Industry alarmed by deep cuts to speciality courses

The Russian government will significantly reduce the number of technical specialties in universities, due to financial issues and as part of the ongoing reform of the national system of higher education.

But the plans have drawn strong criticism among MPs as well as the space industry and engineering firms, who say it will lead to a shortage of specialists.

To implement these plans an order of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, creating an approved “list of specialties and areas of training of the Russian higher education", has been approved.

In accordance with the order, of the 55 engineering and technical specialities currently taught in Russian higher education institutions, only three will continue to be lectured starting from 2017.

Some of the rest will be incorporated into special educational programmes, in particular "The provision of public safety" as well as “The defence and security of the state", and others will be removed altogether.

The Ministry of Education and Science explained that evaluation of the required number of specialists, starting from next year, will be based on the demand for these professions in the domestic labour market, as the government no longer wants to train those specialists who are unable to find a job in the market after their graduation.

The ministry's initiative has the support of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who believes the reduction of some specialties in Russian technical colleges and universities is reasonable, but that such measures should not affect high schools with long-standing practice of providing such trainings.

However, despite Putin’s position, the new initiative has been criticised in the Russian parliament (State Duma).

According to Vladimir Gutenev, first deputy chairman of the Committee on Industry of the Russian State Duma, prior to any cuts, there is a need to take into account the position of Russian engineering and other technical communities.

Gutenev said: “Such cuts may break the existing fragile system of training of engineering specialists in Russia. To date, we have already received a large number of protests and complaints from representatives of many Russian leading industrial enterprises and higher education institutions with negative feedback on these innovations and there is a need to revise them once again.”

The same position is shared by some leading Russian state corporations, many of which may already be facing a shortage of engineers and other specialists in the coming years.

According to Igor Komarov, director general of Roscosmos, the governmental body responsible for Russia's space science programme and general aerospace research, the order does not take into account the position of Roscosmos and other leading domestic employers in the field of engineering sciences.

Komarov said: “The Russian space industry has recently put an order for the training of specialists for its needs, which takes place in accordance with special educational programmes, which are currently implemented by some domestic universities. This year the order is set at the level of 524 people, while next year these figures should be increased to 713. Planned reduction of technical specialities may pose a threat for the implementation of these plans.”