Plan to ban officials' children from studying abroad

The Russian parliament or State Duma is considering banning children of Russian officials based in Russia from studying at universities abroad, particularly in Western universities, according to an official spokesperson of the Duma press service.

The initiative was put forward by Rahman Yansukov, president of Avanti, one of Russia’s leading public associations, which unites Russian leading entrepreneurs and businessmen, and was supported by members of the Russian parliament.

Yansukov said the ban would “help to assess the real quality of the domestic higher education institutions and will contribute to the rise of patriotism among these young people”.

The bill was tabled in the Duma by Valery Rashkin, a member of the Russian Communist Party, and is expected to be voted on by the end of this month.

The bill stipulates that Russian officials will not be able to educate their children – including adopted children – at universities in foreign countries.

At the same time it is planned that the ban will not apply to branches of Western higher education institutions in Russia. An exception would also be made for officials who work abroad, and in particular ambassadors. In addition, exceptions will be made for six-month internships for international programmes.

Rashkin said: "Officials’ children studying abroad prevents the formation of the country's true national managerial elite and leads to brain drain out of the country. In addition, it also contributes to the growth of social disparity in Russia, as well as the divorcement of the ruling class from common people.”

Rashkin has also talked of an ever-growing threat for Russian students, working and studying abroad, posed by foreign intelligence services.

In October last year the Russian media had already reported about the plans for the ban, but the initiative did not receive support from the Presidential Administration of Russia at the time.

The new initiative has already sparked criticism in the Russian government but has more supporters in the Duma than before.

According to a senior government official, who asked not to be mentioned by name, the new proposal sounds very populist, but the practice of talented Russian young people studying in Western countries began during the rule of Peter the Great more than 300 years ago. He said a ban would result in a significant decline of the educational level of young Russians.

He has added that assessing all the possible risks and benefits of sending children abroad to study is a personal matter for each family in Russia.

A government spokesperson said: “First of all, legislators would have to think about the improvement of the quality of higher education in Russia. Although it's easier just to ban, this will be unreasonable.”

According to Izvestia, in 2015 Shamsail Saraliyev, a United Russia party deputy, said the ban was needed because children of officials “can easily find themselves in the sights of Western intelligence, they can become hostages of terrorists, be subject to recruitment” and “form a completely different world view”.

The ban would apply to persons who hold state posts in Russia, public posts of Russia’s territorial entities, federal civil service positions of the territorial entities and municipal services, according to RAPSI, the Russian Legal Information Agency.

It said the draft law is aimed at stopping the practice of sending children to get education abroad by officials, top managers of government companies and state corporations.

However, the bill would allow education in foreign branches of Russian education institutions.

In 2013 the same type of ban was introduced in Uzbekistan by Islam Karimov, then president, but the imposed restrictions were lifted within several days.