The Russian Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Russia we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. The Russian government has pushed an ambitious higher education agenda focused on improving quality and international standing. The country is seeking to radically enhance the global ranking of its universities by 2020, and to attract substantial numbers of internationally mobile tertiary-level students from around the globe. At the same time, the government has actively sought to send scholars abroad – and incent them to return home as part of a broader effort to modernize the flagging economy.

The Russian Federation has one of the highest tertiary enrollment rates across OECD countries, at 82% of 25-34 year-olds compared with the OECD average of 55%. Participation in formal and/or non-formal education and training is about 14 percentage points higher for tertiary-educated adults than for those who completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education.

Enrollment in secondary education increased from 92%% in 2000 to 105% in 2019 (the OECD average in 2018 was 93%). However, spending per student is still low, about half of the OECD average. All this and more in the Market Report on Russia.

Quick facts

  • Population: 145 million (2019)

  • Education: 9 years compulsory

  • Academic year: September – June

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 10 – 11

  • Duration: 7 years

  • Enrollment numbers: 9.9 million (2019)
    Enrollment rate: 103%

Higher education

  • Duration: 4 years (bachelor) – 2 years (Master) – 2 – 4 years (PhD)

  • Enrollment numbers: 5.8 million (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 82%

  • Universities / Institutions: 1108 (658 public, 450 private)

Russian Education System

Russia has one of the best performing education systems in the world, producing a literacy rate of 98%. This is higher than most Western European countries. The system consists of obligatory basic education and higher education.

Secondary education

The secondary education system consists of three stages, corresponding to the age of children and their learning opportunities:

Elementary school includes grades 1-4 where children enter after kindergarten. At this stage, the generated classes study different subjects with the same teacher; much attention is paid not only to the study of disciplines, but also to the comprehensive development of students. Many visual aids and methods of presenting information are used during the lessons, game elements or author’s methodologies may also take place;

Grades 5 to 9 are the final stage of the school education compulsory part. The curriculum substantially expands the list of subjects, and they are read by different teachers, each specializes in one discipline. After grade 9, a student can enter a college or a technical school for vocational education;

Russian high school includes grades 10 and 11 and is a preparatory stage for a university. On this stage scholars decide on the future profession and focus on the subjects necessary for the exams.


Admission to Higher Education

Traditionally, the universities and institutes conducted their own admissions tests regardless of the applicants’ school record. There were no uniform measure of graduates’ abilities; marks issued by high schools were perceived as incompatible due to grading variances between schools and regions. In 2003 the Ministry of Education launched the Unified state examination (USE) program.

Higher Education system

There are 3 types of higher education institutions in Russia.

  1. Universities offer a broad range of programs on all levels.
  2. Academies place a larger emphasis on research and practical skills, normally dedicated to specific subject areas such as art, architecture or science.
  3. Institutes are independent branches of universities or academies which offer professional educational courses.

Russia adopted the Bologna degree structure back in 2007. Prior to that the tertiary education in Russia consisted mainly of long single-cycle degree programs of five to six-year duration leading to the award of a “Diploma of Specialist,” followed by a doctoral research degree called Kandidat Nauk (Candidate of Science). The current two-cycle degree system consists of an undergraduate Bakalavr (Bachelor) degree, and a graduate Magistr (Master) degree in many fields of study.

Bachelor/ Bakalvr
Baklavr degrees in Russia are always four years in duration (240 ECTS credits). Bakalvr degrees are awarded in a wide variety of disciplines and require completion of a thesis (prepared over a time period of four months) and passing of a final state examination in addition to coursework. Admission is based on EGE results in disciplines related to the major of the program.

Master/ Magistr
Magistr degrees are research-oriented graduate degrees that are always two years in length (120 ECTS). Programs conclude with the defense of a thesis and state examination. Admission requires a Baklavr degree, but universities are free to set additional admission requirements, including entrance examinations and interviews..

Specialist Degrees
Specialist programs are at least five years in length and involve state requirements of approximately 8,200 hours of instruction, a thesis and state examination. Programs lead to the award of the “Diploma of Specialist” and are generally considered to be professionally rather than academically oriented, although the Specialist degree has the same legal standing as the Magistr degree and gives full access to doctoral programs.

European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits are used in Baklavr and Magistr programs, but, as of now, rarely in Specialist programs. The ECTS grading scale, as well as a new 0-100 grading scale, have been introduced in recent years, but are generally not used on state format academic transcripts, which continue to be issued using the standard 2 to 5 grading scale. Degree programs at both public and private universities conclude with a state examinations and the defense of a thesis in front of a State Attestation Commission. (Source:

Russian Educational System

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Latest Russian Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total of 56,659 Russian students are studying abroad in tertiary education (source: UNESCO). These are the most popular study abraod destinations for Russian students:

Russian students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

Study abroad developments in Russia

‘Demand among young Russians to study abroad rising’ The demand among young Russians for study places in foreign universities is steadily growing despite the improvement in the quality of the Russian system of higher education and its improving image in the international arena, according to recent statements from leading Russian higher education institutions and industry analysts.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s leading independent papers, referring to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, reported that currently an estimated 75,000 Russian (degree seeking and non-degree seeking) students are studying in foreign universities and that these figures are expected to jump to 120,000- 130,000 within the next couple of years.

This is based on Nezavisimaya Gazeta analysis of previous growth from 35,000 in 2010 to 75,000 in 2019, confirmed by Russian Ministry of Education and Science data, and the fact that growth is currently accelerating.

IB schools in Russia

Best performing Russian Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Russia? These are the best performing universities.

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

THE Rank: 201 – 250

HSE University

THE Rank: 201 – 250

ITMO University

THE Rank: 401 – 500

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Scholarships for Russian students

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