WENR, September 2011: Russia and CIS
Not Enough Students
Russian universities are facing a shortage of students for state-funded places this year, due to the economic crisis and a demographic crisis that economists predict could lead to the loss of 100,000 university teaching positions by 2020.
Experts at the Russian Higher School of Economics (RHSE), Russia’s leading specialist university for the social sciences, predict that more than half of private universities and regional branches of state universities could close over the next nine years. From a total of 484,000 available state-funded places this year, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 remained unfilled. Analysts believe the student shortfall will be higher next year.
The number of secondary school graduates in Russia has fallen from 1.2 million in 2006 to fewer than 800,000 this year, while the number of state-funded places in Russian universities has remained unchanged.
– University World News
August 28, 2011
Putin Calls for Modernization of Russian Universities
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in August that Russia needs to not only invest more money in its universities, as it is currently doing, but also to modernize them.
“Now that we’ve laid the foundation, our next steps should be aimed at modernizing the entire network of higher education institutions in Russia, to make it so that the honorable title of university, academy or institute indeed mean in practice modern quality and ample education, contemporary education,” Putin said at a meeting with the heads of Russian universities, as reported by RIA Novosti.
Russia has allocated nine billion rubles (over US$300 million) to improve the educational infrastructure in Russian universities between 2010 and 2012. In addition, higher education budget expenditures have more than doubled since 2005.
“In the next five years some 70 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) will be allocated to support higher education (federal and national research universities),” Putin said, adding that educational institutions taking part in the program should become the driving force in developing whole regions and strategically important industrial sectors.
– RIA Novosti
August 24, 2011
Government Closes Islamic Schools in the North
Tajik authorities have suspended teaching at four higher education Islamic schools in the northern part of the country, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports.
Students at the four schools were admitted after studying for nine or 11 years at state schools. After a three-year course of study they obtain a bachelor’s degree in Islamic theology.
Ostensibly the schools were closed for reasons largely related to insufficient infrastructure, however, some experts said closing madrasahs is a further step in the government’s policy to curtail religious activities. They recall that last year authorities brought home hundreds of Tajik students studying at Islamic universities and madrasahs in various countries.
August 8, 2011
Tajiks Who Studied Religion Abroad Face Legal Action
Police in southern Tajikistan have opened criminal cases against 22 former students at Islamic universities and religious schools abroad who returned to Tajikistan in the past year, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports.
In August 2010, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon expressed concern that foreign religious schools were indoctrinating Tajik students with radical Islamist ideology. He urged parents of students studying at foreign madrasahs and universities to bring them home. Since then, officials say some 900 former religious students have returned to the southern Khatlon Province alone.
Local observer Muhammadiqbol Imomiddin told RFE/RL that the authorities opened criminal cases against some of the returned students to warn them and others that they should stay away from religious extremists and banned Islamic groups.
August 19, 2011
New ‘Spiritual Book’ to Enter School Curriculum
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov will soon release a new “spiritual guidebook” for the country that will replace the long-used “Rukhnama” (Book of the Soul) of his predecessor, RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service reports.
RFE/RL sources suggest that the book will either be called “Turkmennama” (Book for Turkmen) or “Adamnama” (Book for Humanity). Those two names were also suggested by Turkmen publicist and writer Tachgeldi Gutliyev in an article published by the state-controlled “Turkmen dili” (Turkmen Language) newspaper in May.
Gutliyev had written about the need for a new guidebook that will be essential for a “new period in Turkmen history” — since Berdymukhammedov came to power — which state ideology describes as “an era of Great Renaissance.” It follows the “Golden Age” of President Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December 2006 and was the reputed author of “Rukhnama.”
The content of the new guidebook has not been made public and it’s not clear when it will be launched. The Rukhnama was made a compulsory part of the curriculum at all levels of the country’s educational system and it was expected to be prominently displayed in public places and kept in every home. Though “Rukhnama” is still used in Turkmen primary and secondary schools, state universities and institutes have been allowed in recent years to remove its study from their programs.
September 5, 2011
Academics Warm Against University Centralization Plans
Leading academics in Ukaraine are warning that Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk’s plans to centralize control over the nation’s universities risks dragging Ukraine away from international standards in higher education.
Educators and officials from Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, two of the country’s leading institutions, said in interviews with the Kiev Post that reducing their independence by introducing greater control over financing and curricula would damage the quality of teaching and research. Experts have also said that such moves contradict the ideals of the Bologna Process, an attempt to align European education systems with an emphasis on university autonomy.
Experts said the Education Ministry is trying to improve quality across the board by taking greater control of the country’s notoriously corrupt universities. This could, however, lead to a situation where “the worst universities might even get better, but the better universities get worse when controlled,” said a top official from one leading university, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A parliament committee in February rejected Tabachnyk’s draft legislation for further central control following protests by academics and students. But the minister, seen by many as pro-Russian in his views, appears to be pushing ahead with his plans despite protest.
– Kyiv Post
August 25, 2011