Russian higher education

A sociological analysis

Authored by: Anna Smolentseva

Routledge Handbook of the Sociology of Higher Education

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138778122
eBook ISBN: 9781315772233
Adobe ISBN: 9781317677789


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In Russian higher education, a mix of ideas and reforms implanted in the specific national context and culture has generated a distinctive system. Russian universities are relatively young (about 250 years old) compared to their European counterparts. The emergence of the system was associated with the implementation of a European idea of university, although this was shaped to fit the distinctive national setting. From the very beginning, the distinctive features of the Russian system included an orientation to the state’s needs, comprehensive governmental control, and a bias towards teaching rather than research (Smolentseva, 2003, Kuraev, 2014). Later, Soviet policy reinforced this state utilitarianism, but over several decades it also managed to achieve the mass expansion of higher education. Post-Soviet reforms have followed the global neoliberal agenda, but have also been continuous with parts of the Soviet and imperial legacies.

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