On Friday (4/17), Russian Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov caused quite a stir when he announced that Russia would be closing 40% of its universities by 2016.
The government also plans to cut the number of university branches by 80%, Livanov said. According to data from the Ministry of Education and Science, Russia has 593 state universities (with 1,376 branches) and 486 private universities (with 682 branches).
According to Livanov, there are five times as many universities in Russia today than there were during the time of the USSR.
“This is mainly the result of the opening of a huge number of private universities during the 1990s. Unfortunately, the results of our monitoring showed that the quality of education provided by some of them is very poor,”
the education minister said.
The university culling is part of a larger initiative aimed at increasing education standards in Russia. The government also hopes that the move will help establish strong federal universities in Russia’s 10 different regions.
The cuts will mainly target private institutions that have been shown to have poor educational standards.
Livanov said that many private universities have become, “offices for the sale of certificates that do not have an established training process and qualified teachers.” These institutions are often referred to as “degree mills”.
Officials from the education ministry began carrying out educational quality checks on March 10, and will submit the results of their assessment at the end of May.
The plan has garnered praise from many of Russia’s biggest employers. German Gref is the president of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank which employs roughly 240,000 people. Gref thinks the country is long overdue for a new educational model.
“At present, the majority of Russian students, teachers and employers are unhappy with the quality of higher education. In the case of employers, about 60% consider the quality of higher education in the country to be inadequate, and in need of improvement,”
Gref said. He continued,
“Despite this, Russia has the highest percentage of people with higher education degrees, which is 53.5%. During 2000-13, public spending on higher education increased by 21 times. Yet Russian universities have not yet to make it into the top 100 of any major global rankings.”
Government officials are assuring professors that their salaries will not be cut as a result of the educational reforms. A spokesman from the education ministry also said that some of the infrastructure and teachers from closed institutions may be absorbed by universities that continue to operate.
Read the full story from University World News.