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Russia adopted a series of changes supporting its universities, but introducing stricter control. A new Education Law has been passed by the parliament after three years of heated public debate. In addition, the government rolled out a new EUR 40 billion State Programme for the Development of Science and Technology in 2013-2020. Both documents are highly relevant for the universities in Russia.
The new law regulates all levels of education, including pre-primary and adult learning, and codifies the important (but relatively new for Russia) concepts of inclusive education and e-learning. In the case of higher education, changes mainly concern access and accountability. Firstly, privileged access to free higher education for certain groups of population is reduced. Secondly, the activities of all higher education institutions (HEI) will be subject to regular public monitoring and control (experts believe this measure will be used to reduce the number of inefficient HEIs). HEIs are also encouraged to conduct independent assessment of their work. Finally, the new law stipulates the special status of federal and national research universities (e.g. Moscow State University and St. Petersburg State University), expressed in their right to establish their own educational standards.
The new State Programme for the Development of S&T provides, amongst others, legal basis for the continuation of currently implemented measures for developing research at (historically teaching-oriented) universities in Russia, such as support for cooperation with high-tech industry and for ‘mega-grant’ research under the supervision of top scientists (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2010, September 2011). One of the Programme’s specific objectives is to ensure stronger positions of Russian universities in top 100 world university rankings. Earlier in 2012, the government had prepared an action plan aiming to strengthen the competitiveness of Russia’s top universities worldwide. Several competitively pre-selected universities will obtain support for the implementation of roadmaps allowing them to recruit top (foreign and national) administration and scientific staff, and to more actively pursue research and higher education programmes jointly with international academic and corporate partners.