Universities given extra funding to avoid tuition fee rises

The Russian government has allocated up to RUB35 billion (US$503 million) this year to support domestic higher education institutions, which are suffering from the economic downturn in the country caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the funding will be allocated to salaries, mostly for university teachers, according to statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said the funds would compensate for a significant drop in the extra-budgetary revenues of domestic universities this year – a result of the recession caused and the decline in the number of students applying to Russian universities.

According to state plans, the funding will ensure that an increase in tuition fees can be avoided this year.

In May, Valery Falkov, the Russian minister of science and higher education, said an agreement was reached by the government and domestic universities this year to freeze the cost of tuition for the current academic year.

In addition, all universities were asked to offer extensions to students due to pay for the next period of study.

In the meantime, the government has also approved the provision of additional funds this year for domestic higher education institutions to enable them to increase the number of state-funded places.

This is among a package of measures backed by Putin and aimed at supporting Russian citizens who are suffering from the negative economic impact of the pandemic.

Putin said: “We have already proposed to increase the number of state-funded places at domestic universities, although the introduction of such measures was initially planned to start from 2021.

“As part of these plans, particular attention will be paid to the establishment of such places in those areas that have crucial importance for the development of the national economy, as well as the social sphere. The majority of these places will be established at regional universities.”

Dmitry Afanasiev, Russia’s deputy minister of science and higher education, confirmed that up to 30,000 such additional state-funded places would be created at domestic universities this year.

Finally, the government is also planning to simplify entrance exams for foreigners this year, with the aim of attracting more talented foreign young people to domestic universities. This has drawn support from representatives of leading higher education institutions in Russia.

Viktor Sadovnichy, rector of Moscow State University, said: “Our task is to double the number of foreign students and, for this purpose, we propose to strengthen information activities of our universities.”

He said in the case of foreign applicants to universities, it would be reasonable to use the portfolios of achievement during their enrolment, for instance including their performance in various academic competitions.

He said there was a need to reduce the number of entrance exams and speed up the admissions process.

In the meantime, Falkov has hailed the continuing development of Russian universities, which he said is reflected in improvements in the quality of education they offer.

He said the government expects the appearance of a group of domestic universities that will be able to compete with the world’s best universities within the next 10 to 15 years.

The government has been given encouragement by Russian universities’ performance in the QS World University Rankings 2021, released on 10 June. Lomonosov Moscow State University reached an all-time high at 74th, and all of Russia’s 14 highest-ranked universities improved their positions.

Ben Sowter, QS director of research, said this year’s edition of the QS rankings shows that “Russia is one of contemporary higher education’s success stories, with its top universities boasting small class sizes and increasing global reputation.”