Influence and role of student recruitment agencies can rise amid the pandemic
The 2020/21 admission campaign had its specific aspects as it took place amid global challenges that universities had never faced before. And while, according to some experts, international students became the most vulnerable category since they were not able to travel for holidays and stayed in Russia with support from their universities, Russia was able to retain and build on its reputation as a study destination with its high-quality, fundamental, and friendly education.

The Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education reported that international student intake grew by 9% year-to-year. In comparison, the number of international students in the US declined by 16%, and new international enrolments dropped by 43%.

It looks surprising, but we need to study the reasons behind this phenomenal figure. The universities' most important task is to retain new students who study online and convert them to regular on-campus students. I think that one of the factors that supported the growth of the number of applications is more lenient admission rules: online facilities for documents submission, postponing submission of academic recognition certificate, no need to cross borders, and apply for a visa. I would also like to mention the growth of the role of education consultants who helped universities arrange international students' recruitment.

The Russian Government approved the Strategy of Services Export Development until 2025. The following segments of the global education market were outlined in the Strategy of Services Export Development until:
  • All types of international student mobility in the fields of higher, secondary, and primary education as well as language courses.
  • Crossborder education (delivery of education services outside of an educator's home country).
  • Additional educational products and services (conferring internationally recognized qualifications, services in education technology development, etc.).
According to the Strategy, the Education Export Federal Project was implemented in 2019–2020 and starting from 2021 it will transform into specific events and actions under the Science and Universities National Project. Simultaneously, the target numbers of international students in Russia set out by Order #204 of May 2018 of the President of the Russian Federation "On National Goals and Strategic Development Tasks of the Russian Federation until 2024" remained active. Therefore, universities are intensively searching for new tools for student recruitment, especially distance formats.

They actively participate in the virtual exhibition and are keen to work with reliable partners in different countries. We are at the beginning of a new stage that requires transparent cooperation mechanisms, training of agents, creation of legal and financial models, and registration of education consultants with an exceptional reputation. Such models can either be bilateral between a university and an education consultant or include a Russian middle company. Currently, Glavexpertcenter, in cooperation with the Education Export Center, tunes a model of setting up the registration of certified education consultants. We invite universities to join this work and share details of their best practices in this field concerning successful and reliable education consultants and, on the contrary, their negative experience, which is also very important for the register. It is very important not to lose time but to start this work in order to bring new bright-minded and talented students from across the world to grow the community of 300,000 international students.
Vera Skorobogatova, Ph.D. (Law), Head Analyst, Glavexpertcenter (Russian ENIC). Leading Russian expert on international education, former head of Russian ENIC, former chairman of Russian Youth Union. Author of over 60 scientific publications, developer and leader of over 30 seminars in the field of international education, legal support of education export, academic migration policy, recognition of international education and qualifications.