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Studying in Russia: How Is Higher Education System Different?

Thinking about acquiring education in Russia? Though this country has never been a very popular destination for international students, times change. Today, studying in this country is an opportunity to get high-quality education for free or at a very affordable price.

But, what should one be prepared for when applying? There are a number of factors that make the Russian higher education system different from the US or European ones, and we’re here to tell you more!

Moscow State University, Russia

Language of Instruction

Officially, the language of instruction in the country’s universities is Russian. This fact can turn into a significant stumbling point for international students.

Although many schools offer preparatory language courses to help international students acquire the skills they need to study in Russian, we have to say that this language can be extremely hard to learn. So, if you still decide to test your luck, be ready that you will need some extra help from a professional online essay writing service in order to keep your grades high.

One more thing we have to note is that it is possible to find English-taught programs in Russia. But, there are not too many of those. And, the majority of English-taught programs are available starting from the MA level.

Student Demographics

According to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, there were close to 4 million students in Russian higher education facilities at the end of 2020. And, according to the Institute of International Education (IEE), the number of international students in the same year was 353,331. This is not a large share of the total number of students, especially if you compare it to the indicators of some well-known American and European universities that host a huge number of international students. However, the Russian education system has been pretty actively developing lately to invite more international students.

Higher Education System in Russia

Basically, in every higher education facility, an academic year is divided into two semesters. The first semester traditionally begins on September 1st and goes on to January 25th. Then students have their winter break. After the break, the second semester begins, and students come back on February 9th and continue studying till June 30th. All in all, the academic year lasts for ten months.

What about the finals? In the last month of every semester (i.e., in January and June), students have to take their term exams on the specific subjects they picked for their curriculum.

Now, let’s look closer at the system in general.

Types of Institutions

There are three types of higher education facilities in Russia:

  1. Universities. This type of institution provides training programs for students of all levels, including graduate, postgraduate, and continuing education.
  2. Academies. Another type of education facility also offers a wide range of programs for different academic levels. However, unlike universities, academies make a larger focus on developing students’ practical skills in a specific field (e.g., architecture, music, art, etc.) instead of just providing them with knowledge.
  3. Institutes. Finally, there are independent higher education facilities that are typically branches of larger universities or academies. Institutes offer professional education courses on a variety of disciplines.

Types of Degrees

Let us give you a quick overview of the different degree types that can be pursued in Russian universities:

  • Bachelor’s or Specialist’s degree. The two lowest higher education degrees are Bachelor’s or Specialist’s degree. These can be pursued right upon completion of your secondary education. Typically, a Bachelor’s degree takes 4 years to complete, whereas a Specialist’s degree will take a minimum of 5 years to obtain. The core difference between these two types of degrees is that Bachelor’s provides general education, while a Specialist’s degree is more focused on practical experience. Both degrees qualify you to pursue an MA degree later.
  • Master’s degree. The next step after a Specialist’s or Bachelor’s degree is a Master’s course. Typically, the duration of this course is two years, one of which is fully dedicated to practice, research, and preparation of a master’s thesis.
  • Ph.D. and Doctoral. After graduating from a Master’s program, students can continue their studies by acquiring a Ph.D. degree and then the final Doctoral degree, which is the highest you can get.

Grading System

A significant difference between education in Russia and the US is a different grading system. Unlike habitual A through F letter grades that are used to evaluate students’ progress in American schools and colleges, higher education facilities in Russia use a five-point grading scale.

This grading system in Russian universities has been officially established since the middle of the nineteenth century. The scale is used to evaluate students’ work.

Basically, the five-point scale can be interpreted the following way:

Grade In WES Grading Scale Interpretation
5 A Excellent
4 B Good
3 C Satisfactory
2 F Unsatisfactory
1 F Unsatisfactory

Please note that in the Russian grading system, there are two grades that are considered unsatisfactory. Instead of a D grade, which is generally assumed to be passable, there are grades 1 and 2, which are basically the equivalents of an F grade. Receiving either 1 or 2 means that you didn’t pass. When students graduate, they only get grades from excellent to satisfactory in their college transcripts. Respectively, if you score any of the two lowest grades for a specific subject, you won’t be able to graduate.

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