Economic sanctions not ending Russian study abroad

Economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries after Ukraine’s Maidan revolution do not appear to be disrupting Russian students in foreign universities. Most will continue to study in Europe and elsewhere under numerous initiatives, including one known as Global Education that was recently approved by the government.

Under the scheme, which will run from 2014-16, Russian students will be able to study in Western universities in numerous fields including medicine, engineering, management and others.

Students will have the opportunity to study for masters and PhD degrees in universities that appear in the top 100 in global rankings.

Under the conditions of the scheme, beneficiary students must return to Russia to work for a certain period. Failure to comply will result in massive fines.

Sanctions concerns

The Russian government feared that the imposition of sanctions against Russia could lead to the freezing of the project and refusal of foreign universities to work with students from Russia.

Concerns deepened in May when a Russian woman was turned down for a teaching post in Switzerland because of her country's aggressive foreign policy.

At the time the Guardian reported Martin Freiburghaus, director of the Issal Institute in Lausanne, as saying the decision was made as a sanction against Russia because "Switzerland is officially doing almost nothing".

In a letter to the Russian woman who had applied for an after-hours job teaching Russian, the director said the institute's philosophy “will not allow us to employ teachers that come from a country which is provoking a civil war [in Ukraine] and whose president lies and abuses international law”.

But it seems that most foreign universities are not following the Swiss institute’s example and are continuing to work with Russians.

Kommersant Vlast, one of Russia’s leading business papers, wrote a couple of months ago that this position is shared by the majority of universities from the EU and the US.

According to Colin Riley, an official representative of Boston University, the university is not applying new requirements to Russian students who want to study there. According to him, applicants must pass examinations, provide guarantees of financial sufficiency and receive a US visa.

A representative of the University of California, Berkeley, also said there were no specific requirements for foreign students who wished to study at the university at the expense of their governments. Sanctions, he added, did not apply to the educational programmes at the university.

Meanwhile, according to sources in America’s State Department, the United States government currently has no plans to suspend the implementation of the Global Education programme or to impose restrictions on it.

An official representative said the admission of students from any country to each American university is a private matter for the students and the university, which the US government does not regulate.

According to a press service of the Russian Ministry of Education, visas for students who are planning to study in the US are commonly issued, and people who meet the criteria receive visas.