Russia Education and Society
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
The VUZ category includes all of Russia's postsecondary educational institutions; in 1995 these totaled about 500, including forty-two universities. The other two types of VUZ are the institute and the polytechnic institute. Institutes, the largest of the three groups, train students in a specific field such as law, economics, art, agriculture, medicine, or technology. The polytechnic institutes teach the same range of subjects but without specialization in a single area. Most universities teach the arts and pure sciences.
The institute program consists of two phases. After completing two years of general studies, a student receives a certificate; he or she then may take an entrance examination to continue for two more years or terminate the program and seek a job. Completion of the next two years results in conferral of a baccalaureate degree. The next level of higher education is specialized study based on a research program in the area of future professional activity. This phase lasts at least two years, at the end of which the individual is designated a specialist in the chosen field. The top level of higher education is graduate work, which entails a three-year program of study and research leading to a degree of candidate (kandidat ), then finally to a degree of doctor of sciences (doktor nauk ).
In the post-Soviet era, the system of higher education has undergone a more drastic transformation than the primary and secondary systems. Authority has moved from the center to agencies in local and subnational jurisdictions. About 14 percent of institutions of higher learning are located in the twenty-one republics of the federation (see table 13, Appendix). Under the new system, each VUZ can determine its own admissions policy and the content of its academic programs. These institutions also have their own financial resources and statutes of operation.
Most of Russia's universities are located in large cities. Moscow State University, which was founded in 1755 and has about 28,000 students and 8,000 teachers, enjoys the highest reputation. The Russian People's Friendship University in Moscow has about 6,500 students and 1,500 teachers, and St. Petersburg State University has about 21,000 students and 2,100 teachers.
The Soviet Union concentrated its vocational training resources in areas such as space and military technology. It lagged behind the West in technical and vocational training in other sectors because of the practice of ending students' preparation in these areas at the secondary level. In Russia vocational schools traditionally have had a poor image; only in the early 1990s was comprehensive vocational education introduced for postsecondary students. In 1993 some 400 VUZ offered specialized training in specific vocational areas ranging from engineering and electricity to agricultural specialties. Some vocational schools have combined general and vocational curricula, with the goal of giving specialists a broader educational background. Another trend is the integration of higher technical education with on-the-job training by linking educational institutions with enterprises and factories.
In the post-Soviet era, business education has expanded dramatically because the demand for competent managers far outstrips the supply. Experts believe that Russia's business education programs will play an important role in transforming social attitudes toward the market economy and capitalism and establishing a new economic infrastructure. The primary goal of the new programs is to create familiarity with the principles of the market economy while casting aside Marxist economic ideology. In the first two years after the Soviet Union dissolved, more than 1,000 business schools and training centers were established.
Three types of institution offer business management education: state and private business schools and private consulting firms. Many in the last category simply offer high-priced lectures, but some business schools have developed sophisticated programs. Examples are the International Business School of Moscow State University, the Graduate School of International Business of the Academy of the National Economy in Moscow, and the International Management Institute in St. Petersburg. Several schools offer full master of business administration (MBA) degree programs based on Western models. Business schools are funded by the state and by private enterprise. Competent faculty are at a premium in this field; many have been trained by Western firms such as IBM.
Education and Society
Education plays a crucial role in determining social status in Russia. People who leave school after eight years generally can find only unskilled jobs. Even those who complete secondary education may rise no higher than skilled labor or low-level white-collar work. A college or university education is necessary for most professional and bureaucratic positions and appears to be highly desirable for a position of political power. For example, a very high percentage of the members of Russia's parliament are university graduates.
Access to higher education is roughly proportionate to the social and financial situation of an individual's family. Children whose parents have money and status usually have an advantage in gaining admission to an institution of higher education. The reasons lie not only with the parents' possible influence and connections but increasingly with the better quality of primary and secondary education that has become available to such children, enhancing their ability to pass difficult university entrance examinations. Moreover, such families can afford to hire tutors for their children in preparation for the examinations and can more readily afford to pay university tuition in case the children do not receive stipends.
By the mid-1990s, the new phenomenon of individual commercial success began influencing the attitude of Russian society toward education and its goals. At the same time, the last generation of Soviet-educated Russians was finding itself ill prepared to deal with a new set of conditions for social and economic survival. In the new order, acquisition of money is much more important for both self-respect and practical survival, and career prestige by itself is of relatively less worth than it was in the Soviet system, where every career label ensured a known level of comfort. Significantly, in post-Soviet years, the phrase delat' den'gi (to make money) has passed into common usage in colloquial Russian. Together with the employment insecurity felt in the 1990s by well-educated Russians, the new values have dampened the educational ambitions of many, particularly with regard to higher education. Although most older Russians resent those who achieve commercial success in the new "system," the generation now in school shows increasing interest in advancement in the private sector of the economy. At the same time, polls show that education ranks ninth among the most pressing concerns of Russians.
Data as of July 1996
NOTE: The information regarding Russia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Russia Education and Society information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Russia Education and Society should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.