Over 7 mln students to study at RF universities in new year

MOSCOW, September 1 (Itar-Tass) — More than 7 million students, which is 500 thousand less than in 2010, will be studying in Russian universities in the new academic year, Russian Deputy Minister of Education Maxim Dulinov said at a briefing on Wednesday.

According to him, “a certain reduction in the number of students in higher educational establishments is caused by demographic decline.”

Dulinov added on September 1 a total of about 1,000 universities, including 482 non-governmental ones, will receive students.

In addition, more than 2 million people will attend technical schools and colleges the number of which in the country is over 2.5 thousand.

According to a 2005 UNESCO report, more than half of the Russian adult population has attained a tertiary education, which is twice as high as the OECD average. As of the 2007–2008 academic year, Russia had 8.1 million students enrolled in all forms of tertiary education (including military and police institutions and postgraduate studies). Foreign students accounted for 5.2 percent of enrolment, half of whom were from other CIS countries; 6.2 million students were enrolled in 658 state-owned and 450 private civilian university-level institutions licensed by the Ministry of Education; total faculty reached 625 thousands in 2005.

The number of state-owned institutions was rising steadily from 514 in 1990 to 655 in 2002 and remains nearly constant since 2002. The number of private institutions, first reported as 193 in 1995, continues to rise. Andrei Fursenko, Minister of Education, is campaigning for a reduction in number of institutions to weed out diploma mills and substandard colleges; in April 2008 his stance was approved by president Dmitry Medvedev: “This amount, around a thousand universities and two thousands spinoffs, does not exist anywhere else in the world; it may be over the top even for China … consequences are clear: devaluation of education standard.” Even supporters of the reduction like Yevgeny Yasin admit that the move will strengthen consolidation of academia in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Novosibirsk and devastate the provinces, leaving the federal subjects of Russia without colleges for training local school teachers.

The trend for consolidation began in 2006 when state universities and colleges of Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog and other southern towns were merged into Southern Federal University, based in Rostov-on-Don; a similar conglomerate was formed in Krasnoyarsk as Siberian Federal University; the third one is likely to emerge in Vladivostok as Far Eastern Federal University. Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University acquired the federal university status in 2007 without further organisational changes.

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