RUSSIA: Degree recognition for top world universities

Russia is to recognise the degrees of the world's leading universities, in a move aimed at attracting highly qualified professionals, President Dmitry Medvedev has announced.

The government has already eased migration regimes for skilled foreigners, to encourage the return to Russia of local scientists currently working abroad.

But Russia still faces a shortage of the highly skilled professionals needed to implement ambitious state plans to shift the economy onto a more innovative footing.

"The inflow of foreign professionals to Russia is needed in order to gain experience and to create a ground for creativity of domestic scientists," Medvedev said. "Therefore we are ready for unilateral automatic recognition of diplomas and degrees obtained in the world's leading universities. Russia should become an attractive place for the world's best minds."

According to analysts from the Russo-German paper Russland-Aktuell, Russia's lack of highly skilled young workers is most pronounced in industries such as information technologies, communications, management and the arts.

Until now, Russia has only recognised university diplomas from countries with whom it has bilateral agreements, mostly in the developing world.

The government has already started to develop legislation to regulate the assessment of the quality of education at foreign universities with the aim of recognising their qualifications in Russia.

Minister of Education Andrei Fursenko commented: "The bill requires unilateral recognition of diplomas of the world's leading universities, whereas in the past all of the international diplomas were recognised in Russia on a state level.

"There was a problem, taking into account the fact that the quality of education in different universities is not the same, including in the case of the United States, where not all universities are equally good."

He said that the list of approved universities, whose diplomas will equate to those of Russian universities, will be drawn up by the government.

Vladimir Filippov, head of the Russian Peoples' Friendship University, one of Russia's largest universities, said the gap in this area reduced the competitiveness of Russian higher education in the international arena.

"However this problem could be solved in the near future. I am absolutely confident that during the next two years Russia can reach such agreements with the most of the world's leading universities."

Medvedev has also instructed the government to submit proposals on mechanisms to support training of Russian students and young professionals in leading foreign educational and scientific establishments.

The government is considering paying for the education of Russian students in overseas universities whose diplomas and degrees are expected to be recognised in Russia - a list that may eventually include up to 300 institutions.

There is also the possibility of special presidential grants for Russians students studying abroad.