Modern Russia lacks personnel, and there is no place to create them. The Russian labor market is flooded with poorly educated managers, and professions that require knowledge and responsibility are not popular. In order to encourage potential engineers, doctors and scientists to not work as managers, the authorities decided to pay them to study abroad.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree aimed at strengthening the human resource capacity of the country. To improve the situation with the lack of specialists in such important for any country professions as engineers, doctors, scientists, and so on, it was decided to stimulate Russian students by sending them to graduate schools abroad. Students who earned bachelor's degrees in Russian universities may enter leading universities included in the three world rankings (The Times Higher Education, Shanghai University and Quacquarelli Symonds), and be eligible for financial support from the government. There is only one caveat - after graduation they must go home and find a job.
If these students would like to stay overseas after graduation, they would have to pay a hefty amount to Russia that would include all the money spent on the education plus a fine twice as large as this amount. This sanction is intentional, because it is clear that for many young Russians it will be very tempting to remain abroad for one reason or another.
As noted by the deputy of the State Duma and leader of the All-Russian Public Movement "Entrepreneurship Development" Ivan Grachev to Pravda.Ru, the probability that after studying at public expense in a foreign university a student will return home is low, just like the probability of suing them over the paid amount. "I know people who left for the States after graduation and have not returned. I think it is extremely unlikely that talented people would come back and do something useful for the country," said the deputy, convinced that the implementation of this initiative would turn into a waste of taxpayers' money. "I do not support this idea because the Russian education in engineering, physics, and science is one of the best in the world. For example, the Department of Physics at Moscow State University is in the top five in the world, maybe top ten."
Indeed, the program developed by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives on educating Russian students abroad raises many questions. Why was this particular measure chosen by the government to fight the lack of staff in Russia? Does this mean that the Russian higher education is inferior to foreign education?
"If we talk about universities today, the situation with science leaves much to be desired. This is indicated by publication activity of Russian scientists. That is, very few Russian scientists are published in major journals or magazines, or cited in databases," told Pravda.Ru Alexei Bobtsov, Professor, Doctor of Technical Science. That is, apparently, it is much more effective to practice science outside of Russia. However, as stressed by the Professor, the ASI program presents an excellent opportunity to exchange experiences between countries. This is a mandatory condition for the development of science.
"In fact, the government is not proposing anything new. The results were shown back under Peter the Great. I think it was a brilliant undertaking. How will it work now? Hopefully, it will work well. I would likely support this initiative," said Alexei Bobtsov. "The only thing is the fear that students would leave and not come back, but I want to say that there are quite decent conditions for normal, adequate people. I mean people who work well and are engaged in research. Now graduates from Moscow and St. Petersburg are not ready to go abroad to study science. For example, a student would go to the Netherlands, will become a graduate student, will receive 1,800 euros a month plus funding for housing, food and so on. Now imagine a different situation in Moscow. After graduation they can work as programmers for example, and easily make the 1,800 Euros, plus they will be at home, with growth prospects. So now maybe it's not as attractive as it was in the 1990s when scientists fled in order to survive."
Meanwhile, according to experts of the Russian labor market, the education obtained abroad would have a major positive impact on the employment of graduates in Russia. This is not only because foreign education is prestigious, but also because the education system there is much more modern than in Russia. "In recent years, the prestige of the Russian higher education has declined. This is due to several reasons," told Pravda.Ru chief editor of Rabota.ru Alexander Gross. "First of all, Russian universities do not have available training programs for the professionals who are really in demand. Students receive mainly theoretical knowledge and then do not know how to apply it in practice. Second, many students, perhaps because of certain immaturity of generation Y (I try not to generalize, but this is a trend), lack of awareness when choosing a career.
As a result, they enter wrong universities and acquire wrong knowledge. Moreover, very few are turning to career information centers at the universities to adjust their choice at an early stage. Third, it is time for a number of teachers to retire. Instead, they continue to go to work and give students hopelessly outdated knowledge and judgment (at best) or broadcast subjective views of modern society, and so on." According to the expert, the Russian educational system is in need of modernization. It is necessary to establish career counseling centers at universities, introduce more applied disciplines (they exist now, but their customers are mainly large companies) and, of course, there is a need in updating the faculty and increasing salaries.
"Western education system is practical. It focuses primarily on the application of knowledge by future graduates. There is no monotonous memorization, there is work with real examples. Grants for training in leading foreign universities must be given to the most talented and motivated young people who know exactly where they are going and why they are doing it. This is the idea. Time will show how it will be implemented in practice," concluded Alexander Gross.