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Russia to simplify visas, boost international student quota to 200,000

The Russian government has upped its international student quota for universities by a third to 200,000 for this year and put in place plans to simplify visas for students completing a foundation year. The plans, announced by the deputy education minister, are part of an ongoing drive to boost the global profile of Russian higher education and increase the country’s soft power.

Russian universities are seeing increasing demand from international students, the deputy minister of education said. Foreign students account for a quarter of students enrolled at Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia. Photo: Wikicommons/DmitryVilunos.

“Domestic universities are currently ready to take such a number of foreigners”

There are currently 150,000 places set aside for international students at Russian higher education institutions, but the government has now approved plans to up this number by 50,000.

“Russia’s higher education is becoming more open to the world”

“We have approved a proposal to increase the quota for foreign students this year,” announced Deputy Minister of Education and Science Lyudmila Ogorodova.

“Domestic universities are currently ready to take such a number of foreigners.”

The increased quota is part of the Russian government’s concerted push to internationalise higher education, including the state-funded flagship Project 5-100 initiative, which launched in 2012.

“Those investments, which have been made by the state in university infrastructure, and in particular domestic science and education, in recent years have made it possible to develop programmes in English and to prepare English-speaking teachers,” added Ogorodova, who will oversee the quota.

The ministry has also filed a bill to simplify the visa process for international students, ensuring that they only have to apply for one visa for their entire course of study. At the moment, students who complete a foundation course before progressing to university must apply for separate visas for each course.

“We know that the majority of foreign students come through the preparatory faculty, and so we filed an amendment to the law, which allows us to extend visa support, in particular, and for the period of preparatory training,” Ogorodova said.

The number of scholarships awarded to international students to study at Russian universities will also rise from 15,000 to 20,000.

Scholarships, which are administered by the government agency Rossotrudnichestvo, cover both tuition fees and a monthly stipend for qualifying students.

“We understand that it is an effective foreign policy tool and would like to increase the number of quotas for future years”

Attracting international students is an important soft power tool for Russia. Speaking with Sputnik News, an offshoot of the government-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya, Rossotrudnichestvo chief Lyubov Glebova said last year that providing scholarships to attract international students is an “annual, long term project”.

“We understand that it is an effective foreign policy tool and would like to increase the number of quotas for future years,” she said.

Commenting on the drive to attract more international students to Russia, a spokesperson for Project 5-100, which aims to internationalise a group of elite Russian universities, told The PIE News: “Russia’s higher education is becoming more open to the world.

“Russian universities have increased their positions in the global rankings, improved their academic reputation, fostered partnerships with foreign universities and launched many educational programmes in foreign languages. A growing number of students and scholars are going to Russia to study and build careers,” she said, pointing to Project 5-100 as a success story.

International students now account for 28% of students at Tomsk Polytechnic University, one of the Project 5-100 institutions; and for 25% of students at Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, another member university.

“The inflow of international students is an important indicator of attractiveness and demand for the Russian education in the world,” the spokesperson added.

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