System of Higher Education 
in Russia

Education in Russia is provided predominantly by the state and is regulated by the Ministry of Education and Science. Over the last ten years, the system of higher education has undergone considerable change in the following areas:

  • Goals - with an orientation towards the needs of the market, society, and individuals;
  • Structure - decentralization (in contrast to Soviet centralized planning);
  • Autonomy of higher educational institutions - introduction of private higher education; elimination of a bias towards engineering specialties;
  • Financing - diversification of financial sources instead of a reliance solely on state financing;
  • Content - increasing the humanitarian components in the curriculum, and diversifying programs and courses.

New trend for consolidation began in 2006 when state universities and colleges got merged into Federal Universities (Southern Federal University, Siberian Federal University; Far Eastern Federal University, Northern (Artic) Federal University, etc.).

By now, the educational system in Russia is similar to the European and American educational systems in having:

  • 2-cycle educational system: undergraduate level (Bachelor’s degree) and postgraduate level (Master’s degree and Doctoral degree)
  • Credit transfer system
  • Academic exchange programs on the basis of ECTS (European Credit Transfer System)
  • European diploma supplement (not everywhere).

At the same time, it still holds lots of peculiarities, main one of them is in having:

  • 5-year engineer / specialist programs (still exist given the transitional period towards the Bologna system of education)

Russia co-signed the Bologna agreement in October 2003 and in October 2007 Russia enacted a law that replaces the traditional five-year model of education with a two-tiered approach: a four-year bachelor degree followed by a two-year master's degree. The transition means the country leads an integrating process of developing a common European educational system, having a period of adjustment. As a result, the number of specialist’s and non-degree programs in Russia is decreasing.

A degree or diploma holder of institution of higher education can be admitted to the appropriate learning level after acknowledge of his/her prior education. The university can offer you guidance in this and other preparatory issues. Contact persons and more details are available at: or in the Russian language at: Those who would like to take courses in Russian must be fluent in Russian and present the Russian Language State Certificate as evidence.

Bachelor's level of studies

Northern (Arctic) Federal University offers international students a wide range of bachelor degree programs in the Russian languages. There are several courses and modules in English, available for bachelor’s level students.

The first two-year study level includes modules in natural sciences, mathematics, socio-economics, humanities and a few speciality oriented modules. The study modules of the second level (the next two years of study) include advanced profession-oriented modules, subjects in natural sciences, electives from special socio-economics modules and practical training in industrial and other companies. In whole, bachelor’s level represents the completion of "basic academic education."

The holder can continue his/her studies to earn the Master's Degree (2 years).

Master's level of studies

Northern (Arctic) Federal University is pleased to offer international students a variety of master’s degree programs as well as non-degree courses both in Russian and English languages.

The professional educational courses leading to the Master's Degree include special disciplines and modules, which explain new achievements, methodologies in science and technology, in addition to the curriculum of bachelors. The courses are oriented towards scientific creativity, pedagogical activity, and practical and research work.

NArFU Master's Degree holders have the opportunity to continue their research and to earn PhD after 3-4-5 years.

Doctoral level of studies (PhD)

Northern (Arctic) Federal University is on the way to offers international students a range of PhD programmes, which are currently under development.

However, the Law on Education does not address any changes to the Soviet model of graduate education (the kandidat nauk [Candidate of Science] and doktor nauk [Doctor of Science]). Many post-Soviet countries, including Russian Federation, have a two-stage research degree obtaining path.

The first stage is named "Kandidat (kandidat nauk) of ... Sciences" (literal translation means "Candidate of Sciences", for instance, Kandidat of Medical Sciences, of Chemical Sciences, of Philological Sciences, and so on). The Kandidat of Sciences degree is usually recognized as an equivalent of Philosophy Doctor (PhD) degree and requires at least (and typically more than) three, four or five years of post-graduate research which is finished by defense of Dissertation or rarely - thesis. Additionally, a seeker of the degree has to pass three examinations (a so-called "Kandidate's minimum"): in his/her special field, in a foreign language, and in the history and philosophy of science. After additional certification by the corresponding experts, the Kandidat degree may be recognized internationally as an equivalent of PhD. An unconditional PhD equivalence has been recognized before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the additional certification in many countries has become required after the steep increase flow of post-Soviet emigration.

Post-doctoral level of studies (Post-Doc)

The second stage, Doktor nauk, "Doctor of ... Sciences". It requires many years of research experience and writing of a second dissertation. The degrees of Kandidat and Doktor of Sciences are only awarded by the special governmental agency (Higher Attestation Commission); a university or a scientific institute where the thesis was defended can only recommend to award a seeker the sought degree. In practice, however, HAC only rarely rejects such recommendations, and its approval is almost automatic [ Retrieved 2012-05-15]

In Russia, the training of well-qualified specialists in teaching and research lasts for 3 to 4 years and ends with the public defense of a PhD thesis. If you are studying for a PhD as a full-time postgraduate you can expect to finish your research within 3 years. If you take the university's Master's Degree track you will have the opportunity to continue your research and to earn your PhD after 2 years. The duration of part-time or distance doctoral training is about 4 years. This duration can be altered. As a rule, students carry out real scientific and engineering investigations with the use of modern laboratory equipment, prepare scientific papers for publication and participate in national and international scientific conferences. All this activity is carried out under the guidance and supervision of leading university scientists.

Main legal framework

  • The Constitution of the Russian Federation.
  • Decrees and orders of the President of the Russian Federation.
  • Decrees and orders of the Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation.
  • The State Law on Education of 1992, adopted by the Duma in 1996, outlines the principles of state policy on education.
  • The Regulations on Higher Education Establishments provide institutions with more details of how national plans should be fulfilled at the same time as they incorporate the autonomy and other rights of HEIs.
  • The Law on Higher and Post Tertiary level professional education approved by Duma in 1996.
  • In 2001 the Government approved the Concept of the Modernization of the Russian Education for Period until 2010. This document has become the framework for all innovations, experiments and reforms enacted in Russia in the education area.
  • There is a new framework “Strategy-2020”, elaborated for the sphere of education and science for the next decade. It offers innovative approaches towards development of Russian higher education.

Academic Calendar

At Russian universities, the academic year begins on 1 September and ends at the end of June/July. The actual starting and ending date of studies depends on the field of study and the courses taken. The academic year consists of two semesters.

Autumn Semester: September – December

Spring Semester: January – May

There is no summer semester, but during the summer, students can take summer studies, which may consist of exams, personal projects or research, at NArFU and abroad. Lectures and seminars are not usually offered from June/July to August, with the exception of some field courses. Most of the libraries are open during the summer.

In addition to summer holidays, there is a break at the New Year and Christmas Celebrations (Jan 01 – Jan 10) and some other public holidays across the year.