Russian education system: trends, dimensions, quality assurance

Key transformations: historical overview

As is well-known, the United Nations Organization declared 2005-2014 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

The global goal of this initiative is to attain such a level of education that could meet the crucial chal­lenges of the current century.

Therefore, new content, new quality, and a new level of cooperation are attributes of education in the XXI century.

The governments of many countries initiated reformation of their national educational systems. Russia is no exception. Substantial transformations are going on in this country as well. The following is a retrospective list of some significant events which have become core landmarks for renovations of the Russian educational system.

2003—the Russian Federation officially joined the Bologna process.
The objective was Russia’s integration and partic­ipation in the processes of establishing and harmo­nization of the common European Education Area. As a result:

  • Russia’s higher education adopted a multi-level education system: bachelor’s and master’s pro­grams (getting education in some disciplines, for example, in Engineering and Medicine, takes up five years and corresponds to a separate level—a spe­cialist’s program);
  • the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS) was implemented;
  • a Diploma Supplement compatible with a com­mon-European Official Transcript is granted upon successful graduation;
  • the system of foreign academic certificates rec­ognition in the RF and Russian academic certificates recognition in foreign countries, members of the Bologna Declaration, was established;
  • comparable methodologies and assessment crite­ria were developed and are in effect now, which makes it possible to perform public professional assessment of Russian study programs on the international level;
  • by 2020 nearly 100% of higher education insti­tutions will meet the core requirements of the Bologna process. This final indicator of the Bologna process implementation in Russia was defined in the Federal Targeted Program for 2016-2020.

FACT The Russian Federation today:

As is well-known, the United Nations Organization declared 2005-2014 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

  • occupies the ninth position among 223 countries of the total population (146 million people);
  • belongs to the countries with a high level of the Human Development Index (the fiftieth position among 188 countries);
  • belongs to the countries with the maximum values of the Gross Enrollment Ratio in the age of 5-18 (98.7% in 2012, the expected level in 2020 is 99.4%);
  • occupies the 43rd position in the Global Innovation Index ranking among 128 coun­tries. In comparison with 2012, the country has moved eight positions up in this ranking;
  • according to experts' assessment, Russia's upward trend in the Global Innovation Index ranking was substantially impacted by its tra­ditionally high ranking positions in a number of indicators (sub-indexes) reflecting the qual­ity of human capital assets, predominantly: Education (the 27th position among 128 coun­tries), Higher Education (the 23rd position), Research and Development (the 25th position), Knowledge Creation (the 21st position).

2006—the National Priority Project Education was initiated in Russia. The project aimed at per­forming complex modernization of all education levels in order to achieve new quality corresponding to the current societal demands. As a result:

  • the material and technical resources of educa­tional organizations were renewed;
  • the top educational organization development programs competed for governmental support;
  • the mechanism of identifying high-ranking higher education institutions (federal universities) as well as their government support was developed and validated;
  • the experience gained by high-ranking educa­tional organizations is incorporated into practice of educational activity;
  • for two years of the project implementation (2006-2008) the state gained unique manage­rial experience which shaped the contemporary national policy in education.
FACT The National Project Education, the first outcomes:
  • 57 higher educational institutions, 9,000 sec­ondary schools, 340 educational institutions of primary and secondary vocational educa­tion got financial support for implementation of their innovative development programs;
  • 40 thousand best educators and 21 thousand talented young people received monetary awards;
  • over 800 thousand school teachers received an additional monthly payment for classroom management;
  • Russiaʼs educational organizations received about 55 thousand units of new equipment and almost 10 thousand school buses.

2008—the beginning of a gradual implementa­tion of a new generation of the Federal State Education Standards (FSES) based on a com­petency building approach. The objective was to adapt the content of education to the latest personal, economic, societal and state demands. Due to the framework nature of the new generation standards educational organizations gained greater indepen­dence in terms of education content. For instance, while developing bachelor’s programs a higher edu­cation institution is responsible for determining independently up to 50% of courses (modules), and as for master’s programs—up to 70%. As a result:

  • educational organizations obtained a tool for a prompt and flexible response to dynamic demands of the contemporary economy and society;
  • employers gained an opportunity to imme­diately participate in designing curricula and programs. Today the academic community and employers’ associations are actively involved in the development and alignment of professional and educational standards. This work is coordinated by the Presidential National Council for Professional Qualifications, which was established in 2014. Among other tasks the Council should facilitate the international cooperation in developing national systems of professional qualifications;
  • incorporation of the new generation of the Federal State Educational Standards along with other measures assured the achievement of new learning outcomes, continuity of education levels, practical implementation of the Bologna process requirements including the development of the “lifelong learning” model (LLL).

2012—the new Federal Law “On Education in the Russian Federation” was enacted. The objec­tive was to establish a legal environment adequate of the national educational system. As a result:

  • the constitutional right of each citizen of the RF for education was confirmed once again;
  • the state guaranteed an availability and a free-of-charge basis of general education and secondary vocational education as well as an opportunity to get free higher education on a competition basis;
  • citizens’ right for a distance, electronic, net­work or family learning was legislated for the first time ever;
  • the RF indicated its interest in improving inter­national cooperation in education, including the development of academic and student mobility, implementation of joint educational programs, car­rying out joint research, etc.;
  • the excessive type segmentation of educational organizations was eliminated and a new structure of higher education was formed;
  • the RF’s education level system was adapted to the requirements of the Bologna Declaration and the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED).

Education Levels in the Russian Federation:

  1. pre-school education (ISCED 0);
  2. primary general education (ISCED 1);
  3. basic general education (ISCED 2);
  4. secondary general education (ISCED 3);
  5. secondary vocational education: craftsman and skilled worker training (ISCED 4) / mid-ranking spe­cialist training (ISCED 5);
  6. higher education: Bachelor (ISCED 6);
  7. higher education: Master (or a five-year Higher Education Specialist) (ISCED 7);
  8. higher education: academic and teaching staff training, clinical residency, assistantship-intern­ship (ISCED 8).


Changes in the course: some examples

One of the key objectives of the initiated reforms is improving the quality of the Russian educational system. Is it a tangible objective? Definitely, yes. Here are some examples of a positive development of school and vocational pre-tertiary education.

Thus, according to PISA 2015 results (the Program for International Student Assessment) in By 2020 Russia intends to become one of the 15 top performers of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) as well as to achieve the five top countries in Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

One of the main factors of school education quality improvement is creation of innovative learning environment in 100% of Russian gen­eral education organizations by 2020.   


In 2015 the WSI General Assembly made a deci­sion to hold the WorldSkills Competition-2019 in Kazan, Russia. The results of this WSI Competition will be organized in its Heritage, comprising cases of the best global and Russian skills practices and skilled worker training. WorldSkills Academia Russia will translate the cases into the vocational education system (here).

70 countries, Russia has seen slight improvements in all focus areas.

Particularly, in Science the country moved 5 places up from 37th in 2012 to 32nd in 2015.

In Reading Russia was ranked 26th in 2015, that was 16 places up in comparison with its previous performance in 2012.

In the field of Mathematics Russian students also achieved a significant progress: in 2015 Russia occu­pied the 23rd position in Maths, it was an 11-line better performance than in 2012.

The following example can illustrate the develop­ment and achievements of the vocational education system of the Russian Federation. Therefore, at the end of 2012 Russia joined the international non-commercial movement WorldSkills International (WSI) which today unites 75 countries of the world. In 2014 the Russian national team participated in Euroskills, the largest European skills competition for the title Best of Europe, for the first time and was ranked 11th. However, two years later in 2016 the Russian team became the leader of EuroSkills-2016 competitions and won the first place in the team clas­sification among 28 European countries. The similar improvement was demonstrated by the WorldSkills Russia team in the WorldSkills Competitions.


By 2020 it is planned to develop a new model of a highly competitive national system of voca­tional education meeting the needs of modern economy. As a result, advanced hi-tech indus­tries will employ annually up to 50 thousand graduates from secondary vocational education organizations that train skilled workers accord­ing to the WS standards.

The success like this is predictible. The fact is that Russia began an active upgrading of vocational skills training to comply with the international standards of WorldSkills (WS). This objective is declared to be one of essential national strategies in the area of secondary vocational education. Particularly, within this strategy:

  • by now the TOP-50 list of the most in-demand and prospective jobs and fastest growing occupations is compiled on the federal level. In order to fit in students will undergo training complying with the best world standards and advanced technologies (the list includes, for example, such skills as air drone operators, mecha­tronics, mobile robotics;
  • from 2017 the State Final Certification in voca­tional education organizations will include a demo exam according to the WorldSkills standards in 41 competencies. All the students who have passed the demo exam along with the Diploma of Secondary Vocational Education will be awarded a qualifica­tion recognized by enterprises working according to the WS standards;
  • from 2018 specialized Centers of Excellence accredited according to the WS standards will be functioning in the regions of Russia. By 2020 it is expected that 175 such centers will be established in the country;
  • from 2020 at least 40% of graduates in the TOP- 50 skills should have qualification certificates or medals of excellence according to the WS standards.


Higher education: new architecture

The strategic goal of a new quality level of Russia’s education which would meet challenges and demands of the XXI century is applied to Russian higher education to its full extent. For the past decade, since 2006, the government introduced a number of large-scale changes in the structure of higher education. The core of these changes is the establishment of a modern effective network of Russian leading HEIs which should become the driving force necessary to attain the strategic goal.

Nowadays such a network is well-established. Originally it included 41 higher education institu­tions: ten federal universities, 29 national research universities, and two oldest universities of the country—Lomonosov Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University. The latter two got a special status of unique academic organiza­tions of national significance. In 2010 all the above mentioned educational institutions formed the Association of Leading Universities (for more details refer to here). In 2016 another eleven universities joined this leading HEIs network as they got the status of a key university due to par­ticipation in the contest of the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF. The second stage of the Key University contest takes place in 2017. According to the Ministry, another 19 educational institutions will become key universities.

It should be noted, that most of the leading uni­versities are located in the largest cities of Russia such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and others.

The brief description of the mentioned HEI cat­egories is as follows.

Federal university. The name federal in this case relates to the mission and the location of such universities. The territory of Russia is divided into macro-regions which are called federal districts. Therefore, the strategic mis­sion of a federal university is creation and develop­ment of competitive human resources in the district as well as ensuring its social, economic and tech­nological progress through advanced intellectual, research and educational opportunities, solutions, and cases. Such solutions and practices should be shaped on the ground of close integration of educa­tion, science and employers representing the main industries of a federal district. Becoming such an innovative institutional integrator is the key strate­gic task of a federal university.

Ten federal universities were established in Russia in the period from 2006 to 2016.

The activity of each federal university is condi­tioned by an individual long-term development program which contains target indicators in HEI’s priorities—educational, scientific, or international (integration of Russian education into the inter­national academic area and export of educational services). It is essential that these indicators are mutually related with strategic indicators set in the programs of socioeconomic development of the macroregions—the federal districts. In addition, the development program of each federal univer­sity complies with the priority growth areas in sci­ence, technology and engineering in the Russian Federation and with the key technology list.

The priority and key technology list (approved by the President Decree in 2011 and amended in 2015) defines the main trends in the scientific, technologi­cal, economic development of the country. It frames the long-term benchmarks for Russian higher edu­cation in general and for the leading Russian uni­versities in particular—what human resources will be necessary for the science and research sector and for the national economy within the coming ten to twenty years.

From 2006 to 2014 the scope of research and development in the federal universities increased by six times.

Over a quarter of the total number of interna­tional educators working in Russiaʼs higher edu­cation institutions are employed by twenty-nine national research universities.

National research university. The project focusing on the establishment of a national research university pool started in 2008. The higher education institution nominated for this category (as well as related budget fund­ing), similar to a federal university, should gener­ate a strategic program of its development for the period of ten years and defend it in the open contest organized by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. National research uni­versities are selected based on the outcomes of a thorough analysis and the previous development dynamics of the applicant university. The analysis comprises such categories as human resources, an educational and research infrastructure, efficiency of academic and research activities, certificates of international and national recognition as well as the quality, feasibility and expected outcomes of the development program submitted to the contest. Despite the tough selection requirements almost every third state university in Russia applied for participation in the contest procedure. After the two-stage contest held during two years, by May 2010 the Russian network of national research uni­versities had been finally established.

Nowadays the mentioned network includes 29 educational institutions. The mission of a national research university is to a large extend similar to the strategic goals and objectives of a federal university. The difference is in the emphasis put by a federal uni­versity on academic and human resource aspects of the innovative development of Russia’s macroregions, while a national research university plays a specific role in the development of world class high technology, in knowledge creation and in training a new genera­tion of Russian researchers, scientists, and academic staff for higher education. According to this mission every national research university assumes the pro­gram obligations to improve the priority growth areas corresponding to its profile. The comprehensive list of priority growth areas (totally 106 fields) is com­piled with the view of the main objectives of the inno­vative and technological development of the Russian Federation; the priority growth areas are distributed among 29 national research universities.

Key university. Another essential ele­ment of the new up-to-date architecture of Russian higher education is a HEI category which is called key universities (for more details refer to official web-site).

The goal and the main mission of a key univer­sity is to provide human, research and educational resources for the development of Russia's region where it is located through establishing close cooperation with enterprises and businesses in the region, focusing on the region’s research policy, and generating key positive change agents in the region. Another important effect of establishing key univer­sities is the reducing of prospective brain drain from the regions to the large federal centers. This process can be considerably reduced due to creation of mod­ern university environment, new educational and research opportunities provided by the key univer­sities, which will be considered by young talented applicants to be more competitive in comparison with leading capital-city and federal universities.

GOAL The NTI results by 2035:
  • Russia is one of the global leaders in the development of the worldwide industries of a knowledge-driven economy;
  • Russia is in the top 10 exporters of intel­lectual property;
  • Russia is in the top 10 of the Global Innovation Index;
  • Russia has a positive balance of the talents engaged in the field of science, technology and innovations;
  • the average increment rate of the new NTI-economy is 9% per year;
  • Russian companies created ten global technology brands.

The universities are selected to this category on a competitive basis, too. The winners of the contest are defined based on their five-year development program. In addition to this program, the applicant university should meet another eligibility requirement: it has to undergo a reorganization procedure and deliberately merge with some other state educational institutions in the same municipality. According to the program initiators, such a transformation will require integra­tion of all resources of the universities which will lead to the improved efficiency and, consequently, in the advanced quality of education in a newly organized university. At least, such expectations are clearly expressed in the government’s requirements to this new category of universities. So, after the implemeta­tion of a five-year development program a key uni­versity should feature seven headline parameters which comprise the following: at least ten thousand full-time students; at least two billion rubles as a uni­versity’s annual revenue; at least twenty majors or profiles in which the university delivers main study programs; the postgraduate and master student ratio in relation to the total number of students—at least 20%; income from research—at least 150,000 rubles per academic researcher; a number of publications indexed in the international Web of Science and Scopus systems—at least ten and twelve, respectively, per hundred of academic researchers annually.

The first stage of this contest was accomplished in 2016. As a result, eleven educational institutions were granted the status of a key university.

In 2017 the initiator of the contest, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation will hold the second stage—another 19 key universi­ties will be determined. The third stage is planned for 2018.

GOAL Forecast 2022 for key universities:
  • scope of research and development per aca­demic researcher—twice as high as the average in the higher education system;
  • publication activities—3.5 times as high as the average in the higher education system.

Universities as development centers

According to the Global Innovation Index men­tioned above, Russia is ranked 43rd among 128 coun­tries. The crucial trend found out by this annual survey is the positive dynamics of the country’s innovative development: in comparison with 2012 the Russian Federation went eight positions up. The experts of the Global Innovation Index state that this improvement was attained due to convention­ally high rankings of Russia’s education—particu­larly those of higher education and a research sector.

Indeed, one of the major strategic concerns of Russia is the establishment of the up-to-date National Innovation System (NIS). Creation of such a system could ensure the country a rightful place in the globalized, complicated and fast-developing world of the XXI century. In Russia this understand­ing manifests itself in long-term strategic initiatives and programs developed and being implemented on the national level with a focus on consistent struc­turing of the domestic NIS. Undoubtedly, the ulti­mate fulfillment of the nation’s intellectual and cre­ative potential has a great significance for attaining this goal. Higher education as one of the main social institutions engaged in generating and developing human capital assets plays a crucial role in the imple­mentation of these initiatives and programs. Some of them will be discussed further in this chapter.

National technology initiative (NTI). The idea of the NTI was first articulated by the President of Russia in December 2014 in his Address to the Federal Assembly, “On the basis of long-term fore­casting, it is necessary to understand what chal­lenges Russia will face in 10-15 years, which inno­vative solutions will be required in order to ensure national security, quality of life, development of the sectors of the new technological order.” During the past two years the organizational structure for the NTI implementation was established and the opera­tors and key participants were defined. Namely, the federal Ministry of Education and Science was entrusted with coordinating research, educational, and technological, together with the relevant minis­tries, activities within the NTI. In the framework of several large-scale foresight sessions the experts— representatives of the academic community, hi-tech and venture businesses, governmental authorities and professional associations—created roadmaps containing schedules of the NTI implementation. The NTI directions include nine industry-specific Nets of the Market group as well as thirteen fields of the Technologies group. These Nets, inherently representing fundamentally new advanced technol­ogy markets, focus on developing transnational cor­porations of the Russian origin.

The leading Russian universities are expected to become a scientific and techno­logical foundation for the NTI implementa­tion. On the one hand, the universities’ mission is to train highly qualified professionals in the fields demanded by companies participating in the NTI; on the other hand, the universities to a great extent are becoming the main generators and stakehold­ers of technological innovations while the universi­ties spin-offs should be the NTI market leaders and shape new markets (refer to source).


Since 2004 in Russia the number of research­ers under 39 has increased by one third. This trend is more characteristic of higher education: nowadays young researchers make over 60% of Russian university employees.

At present the representatives of the leading higher education institutions, the expert com­munity, and the companies operating the NTI are model, which is believed to be similar to the concept of University 3.0, as well as in determining forms of the implementation of the NTI projects and pro­grams within universities (for more information on the National Technology Initiative refer to here).



Russia’s innovative territorial clus­ters should become the global leaders in their investment prospects. The clus­ters play one of the key roles in creation and upgrading of 25 million high-tech work positions in the country by 2025.

For more information on Russia’s inno­vative territorial clusters and on Russia’s cluster policy refer tohere and here.

Innovative territorial clusters (ITC). Nowadays clusters playing the role of a driving force for the innovative economy and generators of a new tech­nological paradigm are developing in many coun­tries. The main mission of a cluster is to create con­ditions facilitating the fastest and effective transfer of research and development from laboratories to business. The first cluster projects were initiated in Europe in the 1980s. However, the real cluster boost began worldwide in the 2000s. By 2005 about 1.5 thousand clusters operated in the world, while over 60% of them were established within this five-or-six-year period.

Russia generated and accepted the con­cept of the cluster policy in 2008, and since 2012 after the federal contest 26 pilot innovative territorial clusters have emerged in the country as their development programs have been supported by the state (the total number of clusters in the RF is over 125). The characteristic feature of innovative territorial clusters is their location in the regions traditionally featuring intensive research, engineering, and manufacturing activities.

Many prominent Russian research organizations, universities, and manufacturing companies par­ticipate in the ITCs. According to the experts, by the present time each cluster has developed close partnership relations with at least two or three universities. In Russia the interaction between a cluster and a university can be implmented in three ways: 1) delivering study programs in the cluster’s priority fields, aiming at training, retraining and further education of human resources, especially engineers; 2) doing joint applied research with busi­ness companies; 3) shared use of the HEIs’ innova­tive infrastructure. One of the generally determined algorithms for partnerships, that has already proved its efficiency, can be described as follows: the uni­versity (as a source of innovations and projects) –> the venture fund (as a source of investments) –> the innovative territorial cluster (as a user of the end intellectual product).

Strategy—2035. In December 2016 the Strategy of Russia’s Research and Technological Development was officially enacted; it is a long-term plan until 2035. The goal of the Strategy is the establishment of an effective system for growing and extensive utilization of the nation’s intellectual poten­tial. This novel document is the first to formulate the so-called “grand challenges” for future Russia. They can be explained as “a combination of prob­lems, threats and opportunities,” which already in the near-term prospect will demand large-scale institutional solutions. Among the most signifi­cant “grand challenges” are the following: issues of demography, ecology, energy efficiency, food secu­rity and national security, global competitiveness of the Russian Federation. However, the challenge list begins with the crucial for Russia statement—it deals with “depleted possibilities of the economic growth due to extensive use of primary resources.” The only appropriate solution to this and other “grand chal­lenges” is to replace the extensive national develop­ment model with the innovative one, thus making Russia’s research and technological complex a top-priority in the national development.

The research and development sector of higher education, that left behind the other Russian research and development segments (i.e. academic and corporate), should play an essential role in the fulfillment of the mentioned task. Thus, for twenty years, from 1995 to 2014, the number of higher education institutions engaged in R&D increased almost twice—from 395 up to 700. At the same time, the number of university R&D employees increased by one third—from 35.5 thousand up to 44.3 thou­sand people. Moreover, from 2004 to 2014 the Russian universities increased internal expenses on R&D by 28 times—from 2.77 billion rubles up to 77.66 billion rubles. In addition to it, the Russian university R&D sector has another peculiarity—it comprises the majority of young researchers.

The Strategy focuses on the further development of higher education and R&D. Namely, the fol­lowing directions are outlined: transforming some leading Russian HEIs into entrepreneurial universi­ties; delivering educational programs on technol­ogy entrepreneurship; establishing professional management of research and development sectors at universities; delivering special educational pro­grams for university administrators in compliance with international standards; improving the man­agement of university research laboratories through the implementation of advanced and flexible rules (standards, guidelines) regulating their activities; establishing a special register and a special ranking of research universities in the Russian Federation.

Russian universities should become a base for the system of centers of excellence and centers of com­petence. The objective of centers of excellence is to ensure the universities’ top positions in the inter­national rankings, which are compiled by surveying or engineering organizations, as well as in the bib­liometric systems. Centers of competence are sup­posed to ensure availability of advanced technolo­gies for the Russian manufacturing sector and for other research or educational institutions.

Another idea is to establish in Russia innovative territorial clusters on the base of university cam­puses and “innovative districts” in metroplexes for concentrating research and innovative activi­ties. Some experience of the implementation of this idea has been already gained. Nowadays the coun­try develops such projects as innovative centers— Skolkovo, INO Tomsk, Innopolis, and Vorobyovy Gory science and technology valley of Lomonosov Moscow State University.

An ability to generate new knowledge is one of the determining characteristics of a country pur­suing leadership in the XXI century. Russia has an infrastructure relevant for such generation: today 188 shared knowledge centers, 146 unique research units, 16 supercomputer centers operate in the country. The Russian Federation actively partici­pates in a number of breakthrough international research projects, for instance, in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).


The results of the Universities as Centers of Creating Innovation Areas program by 2025

  • over 100 university centers of the regions’ innovative, technological and social development are established in Russia;
  • at least ten leading Russian universities are ranked in the top 100 of the world uni­versity rankings.

For more information on the status and development of the innovative system of the Russian Federation refer to here.

At the same time the Megascience infrastructure is being established in the territory of the Russian Federation. It involves joint international projects such as IGNITOR—construction of an experimen­tal nuclear fusion reactor; PIK—building of a high flux reactor for the International Center of Neutron Characterization; NICA—construction of a proton and heavy ion collider, etc.

The Strategy of Research and Technological Development also focuses on establishing world-class research megaunits in the territory of Russia. The Russian Megascience projects are considered as one of efficient ways both of attracting interna­tional researchers to Russia and of Russia’s inte­gration into the global science. Thus, currently 30 countries participate in the NICA project, the col­lider is expected to be launched in 2020.


In the fall of 2017 the Russian researchers will make first experiments on the European x-ray free electron laser—European XFEL—in Hamburg. Twelve countries participated in designing, con­structing and equipping this Megascience unique research unit, Russia became one of the largest XFEL investors, beside Germany. For more information on Russia’s Strategy of Research and Technological Development refer to here; on Russia’s participation in Megascience and the project initiatives refer to here.

Universities as centers of creating innovation areas. It is the name of a new priority action framework for development in Russian higher education.

The document was approved by the RF Presidential Council on Strategic Development and Priority Projects in the fall of 2016. In fact, the new program continuous the large-scale national project Education as it aims at systematic qualitative changes of Russia’s higher education. The imple­mentation of the project Universities as Centers of Creating Innovation Areas will involve all the leading universities of Russia.

The program is supposed to be implemented in stages during a ten-year period—up to 2025. The milestones for each stage are the quantitative and qualitative changes which should be attained in each program directions by a clearly defined deadline. The overall outcome of this program is the global com­petitiveness of Russian higher education and the development of the national network of innovative university systems—an effective action force of the country’s overall innovative transformations.


The Annual International Conference of the Asia- Pacific Quality Network (APQN) “New Horizons: Dissolving Boundaries for a Quality Region” will take place in Russia for the first time. Representatives of expert and accreditation agencies, educational institu­tions and representatives of the Ministries of Education of the Asia-Pacific countries will participate in the Conference hosted by the National Centre for Public Accreditation in Moscow on May 26-27, 2017.

For more information on the APQN Conference in Moscow refer to web-site.


Quality assurance system

The post-Soviet Russia initiated the establish­ment of the higher education assessment and qual­ity assurance system twenty-five years ago, when the Law on Education of 1992 was enacted. During this period the methodology and criteria of state accreditation of higher education institutions have been elaborated, organizational and legal regula­tions for accreditation procedures have been devel­oped as well as enormous practical experience of state accreditation has been gained.

In 2012 the new Law on Education entered into force in the Russian Federation. According to this Law, the modern higher education assessment and quality assurance system is represented by state accreditation and professional public accreditation.

The objective of state accreditation is the com­pliance of an educational program with the Federal State Education Standards (FSESs). Only such com­pliance entitles educational institutions to award state-recognized degrees. After successful comple­tion of the state accreditation procedure the higher education institution is granted an accreditation certificate which is valid for six years. After this term the HEI is to undergo the relevant accreditation pro­cedures again. A Certificate of State Accreditation of an educational program is an obligatory document to be published by the educational institution on its official website. The executive body authorized to conduct state accreditation of higher education institutions is the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science, a structural division of the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF.

Within the past decade the professional public accreditation system was extensively developing in Russia. In contrast to state accreditation, this procedure is voluntary for higher education institu­tions. Its objective is to reveal significant (advanced) achievements of an educational institution corre­ sponding to the latest trends of the education, sci­ence and manufacturing development in Europe and in the world.

  • In 2015 3,439 educational programs from 554 higher education institutions were recognized as the best, it made 13.62% of the total number of programs.
  • The percentage analysis of educational programs in the leading universities of the country showed that over 20% of the programs delivered by these universities are popular. Students taking these programs have excellent learning performance.
  • According to the specialized Internet survey, the percentage of programs listed in the Best Educational Programs of Innovative Russia in Lomonosov Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University was 22.35%; in federal universities 29.8% and in national research universities 22.56%.

Nowadays Russia faces the growth of organiza­tions conducting public accreditation. First of all, it deals with large employers’ associations which include the relevant accreditation councils. In this case accreditation criteria correspond to employ­ers’ requirements to educational institutions: for example, a practical focus of educational programs, effectiveness of cooperation with partner employ­ers, demand for graduates on the labor market, etc. Some time earlier, similar organizations were established within the academic community, too. The three oldest and most reputable players in the Russian academia are the following:

  • Accreditation Center of the Association for Engineering Education of Russia, AEER;
  • Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and Career Development, AKKORK;
  • National Centre for Public Accreditation, NCPA.

It should be noted that the Russian coordina­tor of this important international meeting is the National Centre for Public Accreditation. NCPA is a full member of such international networks of quality assurance as: the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA); the Central and Eastern European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (CEE Network); the Asia-Pacific Quality Network (APQN); the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). Since 2013 NCPA has been a member of the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence (IREG Observatory); in 2014 NCPA was officially registered in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education.

In 2014 the National Centre for Public Accreditation became the coordinator of the Fourth ENQA Members’ Forum which took place in Russia for the first time.

The unique NCPA’s project Best Educational Programs of Innovative Russia is one of the first projects in the country focusing on independent evalua­tion of higher education quality. The project is not a classical ranking, but selection of best programs without assigning any places or arranging any suc­cession. The project hallmark is assessment of pro­grams as other ranking projects existing in Russia focused on assessment of educational institutions differentiating them according to their profiles and types of legal entity. Such information on educa­tional programs is especially requested by prospec­tive students. It is also useful both for HEI’s admin­istration (from the rector to deans and department chairmen) and for HEI’s divisions such as Quality Management.

Distinct advantages of the project are as follows: its periodicity (implemented annually since 2010), independence (performed by the National Guild of Experts in Higher Education, and by the Accreditation in Education journal, wide public participation (over 2,000 evaluations annually), extended dissemina­tion of results (the reference book Best Educational Programs of Innovative Russia is annually published electronically and in hard copies, in 2014 it was published in English).

Other two nationwide rankings of higher educa tion in Russia are the National University Ranking compiled by Interfax and the Echo Moskvy news agency and the RAEX University Ranking. In addi­tion to it, in 2016 the ranking focusing on effective­ness of the innovative activities performed by the leading Russian universities (namely, the national research universities, the Project 5-100 universi­ties, the federal universities) was published for the first time. The project was implemented by ITMO University and Russian Venture Company (RVC) (for more details refer to web-site).

Summarizing the information of this chapter it should be noted that professional associations and public organizations—employers, academic and expert communities, student associations—are taking a more active and significant part in the establishment and development of the Russian pro­fessional education assessment and quality assur­ance system. However, the significant institutional stakeholder of this system is the state itself. In par­ticular, except state accreditation, in 2012 the gov­ernment, represented by the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF, initiated the annual monitor­ing of HEI’s efficiency and the monitoring of train­ing quality in educational institutions delivering programs of secondary vocational education. The information and analytical materials of the moni­toring are annually published on the special website and publicly available.

This procedure focuses on revealing and analyz­ing the compliance of the university activities with the criteria set by the state. The criteria concern the following fields: education, research, international activities, financial and economic activities, aca­demic staff salaries, graduates’ employment, etc. If an educational institution meets less than four out of seven monitoring indicators (i.e. it attained the threshold requirements) then a special inter-institutional commission should be established for elaborating recommendations for the founders of an ineffective educational institution. In each case recommendations can vary; they may contain mea­sures for optimization of a HEI’s activities or, as an extreme measure, a proposal for HEI’s liquidation. Thus, the annual monitoring is a tool for operative analysis of higher education and vocational educa­tion institutions in Russia and for eliminating a low quality sector, if necessary.


From 2007 to 2017 the number of international students in Russia has increased from 102.9 thou­sand up to 156.2 thousand people. According to the survey among international students, the number of responses that the quality of education delivered by Russian universities completely con­formed to their personal expectations increased from 47% in 2001 up to 78% in 2015.

Higher education in Russia: international dimension

The measures taken within the past decade and aimed at the modernization and quality improve­ment of higher education have already resulted in some positive outcomes. It is proved by the increased number of Russian universities presented in differ­ent world education rankings as well as by improv­ing their ranking positions in comparison with the previous ranking surveys (for more information on this topic refer to the article “Rankings: the Leadership Race” in this issue). Nowadays the Project 5-100 is initiated and being implemented in Russia; its goal is the targeted state support of the leading Russian universities’ competitiveness and their promotion in the global education area (here).

An additional way of integration of Russian higher education with international partner universities is the establishment of network universities:

  • BRICS Network University;
  • University SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization);
  • the Commonwealth of Independent States Network University.

The significant state project promoting the integration academic processes is the Megagrant Program. The Minister of Education and Science of the RF Olga Vasilyeva called this program “Russia’s business card for international cooperation in sci­ence and technology.” The program initiated in 2010 will be in progress until 2020. Its goal is the establishment of the world-class research laborato­ries on the base of Russian universities and research centers as well as the development of advanced sci­entific schools and research teams. The objective of research laboratories is breakthrough fundamental and applied research, the outcomes of which can be used in the real economy.

Grants are awarded to those who intend to imple­ment their ideas in this country together with Russian expert teams. The grantees are leading interna­tional and Russian scientists, Russian citizens work­ing abroad at the moment. From 2010 to 2016 five Megagrant contests took place, they aroused great interest of the global research community. All in all during this time scientists from 45 countries submitted almost 3,000 applications. All the submitted projects are considered in accordance with international stan­dards. Eventually, 78 foreign and 82 Russian scientists (including 57 researchers living abroad) became the program finalists. The program winner lists include five Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Humboldt Prize winners, and other prestigious prize holders.

The establishment of up-to-date environment for life and professional activities as well as most favored conditions for study and research is the main ground which can make Russia a country attracting international researchers, educators, and students. Definitely, it is a large-scale task, and its solution is a long-term project by itself. Not only for selected universities, but also for

the country—soci­ety and the state—as a whole. Will Russia meet this challenge? Let statistics show.


Nowadays within the Megagrant Program 200 world-class research laboratories in the fields of machine building, space exploration, new tech­nology creation, medical product development, diagnostics and treatment, and others are estab­lished on the base of the leading Russian univer­sities and research centers.

Over 50% of laboratory staff are young researchers under 35.

To top