Higher Education System in Russia

Russia occupies a large territory in Europe and Asia. Moscow is the capital of the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation covers one-eighth of the earth’s surface, extends Eastern Europe and Northern Asia, and ranks as the world’s biggest country in terms of its dominion. Russian Rubble is the currency of the Russia Federation. Russia is recognized all around the globe for its high quality education in culturally diverse surroundings.

Students opt for higher education after the completion of their senior secondary school. All the students applying for higher education go through competitive examinations. Most of the programs offer a 5-year study course to undergraduates in a number of fields.

Russia Higher Education is provided by public and private accredited higher education institutions. There are two stages of higher education in Russia:

The Basic higher education leading to the Bakalavr’s degree, the first university level degree that lasts for 4 years. The Postgraduate higher education includes Master’s degree and Doctoral degree. Magistr’s degree (Master’s degree) lasts for about 2 years and a doctoral degree comprises of Kandidat Nauk degree- the first level and Doktor Nauk degree- the highest level degree.

Higher Education is under the legal power of the Ministry for Education and Science of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the accreditation and licensing of higher education institutions, and for developing and maintaining State Education Standards.

There are over 653 state and 462 non-state Higher Education institutions operating in Russia. The State Higher Education Institutions consist of classical Universities, Pedagogical Institutes, Medical Institutions, Agricultural Institutions, Economics Institutions, Fine Arts Institutions, Engineering Institutions, Civil Engineering Institutions, Law Institutions and Physical Culture and Sports Institutions.

Financing of Higher Education

The major sources of financing of the state educational establishments are the federal and local budgets. Non-state educational institutions are permitted to obtain financial support from the federal and local budgets once they have received state accreditation. State educational establishments also employ other sources of funding such as:
  • the income received for the rendering of additional educational services like additional educational program, special courses, in-depth course study, and so on.;
  • fees charged to pupils, including foreign students;
  • income derived from business activities such as the leasing of fixed assets and property, the selling and buying of goods etc.
Educational institutions are as well financed by their founders. 

Types of Higher Education Institutions

There are two kinds of higher education in Russia.
  • Non-university level higher education- educational programs not leading to academic degrees.
  • University level higher education- educational programs leading to academic degrees.

Universities in Russia

University is a higher education institution aimed at developing education, scientific discipline, and culture by performing fundamental scientific research and training at all the levels of higher, post-higher and further education within a wide range of Natural Sciences, Humanities and other directions of science, technology, and culture.
Universities in Russia are split into the following groups:
  • Humanities and Sciences Universities
  • Pedagogical Universities
  • Medical Universities
  • Agricultural Universities
  • Technical Universities


An academy is a higher education institution aimed at developing education, science, and culture by doing basic scientific research and training at all the levels of higher, post-higher and further education, primarily in one specific arena of science, technology and culture.


An Institute is an independent higher education institution or a part of the university, and academy that applies vocational educational curriculum in specific areas of science, technology, culture and is involved in scientific research.
  • Universities - Offers broad range of disciplines especially in the humanities and the sciences areas.
  • Polytechnic Institutes – Offer a variety of technological disciplines
  • Specialized Institutes - Offer education in only one major discipline. 

Higher Education: Degree Structure

Higher education qualifications in Russia are: an Intermediate Diploma that lasts for two years, Bakalavr Diploma lasts for four years, a Specialist Diploma lasts for five to six years, and a Magistr Diploma that lasts for six years.
State Educational Standard of Higher Professional Education establishes the relationship between the above mentioned qualifications.  It classifies three levels of studies:
  • Level 1 includes the first two years of studies for the Bakalavr or Specialist Diplomas and focuses on compulsory fundamental courses in the given specialty.
  • Level 2 refers to the four-year Bakalavr degree. It is the continuation of the Bakalavr course of study.
  • Level 3 refers to an educational level common both to the Magistr Diploma and to the Specialist Diploma.

Magistr degree course of studies are based on Bakalavr degree programs

Medical Sciences
The length of time of studies in the medical sciences varies, i.e. five years in dentistry and pharmacy; six years in medicine; four years in nursing followed by completion of vocational education and two-and-a-half years followed by completion of non-university level higher education. For admissions to the medical professions, the students having university level higher education diplomas must go for further in-depth professional training such as a one-year course called the internatura or a 2-3year course called the ordinatura.

Teacher Training
Teacher training for primary general education is carried out in non-university level higher education institutions. Teachers for basic and secondary (complete) general education levels are trained in university level higher education institutions.

Admission Requirements

The admittance of the students is based on entrance exams, school leaving certificate, interviews, and so on. Russian secondary school graduates are accepted to universities on the basis of the results of the Unified State Exams. A student has to take exams in at least three subjects to be enrolled into any university program.

The entrance tests are specified by the admission regulations of educational institutions. Foreign students are required to take the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL). The minimal level of competence in the Russian language needed for admittance to the University is TORFL (TRKI) CEFR level 1 (B1). Admission requirements for the Master’s and Ph.D. level are decided along the base of the state educational standards.

Grading System

Students are assessed through a grading scale from one to five where; five is the highest possible score and three is the lowest passing score.
Five Point Scale:

Number: 5
Russian: Otlichno
Conversion: Excellent
WES Equivalent: A

Number: 4
Russian: Khorosho
Conversion: Good
WES Equivalent: B

Number: 3
Russian: udovletvoritel’no
Conversion: Satisfactory
WES Equivalent: C

Number: 1-2 (NA)
Russian: neudovletvoritel’no
Conversion: Unsatisfactory
WES Equivalent: F

Duration of Higher Education Degree Programs

  • The Bachelor’s degree lasts for 4 years.
  • The Magistr (Master’s) degree lasts for 2 years
  • The Specialist degree lasts 5 years
  • The Ph.D. and Doctor of Science degree is for 3-4 years.

Academic Year

September 1 is the official beginning of the academic year in Russia. This day is also a state official celebration of Knowledge Day. The academic year lasts until May 25 which is also known as The Last School Bell Day.

The structure of educational year is separated into an autumn and spring semester with a study period of 16 weeks in the autumn term and 15-16 weeks in spring term. Each semester ends with one assessment week during which students take course tests and present assignment work.
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