Russia plans to more than triple the number of foreign students studying at its universities over the next eight years, with a 50% increase by 2019, under a new state programme for the export of educational services.
A key part of the plan involves introducing new courses to attract more international students.
Under the conditions of the “Development of the export potential of the Russian education system” programme, recently approved by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, the number of foreign students studying at domestic higher education institutions on full-time courses should be increased from the current 200,000 to 310,000 people by 2019 and up to 710,000 students by 2025.
It is planned that almost half of these students will study on additional educational programmes that will be introduced at Russian universities during the same period.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, who will take personal responsible for the implementation of the programme, has an eye on the export earnings the programme will generate.
He said: "The US universities earn on foreign students 15 times more than the US government spends on it. Higher education currently remains the fifth most important export item in the US.
“At the same time, in the case of Russia, the country currently ranks the world’s sixth in terms of exports of educational services, after the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia.
“As part of our plans, the position of Russia should be significantly improved.”
If successful, the programme will significantly increase the revenue of Russian universities generated by foreign students, from the current RUB84 billion (US$1.4 billion) to RUB373 billion per year, a more than four-fold increase.
The volume of investments in the implementation of the programme is estimated at RUB5 billion by 2025.
Medvedev has also said that all the universities and colleges that will participate in the new programme will receive tax breaks and other benefits.
The programme will include the introduction of professional orientation work with potential applicants starting from secondary schools. Special educational programmes for foreign pupils will be designed, while their application at the initial stage will take place during the summer holidays of potential applicants to Russian universities in leading international camps and children’s centres located in Russia, such as Ocean, Artek, Smena and Eaglet.
The programme also involves the opening of summer supplementary education programmes for foreign students by the majority of Russian state-owned and private universities by 2019.
For this purpose, the rules for entry and exit of foreign students, employment and internships during their studies in the country will be simplified. In addition, highly qualified employees will be invited to Russian universities to act as curators for foreign students from the day of arrival in the country and up to their graduation.
In addition, foreign students with the highest grades will be able to get Russian citizenship under simplified procedures. Alexander Gorovoy, deputy head of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, said that this will encourage these students to stay in Russia.
Finally, the government plans to establish a single platform on the internet for foreigners who want to study in Russia. The new platform will collate all the information on Russian universities and colleges.
Dmitry Serdyakov, deputy president of Lipetsk University of Economics and Law, believes that the new programme could be very useful for the entire Russian system of higher education.
He said: “This will attract additional funds to domestic universities that could be used for their further development. In addition, the influx of foreign students may raise the prestige and image of Russian universities in the international arena.”
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