RUSSIA: Education Minister to take top job?

The head of Russia's top university may be forced to step down next month when he turns 70 as speculation mounts in the Russian press that his successor could be Education Minister Andrei Fursenko.

Victor Sadovnichy, who was elected the rector of Russia's equivalent of a top Ivy League institution in 1992 and heads the Union of Rectors, is a powerful and influential figure within higher education. He enjoys close relations with top government figures but Russian employment law stipulates that rectors should retire at 65 with a five year optional extension.

Business daily Kommersant, referring to unnamed sources, last week speculated that Education Minister Andrei Fursenko may replace Sadovnichy. Fursenko, who has been in post for five years, is likely to be replaced by Nikolai Kropachev, rector of St Petersburg State University in a government reshuffle planned by President Dmitry Medvedev.

St Petersburg's former rector, Ludmila Verbitskaya, moved to become the university's president, an option that Moscow State may consider for Sadovnichy, Kommersant reported. Giving Fursenko the rectorship of St Petersburg would be unethical, an anonymous "Moscow university rector" told the newspaper. But letting him take over the vacant top job at Moscow State would make sense.

Sadovnichy could either be promoted to a new post as Moscow State president or given a similar high-level job at the Russian Academy of Sciences, sources told Kommersant. High-level jobs that come with the Kremlin's blessing were usually able to sidestep Russia's strict employment laws on upper age limits, the newspaper said.