Studying in Russia
There are two levels of higher education in Russia: non-university and university-level. Non-university level qualifications are programmes that don't lead to academic degrees. You will therefore need to complete a university-level qualification if you want something at masters or doctoral level.
There are around 590 state university-level institutions in Russia. Universities offer higher, postgraduate and continuing education and are subdivided into the categories of:
- humanities and sciences;
These focus on natural and social sciences and the humanities.
There are also numerous academies and these focus on the areas of science, technology and culture. In addition, there are municipal establishments, which are run by local and regional authorities and non-state institutes run by private, public and religious organisations. The amount of private institutions is growing and they tend to focus on law, finance and management subjects.
A database of Russian institutions is available at Education in Russia.
What courses can you study?
There are various levels of higher education qualifications in Russia which have similarities to those in the UK.
The first degree is the four-year Bakalavr (bachelors) degree. The Bakalavr degree is awarded in all fields except medicine, which takes six years.
Following this, there is the specialist diploma and Magistr degree. These are of a comparable level to the masters degree. The specialist diploma is often more vocational and is based in areas such as engineering and teaching. The Magistr is more research based and takes two years to complete. You must defend a dissertation or thesis and pass the state final exams.
There has been a growth in vocationally orientated postgraduate courses, including MBAs. Many of these have links with Western institutions. Russian graduates are also keen to engage in postgraduate study abroad, particularly in business-related courses. It is fairly unusual for Western graduates to enter postgraduate study in Russia.
How do you apply for postgraduate study?
Admission onto postgraduate courses in Russian institutions is very competitive. The selection process is made up of entrance exams, interviews and submitting acceptable academic certificates.
Application processes and requirements vary depending on the course and institution so you should contact your preferred ones directly for details.
In general, you need a bachelors level qualification for admission to a Magistr degree. If the Magistr degree you're applying for is in a different subject to your first degree, you may be required to pass an additional test in that subject area to show your level of understanding and knowledge.
Although some institutions offer courses taught in English, most provide courses in Russian and require international students to be able to speak a high standard of the language. Foreign students must attend a Russian language course and pass the final exams to be allowed admission.
Applications are usually made directly to the institutions. Deadlines vary so you must contact the foreign officer at the university to which you wish to apply.
The final application will include proof of previous qualifications and grades (preferably translated into Russian). Foreign students must also submit a medical certificate that indicates a good state of health.
Fees and scholarships
Russian citizens are offered courses which are free of charge but foreign students must pay fees. These vary depending on the course and institution so it's important to research this carefully and contact any institution you're interested in before applying.
Russian institutions have a statutory obligation to provide accommodation for students, and so the price of halls of residence is often included in tuition fees.
There are a number of state scholarships available to foreign students each year. A state scholarship covers all education-related expenditure including tuition fees, halls of residence rent and medical care. Further conditions for applying for a state scholarship are available from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.
Are there any exchange programmes?
There are few exchange programmes between UK and Russian universities, and no Erasmus schemes or similar. Most exchange programmes are arranged through UK universities for degree-level language students only. If you're studying Russian, contact your tutors or international office to find out about any exchange programmes.
Will your qualifications be recognised in the UK?
Check with the university or higher education institution where you are hoping to study to see if their qualification is recognised or has an equivalent in the UK.
Do you need a visa to study in Russia?
All foreign students need to have a visa to study in Russia. The type of visa required will depend on the length of your course and the educational institution should help with the application. They will need to supply you with an invitation to study at the university for you to use in your visa application. Make sure you speak to the foreign officer at your institution to get hold of this as soon as possible so that your visa isn't delayed.
Student visas are typically granted for 90 days but can be extended depending on the length of your study. You are not permitted to work in Russia on a student visa.
If your stay in Russia is to be longer than seven days, you must register with the local office of the Russian Federal Migration Service within seven working days of your arrival. If you're in the UK, contact the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the UK for more information.
AGCAS editors, October 2014