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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Competition Is Fierce for Coveted Spots in Universities

A surge in applications this year to Moscow State University and other institutes of higher education has reversed a steady decline in recent years and made the competition for places much tougher, education officials say.

"This year, Moscow university received more applications than we had expected," said Vitaly Tishchenko, deputy head of the central applications commission at the Moscow State University. It seems that the steady decline in the number of applications has stopped and reversed, he added.

At least 10,000 young people are currently taking tests at the university's 20 faculties, Tishchenko said, adding that only about 3,400 of them will be admitted.

The competition goes as high as 14 applicants for one spot at the foreign languages faculty, Tishchenko said. The law and psychology faculties are also very popular with eight students competing for every place. The least attractive are the natural sciences faculties such as biology or soil studies, since they promise low-paid employment in the future, he added.

"I have a pretty good chance of getting in," said Yekaterina Akimushkina, 17. She was beaming after her English exam for the Asian and African studies faculty Wednesday.

Akimushkina said she had already passed the literature essay and oral Russian tests, while the final history exam Monday would decide who had collected enough points to enroll. By Wednesday, competition for the faculty's 90 places had fallen from 4.2 to about 2.5 people for each one, she said.

"I am extremely worried because my son got average grades for the two previous tests," said Nelli Ryseva who was waiting anxiously for her son Roman to complete his German test at the faculty. "If he fails this year, we will try again in 1995."

"We hold our exams earlier than other institutes on purpose," said Tishchenko. "This way the unlucky applicants can still try out at some other institute." He added that many other higher-education establishments accepted the results of university tests while having lower standards themselves.

Roman Rysev only turned 17 two days ago, so he will have time for another attempt before he turns 18 and thus becomes eligible for the 18-month military service draft. For many boys nearing their 18th birthday, entering higher education is the only way to escape the dread patriotic duty. Since most institutes have so-called "military departments," male students are considered to have automatically completed their service by the time they graduate.

"I would say most of our students joined the institute to avoid the army," said an official at the Moscow Aircraft Engineering Institute. She added that the majority of the students there happened to be male.

With current student stipends of 16,000 to 100,000 rubles ($7.90 to $49.50) a month, life in Moscow has proved a tough experience for those whose families are miles away, he said.

Today, over half the applicants for the country's best and largest school are native Muscovites, while the remainder are mostly Moscow district residents commuting here daily.