Graft Not Uncommon in Higher Education
The results of a survey conducted by the Sargis Tkhruni Youth Student Union, an Armenian student group affiliated with the Social Democratic political party, suggest widespread, institutionalized corruption within the county’s higher education system. The survey polled 2000 students, five percent of all Armenian university students, and found that a vast majority (1821) of them asserted that corruption existed within their college or university. Upon review of the student group’s findings, Armenian Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian expressed skepticism at the survey’s quality yet assured the public that if the results were indeed accurate, measures would be taken to address the problem. According to students interviewed for the survey, bribery in the county’s university classrooms includes a tiered pricing system whereby increasing amounts correspond to higher marks. Students also described the system as pervasive yet subtle, and also explained that hard-working students could still earn top grades without succumbing to bribery.
— Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Jan. 18, 2007
Malaysian College Offers Path to Russian Degrees
HELP University College has introduced a Foundation in Science program that grants access to medical programs at three Russian institutions of higher education: Moscow Medical Academy, Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy and Volgograd State Medical University. The foundation program has been approved by the Malaysian National Accreditation Board. School leavers who complete the one-year program will receive a recognized foundation certificate that will enable them to undertake the six-year medical program in Russia.
— The Star Online
Jan. 21, 2007
University Aims to Double Enrollment and Become World’s Largest
Moscow State University, already one of Russia’s largest and most prestigious universities, is planning to double its enrollment, according to rector Viktor Sadovnichy. The university’s goal is to raise the number of students it enrolls from the current 40,000 to 100,000 over the next few years making it the world’s largest institution of higher education. The university is expanding its territory and updating its facilities to a world-class standard in order to facilitate progress, according to Sadovnichy.
— ITAR TASS
Jan. 22, 2007
National University Admissions Examinations to be Introduced Nationwide
The Russian parliament passed a bill in January introducing the Unified State Exam, a standardized common university admission examination similar to the SAT in the United States, marking a major shift from Soviet-era standards. The new system, which has already been applied in a majority of Russia’s 88 regions on an experimental basis, is designed in part to curb corruption in the admissions process. Reformers also hope the new test will widen access to students with limited means and to those from remote regions, while also helping to boost quality standards. President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign the bill which requires nationwide implementation by 2009. The new centralized exam will replace the current system whereby students are required to sit admissions examinations for each university to which they apply. Some universities, however, will still be allowed to set additional specialized exams as a concession to critics who state that multiple-choice tests used in the single-exam system are not a proper assessment tool for disciplines in the humanities.
For more on corruption and the reform of university admissions in the former Soviet Union see “Education Reform in the Former Soviet Union” http://www.wes.org/ewenr/05dec/feature.htm
— RIA Novosti
Jan. 26, 2007
Failing to Transform Russian Academe with U.S. Dollars
The conclusions from an in-depth analysis of a 10-year effort (1995-2005) by the Ford Foundation to encourage serious reform in Russian higher education suggest that efforts have been wasted and US institutions have failed to fully comprehend the country. Details of the as-yet-unpublished report were discussed at a talk by the author — Stephen Kotkin — at the Kennan Institute. From promising beginnings when individual academics were being sponsored and networks created, a shift in 1997 saw funds redirected to institutions in an attempt to affect the state system as a whole, according to Kotkin. These larger projects largely failed and did not result in the large-scale societal changes that Ford and others wanted to encourage in higher education, Kotkin said.
Of the various success stories in Russian academe, Kotkin said that certain disciplines fared better than others. He said that he was most impressed with the progress of economics. Sociology, he said, has more pockets than economics, and some scholars are doing excellent work, although not on the level of the economists. Kotkin said his study focused on social sciences, because they had been a particular interest of the Ford Foundation, out of the belief that these disciplines would help build civil society. Political science, which received an “enormous investment” from Ford and others, is “a failure,” he said.
In conclusion, Kotkin said that foundations still in Russia could do much good by abandoning big reform efforts and focusing on merit grants to individuals, helping scholars form Internet networks and create journals, and building a local peer-review system (again, to strengthen the process of providing grants to individuals).
— Inside Higher Ed
Jan. 31, 2007