There are two kinds of tertiary education in the Russian Federation:

  • vocational level;
  • degree level. 

Vocational level

Education institutions of vocational level are generally known as technical schools or colleges. A college can be an independent educational institution or constituent part of a higher educational institution. It offers basic and advanced educational programs of vocational well coordinated with degree level programs in the same field of studies. At present, there are about 680 colleges in the country.

The admission requirements for vocational level education after completing general education (11 years) are the same as for entrance to degree level programs: the results of National State Exams. Quite a number of vocational level education institutions offer course programs following completion of basic general education (9 years). Admission procedure after basic general education is a selective entrance test.

Duration of programs

Duration of studies in vocational level institutions is from 2 to 3 years after secondary (complete) general education (11 years) and from 3 years to 4,5 years after basic general education (9 years). On the successful completion of studies, students are awarded with a Diploma. Credits are given by universities to holders of such Diplomas, if they enter a program in the same field of studies (transfer up to 4 semesters on a case-by-case basis).

Degree level

According to the Law on Education of 1996 higher educational institutions are classified as following.

University is an institution which is aimed at the development of education, science, and culture through conducting of fundamental and applied research and offering of training programs at all levels of higher, postgraduate, and continuing education in a wide range of natural and social sciences and the humanities. A university must be a leading research and methodological centre in the areas of its activity.

Academy is a higher educational institution in which activities are aimed at the development of education, science, and culture through conducting of fundamental and applied research and offering of training programs at all levels of higher, postgraduate, and continuing education in a single major area of science, technology, or culture. An academy must be a leading research and methodological centre in its area of activity.

Institute is an autonomous higher educational institution or university's (academy's) division providing programs at all levels of higher, postgraduate, and continuing education and conducting research.

Admission requirements

Admission to a higher educational institution is based on presentation of a high school diploma or its equivalent and results (scores) of the National State Exam or its equivalent.

Degrees and Diplomas

Russian higher education institutions may confer the following degrees and diplomas:

  • Bachelor's Diploma: four years of study;
  • Specialist's Diploma: five years of study;
  • Master's Diploma: two years of study.

Bachelor Degree

A Bachelor's degree is conferred after a four-year course of studies. Bachelor degree programs cover all disciplines except for medicine. The function of a Bachelor degree is to provide a more academically rather than professionally oriented education. A Bachelor degree is a prerequisite for admission to Master studies. The State Final Attestation includes the defense of a thesis prepared over a period of four months and State Final Examinations. Following a successful attestation, a State Diploma is issued attesting conferral of a Bachelor degree. The Diploma supplement includes the list of disciplines, the number of hours or credits, the grades, practical training, and the results obtained on Final State Examinations and in the defense of the thesis.

Specialist Diploma

The traditional qualification of a Specialist diploma has two functions. It opens access to professional practice (e.g. as engineers, teachers, chemists, etc.), and it is also the traditional prerequisite for admission to doctoral studies. The qualification of a Specialist's diploma is conferred after five-year studies. The diploma is awarded in nearly all fields of studies (specialities). The State Final Attestation for a Specialist's diploma covers the defense of a project or a thesis and State Final Examinations. The procedure for the State Final Attestation and for the award of the diploma as well as the content of a Diploma supplement are the same as for a Bachelor's degree.

Master Degree

A Master's degree programme is a two-year course focused more on research activities in comparison with a Specialist's program. The State Educational Standard defines only general requirements for Master's degree programs and not the requirements regarding the content of education. Higher educational institutions introducing Master's degree programs are free to make their own decisions regarding the content of programs. Access to Master's degree studies is open for holders of a Bachelor's degree. Higher educational institutions themselves set up admission procedures (examinations, interviews, etc.) for applicants. Those holders of a Bachelor's degree wishing to pursue a Master's program in different fields of studies (speciality) must pass an additional test which reflects the requirements for a Bachelor's degree program in the speciality corresponding to the chosen Master's degree program.

Doctoral Programmes

The hierarchy of advanced scientific degrees in Russia traditionally includes Doctor's degrees of two levels: Candidate of Sciences and Doctor of Sciences. The Candidate of Sciences degree normally requires three years of studies after the award of Specialist's or Master's degrees. The Doctor of Sciences' degree can be earned after a period of further studies following the award of the Candidate of Sciences' degree. In reality, to get a Doctor of Sciences' degree requires five to fifteen years beyond the award of the Candidate of Sciences' degree.

Both degree level and research institutions have the right to set up doctoral study programs. The Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science is responsible for supervision of doctoral studies in higher education and research institutions. Upon the decision of this body, doctoral study programs are opened in those higher education establishments and research institutions that possess the required personnel as well as scientific and financial resources. Higher educational institutions must be accredited, and research institutions must have a license granting them the right to carry out educational activities. The two doctoral degrees can be obtained in two ways: as a result of studies in the post-graduate programs or independently.

The defense of doctoral dissertations is carried out before the Dissertation Council. Dissertation Councils are organized by the Higher Attestation Committee (a part of the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science) to accept dissertations in given fields of sciences for hearing in accredited higher educational and research institutions.

The public defense of the dissertation is held in the form of a public presentation and scientific debate.

For more information visit:

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