruit a minimum of 15,000 international students to Russia annually.
In recent years, the Russian government have been driving initiatives to urge Russian students to pursue an overseas education. In 2014, the government implemented a Global Education Program that looks to facilitate human capital practices and make up for the lack of skilled professionals by funding Russian graduate students at 288 selected universities abroad.
The scholarship programmes have been observed to yield positive results. Between 2008 and 2015, UIS data revealed an increase in the number of outbound Russian university students by 22 percent from 44,913 to 54,923. The observed increase in international student mobility can be partially attributed to their interest in the comparatively inexpensive universities outside Russia.
Transnational Education: A Different Kind of Internationalisation
Unlike its counterparts, Russia is not a major host of foreign universities or brand campuses. Instead, Russia takes the lead in transnational education (TNE) in post-Soviet countries, where Russian state universities now operate 36 branch campuses. TNE in Russia is led by the government and is currently pursued vigorously. Despite the criticisms received from the previous Minister of Education in 2014 that education at cross-border campuses was of substandard and should be eliminated; in 2015, President Vladimir Putin promised to enhance TNE in CIS countries, where Russia is already the prevalent TNE provider.
One of the reasons for the pursuit of TNE is that international education plays a fundamental role in Russia’s soft power strategy in the “near abroad” aimed at cultivating “economic, political and socio-cultural integration in the post-Soviet space”. This objective is aimed at promoting Russian higher education abroad, support Russian institutions located in foreign countries and popularise Russian culture and improve the image of Russia in the CIS.
Source: World Education News + Reviews
Therefore, to help advance university excellence, particularly in Russia and Central Asia, QS Asia and the RUDN University have jointly organised the QS WORLDWIDE 2018 on “In Search of University Excellence: Perspectives from Russia and Central Asia”.
The prominent higher education conference will be held from 22-23 May 2018 at Moscow, Russia.