More Russian students are choosing to study abroad

Amid the ever-growing cost of tuition at Russian universities, increasing numbers of local students are choosing to study in European universities, according to data of the Moscow city government, as well as some leading experts in the field of higher education in Russia.

According to a report of the Moscow city government, about 25% of the approximately 35,000 Russian students who went abroad to study this year chose Central and Eastern Europe.

At the same time the demand for studying at leading universities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland is also growing, mainly due to the end of the financial crisis in Russia and the stabilisation of the economic situation in the country.

The report said the demand for studying in the most prestigious domestic universities – the top 50 in Russia – this year fell by 15% compared to 2016, whereas demand for studying in UK and the US universities rose by 13% compared to 2016.

Even these trends may pale in comparison to the change in recent years in the number of Russian students attending Chinese universities, which has shot up from 5,000 in 2012 to 16,000 in 2016, mainly due to the intensification of cooperation between China and Russia.

But currently the biggest demand of Russian applicants is for places in Central and Eastern European universities where education is usually cheaper compared to Russian universities, with a comparable quality of teaching.

Sergey Dolgov, deputy director of the department of higher education of the Moscow city government, said: “The cost of tuition at Russian universities has grown significantly in recent years, while the number of state-funded places has declined. Currently the cost of tuition on the most prestigious specialities (on some joint programmes with Western universities) at the Moscow State, the Saint Petersburg State and other leading local universities reaches RUB540,000 (US$9,500) a year and continues to grow.”

According to data from the department of education of the Moscow city government, during the period 2013-16 the number of Russian applicants who successfully passed entrance exams at universities in Baltic countries, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, and even China, has increased by 50%.

Moscow city government analysts estimate that the number of Russian students studying at universities in the Czech Republic is currently around 5,500-6,000, while in Finland the number is estimated at between 3,045 and 3,200. Russians are currently the largest foreign student diaspora in both countries.

At the same time the number of Russian students in countries such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for the same period (2013-16) also increased and now exceeds 1,000 in each country.

Cost factor

Oleg Nikonov, deputy head of the Kursk University of Economics and Law, one of the most prestigious economics universities in central Russia, said: “The cost of studying currently remains one of the major reasons for the increased interest of Russians and other foreign students in studying in Eastern European universities.

“Currently the cost of tuition in these universities is significantly lower than in Russian universities. The cost of economic and technical specialties is estimated at about €3,000 [US$3,200] per year, while that of humanities is about €900. At the same time the cost of accommodation, food and transportation in Eastern Europe is also significantly lower than in Moscow.”

The rising demand for places in China is also the result of an increase in the number of student exchange programmes between Chinese and Russian universities and an increase in the number of internships in recent years.

Demand for places at UK, US and French universities, such as Oxford, Stanford and the Sorbonne, is traditionally high among the children of Russian businessman and state officials – including children of senior officers of Russian law enforcement agencies – and has increased since the beginning of the current year.

A significant portion of Russian graduates from leading top universities in the US and the UK prefer to return to Russia after their graduation, to be appointed to the top managerial positions in leading business structures and state corporations.