Where Russian Universities Get Foreigners From

Sergei Porter / Vedomosti

The government 5-100 Project has launched the Study in Russia website to attract students to Russian universities. The project, intended to improve the competitiveness of domestic universities, is aimed at foreign students and their parents.

Russian universities have always had a vested interest in foreign students. In Soviet times there were ideological reasons, and now that interest is more practical. Internationalization is one of the most important indicators in universities' international rankings. Universities themselves understand this, as does the Science and Education Ministry, which paid for the education of 15,000 foreign citizens in Russia in 2013 and is sparing no expense to bring them to the country. To pull in students from abroad, there are special websites. One of them was only recently launched.

Websites for foreigners

The government 5-100 Project launched the Study in Russia website ( in March 2016 to attract students to Russian universities. The project, intended to improve the competitiveness of domestic universities, is aimed at foreign students and their parents.

The Project 5-100 press service told Vedomosti that the new resource is a point of reference describing more than 2800 programs of higher and postgraduate education, a search engine for training programs and a source of step-by-step directions in infographic form for admission to the Russian institutions of higher education. The website has a list of required documents and information on quotas for free education, competitions and events in the field of education. Among other things, there are stories about Russian universities told by foreigners who studied there. So far, it is in three languages: Russian, English and Chinese.

A competition for the development of a site for international students was announced in 2015, according to the press service. Four applications were submitted. One was chosen, and received a contract for 3.3 million rubles (about $50,000).

"Internationalization, including attracting the best students from other countries, is an important area of development of the Russian universities participating in Project 5-100, said Alexander Povalko, Deputy Russian Science and Education Minister.

The Education Ministry has a similar resource in 16 languages at Official news and regulations on entering universities form the basis of the website.

Russian universities speak English

The Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) has about 2000 foreign students from 35 countries, while a year ago there were about 1500, said the press service. The majority of them (approximately 70%) are citizens of the People's Republic of China. Many students also come from the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific countries, as well as CIS countries. In 2014, the Far Eastern Federal University received students from Laos, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Tanzania, India, Serbia, Egypt and Indonesia for the first time.

English-language courses have been introduced for foreign students. Of the English-language Master's programs in the Far Eastern Federal University, the most popular program is Russia in the Asia-Pacific: Politics, Economics and Security in the International Relations section. Many students are also enrolled in an undergraduate program in Russian and Chinese implemented in cooperation with Heilongjiang University of Science and Technology of China on construction. The school of biomedicine's medical program is also popular, as is Russian philology, economics, educational programs, journalism and oil and gas business.

In the past five years, about 2000 foreign students from the CIS and farther abroad (China, Japan, Korea, the UK and other countries) were trained at Novosibirsk State University, according to its press service. There are students from the CIS in all university departments. Other foreign students study in special Master's (postgraduate) programs. In addition, there are now six English-language training programs at the university.

Kazan (Volga) Federal University enrolled citizens of 90 countries in 2106. Most of them came from neighboring Uzbekistan (372 students), Kazakhstan (208) and Tajikistan (206). Most of the students from farther abroad came from China (248). There are many students from Arab countries. Most of the foreign students are enrolled in humanities, such as philology, management and international relations. However, in the last year, medical specialties, such as general medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, have seen an increase in demand and popularity, the press service of the university said. This is connected with the fact that these subjects are now taught in English.

Who's already here

According to Rosstat, the Russian state statistics service, most (79%) visiting undergraduates, graduates and students in special courses in Russian educational institutions are from CIS countries, the Baltic states or Georgia. Their number has risen 12.3% over the year to 175,500 people. Students from Asia (not counting the CIS) are in second place. There are 11.2% more of them now — 31,700 people. In third place are students from Africa, up 19% for the year up to 9400.

The number of students from Europe has increased by 5.9% (1800 people). Central and South Americans are up 8.3% (1300 people). Students from the US and Canada account for the smallest number of foreigners — about 200 people (that number is virtually unchanged). According to Rosstat, in the last year, after rising for three years of growth, the number of persons without citizenship has fallen sharply — by 55% to 4500 people.

According to Irina Abankina, director of the Institute for Educational Development at State Research University Higher School of Economics, a Russian professional education is still highly prized abroad. Even if there are sometimes problems with the recognition of diplomas granted in Russia, specialists easily confirm their qualifications by local standards. That is why, in her opinion, there are so many Russian-educated professionals, not only in the former Soviet Union, but also in Iran, Iraq, Asia and Africa.