Demand for places at military universities doubles

The demand for studying in military higher education institutions in Russia has doubled over the past six years and is continuing to grow while many traditional universities are being closed.

The ever-rising prestige of military service in the country and almost 100% employment of the graduates of these universities are behind the increased demand, according to recent statements by senior officials of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Defence.

In recent years, the lack of skilled jobs for university graduates in Russia has become one of the most pressing problems for the entire local system of higher education.

According to recent statistics issued by the Ministry of Education and Science, almost 40% of graduates of Russian universities experience serious problems with employment.

About half of them are unable to find a job on the basis of their specialty after graduation, which forces them to settle for low-skilled jobs. That leads to a gradual decline of demand among young people for a place in higher education in Russia.

Many of them are forced to consider alternative options for their further studies, one of which involves military universities.

In fact, during Soviet times military universities were among the most prestigious universities in the USSR. The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, resulted in a significant drop in the demand for studying in military universities. Still, their situation has started to improve in the past six years.

Doubling of demand

The number of applicants seeking to study at military universities in Russia has almost doubled since 2013. At present the total number of students and cadets studying at such higher education institutions is estimated at more than 70,000 people and the number continues to grow.

In general, the situation with military universities differs radically from traditional universities. One of the main advantages of studying in such universities is that the cost of tuition is fully covered by the state.

In addition, all the graduates of such institutions obtain an officer position in the Russian army after graduation, with the entrance salary being significantly higher than the average wage offered to graduates of common Russian universities, being in the range of RUB50,000 to RUB60,000 (US$760-US$910) per month.

The highest competition for places is currently observed for studying in the St Petersburg Military Medical Academy (9.2 applicants per place, and 27 applicants per place among girls), the Military Academy of Logistics (9.2 applicants per place), and the Military Institute of Physical Culture (5 applicants per place).

At the top end this is far higher than the current level of competition to the most prestigious common Russian universities, such as Moscow State University, Saint Petersburg State University and some others, which typically have five or six applicants per place, although it varies between departments.

Colonel General Viktor Goremykin, head of the Main Personnel Directorate (GUK) of the Russian Ministry of Defence, said: “In recent years the majority of military universities in Russia have been able to create perfect conditions for students studying within their walls.

“That became mainly due to the development of some modern educational programmes and modernisation of the educational and material base. This allows [the universities] to train highly skilled professionals for the needs of the Russian Armed Forces.”

Amid the ongoing reform of the Russian system of higher education, which involves massive closures of some inefficient traditional universities, the number of military higher education institutions only continues to grow, while, according to state plans, the share of such graduates may reach 10%-15% in the overall structure of graduates of Russian state universities during the next several years. This compares with 7%-8% currently.