Russia has announced a new international recruitment programme that is designed to dramatically expand foreign enrolment in the country’s higher education institutions. Under the Ministry of Education and Science’s “Development of the export potential of the Russian education system” programme, approved an executive council of the government on 30 May 2017, Russia wants to build its international enrolment from just under 220,000 students today to nearly 310,000 by 2020 (a 40% increase). The programme also sets a long-term strategy to build Russia’s foreign student base to 710,000 students by 2025.
This is, to say the least, an ambitious strategy, and one that builds on recent forecasts by Gulnara Krasnova, lead researcher at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration‘s Institute of Applied Economic Research (RANEPA).
Dr Krasnova points out that the population of foreign students at Russian universities has grown by an average annual rate of 9% since 2003. If that average growth holds through 2029/30, Russia’s international enrolment would rise to roughly 670,000 students.
The newly announced strategy clearly relies on even more aggressive annual growth rates. With implementation underway as of May 2017, the programme will initially be rolled out to group of 20 leading Russian institutions, and then to all universities in the country by 2021. Its major components include:
Strengthened support services for international students
Expanded English-medium degree programmes
An increasing range of joint programmes, pathway options, summer programmes, and online programmes
On this last point, there are roughly 100,000 foreign students enrolled in distance and online learning programmes with Russian institutions currently, and these numbers are also forecast to increase sharply through 2025.
The Russian news agency TASS reported on 23 June that the Science and Education Ministry has brought forward new legislation to ease visa regulations for visiting students. Under the current rules, foreign students can only apply for an initial three-month visa on beginning their programmes in Russia, and are then required to go through regular one-year renewals during their studies. However, under the proposed legislation the maximum term for study visas would be extended to three years.
In a recent summary, Russia hardly figured at all among the world’s leading study destinations in 2001. However, in the following 15 years it has gone on to earn a significant market share. As of 2016, Russia was the destination of choice for 6% of the world’s internationally mobile students – making it the 8th-largest host of foreign students after the US, UK, Australia, China, Canada, Germany, and France.
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