State to invest $1.3 billion in university campuses

The Russian government plans to significantly improve higher education infrastructure through an initial RUB40 billion (US$1.3 billion) injection of funds to develop campuses and student residences at national universities.

Russian universities do not have dedicated campuses, which has long been a major weakness.

Their buildings are located in different places, creating difficulties for teachers and students. In addition, the lack of comfortable and convenient living and studying conditions has discouraged foreign students from studying in Russia.

This could change soon, as the state wants the infrastructure of national universities to be comparable to that of the best Western higher education institutions.

In the initial stage of the project, investments will amount to RUB40 billion, which will be provided to five or six leading national universities on a competitive basis. If the project is successful, new campuses will be built for more than 50 universities.

Most of the funding is expected to be provided by private investors, whose names have not yet been disclosed. Construction work should begin in 2014.

The names of universities that will bid for the first campuses have also not yet been made public. But according to sources close to the project, a number of top universities in Moscow will be among them – including Moscow State Industrial University, the Russian Economic University named after Plekhanov and the Moscow State Technical University of Radio Engineering, Electronics and Automation.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, one of the initiators of the project, said there was an “urgent need” to build campuses. This should solve serious problems with student residences, “many of which were built dozens and even hundreds of years ago and became morally and physically obsolete”.

Implementation of the project is being overseen by the state-owned Agency for Strategic Initiatives, which is responsible for innovative projects for the Russian economy. Alexey Repik, head of the agency’s executive committee, commented:

“Construction of campuses will dramatically increase competition among Russian universities, in terms of their academic performance, and will improve the quality of life and studying of students with a simultaneous reduction of financial burden.”

Improved infrastructure will also enhance the international reputation of Russian universities, he said, which is essential to Russia’s plans for its leading national universities to enter the top 100 of international university rankings.

Leading universities have welcomed the plan.

Yaroslav Kuzminov, head of the Higher School of Economics, one of Russia’s most prestigious universities, said that consolidating university infrastructure in one place would significantly improve the quality of the educational process.

Only two Russian universities have their own campus: the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island.

There is a possibility of Kazan State University, another leading Russian institution, building a campus in cooperation with the US Carnegie Mellon University.