Higher Education in Russia


The higher education system in the Russian Federation

Recent policy updates, major reforms and related news

Relevant projects and initiatives

TAMs and SPHERE seminars in 2016 and 2017

Relevant links


The higher education system in the Russian Federation


The education system in the Russian Federation (RF) is regulated by the Constitution of the RF (1993), the Law on Education in the RF (adopted in 2012 and enacted in 2013) and the State Programme “Development of Education” for years 2013-2020. The key principles governing the education system are universal access, quality and personal development. The governance of the HE system is executed on three levels: federal, regional and municipal. The Ministry of Education and Science - the key federal authority - is responsible for setting education standards and for policy-making, including the financial policy and the legal regulation of the system of higher professional and vocational education. The HE policy is implemented by the regional education administrations and HEIs that have significant autonomy and can adopt their own regulations and regional parliaments can adopt regional education legislation. On the institutional level, the head of a HEI is the rector who is elected for five years term and has a number of deputy/vice-rectors responsible for specific activities and operational issues.

All HEIs in Russia fall under the following categories: public federal universities, national research universities, flagship public regional universities, branches of the public federal and national research universities, other public universities, private universities.  The two-cycle system, compatible with the Bologna requirements, has been mandatory since 2011 with the exception of traditional specialist curricula in a number of subject areas. The third-cycle programmes have been institutionalized in Russia only recently. Under the Law on Education, doctoral studies (aspirantura) are recognized as a separate cycle. Programmes of the three cycles are developed in line with state HE standards. With the emergence of occupational standards, all curricula must align with them. Respective methodological recommendations were prepared by the National Qualifications Council and approved by the Ministry of Education and Science in early 2015. The update dates to spring 2017.

HEIs deliver Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral programmes (as well as traditional one-cycle HE programmes (specialist), leading to Bachelor, Master, candidate of sciences degrees and specialist qualifications, respectively. The duration of the programmes is: four years for Bachelor, two years for Master, three (four for certain subject areas) years for full-time doctoral programmes, and five/six years for one-cycle traditional programmes, depending on the area of training. A standard programme/course includes lectures, seminars, students’ independent work, laboratory work and industry placements/workplace training/work based learning (practical training periods). Curricula for all cycles comprise  a  mandatory part and electives. The mandatory part comprises 50% for bachelor programmes, and 70% - for specialist programmes and 15% for master programmes. Curriculum development is regulated by the federal HE standards that set requirements to the competences to be developed, to the structure of the programme, learning environment and teacher qualifications. Admission to bachelor and specialist programmes is competition-based and contingent on the results of the Uniform State Examination (USE) recognized as entrance examination results, and/or on results of admission tests administered by HEIs independently. Admission to master programmes is competition-based and contingent on the results of admission tests administered by HEIs independently.


Recent policy updates, major reforms and related news

A significant progress has been made in recent years in the development and strengthening of HE in Russia. Overall, HE policy objectives are aimed at enhancing international competitiveness of Russia’s universities and quality of education, ensuring labour market relevance of delivered curricula and employability of graduates, strengthening support to engineering education. It is also envisaged to ensure that 5 Russian universities be included in the 100 top world universities.  The State Programme “Development of Education” (2013-2020)  aims at ensuring a high quality of Russia’s education in line with the needs of the population and goals of Russian society and economy. To this end specific objectives include creation of a flexible system of continuing education that is accountable to the society, and enhances human capital capable of addressing the current and prospective needs of social and economic development of Russia; development of an infrastructure, organizational and economic mechanisms ensuring equity of access to education services for children; modernization of school curricula; creation of an up-to-date system of education quality evaluation based on the principles of openness and transparency.

The expected outcomes include: enhanced qualifications of teachers and improved attractiveness of the teaching profession; enhanced efficiency of using the state budgetary funds under new financial mechanisms; reduced gap between the demand and supply of skills for key areas of economic and industrial innovative development; increased number of RF universities in the first 500 top world universities; diversified opportunities for lifelong learning. The Programme’s objectives include implementation of structural and technological innovations in VET and HE, development of up-to-date content and methodology of teaching and learning, establishment of an infrastructure for training and upskilling the work force for the economy and of a up-to-date system of QA in VET and HE.  Under the Programme, it is envisaged to provide subsidies from the federal budget to RF regions to enhance quality and competitiveness of education, dissemination of the new models of accessible learning environment, structural, content and technological innovations. In implementation of the above, under the aegis of the National Council for Qualifications Development, basic principles have been developed and approved on the independent accreditation of HE curricula. Also the legal framework has improved (new competence-based education standards have been adopted and are currently updated); practical orientation of programmes and the development of networks have enhanced based on systemic university-enterprise cooperation and of the internationalization processes in HE.

Due to the above, further integration in the EHEA, including the use of Bologna instruments has been achieved. These factors will be conducive to fostering joint curricula with foreign universities and to meeting the needs of diversified target groups by using up-to-date technologies, such as MOOC and Open Educational Resources. The key drivers of the reform process are universities and labour market actors as well as the MoE that accumulates the incoming signals and turns them into regulatory documents. Major national reforms in HE include updating of HE curricula and education standards based on OS, adoption of the Federal State Target Programme of Education Development and of the Government Program of Education Development, start of the development of occupational standards; adoption of a new generation of HE standards.


Relevant projects and initiatives

Russia takes an active part in the EU Erasmus+ Programme that has integrated former Tempus, Jean Monnet, Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Erasmus Mundus instruments. These programmes pursued a wide range of activities: mobility visits (credit and degree mobility), training, curriculum development, capacity building of institutional structures and management, reform of higher education policies, equipment purchase, research, etc.

The impact of the Tempus Programme on higher education development in Russia

The Russian Federation participated in the Tempus programme since 1994. The programme has had considerable impact on the internationalisation of higher education, on strengthening long-term intensive inter-university cooperation and networking. During the 20 years of the Tempus programme in Russia, over 390 projects were implemented with the help of EU grants  amounting to over €132 million.  The implemented projects have resulted in the modernization of RF higher education, namely – in  updating  old and developing  new curricula compatible with the curricula at European universities, including Bachelor and Master programmes in numerous fields, development and implementation of upskilling courses for the non-academic community, new models of governance at universities including the establishment of networking mechanisms, new models of managing university intellectual property, innovative quality assurance mechanisms established at universities, new models of  organizing work of international cooperation departments at universities, introduction of mechanisms of the Bologna Process, double-degree curricula, etc.  Beneficiaries of Tempus grants have successfully implemented institution building initiatives and have developed links with public organisations, NGOs and businesses.

The Tempus Programme has also greatly influenced the development of students’ mobility. Students perceive very positively the work carried out with the support of Tempus. According to them, Tempus has helped them to improve their qualifications through new cross-cultural communication experiences, improved their foreign language skills, and the acquisition of up-to-date professional knowledge. Labour market interest in graduates has also increased as Tempus projects have improved cooperation between universities and ministries.

It can be concluded that the Tempus programme has considerably contributed to enhancing international cooperation by creating conditions for multiple partnerships between Russian and European Universities. At the same time, due to the involvement in the Tempus Programme, Russian universities have developed awareness of the need for a further decentralisation of university governance and for enhancing its flexibility and its labour market relevance.

List of projects in Capacity building in the field of Higher Education 2015-2016



TAMs and SPHERE seminars in 2016 and 2017


·         “Competence-based PhD and Master programmes development” by Mr Anthony Vickers, University of Essex”, Moscow, March 23-24, 2016

·         “Recognition of non-formal and informal learning” by EU expert Ms  Hanne Smidt, Moscow, September 21-22, 2016

·         “Modernization of doctoral programmes in line with the best European samples:  what skills are specific to the doctoral level and how can they be effectively fostered” by Mr Mick Fuller,  School of Biological Sciences Plymouth University, Moscow, June 5-6, 2017

·         “Forms and formats of internationalization at home” by Dr. Robert Coelen from the Stenden University of Applied Sciences, Moscow, October 3-4, 2017

·         “Development of National Platform for Open On-Line Courses on Quality Assurance”, Implementation and Accreditation”, by Mr Mark Brown, Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University, Moscow, November 14-15, 2017


Relevant links

Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation:


Delegation of the European Union to Russia:


National Erasmus+ Office in Russia:


Overview of the Higher Education System in Russia:


Quality of Education:


Federal Supervision Service in Education and Science (ROSOBRNADZOR):


Bologna club in Russia:


National Report regarding the Bologna Process implementation 2012-2015 in Russian Federation


National Information Centre for Academic Recognition and Mobility in Russia:


List of projects in Capacity building in the field of Higher Education 2015-2016