Russian universities rapidly losing cooperation with West

Russian universities are rapidly losing academic contacts with their Western partners as the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine and unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia make further cooperation almost impossible.

As of now, many higher education institutions, primarily those from the European Union and the United Kingdom have already temporarily frozen their traditional contacts with Russian partners until the situation is resolved.

In addition, many universities have faced an exodus of foreign students and visiting professors.

Refocusing on Asia

The situation is forcing Russian universities to change their vectors of academic cooperation, paying particular attention to expanding cooperation with universities from the post-Soviet space, as well as those from India and China.

According to Andrey Rudskoy, head of Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University, while scientific cooperation between Russian and Western universities has been developed over decades, in recent months it has been almost completely destroyed.

Rudskoy said that prior to 24 February 2022, the university had more than 200 ties with foreign universities, but now many have been halted.

He told University World News: “The universities of Hanover and Berlin are no longer working with us – the Germans are actively refusing to cooperate. We are awaiting the response from our other foreign partners.”

In the meantime, other Russian universities have found themselves in a similar situation.

An official spokesman of the Herzen State Pedagogical University in St Petersburg told the Russian Kommersant business paper that the university in Krakow in Poland, the University of Freiburg in Germany and the international university consortium ‘University of the Arctic’ have announced a temporary suspension of cooperation with them.

However, the university had received letters from a number of other universities confirming their readiness to continue cooperation and academic exchanges.

In the meantime, a spokesman of the press service of the Perm State National Research University, said European and UK partners of the university have taken a break from student internships and programmes with them.

According to the spokesman, the University of Oxford in the UK announced the suspension of preparations for the summer school, referring to the recommendations of the British Foreign Office and expressing hope for continued cooperation in the future.

In the meantime, the continuing deterioration of relations with the West is forcing many leading Russian universities to shift their activities and attention in the direction of Asia. As part of these plans, they are looking for ways to expand cooperation with universities from the Asia-Pacific states, but also the Middle East region.

For example, representatives of the Russian Lobachevsky University have recently confirmed they are working on new educational projects with partners in India, Kazakhstan, China, Uzbekistan and other countries.

In addition, according to interviewed representatives of other universities, attention will be paid to strengthening cooperation with higher education institutions in Africa and Latin America.

A spokesman of the Russian University of Transport has confirmed that it received some new proposals from China for the implementation of joint projects and is currently continuing talks regarding the planned cooperation.

Representatives of the Voronezh State Technical University said cooperation with higher education institutions from Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and China “has been maintained in full, and for some programmes it will only expand”.

Exodus of foreign students

Meanwhile, in addition to the termination of inter-university cooperation, in recent weeks many Russian universities have faced a mass exodus of foreign students, as well as visiting professors, many of whom are leaving Russia due to current events.

According to representatives of Russian universities, as of now many invited teachers primarily from European nations such as Belgium, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France have been forced to return to their homelands on the recommendation of their embassies.

In addition, many foreign students studying in Russian universities, both on exchange programmes and main programmes, are leaving Russia for the same reasons.