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Export of Russian education in modern conditions: problems and opportunities
The international education market is revitalizing. Experts predict an increase in academic mobility caused by demand deferred during the pandemic. HolonIQ estimates that the number of students studying abroad will increase by 3 million by 2030 to reach 8 million. Exporting countries will earn $433 billion, double the 2019 figure. How actively in the current foreign policy conditions Russian universities will be able to compete with the world's leading universities for the most prepared applicants, what problems they face and what opportunities for development exist, we will consider in this review.

After the start of the special military operation, Russia became the object of sanctions pressure from the countries of the collective West. In April 2022, the number of restrictions imposed exceeded 7,000. In the Western media space, everything Russian is morally condemned, and even declared "immoral." Russian music festivals in Switzerland and Belgium were canceled, participation of Russians in international competitions, festivals was banned, works by Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky were excluded from the repertoires, and courses on Dostoevsky's works were excluded from the curricula of a number of universities.

In the field of international educational cooperation, the participation of Russians in the work of international and regional organizations was suspended, the implementation of intergovernmental agreements was frozen, longterm and multimillion-dollar interuniversity contracts were terminated. In March 2022, ranking organizations announced the termination of partnerships with Russian organizations — QS World University Rankings and World University Rankings Times Higher Education. The access of users to the training courses of Russian universities on the leading platforms of open education was closed. The platform for the recruitment of foreign students announced the restriction of work.

The introduced restrictions initiated an active process of "import substitution". As an alternative to Western rankings, the Moscow International Universities Ranking "Three Missions of Universities" was chosen. Active work is underway to create a national platform for massive online courses. It is expected that as a result of the partnership between the Higher School of Economics and VKontakte, the launch of the new project will take place in the summer of 2022. Universities have stepped up their activities in regional branches and representative offices, the creation of proxy structures has been announced, designed to mitigate or circumvent the imposed sanctions.

The scale of the imposed restrictions and their comprehensive nature have yet to be realized, as well as the fact that the impact of Western sanctions goes far beyond the countries of Europe and North America that approved them. Of particular concern is the spread of sanctions in the humanitarian sphere. Given the ongoing discussion in the Russian public space about the ideological and uncompromising nature of the confrontation with the collective West, young foreigners who decide to enter a Russian university now have to make not only a professional, but also an ideological choice. Whether universities are ready to incorporate new ideologies into their marketing strategies remains an open question.

Worldview choice is directly related to the image of the future. For the applicant and his parents, this is the choice of a profession and a place for the realization of professional and personal ambitions. The current crisis has revealed the urgency of the problem of promoting Russia as a place not only to study, but also to work as a graduate of a Russian university. The success of the promotion of Russian universities will be directly related to the introduction of a statutory right to reside and work in Russia for foreign university graduates. Such an opportunity for foreign graduates of their universities has already been implemented in Canada, which has made this country one of the leaders in the export of education. The United Kingdom has made significant progress in this direction, guaranteeing the possibility of staying in the country for several years for foreigners who have graduated from their universities. The long-term discussion of these initiatives in the Russian professional community requires immediate and cardinal decisions, without which the most advanced promotion mechanisms and tools will not be able to ensure the recruitment of the best and most prepared students.

The CIS countries have been the main direction of export of educational services of Russian universities for many years. Under the new conditions, it will become much more difficult to work there. With the exception of Belarus, these countries were not subjected to the sanctions attack. At the moment, the most powerful and advanced universities in these countries remain included in the world educational space and are actively using this situation, including taking the place of Russian universities even in such areas as teaching Russian as a foreign language. In the near future, educational institutions in the post-Soviet space may receive additional financial, organizational and methodological support for the development of international programs from foreign: European, American, Turkish and Chinese universities, which will be aimed at their more active inclusion in the world educational space. When faced with the need to make a choice, these universities may prefer guaranteed access to the scientific, information, and financial resources of the Western world to partnership with Russia, and, possibly, become much more attractive for their applicants in this regard.

The turn to the East, which has been talked about so much lately, also requires considerable elaboration. The development of education exports to Asian and African countries in the new conditions will require significant financial and organizational investments. Impromptu marketing, ill-conceived promotions, dumping, cooperation on any terms — all this will inevitably affect the quality of educational programs provided, lead to long-term reputational losses not only for individual universities, but for the entire Education in Russia brand. Reputational risks are cross-border in nature. As a result of Special operation, tens of thousands of foreign students from 155 countries had to interrupt their studies in Ukraine. The vicissitudes of their long and dangerous journey home were widely covered by the Western press. Few of them will be able to return to continue their studies. Russian universities promoting their programs in India, Morocco, Turkey, Nigeria, China — countries from where a significant number of students came to Ukraine, need to be prepared for emotional speeches, accusations against them from students, their parents, agents. How you manage to deal with this situation may determine the success of the promotion in the long run.

The so-called "internationalization of the home" will remain an important area of work. Russian universities will have to defend the right and opportunity to interact with foreign universities in the face of growing isolationism and calls for a complete rejection of Western values. The controversy about withdrawing from the Bologna system intensified. Despite the debatability of the issue of the results of the implementation of the Bologna system maintaining agreed standards and forms of interaction is especially important in times of turbulence. A common understanding of the structure and organization of the educational process will be an important starting point for the development of relations, including with Asian countries. Active upholding of positions in this area in the long run will contribute to the development of international cooperation.

Let's summarize

The end of the pandemic is leading to a revival in the market of international educational services and the activation of the main players in it. Russian universities will have to compete with the world's leading universities in the face of sanctions and a hostile information environment. Overcoming legislative, logistical and economic barriers will become possible through the implementation of coordinated collective actions under the common brand "Study in Russia".

The main challenge of the current moment is the need for its meaningful actualization. Foreign applicants need clear answers to the question about the value system of the society in which they will study, the image of the future to which it aspires, and guaranteed opportunities to continue their professional development here after graduation.

The development of education exports will require the creation of Russian high-tech tools and solutions, anti-crisis reputational management in traditional educational markets, and support for Russian state, public and business organizations. Combining disparate university marketing initiatives under a single brand will make it possible to compete with leading foreign universities and will contribute to the further development of the national education system. Could this crisis really be a time of opportunity?
Alexander Ruchkin
Director of the Grint Centre for Education, Director of Study Abroad programs in Russia for number of leading US colleges and universities, Founder of the Forum for International Education, Co-chairman of the Organizing committee of the annual International Education Fair.
Graduated from the History Department of Moscow State University named after M. V. Lomonosov, later completed postgraduate studies at The History department of the Moscow State University named after M. V. Lomonosov. Specialist in the history of Russian emigration. Doctor of Historical Sciences. He headed the Center for International Youth Cooperation, worked as Deputy Rector for International Cooperation and Public Relations of the Moscow University for the Humanities. Organized training and professional development programs in Sweden, Great Britain, China. For more than 20 years, he has been the director of training programs in Russia for leading US universities and heads the Center for testing foreign citizens in the Russian language on the basis of the Grint Center for Education and Culture. Since 2015 — the founder of the Forum for International Education, since 2018 — the co-chairman of the organizin g committee of the Fair for International Education.