By the end of 2014, the Russian Education and Science Ministry is due to adopt a new list of academic requirements that foreigners who want to get a higher education in Russia will have to meet. Now international applicants will have to spend a year learning Russian, mathematics and the key subjects in their chosen field in order to get the right to take entrance exams for their university of choice.

Foreign applicants wishing to enter Russian universities will be divided into several sets: humanities, natural sciences, medicine and biology, engineering, and economics. Each of the sets will comprise three mandatory and one specialist subject.

In addition, foreign applicants will study general-knowledge subjects, like Russian, mathematics, or computer science. The list of subjects will be set depending on the discipline an applicant will be specializing in. At the end of the foundation program, applicants will have to pass exams in their mandatory subjects and get a pass in optional ones.

The Russian language course comprises basic knowledge of phonetics, syntax, and punctuation. At the end of it, an applicant will have to have a vocabulary of at least 2,300 words, have adequate oral comprehension (at a speed of 200–240 words per minute) and read at a speed of 80–100 words per minute. Furthermore, they will have to be able to write an essay or produce a summary on a topic in their specialist field. "At the moment, there are no clear requirements as regards knowledge of Russian; as a result very basic ones are applied," vice-chancellor of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Viktor Grishin explains.

At the end of the Russian literature course (which forms part of the Russian course), an applicant will have to demonstrate knowledge of the Russian literature of the 18-19th centuries as well as biographies of great Russian authors: Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. They will have to be able to describe the literary styles of various authors and be able to speak about their works and characters (two to three works by each author).

In mathematics, foreign applicants will have not only to learn how to make simple calculations but to be able to prove various theorems in Russian and work out basic formulas as well as to study the basics of mathematical analysis.

"All national education systems are different and it is necessary to relate their equivalent levels so as not to end up accepting a secondary school student to a university course of studies. Each university will devise its own criteria in various disciplines. Russia has bilateral agreements with some countries on recognizing each other's education certificates but there is a host of countries that we do not have such agreements with," explains Gulnara Krasnova, vice-rector for international cooperation at the People's Friendship University of Russia.

There are about 250,000 foreign students from some 150 countries studying in Russia today. Over 40,000 of them receive higher education free of charge, with tuition fees paid for from the Russian budget. The biggest number of foreign students come from: in the CIS – Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine; in Europe – Slovenia; in Africa – Zambia; in Asia – China, the Palestinian National Authority, Syria, Iraq; and in Latin America – Columbia, Guatemala, and Peru.

At the moment, international students make up 2.5 percent of all students in Russia. By 2015, the Ministry of Education wants to raise this figure to 6 percent and by 2018, to 10 percent. "It is a good thing that the Ministry of Education has decided to look into this issue and bring some order to it. It will not only improve the quality of education but will raise the profile of Russian education abroad," says Sergei Markov, vice rector at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics and a member of the Russian Public Chamber.

According to the recommendations of the Ministry of Education and Science, international students should take a foundation program consisting of 52 weeks of studies (one academic year) before they take entrance exams. These will include 38 weeks of classroom work, four weeks of exam sessions and 10 weeks of holidays.

Based on materisls from Izvestia, MK and Radiovesti.ru