Higher Education in RussiaThe course of formal learning in society takes a mold that has been carefully crafted over the course of history. Similar to business, hierarchal structures remain in place to provide a linear path for young and ambitious students to rise through the levels of education in order to become better contributors to society. This logic path applies to all developed nations of the world, but for the developing nation of Russia, a massive suboptimal state within higher education continues to disenfranchise the student population from the institutions themselves.

State of Higher Education in Russia

The suboptimal state of higher education in Russia presents itself in the faulty relationship between faculty-led lecture and curriculum learning and student capability. Currently, the system of education in Russia mimics that of United States by level and progression. Russia has three primary levels of education available to its 143 million citizens: primary school, secondary school, college and tertiary school that is often referred to as university or post-secondary education.

Unlike the United States where higher education finds its roots in Jeffersonian ideals of limited government and freedom of expression, states and religious communities, all higher education in Russia is either commercial or state-owned and operated. Commercially owned universities take on the same form as privately owned universities in the United States where a board of controllers share a stake in the institution and design its curriculum and policies.

Conversely, state-owned and operated universities in Russia is where the suboptimal state of higher education in Russia materializes. Faculty are on the government payroll and often found work in higher education as an alternative to finding private sector work. Lack of qualifications coupled with a general apathy corrodes the quality of higher education in Russia.

Contrary to the United States where the possession of a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) represents the terminal degree of higher education and right of passage into a professorship, poor education standards in Russia afford more graduate students to earn their Ph.D. equivalents and enter the employment world of higher education. Proper education training programs are not pushed on professors as much as it is in the United States.

Higher Education and Poverty in Russia

According to World Education News and Reviews, around 54 percent of Russians aged from 25 to 64 held tertiary degrees as of 2015. Representing more than 50 percent of Russia’s demographic of educable citizens, the country is ranked as one of the most educated nations in the world. Where then does the suboptimal state of higher education in Russia fit into the equation of global poverty?

The answer is complex. Because government-owned universities offer free tuition and significant subsidies on student housing and extraneous costs, the state proctors an array of difficult entrance exams that determine a candidates eligibility into Russian university. For those who do not pass the exam or have little care for the system of higher education altogether, a pivot toward traditional blue-collar trades such as electricians, plumbers and contractors is not unfamiliar. However, the pursuit of blue-collar work does not afford Russians the same pay scale and livelihood as it does for U.S. laborers. Herein lies the trickle-down effects of higher education restraints into the poverty of the Russian’s middle-class.

Present and Future of Higher Education in Russia

In 2019, higher education in Russia is beginning to respond to the needs of the labor market and mimic the same dynamic of labor – education as in the United States. Around 20 years prior, laborers with a Bachelor of Science or Arts degree were very competitive and employable in the labor force. Currently, bachelor degrees are being less valued by Americans and now college graduates pursue a masters degree in addition to a four-year degree so to better secure their chances of higher job security and pay.

Notwithstanding this change, the trend of Americans who believes a four year-year degree will lead to a good job and higher lifetime earnings represents only 49 percent of the population, down 13 percentage points when the same question was asked four years earlier.

There are a few possible solutions to the link between middle-class poverty in Russia and the shambolic higher education offered. Requiring professors in Russia to visit select cities where intense training and education is offered in preparation for professorship may cure the qualifications issue.

Additionally, commercial universities ought to take measures of their own to increase competitiveness and admission rates to receive the pressure off of state-run institutions. Russia is presently molding its education philosophy around Western ideals that hinge on government deregulation, freedom of choice and competition. Implementing additional measures and programs that fall in line with that philosophical shift is not beyond Russia’s capability. The survival of Russia’s educated middle class depends on it.

– Nicholas Maldarelli

Photo: Pixabay

How the U.S. Benefits from the Summer Work and Travel Program
When universities go on break for the summer, college students from the United States usually go on vacations, travel or rest. Many students from the rest of the world travel as well, but they have other various options. For example, the students can come to the United States on visas that allow them to work in the country for three to four months during their break from university.

Summer Work and Travel Program

The program that allows students to come and work in the U.S is called the Summer Work and Travel Program. This program is under the broader J-1 visa category. Initially introduced as a cultural exchange program, it started in 1961 with the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act. The J-1 type visa exchange is meant to encourage the “the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts and science.” Over the last 10 years, over 310,000 individuals from 200 countries have visited the U.S. through the program.

What the Program Means for Participants

The students who choose to participate in the program are really serious about it. It requires a good deal of dedication to the process, some serious preparation and a considerable investment of funds to be able to apply for a visa. The requirements that participants need to meet include English language proficiency, full-time enrollment in a post-secondary educational institution and a secured job offer prior to traveling.

Toni Kovachev is a student from Bulgaria who has been to the United States three times as a J-1 participant. “Working in the states can be described as exhausting but having a lot of fun at the same time,” Kovachev shares with The Borgen Project. The decision to participate in the program came with his choice of a higher education institution.

Kovachev needed to find the means to be able to attend the American University in Bulgaria, a private liberal arts college, and the Summer Work and Travel Program made that possible. During his time in the U.S., he has been able to earn enough money for his tuition and improve his English language skills. Kovachev says, “It was a choice that changed my life and I am so glad that it happened that I went three summers already.”

The Summer Work and Travel program is an opportunity for international students to share their culture with different people and experience U.S. society and culture. These exchange of ideas, stories and ways of life are enriching for both sides. Being exposed to people from different backgrounds generates respect, understanding and tolerance towards others.

How the U.S. Benefits From Summer Work an Travel Program

Over the last two years, the program has been under scrutiny and criticism. The disapproval comes from the fear that visitors take job opportunities away from American youth. But these criticisms are misguided. J-1 students supplement the local economy during seasonal peak times or when American workers are not available. They help businesses to be more productive by being able to offer more and better services.

The students who obtain their visas to work in the U.S. for the summer usually occupy seasonal jobs in the hospitality sector. The majority of them are concentrated in the Southeast of the U.S. with Massachusetts and New York hosting the most J-1 students. Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown and Nantucket experience an influx of visitors and tourists over the summer. Without international students cleaning hotel rooms, busing tables in restaurants and restocking supermarkets, businesses in those places would not be able to keep it up.

The program is beneficial for both the countries of origin of the J-1 students as well as the United States. A report commissioned by the Alliance for International Exchange shows that the majority of participants come to the U.S. to experience and learn about the way of life that then results in their positive opinion regarding the United States.

Almost all students reported that they believe they have obtained skills that would help them in the future. To add to that, 92.1 percent of employers agreed that the Summer Work and Travel Program participants improved the workplace. The estimated contribution of J-1 students to the economy in 2016 was around $509 million.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

higher education in UzbekistanAlthough Uzbekistan’s economy shifted from agriculture to a service sector over a 20-year period, its higher education system was unable to adapt to this change. According to a report from the World Bank in 2013, Uzbekistan saw exceptionally low enrollment rates in its universities. However, work has been done in recent years to improve higher education in Uzbekistan.

Initiatives to Modernize Higher Education in Uzbekistan

In January of 2016, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) launched a program that would help Uzbekistani students and young scientists implement startup ideas and realize their entrepreneurial potential. The UNDP launched the program to utilize the potential of Uzbekistan’s higher education students. The program is three months long and teaches students how to present products and ideas to potential investors.

In April of 2017, the World Bank and Uzbekistan’s government signed a $42.2 million credit agreement for a project to modernize Uzbekistan’s higher education system and improve the quality of its labor market. The World Bank also intends to modernize Uzbekistan’s higher education laboratories, research facilities and establish a national electronic library. The project will also finance an Academic Innovation Fund that higher institutions can use for proposing new education initiatives.

Uzbekistan’s Plans For Higher Education Reform

In May of 2017, there were only twenty applicants per subject at Uzbekistan universities. Teachers were also reported to be greatly underpaid. Authoritative figures made plans to reform higher education in Uzbekistan, setting a goal for 18 percent more college students by the year 2020. Uzbekistan’s officials said the country also planned to raise professor salaries and hire more foreign faculty.

In October of 2017, Webster University signed a memorandum of understanding with Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Higher Education. Julian Schuster, Webster University’s provost, said Webster is committed to pursuing long-term partnerships that would benefit “our academic communities and our countries.” Schuster also said that establishing a presence in Uzbekistan implied that the university might offer its programs there.

In November of 2017, Webster University set up a branch of its institution in Uzbekistan. Sia Eng Kee, a researcher at the Management Development Institute of Singapore, said the new American campus would give Uzbekistan’s local students an alternative to their traditional Russian, European and Asian studies. Webster University will also prepare Uzbekistan’s college students for global career opportunities.

Improving Doctoral Studies at Higher Education Institutions

On Feb. 7, 2018, the Tashkent Chemical Technological Institute hosted a Quality Assurance Seminar in accordance with Uzbekistan’s project to further the quality of doctoral studies. Radoslaw Darski, the head of Uzbekistan’s policy, press and information sector, emphasized the project’s importance in helping Uzbekistan develop its science and higher education sector. From February 5 to 9, the project held training seminars with doctors and scientists of various universities and institutions.

On Feb. 21, 2018, Uzbekistan and Kuwait signed an agreement with the aim to establish bilateral cooperation between the countries’ higher education and science education systems. The agreement allows Uzbekistan and Kuwait to exchange students and researchers who are awarded yearly scholarships. The agreement also promotes interactions in teaching and learning the Arabic language, preserving Oriental manuscripts and cooperation in source studies.

Many efforts have been made in recent years to improve higher education in Uzbekistan. The UNDP, World Bank, Webster University and Kuwait will continue their work in helping the future of Uzbekistan’s higher education students.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Students in South AfricaSouth African universities have recently faced many violent disruptions due to conflict over tuition prices. Buildings have been set on fire while student factions continue to clash. This is the second year of conflict between Students in South Africa and their universities over the high costs of tuition and the low pay for university staff.

The government budget for the past year only temporarily fixed the financial issues being protested, and violence continues. Students at the University of the Free State were attacked during their protest by rugby spectators, while students at Pretoria University have burned buses and artwork in clashes over language instruction policies.

A possible solution to the issue would involve allotting more funding in the next budget for public education and universities. If tuition prices were lowered, more students in South Africa would be able to attend university, thus beginning to dispel the conflict over tuition prices.

Protests began at Tshwane University of Technology, where students were unable to register for courses because of their outstanding debt. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was incapable of meeting its funding commitments, causing a wave of anger amongst the students when their education was disrupted by this failure of the NSFAS. Additional funding for NSFAS was included in the 2016 budget in attempt to dispel protests, but the protesters are still active and escalating in violence.

Education continues to suffer in South Africa due to the unaffordable costs of higher education. A majority of the funding to remedy the protests has gone to North-West University, where academic activities were suspended for over a month.

The shadow higher education minister, Belinda Bozzoli, claims that “radical student groups” had “directed money away from the legitimate needs of thousands of poor students.” She says that though some of the damages can be covered by insurers, universities are suffering and unable to provide adequate education while under attack.

Inequality in South Africa is a major cause for the protests. Approximately 70 percent of South Africans are paid so little that they qualify for free state housing. These citizens cannot afford university tuition fees.

Students in South Africa in poor financial situations can apply for a bursary to fund part of their education. However, students must pay off a portion of debt before graduating and pay their loans in full immediately upon graduation.

As a result of the conflict over tuition prices, the government has continued to freeze the increasing tuition prices for two years—a short-term solution for a long-term, foundational issue.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr