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  • 2522

Differences in education systems

Many of the day-to-day features and processes of present-day Russia and the CIS have their roots in Soviet times.  Amongst these is the strong – but different in many ways from Western models – Higher Education system, and also still the significant cultural detachment and closedness. Today, in spite of the ambition of most former Soviet countries to take part in global integration processes, including the Bologna process, substantial differences between the “Russian” education system and Western models are as evident as before. 

These create difficulties for students planning to study abroad:

  • The majority of Higher Education courses in the Russian Federation last five years; on graduation from a university, a Specialist Diploma is awarded, which is officially an intermediary qualification between a Bachelor’s and a Master’s, but more often than not, given the number of modules and hours of tuition, can be equated with a Master’s degree. As a result, a student with a Specialist Diploma in Russia deciding to continue their academic career in the UK will in total waste one extra year obtaining a Master’s, compared with, for example, a British student.
  • In post-Soviet countries, only five Higher Education qualifications exist: three of them were inherited from the Soviet education system (Specialist, Candidate of Sciences, Doctor of Sciences), while the remaining two (Bachelor’s and Master’s) appeared comparatively recently, after a number of post-Soviet countries joined the Bologna process.  It is therefore extremely difficult for an unprepared graduate student to understand the wealth of different UK degrees and diplomas, and this is evident in the quality of their course choices.
  • Secondary Education in the Russian Federation and CIS is only ten years long; to apply for a Bachelor’s degree at British universities, high-school graduates from Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine must complete a one-year Foundation course, which in many cases determines their subsequent choice of university.
  • The method of application and admittance to CIS universities differs considerably from the procedures adopted in the UK: graduates, as a rule, apply in person, do not write personal statements or essays and are only rarely required to provide references. In Russia in recent years, many universities have been carrying out selection on the basis of EGE (Unified State Exam) results, although the leading universities still make a final decision on the basis of the results of the face-to-face admission tests that traditionally take place in July.
  • For students eligible for financial support at state universities in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, a monthly grant is automatically awarded for the entire duration of their studies. In the UK, the grant system is fundamentally different, and students often do not even know where to search and how they can obtain grants to study at British universities.

Read about differences in course organisation, study methods and grading systems.