RUSSIA: Higher education more costly

Students undertaking degree courses at Russian universities faced a 15% fee increase over the past year, a study has found.

University fees for students who fail to obtain a ‘budget’ place – a state-funded enrolment generally awarded only to those with the best grades – are now approaching First World levels.

Annual fees for the most popular courses in law and economics at prestige colleges, such as Moscow’s foreign ministry-affiliated State Institute for Foreign Affairs, can be as high as 260,000 roubles (US$10,000) or more, the study by educational ratings agency Reitor showed.

Average fees for heavily subscribed economics courses at Moscow State University, which is ranked by experts among the world’s top 100 institutions, are now 240,000 roubles a year (about US$9,000).

The figure is markedly higher than the £3,000 (US$6,000) a year ‘top up fees’ charged to British undergraduates since the introduction of fees there.

Heading the list of Russia’s most expensive institutions are Moscow’s elite economic and internationally-oriented schools. These include the MGIMO – the Moscow State Institute of International Relations – which last year charged 262,500 roubles (US$10,400) for an economics degree and the Russian government’s financial academy where students paid almost $10,000, the business daily Vedomosti reports.

MGIMO is run under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is Russia’s equivalent of France’s grand ecoles. Graduation from the institute is seen as a sure step toward a lucrative business, political or bureaucratic career.

A recent special business education supplement in Vedomosti detailed the steep rise in the cost of MBAs in Russia. Prices for part-time executive MBAs at Moscow and St Petersburg business schools shot up in three or four years from an average of $7,000 to $12,000, to prices today that may reach $33,000.

High as the Russian fees are, in a country where 2006 GDP per capita was around 305,000 roubles (US$12,200) and only a thin layer of the new middle classes in cities can expect to earn more than US$2,000 a month, they remain competitive with the cost of a western education.

For example, the cost of ‘top 100’ full-time MBAs in the West last year was as high as $100,000.