Academic Grading in Russia

Russian Federation implements a five point grading system in every institution of education, including the system of higher education (table 1).

In higher education, the majority of subjects are graded on ‘Pass/Not pass’ basis, and the rest is graded in terms of numbers. The 'Pass/Not Pass" grades do not have any official numeric representation. When “pass” type of subjects are graded as ‘Pass/Not pass’ this simply represents student's good/bad knowledge of a subject. Each university implements its own understanding of the appropriate level of knowledge a student must have to pass each subject. Students at NArFU typically must pass all the offered subjects to graduate.

Table 1. Comparison of Russian and European grading systems

Russian grading scale

European grading scale


Highest Distinction (The best possible grade, representing excellent knowledge in a given subject)


outstanding performance with only minor errors


represents a good knowledge of a subject


above the average standard but with some errors


sometimes translated into English as "Fair" (This is a credit passing grade, satisfactory knowledge)


generally sound work with a number of notable errors


means one hardly gets any knowledge, below average, represents the first level of failing, unsatisfactory results


fair but with significant shortcomings


identifies a complete failure and is the lowest possible grade, very rarely used


performance meets the minimum criteria


work required before the credit can be awarded

At the same time, since the Bologna process has started in Russia, it’s getting more evident that Russian HE institutions need to adopt ECTS grading system defined in the ECTS framework by the European Commission ( The necessity of that for NArFU is defined by coming internationalization of the university as well as a willing to develop a bigger variety of joint international study programs and courses.

Today Russia HE system works with several methods of estimating the labour intensity of the main educational programs in credit units. The methods are mostly based on the principles, suggested in the Information Letter of the Russian Federation Ministry of Education No. 14-52-988in/13, dated the 28th of November 2002. The letter stated one should assume the following:

  • 1 Credit unit equals to 36 academic hours of total labour intensity with the length of 45 minutes (or 27 autonomous hours)
  • Maximum training load for a student per week is 54 academic hours, or 1.5 credit units
  • Labour intensity per discipline is estimated in credit units by dividing the labour intensity in academic hours into 36 with corrections to whole number or to 0.5 in accordance with the stated rules
  • Tests and course projects (works) are included in the total labour intensity of the discipline in credit units
  • One week of practice equals to 1.5credit units
  • One semester exam equals to 1 credit unit (3 days of preparation and 1 day of examination)

This method should not strictly regulate the number of credits, given for one and the same (or similar) subjects in all Russian educational institutions. It is efficient for each higher school to estimate their labour intensity in credits, and then to confirm the calculations in agreements, concluded with other HEIs which become partners in academic mobility of students and teachers.