Main trends in the government’s policy on internationalization

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Политология и государственное регулирование

Main trends in the governments policy on internationalization Internationalization of higher education is a reality. The Russian higher educational institutions have at their disposal much less funds than universities in the developed co...



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Main trends in the government’s policy on internationalization 

Internationalization of higher education is a reality. The Russian higher educational institutions have at their disposal much less funds than universities in the developed countries. Can they compete with the best universities in the world and provide high quality education on a permanent basis? This problem is a serious challenge to the Russian education community and a number of problems should be solved, e.g.:

  •  How to achieve sufficient and permanent financing of universities and to ensure effective use of funds;
  •  How to ensure autonomy and professionalism in educational and managing issues;
  •  How to ensure equity of higher education;
  •  How to direct sufficient amount of resources to support high quality of education and to create conditions that will allow universities to maintain this quality;
  •  What is necessary for universities to better satisfy local and regional needs;
  •  How to ensure closer cooperation between universities, business and enterprises to improve distribution and application of new knowledge in economy and in society as a whole.

   Achievement of these objectives is impossible without cooperation with other countries and in the first place with European states. Therefore there is another issue linked to this of how to effectively assure the integration of the Russian higher school into the European higher education area, launched by the Bologna Declaration, as well as into the European research space, what is the role of university in this process, which strategies of universities are the most effective?

Russia joined the process of forming common higher education area four years later after the Bologna Declaration was signed. The Bologna process seems to be considered by the majority of higher education representatives as the reform agenda one should work with. Having signed the Declaration, the Ministry of Education made explicit its commitment to the aims of integration to the All-European higher education space:

  •  introduction of two-tier system of education,
  •  creation of a credit system similar to the European Credit Transfer System as a means of raising mobility of students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff of universities,
  •  adoption of the common framework approach to qualification of the Bachelor and Master levels, provision of “comparability” of diplomas, separate courses, credits,
  •  creation of an integral system of education quality assurance and organization of information support and exchange,
  •  increase of mobility of students, teachers and researchers,
  •  development of cooperation in quality assurance with a view to develop comparable criteria and methodologies.

Check your comprehension

~ What does the integration to the All-European higher education space mean?

Globalisation has slowly but surely started to affect even conservative university systems in Europe, both Western and East, and now Russia. A concern to have universities that are able to compete with any in the world has been an explicit driver of higher education policy and change in such countries as France, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The potential for student mobility across the globe is increasing exponentially; foreign students have become a lucrative market, in particular for universities with English language as media. Students from China, India and other Asian and East European and former Soviet Union countries already bring a considerable income to British universities. “Educational fairs” are becoming an essential tool for marketing higher education studies and other learning opportunities by many universities.

Russia educates some 100,000 foreign students a year and its share of the international market in terms of foreign students is 5% at most. Its annual returns from this are $150-$200 million, a mere 0.5% of the global market for education services. Of the above 100,000 foreigners, 70,000 pay for their education and the rest study on federal grants. Russia mostly trains students from China, India, South Korea, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Baltic countries, as well as young Russians who live permanently in Europe. All of them are eager to get a Russian education, primarily in natural sciences, where Russia’s traditions of education have long enjoyed the status of a quality brand. Russian physicists, chemists, biologists and some medical specialists easily find well-paid employment abroad. This is also true of software and programming specialists, especially since the leading Russian universities have launched tuition in information technologies. Inevitably, the countries that have traditionally sent students to Russia, in particular China and India, have found their own bearings in the world education system. Chinese and Indian young people now prefer to study in the United States, although a year of tuition would cost them $2,000-$5,000 in Russia, $15,000-$25,000 in the US, and $12,000-$20,000 in the UK.

 Fundamental education is the main asset of Russia. It must maintain its high standards if it wants to promote education exports in conditions of tough competition. Five years in a Russian university are enough to study a speciality thoroughly and become an expert in the chosen field (medics, physicists and members of some other professions study longer). A bachelor’s degree abroad does not provide such a scope. Russia joined the Bologna process of harmonising European higher education degree systems in 2003 and since then has been adjusting its education to the Western Bachelor/Master system. The rectors of many Russian universities are deeply worried that this might erode the Russian system of fundamental education and hence its competitiveness. Adjusting a five-year tuition programme to four years (for a bachelor’s degree) means simplifying it or even excluding several major subjects. The purpose of education to a bachelor degree is not to train a specialist but to provide a general education in a subject, which the student may wish to improve by studying two more years for a master’s degree. Russia started experimenting with two-level education in the early 1990s. The innovator was the Department of Economics of Moscow State University

Experts say that Russia should introduce the “four plus two” system more extensively because it needs specialists as soon as possible and wants Russian degrees to be recognised abroad. The conversion to the Bachelor/Master system might prove difficult, but Russia badly needs to modernise the education system and adjust it to the requirements of potential clients. Russia is only now introducing one new technology to the university system – distance education. Free access to the internet is still a luxury for many universities that do not have enough computers. The IT branches of Russian universities abroad (both Moscow-based and regional universities which are opening them now) have not taken a firm stand on the market. Expansion is a task to be tackled in the future.

Check your comprehension

~ What made developed European countries develop and change their higher education policy?

~ In which sciences does Russia have internationally-recognised reputation for training specialists?

~ In which directions of higher education does Russia leg behind many other countries?

The market of education services in the CIS is easily accessible for Russia. While Western universities are only exploring options for cooperation with Russian universities, exporting Russian higher education to the CIS has become a viable business opportunity.

80 Since 1992, Russia has signed 14 multilateral agreements and cooperation programs in the CIS on nearly all educational aspects. They include adult education, exchange of information in the sphere of education, training specialists in radiation safety, procedures for the establishment and operation of branches of universities, the coordination of licensing and certification of schools, and mutual recognition of degrees. In 2003, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science approved the admission rules to Russian State universities, which stipulate social assistance to the citizens of the former Soviet Union who have problems with access to higher education. The Russian government instructed Russian universities to admit citizens of the CIS countries on the same conditions as Russians. In 2004, about 60,000 students from 14 CIS and Baltic countries were enrolled in Russian universities within scholarship quotas and international agreements (24,000 received scholarships from the Russian federal budget). The number of state scholarships for foreign students admitted within specified quotas grows every year. A special admissions commission analyzes documents for the selection of future students, including those within the quotas of public organizations (based on the recommendations sent to Russian foreign offices in the CIS and Baltic countries).

According to the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, foreign students prefer to get engineering and medical degrees at the universities of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other schools of the European part of Russia. They get degrees in humanities mostly in regional universities, while future managers and economists train in Moscow schools. Under the concept of creating a common educational space within the CIS, Moscow State University has the most important school for training professionals in basic natural sciences, while St. Petersburg University has a better reputation for social studies, economics and humanities. Moscow State Linguistic University is the best-known school for languages and cultural education in the CIS. The citizens of the CIS and other former Soviet states can seek admission to Russia’s most prestigious school, Moscow State University (MGU). All applicants who pass the examinations and stringent entrance criteria are admitted on the same conditions as Russians. Naturally, young people from the CIS countries can also be admitted to the University on a par with foreign students and pay for the education. Similar schemes are practised by other higher educational establishments.

Russia has allocated over 250 million roubles for promotion of Russian language studies abroad. The programme stipulated the establishment of distance education courses and educational radio and television programmes in the Russian language, and the promotion of Russian-language programmes on the Internet. Eventually, this will expand the range of educational services offered to CIS citizens and facilitate the export of Russian education. The Internet programme includes 100 lessons in the Russian language, the history of Russia, biology, ecology and visual arts for distance students. There is a Russian language Internet portal for subscribers from the CIS.

The core of distance education in Russia and the four member states has been established at the Slavic universities. There is a system of advanced distance training for the teaching staff of Russian-language schools and universities. They participate in Internet forums to exchange experience and information about training sessions and teaching aids. Experts say that these informal Internet discussions are a crucial element in the progress of distance learning. Russian language radio quizzes, competitions and programs will be held in the CIS, and the operation of Russian-language distance education centres at the CIS universities will be promoted. Plans also include many educational and scientific seminars and conferences on the Russian language and on teaching it in the CIS, competitions, festivals, and educational and book fairs. There are student exchange programs with 30 states, including Estonia, Latvia and Belarus.

Check your comprehension

~ How does the concept of creating a common educational space within the CIS work?

~ What does Russia do to promote the Russian language in CIS?



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