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Russia reopens to international students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Foreign students can now fly into Russia from at least 21 countries for study purposes provided that they produce proof of a negative pre-departure COVID test and then take another test upon arrival that confirms they are not infected
  • Students in Russia have now returned to full-time, in-person learning

Russia is opening its borders to foreign students under certain conditions, according to the country’s ministry overseeing consumer protection, Rospotrebnadzor.

To be allowed into the country to study, students must present a medical document written in Russian or English that confirms that they have received a negative COVID-19 test no more than three days prior to departing for Russia. After arrival, students are required to isolate and take another COVID test within 72 hours. They can leave isolation at the point when they receive a negative test result.

After prohibiting students from attending in-person classes from 13 November 2020 to 6 February 2021, the Russian government announced earlier this month that students could return full time to campus as of 8 February.

Students may fly from one of 21 countries

Students who are permitted to enter Russia for study purposes must fly in from one of the 21 countries with which Russia has restored airline service. These countries are (as of 23 February) Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Greece India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, Qatar, Serbia, the Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, UAE, and Vietnam.

The UK is absent from the list: Russia has closed its borders to UK travellers until at least 16 March in an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID variant that was first detected in Britain. There has been at least one Russian citizen infected with the variant when that person returned from the UK in January.

Roughly 300,000 international students have had their study plans in Russia interrupted by restrictions related to the pandemic. Many – about 100,000 – left Russia when the crisis began in the spring of 2020 and were unable to return. Remote learning was the only option for much of 2020 and into 2021, but not for everyone: students enrolled in medicine and engineering programmes were asked to take academic leave and were not offered online learning.

Steady enrolment growth

Russia’s 2019/20 foreign student enrolment was 297,995, with the most important source countries Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Tajikistan, Ukraine, India, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan.

That 2019/20 enrolment figure came close to Russia’s target of increasing its international student population to 310,000 by 2020. There is also a longer-term target of having 710,000 students enrolled in Russian education institutions by 2025.

The number of international students in Russia has grown steadily over the past decade. The foreign student population is overwhelmingly composed of students coming from the former Soviet Republics and to a lesser extent, from Asia. In 2017, less than 2,000 students came to Russia from European or North American countries, less than 1% of the country’s total foreign enrolment that year.

One of the world’s COVID hotspots

So far, Russia has officially recorded 4,177,330 cases of coronavirus and 83,630 deaths – making it one of the world’s worst-affected countries after only the US, India, Brazil, and the UK. It has its own domestically produced vaccine, the Sputnik V, which is already being distributed in Russia and exported to a number of countries around the world. A trial of this vaccine involving about 20,000 Russians found that the vaccine was about 91% effective at preventing patients from becoming severely ill with COVID-19, reports the British medical journal The Lancet.

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