RUSSIA: Promoting higher education abroad

Faced with a declining share of the global education export market, the Russian government plans to raise the prestige of local universities by attracting foreign students and creating opportunities for their employment within the country.

According to the Ministry of Education, Russia's share of higher education in the global market continues to decline and at present does not exceed 1.5% of the total number of foreigners studying abroad.

In line with the government's Concept of Export of Russian Educational Services for the Period 2011-20, a specialised agency called EduRussia has been set up with responsibility for promoting education abroad and attracting foreigners to study in the country.

The government believes this will boost Russia's share of the global education market to 7% and place at least two flagship institutions, the universities of Moscow and St Petersburg, in the world's top 100 universities.

The Russian business paper Slon has reported a decline in exports of educational services as a typical trend not only in Russia but also in Western countries.

Mary Krinsberg, Director of the International Research Department of the Institute of International Education, claimed the trend was also evident in the US, UK, France and China, among other countries.

Krinsberg said the Russian system of higher education had been affected mainly by a reduction in the number of students from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Education believed the decline in prestige of higher education had been observed since the 1990s and was associated mainly with the country's economic crisis as well as intensified competition from foreign institutions in traditional sectors of Russian higher education.

Andrei Volkov, Rector of the Moscow Skolkovo School of Management, said Russian universities were losing their already small market share to such countries as Germany, France and Australia.

Experts also said Russian universities were failing to compete with German rivals in Eastern Europe, whose share in the global market had almost doubled over the last seven years.

Studying in Russia was no longer in high demand among Polish and Central Asian students who mostly preferred to apply to Scandinavian, especially Norwegian, universities, while most Africans went to France or Spain.

One way to solve the problem and raise Russian prestige in the international arena could be by restoring the reputation of the country's leading universities, such as Moscow State University. This is Russia's largest and still one of its most prestigious universities and it recently announced plans to invest up to US$2 billion in development over the next 10 years.

Most of the funds are expected to be invested in scientific activities, as well as expansion of infrastructure. This would include implementation of grand projects such as a supercomputer centre and a network of robotic telescopes.