The Russian government plans to increase the quota of foreign students at domestic universities by 33%, starting from January next year.
At present the number of state-funded places allocated for foreign students in Russian universities is 15,000. However, starting from next year these numbers will be increased up to 20,000 places.
It is planned that the quotas for foreigners will be set in all the leading and most prestigious universities of Russia, including the Moscow State University, the Saint Petersburg State University, the Higher School of Economics, as well as some others.
This is part of the state plans for the formation of pro-Russian national elites who can effectively promote Russian interests in the international arena.
The same practice was used by the USSR, which trained students for the succession of top positions in the governments of countries of the former communist bloc.
It is planned that those foreign applicants who successfully pass all the needed tests and exams will be able to choose from a selection of six universities presented for their consideration by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science.
According to an official spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, applications should be sent through Rossotrudnichestvo – the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation.
Demand is growing
According to Lyubov Glebova, head of Rossotrudnichestvo, demand among foreign students to study in Russian universities is steadily growing. She said this year more than 16,000 applications from 160 countries were received.
The level of funding for the increase in the quota, as well as total spending of the Russian government on the training of foreign students have not been disclosed.
But according to some sources close to the Ministry of Education and Science, total spending on training foreign students may be in the range of RUB2.4 billion to RUB3 billion (US$50 million to US$60 million) per year.
Reportedly, the plan involves paying particular attention to trying to increase of the number of students from the EU countries, the US, Canada, as well as other Western countries, from which the number of applicants is currently significantly lower than from Asian countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The government also plans to provide well-paid jobs within the country to the best foreign students and indications are that the jobs may be offered in some of the country’s leading state corporations and companies.
Analysts of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science believe that increasing the number of foreign students at domestic universities will increase loyalty to Russia in the international arena.
According to Olga Gozman, general director of Begin Group, one of Russia’s largest providers of marketing services in the Russian higher education system, so far marketing and the promotion of their education abroad has been one of the weak points of Russian universities.
She said, however, that it is possible that there will be significant changes in the near future, as attracting foreign students will make Russian universities more competitive in the global market.
Gozman said: “There is an acute need to attract foreign students due to the existing ambitious state plans to strengthen the positions of Russian universities in global rankings.
“The increase of the number of foreign students in Russian universities will encourage the development and introduction of English language training programmes on the most popular university courses that will have a positive impact on the attractiveness of Russian higher education to foreign students,” she said.
However, she voiced concern that in the pursuit of foreign students Russian universities may ease the requirements for Russian-language skills, causing “the decline of the overall level of education”.
"...Russian universities may ease the requirements for Russian-language skills, causing 'the decline of the overall level of education'." What does that mean? How can teaching in English lower the quality? Improve the English proficiency of Russian lecturers...
Simone Zondervan-Hackett on the University World News Facebook page
Gozman means that in a race for foreign, English-speaking students, Russian universities will pay insufficient attention to students' knowledge of the Russian language, which is very important, as the majority of courses in Russian universities - including those taught to foreign students - are taught in Russian. In this regard, there is a threat that foreigners will simply not understand them, which will negatively affect their education in Russia.
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