Why International Students Choose the Study at Higher School of Economics?
Junior Research Fellow at the HSE Laboratory for Economics of Innovation, Alena Nefedova conducted a study on the reasons for choosing the Higher School of Economics by foreign students. The results were published in the journal Higher Education in Russia and Beyond (HERB).
Russian universities facing double challenge
Not only do universities actively promote their educational programs overseas, but entire states are investing significant funds to promote national systems of professional education in the global education market. Russian universities have faced dual difficulties: challenges throughout the internal changes of system of higher education, and changes in Russian political, economic and social order after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The USSR was the third in the world by the number of foreign students, after the USA and France by organizing programs to attract foreign students supported at the government level, then the situation changed dramatically. Relations with many states were broken, and there was a drop in the quality of higher education due to economic and other reasons.
Education in Russian language is the main reason why Russia would probably cease to be a significant player in the global educational market: over the past two decades, the number of Russian-speaking people has decreased from about 350 to 260 million people approximately. It is therefore necessary to develop educational products in the English language, but this is a very long-term process.
Potential students from CIS countries
Most foreign students come to Russia from the CIS countries, and it is important to understand what main factors they considered when choosing a university.
In 2015, The online survey was conducted during the International Youth Olympiad held by HSE. Out of 640 respondents, 285 stated the Higher School of Economics as their top choice. The main selection criteria were dominated by two basic reasons: high level of education provided by a higher educational institution as well as good job prospects. Many respondents also indicated that the existence of international connections and training programs abroad was important for them too.
The respondents were also asked about their plans after graduation. It turned out that more than half (57,6%) intended to stay in Russia, another one-third (31,7%) had not yet decided what they would do, and a very small share of the respondents intended to return to their home country (4,7%). The remaining 6,1% intended to leave for another country upon graduation. In other words, applicants from the CIS plan to receive higher education in Russia with the goal of finding employment in the Russian economy after graduation.
Students from Non-CIS Countries
The number of English-language programs is growing in HSE. In the 2015/2016 academic year, HSE opened 17 English-language master’s programs, with total enrollment of 568 students. HSE has many academic mobility programs, under which 360 foreign nationals came to the university in 2015 for a period of at least a month, the top sending countries being Germany, South Korea, USA, China and the UK. The most popular are one-semester programs, including English-based courses and intensive Russian language course.
According to a survey conducted by HSE Center for Institutional Research, motivation of foreign students enrolled for short-term and long-term programs (bachelor’s or master’s) differs radically. Speaking of short-duration programs, students are attracted by the opportunity to learn more about Russian culture and Moscow, and to study Russian. As for degree-seeking students arriving in Moscow, for them the main driving factor is the reputation of the university and selected academic programs. These students consider educational experience in Russia to broaden their horizons and to ‘challenge’ themselves — mainly because of climatic conditions and different culture.
Thus, the image of the university is a significant demand factor, and the university should take active steps to promote its educational products, including developing and increasing the number of educational programs in English.
For more details on how many foreign students are studying in Russia, and what state programs exist to attract them, you can read in the article: Alena Nefedova (2017) The Scope, Structure and Purpose of the Export of Russian Higher Education / / The World of Russia. №2. p. 154—174.
by Irina Agapova