The fundamentals of the Russian education export — Alexander Arefyev
Name of Alexander Arefyev is famous thanks to the comprehensive contribution to recruitment of international students to Russia and is related to the education export concept. Here is the first part of his opinion on the current situation. We start with the roots of education export.
I got interested in international education during Soviet times upon graduation from the International section of Higher Komsomol School (HKS) of the VLKSM Central Committee at the end of the 1970s; I started my work at the International Youth Movement of HKS Research Center. I specialized in African and Asian countries that were the main student source countries for international universities. I also tackled this topic during postgraduate studies at the Institute of Africa of the Soviet Academy of Science. Later I worked as a research consultant.

During this period, I read books and articles on international youth and students and international education. In the mid-1980s, I got acquainted with sociology and moved to the Department of Opinion Studies at HKS Research Center administered by famous Russian sociologist Franz Sheregi. I was probably the first Soviet scientist who received an opportunity to organize opinion studies among international students of HKS originated from many countries. It was very comfortable to communicate with them as I had graduated from the Roman and German Languages and Literature Department of Kaliningrad State University, currently Kant Baltic Federal University.

I have to mention that by the end of the 1980s, the Soviet Union held the third place in the world after the United States and France on the number of international students. The Soviet education was a very effective centralized system of talent development for foreign countries, and it is deservedly considered as one of the best in the world. Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, this system was dissembled de facto, and Russian higher education, due to some reasons, lost its leadership position in international education.

I managed to continue studying international students' issues and other countries' best practices at the Social Research Center (Sociocenter) of the Ministry of Higher Education. I was invited to join it in 1994 and spent over 25 years there as Deputy Director on Research. The first book that contained and discussed the education export concept and the need for it to have comprehensive government support was published in 2002 by Franz Sheregi, Head of Sociocenter, and Nikolay Dmitriev, Head of International Relations Department of the Ministry of Education, and me. Since then, I have written many books and articles on international students and international education both for Russian and international journals and magazines.

Russian research on international education in which I was involved started from the beginning of the 2000s. I took part and managed most of the research projects that were organized on the same research model using the same parameters in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2015, and 2018. This approach allowed us to deliver accurate comparative studies on international students at every level of education — foundation programs, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate studies.

At the same time, we started collecting statistical data on international students across all education levels in 2002 and published an annual statistical digest — Education of Foreign Citizens in the Higher Educational Institutions of the Russian Federation. The digest reflected data on full-time programs and different fields of studies of Russian universities across different cities. We managed to publish 17 annual digests — the last one was published in December 2020 under the Pushkin State Institute of Russian Language, where I have been working since September 2020.

In 2007 we started publishing another statistical book called Export of Russian Education Services. It included international students' parameters on every university of full-time and part-time studies, including its branches and other representation types abroad. To draw a big picture, we also included data on international students of Russian colleges (pre-university level), international pupils of schools in Russia and abroad, and participants of Russian language courses organized by Russian Centers of Science and Culture of Rossotrudnichestvo across the world. Thus, our books cover all educational institutions where international students study and reflect the complete range of Russian education export. We have managed to publish the 10th issue of this book, which, I hope, will be helpful for international education specialists.
Alexander Arefyev, Ph.D. (History), Associate Professor, Deputy Director of Language Policy and International Education Research Center, Pushkin State Institute of Russian Language. Alexander Arefyev worked at the Center of Sociological Studies of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education dealing with issues related to the Russian education export. He is an author of annual statistical digests on international education in Russia.