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Postgraduate Study in Russia

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Russia – otherwise known as the Russian Federation – is a country in the north of the Europe/Asia landmass. It’s the largest country in the world, coming in at just over 17,000,000 square kilometres. Being so large, it shares borders with many countries – including Norway, Finland, Poland, China, Kazakhstan, Estonia and the Ukraine.

The Russian Federation is made up of 83 subjects, some provinces, some republics, some territories and some autonomous districts. The difference between these is mostly governmental, so it’s worth researching which of these your prospective universities fall into.

Covering an eighth of the Earth’s populated land, and being home to 143 million people, it’s the world’s ninth most populous nation. Russia spreads over nine time zones and has a huge variety of environments within that. Mostly, the south consists of 'steppe' (grasslands) and the north is a combination of forest and tundra. There are various mountain ranges, including the Caucasus, which contains the highest point in Europe – Mount Elbrus.

Study in Russia

One thing Russia is known for is its severe winters, but this is in fact is only true for one area of this large country. The coastal line that borders on the Black Sea has a subtropical climate, whilst others are semi-arid. Again, it’s well worth checking the climate where you’re interested in studying, as there’s so much variety!

The currency in Russia is the Rouble, and the official language is Russian – though there are over 20 other co-official languages in various areas.

Russian universities and education

Russia is home to over 600 state universities, as well as many private ones. You may, however, find your options limited by which universities offer English-medium teaching. Unlike some countries, there are no required national entrance exams, but you will have to complete a pre-academic year and an entrance exam to your particular university. In addition, there is an upper age limit of the students they’ll take – 28 or 35 if it’s for a doctorate.

In the past few years, there’s been a huge investment into the education system. As part of this, Russia has signed up to the Bologna Process – meaning their system is compatible with other European countries. There are some unique aspects, however. There’s a difference between scientific degrees (which show postgraduate achievement in scientific research) and academic titles (which are about personal achievement). There are two degrees that you would take one after the other – a kandidat nauk (Candidate of Science) and a doktor nauk (Doctor of Science). To obtain these degrees, you need to have been published in peer-reviewed journals and to have completed a dissertation. Generally, the kandidat path takes around two to four years, and this is often seen as roughly equivalent to a PhD. The doktor stage would take nearly ten years – requiring full time research in your chosen area.

There are two semesters per the academic year, which runs from September to June.

Russian Money

Russia: tuition fees and funding

Being fairly new to the international education scene, tuition fees at Russian universities are often fairly low. They vary depending on the programme you choose to follow, but expect to pay between €3000 and €6000 per year. There are a set number of state scholarships available to international students each year, covering tuition fees, accommodation and medical insurance – but not personal expenses.

This means that you’ll need to be prepared to pay living costs yourself, but you’ll again find these to be lower than you might expect – for instance, a weekly grocery shop in Moscow (the most expensive city in Russia) will only set you back around €30.

While there is no Erasmus scheme for students wishing to study in Russia, there may be other opportunities to participate in exchange programmes where costs are covered based on the type of course and whether the student’s home university has an exchange relationship to a Russian university.

Visas and immigration

Study in Russia If you’re offered a place to study in Russia, the university will apply for a student visa on your behalf. This will take around 3-5 weeks to process and will cost you around €30. However, it may take longer, so it’s recommended that you start this process at least three months before you plan to arrive in the country. The conditions of your visa may stipulate that you follow certain rules – such as staying in a flatshare, university accommodation or with a family – so make sure you are happy to adhere to these.

Your initial visa will be valid for three months (90 days) and you must register within 72 hours of arriving. If you intend to stay beyond that, which is highly likely if you are undertaking a postgraduate programme – it is possible to renew but you may have to proved additional information and documentation, for example you may be required to have a certificate proving that you’re HIV negative.

Living as a student in Russia

It can be hard to find private accommodation in Russia, so many students choose to live in university halls of residence – unless their visa requires otherwise. As with so many other places, the quality of the student halls will depend on where you go – Moscow and St. Petersburg are known for being good, but smaller towns can be variable. If you choose to live in your own accommodation, you’re looking at potentially up to €700 per month for a private apart in a western-style apartment, although it’s possible to get down to as little as €220, depending on where you look.

In Moscow, the capital, and St Petersburg, one of the largest cities, life is comparable to any other European city: busy night-life, high-rise buildings, restaurants, shops and hotels. Moscow has one of the busiest metro systems in the world, used by more than 9 million people per day. Buses and trams crisscross both cities, and St Petersburg in particular is well known for its art galleries, theatres and beautiful architecture.

Rural Russia is more traditional, with little villages steeped in local customs. Electric trains take city dwellers out into the suburbs, and while these are often crowded and can be a difficult way to travel, the trains also provide important links between urban centres and smaller towns. Leaving the larger cities is also an excellent way to learn more about Russian culture, as many centuries-old customs are still practised in the countryside, such as the banya, a steam bath similar to a sauna, the dacha or country house, used for short holidays, and often to entertain guests, and intricate tea-drinking customs.

Living in Russia can be a comparatively reasonably place to live financially depending on your personal habits. Large urban centres like Moscow and St Petersburg are obviously more expensive, while smaller cities and suburban areas are more affordable. On average, costs are similar or slightly lower than those of other European and western countries. 

The fact Russia is so huge may make travelling around it somewhat intimidating, but it has one of the world's most extensive transport networks. In recent years, the Ministry of Transport adopted new strategies, intending to make it better. The main way of travelling is rail, with it's network being second only to the US. As well the main country-wide lines, some of the major cities have a metro system – such as Moscow, or St Petersburg, and there are more of these currently being built. The rail system isn't just useful within the country – there are links to Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea - as well proposed links to Norway.

Russian languages

As we mentioned earlier, Russia is the only official language over the whole of Russia. However, there are over 20 co-official languages in various regions (plus over 100 minority languages!).

Russian regions and languages 

Abaza Karachayy-Cherkess Republic
Adyghe Republic of Adygea
Altay Altai Republic
Avar Republic of Dagestan
Azerbaijani Republic of Dagestan
Bashkir Republic of Bashkortostan
Buryat Agin-Buryat Okrug and Buryat Republic
Chechen Chechen Republic
Chuvash Chuvash Republic
Erzya Republic of Mordovia
Ingush Republic of Ingushetia
Kabardian Kabardino-Balkar Republic and Karachay-Cherkess Republic
Kalmyk Republic of Kalmykia
Karachay-Balkar Kabardino-Balkar Republic and Karachay-Cherkess Republic
Khakas Republic of Khakassia
Komi-Zyrian Komi Republic
Lezgi Republic of Dagestan
Mansi Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug
Mari Mari El Republic
Moksha Republic of Mordovia
Nogai Republic of Dagestan and Karachay-Cherkess Republic
Ossetic Republic of North Ossetia-Alania
Tatar Republic of Tatarstan
Tuvan Tuva Republic
Udmurt Udmurt Republic
Yakut Sakha Republic


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