The Russian Federation was “cut off” from the Bologna Process in April. A month later, the Ministry of Education and Science came to the conclusion that Russia should build its own system of education taking into account the interests of the national economy, said the head of the department Valery Falkov.
Participants of Bologna Process
Forty-eight states are participants of the Bologna Process, including the European Union, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and a number of others. The largest Asian countries, China, India and Japan, all the countries of North and South America, as well as Africa, do not participate in it.
Meanwhile, European universities have signed agreements with leading American and Asian universities under which student mobility is not limited just to Europe. In fact, the United States, Japan, China, Australia and Brazil also recognize it.
Russia joined the Bologna process in September 2003. On April 11, 2022, Russia and Belarus were excluded from the Bologna Process, a month after 185 rectors of the Russian universities signed a letter of support for a special military operation in Ukraine.
“You do not fit in Here”
The Bologna System is first of all a “convertibility” of diplomas, an opportunity to recognize the diplomas of one country in other countries that are part of this agreement. However, Russian diplomas were not recognized as equal to European or American diplomas.
“The Bologna system was needed to integrate into the global education system and to standardize education, which never happened. Russian diplomas were never fully recognized. Many experts consider the effectiveness of the Bologna Process in terms of improving the quality of education to be low,” said Gulnara Ruchkina, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Financial University.
“In fact, academic mobility of students and teachers, one of the main requirements of the Bologna Process, has been ignored,” said Alexander Beloborodov, vice-rector of the University of State and Municipal Management. “The Bologna system implied that the last year of the master's program students study at foreign universities, but this rule was almost never followed in Russia. Compared to European universities, Russian universities have always had a low level of joint study and research programs.”
While Russian students traveled to European universities quite frequently and successfully, there was virtually no exchange between universities within Russia. Even when transferring from one university to another, students were forced to take additional courses or take certain courses all over again.
“A relatively small number of students and faculty, mostly from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and some cities with a population of a million, have taken advantage of dual degree and academic exchange opportunities in Russia. These people will undoubtedly feel the consequences of not participating in the Bologna Process. The vast majority of students and teachers will not be significantly affected by Russia's withdrawal from the Bologna Process,” says Olga Vorontsova, principal and founder of the St. Petersburg College of Technology.
What to Expect From Transformation of Education
The current bachelor's graduates, who would like to study for a master's degree, are now at a loss. Most likely, there will be a transition period announced, allowing those who graduated with a bachelor's degree to continue their studies in the master's degree program in the area of study they have chosen, said experts.
The diplomas of bachelors and masters issued this year, of course, will not lose their legal force. There will be different types of higher education diplomas in Russia for many years to come but this has been the case since the introduction of the two-tier system and the retained specialist diploma. Another thing is that the bachelors might be out of pocket for a purely psychological reason. The attitude to them as under-specialists, if they have not completed master's degree program, may be aggravated against the background of the growing number of graduates with specialist diplomas.
In addition, the educational programs cannot be reworked at bench scale. No matter what kind of new educational system is adopted, new curricula will have to be developed for it.
“The task to build a new one is proclaimed in Russia, but no one has yet said whether or not we will destroy the bachelor's and master's degree programs,” said Alexander Chumikov, doctor of political sciences and professor of the department of communication technologies of the Moscow State Linguistic University. “Even if it happened, it is impossible to destroy it in a year or two or three, because people entered the bachelor's degree last year and will enter this year. It is at least four years. It will take many years to get out of the system, and I assume that the number of students in the specialist program will simply be increased, and those in bachelor's and master's degrees will be reduced, but not eliminated.”
The Head of the Russian Academy of Education Olga Vasilieva supported the idea that the five-year specialty should take the leading position in the structure of domestic higher education programs. In her opinion, engineering, legal and pedagogical education in case of return to the five-year education will only benefit.
At the same time, a two-level system is quite possible in some fields, including programs for foreign students.
“I have already said and will repeat that we need to make a legal assessment of Russia's participation in the Bologna Process and look at the legacy it will leave us,” Vasilieva said.
There is another alternative. Back at the beginning of the year, Russian presidential aide Andrei Fursenko suggested moving to educational programs on the “2+2+2” scheme, designed for six years, but there will be three stages, which gives students a flexible trajectory and the ability to choose.
“Students can enter universities not for a particular major, but for the enlarged groups of specialties and areas of training, and after two years of study at the university choose a particular specialty and area of training,” said Vladimir Filippov, President of Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, Academician and Vice President of RAO. “This, of course, is very important for young people. It is difficult to decide on a particular profession while still in school. This is evident by the example of one of the largest admissions in the last 25 years to choose between Economics or Management or State and Municipal Management. In the exact sciences it is often difficult for a schoolchild to decide whether to choose Mathematics and Informatics or Applied Mathematics or Information Technology or Business Informatics.”
“Universities should independently decide on the choice of an education model. In any case, it should be oriented to the needs of the Russian economy and, consequently, the labor market,” said Ruchkina.
Experts believe that reforms of secondary and higher education should be aimed at results. If one needs to prepare a person for the job as quickly as possible, this person can be trained for two years. If there is a need for fundamental education, then a specialist's degree will be better.”