Donations-for-places to be allowed under university law

Private businesses and investors will be able to reserve study places in Russian universities in return for donations to endowment funds, under amendments to an existing education law recently drafted by the ministries of economic development and of education.

Presumably the investors will be able to use the places to train existing or future staff. However, it is expected that those who take up these places will need to apply for them and will have to be accepted for higher education studies by the relevant university.

The value of the donations in question is set at a level of 10% of the budget of the university. In addition, private investors will be able to provide funds for the development of the infrastructure and laboratory base of the university. In the latter case, the minimum donation is set at a level of RUB1 million (US$14,700).

Elena Lashkina, an assistant of Russia’s minister for economic development, comments: “The adoption of the proposed amendments is very important as they will help to start training of people who will be definitely in demand in the Russian labour market. In addition, this will allow modernisation of the technical base of Russian universities with the help of private funds.”

Currently, the Russian system of higher education employs the practice of target enrolment of students, which is carried out as part of state quotas. This is based on the signing of a contract between the university and the relevant Russian state body for the training of students for its needs.

The tuition costs for such students are fully covered by the particular state body. Currently, the number of such students who are studying at Russian universities is estimated at 15% of the total number of budget places in the Russian higher education system.

In contrast, the involvement of the private sector in such schemes at Russian universities has, to date, been insignificant. According to the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, it is common practice abroad, particularly in the United States, for private businesses to sponsor students in their higher education studies. This is usually done through the provision of scholarships and bursaries.

University heads welcome the initiative

In the meantime, the new state initiative has already been welcomed by the heads of Russia’s leading universities.

According to Ivan Dvegybsky, head of the Voronezh Law and Economic University, one of the leading universities in the field of economics in Central Russia, the new initiative will provide both additional funding to higher education institutions and the specialists needed by employers. However, there is a need to pay particular attention to the skills level of such students.

As Dvegybsky warns: “In contrast to the existing entrance scheme to Russian universities, which is based on the Unified State Exam [which is a series of exams every student must pass after graduation from school to enter a university or a professional college], the proposed system of target enrolment of students that will be funded by private business will be associated with a serious threat in terms of the enrolment of people who are not ready to study at higher education institutions due to their low skills’ level.”

The amendments should officially come into force on 1 January 2017.