Rectors expect sharp rise in foreign student numbers

The number of foreign students studying in Russian universities could significantly increase during the next several years, mainly due to a sharp devaluation of the Russian currency, the ruble, against the dollar and euro, caused by the financial crisis in Russia.

This is the view of the rectors of Russia’s leading universities, including the Moscow State University.

Viktor Sadovnichy, rector of the Moscow State University, said: “Foreign students may find it very profitable for studying in Russia at present, as, due to the devaluation of the Russian ruble, studying for them is currently three times cheaper than in 2014. Despite the unfavourable geopolitics, the Moscow State University and other Russian universities are trying to convince international students to come to Russia.”

Sadovnichy said there are currently around 6,000 foreign students in the Moscow State University and their number continues to grow.

According to some Russian media reports, many leading Russian universities are considering preparing special courses and programmes designed for foreign students. Details of these plans have not been disclosed.

For example, the programmes in Far Eastern universities are already focused on the increasing number of students from China and Japan, offering scholarships and tailoring courses to particular disciplines they are interested in.

In 2015 the number of foreign students in Russian universities increased by 20% compared to 2014, to 212,000. The Russian Ministry of Education and Science predicts that this year the growth will be between 30% and 35% or possibly higher, as the demand for study places in Russia among foreign students is steadily growing.

At present the Russian government has the annual national quota for state-funded study places for foreign students at national universities, which is currently set at 15,000, and there is a possibility that this figure will significantly increase this year already.

The cost of tuition of foreign students studying at Russian universities in accordance with this quota is fully covered from the federal budget.

The vast majority are not covered by this quota and pay for their own tuition costs themselves.

Demand from EU students

Most foreign students studying in Russian universities traditionally come from countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and emerging nations.

However, according to an official spokesperson of the Minister for Education and Science Dmitry Livanov, in recent years the demand for studying in Russia among European Union students has also risen and there is a possibility that their share in the total number of foreign students may significantly increase this year already, which is also due to the recent devaluation of the local currency.

At the same time there has been an increase in the number of students from Asia-Pacific countries, in particular China and South Korea.

Irina Abankina, general director of the Institute for Education Development of the Russian Higher School of Economics, said: "Russian higher education is still highly prized abroad. Despite problems with the recognition of certain certificates, Russian higher education is easily recognised in many countries in the world."

Traditionally, the demand from foreign students is high for studying engineering specialties, particularly geology, exploration and development of mineral resources, metallurgy and mechanical engineering.