From the field: Russia’s push to host 700,000 students by 2025

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our “From the Field” interview series today in conversation with Olga Krylova, the head of the International Office for HSE University in St Petersburg
  • The interview highlights Russia’s long-term goals for further building its foreign enrolment, and some of the key strategies that Russian universities are relying on for success

Russia has seen its foreign enrolment grow very rapidly over the last 15 years. Between 2004 and 2014, international student numbers roughly tripled to surpass 240,000. And that enrolment base has continued to grow throughout this decade, gaining another 30% overall since 2014 to reach more than 310,000 students as of 2018.

This means that Russia has already met its near-term goal to host 310,000 students by 2020 – and that it has done so roughly two years ahead of schedule. However, the window for savouring that success will be fairly short. Under a long-term strategy announced in 2017, the Russian government has a publicly stated goal to build its foreign student base to 710,000 students by 2025, which means in effect that the country will now aim to nearly double its international enrolment in the next six years.

We looked at these longer-term trends, and some of the key pillar’s of Russia’s international recruitment strategy, in conversation with Olga Krylova, the head of the International Office for HSE University in St Petersburg.

As Ms Krylova explains in our first interview segment below, Russia’s continuing recruitment drive is grounded in a national strategy called “Project 5-100”. The overarching purpose of this programme is to boost the global competitiveness of Russian higher education, and, more concretely, to see at least five of the country’s universities ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions by 2020.

The roots of Project 5-100 go back to 2013, when the programme was initiated with a group of 15 universities. That initial cohort grew to include 21 leading institutions through a further selection process in 2015.

Remarking on recent news of a further expansion of the project, Ms Krylova adds, “Earlier this year Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confirmed plans to expand Project 5-100. In accordance with the Young Professionals Federal Project that seeks to boost the global competitiveness of Russia’s professional education, a new competition will be held in 2020 to select universities that will receive state support to improve their standing relative to the world’s other leading higher education and research institutions. In 2020, changes will be made to laws and regulations that govern the provision of such support, including applicant selection criteria. Following this, at least 30 universities will receive government aid towards implementing their roadmaps in line with Russia’s national goals through 2024.” (In other words, the 5-100 programme is expected to add at least nine additional universities through the 2020 selection process.)

In the second excerpt from our conversation below, Ms Krylova highlights some of the key initiatives now underway within Russian higher education in order to achieve the country’s goals for further substantial growth in foreign enrolment.

“Different groups are focused on different tasks,” she points out. “Some are focused on marketing and branding of Russian higher education abroad. Another is concentrating on creating the best conditions [and supports] for foreign students.” Another task group, she adds, is concerned with legal and policy issues relating to international students in Russia.

We hear as well in the following interview segment about key sending markets for Russian higher education, and where further growth is likely to come from in the future.

Our discussion continues below with a review of some of the important factors that attract international students to study in Russia, and the role of agents in recruiting for the country’s universities.

“Many agents that approach us really see Russia as a new destination,” says Ms Krylova. “They don’t have Russian universities in their portfolio and they would really like to diversify to offer different markets and destinations – and to offer new opportunities to students.”

Our discussion concludes with a final segment below in which Ms Krylova highlights the importance of a first-hand experience of Russian higher education, and for agent fam tours (familiarisation tours) in particular.

For additional background, please see:



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