Russia Country Profile – Education

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System Structure

Russia has traditionally invested heavily in education, which is considered to be of a high standard. It is estimated that the country has an adult literacy rate of 99.7% and the education system was ranked 13th in the world in 2014 (OECD). Education in Russia is compulsory for all children between the age of 6 and 15. On completion of primary school at age 10, children continue to secondary school until age 15. At this point pupils have the option to carry on in further education to gain the diploma necessary for university admission. All schools in Russia are state-funded and managed by the Ministry of Education and Science. There are very few private schools (less than 1%) although major cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg have a choice of international schools for expat children.

Academic Year

The Russian school year starts in September and is divided into four terms. Each term ends with a holiday (the first week of November, the first two weeks of January, the last week of March and three months in summer) and the school year finishes at the end of May. The school day generally begins at 8.30 am and ends at 4pm. Children have their lunch at school. The university academic year begins in September and ends in May, with two semesters (Autumn and Spring).

Higher Education

Russia has around 650 public higher education institutions and over 200 private universities. Higher education is highly accessible - a UNESCO report estimated that more than half of the country’s adult population has attained a tertiary education, twice as high as the OECD average. Russia’s highest ranked universities are the Lomonosov Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University, which ranks 15th among the BRIC countries. University courses are taught in Russian, although some institutions have introduced some courses (usually Master’s degrees) taught in English in order to attract international students, who comprise around 5% of the student body. Most Russian universities have individual admissions requirements and there is no central application process. International students who do not speak Russian are required to complete a ‘pre-academic year’ and pass an entrance exam in order to enrol.


State higher education is free to Russian citizens, with the exception of some courses. Foreign students are required to pay tuition fees which are relatively low – around £2,500 to £5,000 per year - compared to the UK and USA. Tuition fees may vary from one institution to another. A number of scholarships are available to foreign students such as the Russian Federation State Scholarship which can help cover fees and living expenses.


Russian universities offer a wide range of courses, from law, arts and languages to computing, mathematics and sciences. Higher education in Russia has undergone significant reform since the country signed up to the Bologna Process in 2003, bringing the system in line with the majority of European countries. There are now two levels of higher education: Bachelors (Bakalavrs) degrees, which take around 4 years to complete and Masters (Magistrs) degrees, taking 2 years to complete. After a Master’s degree students can continue to study towards a doctoral degree:  Kandidat Nauk (the first level, equivalent to a PhD) and Doktor Nauk degree (the highest level).


Research is well funded in Russia, with particular investment in scientific and technology fields. The major funding body is the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) which is a self-governed state organisation supporting scientific research.

Primary and Secondary Education

Children begin primary education at age 6 and follow a core curriculum of Russian, mathematics, science, foreign languages, history, politics, arts and sport. On completion of primary school (around age 10), students continue their basic general education at secondary school which are divided into; general secondary schools and vocational/technical schools (Technikum Kolledz Uchilishe). Upon completion of upper-secondary school (age 17/18), students are awarded the Attestat o Srednem (Polnom) Obshchem Obrazovanii (Certificate of Secondary Complete General Education, School Leaving Certificate), which is necessary for admission into university.


Preschools in Russia generally accept children from the age of two and a half, although some private nurseries will accept younger children. Russia has a number of free, municipal kindergartens, however these are heavily oversubscribed. Most expats choose to send their children to one of the many private international preschools situated in the larger cities. You can find more information about private preschools in Russia here.

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