New pathways of the development of international marketing of Russian higher education were discussed at RIAC
How will Russian higher education exist and develop in modern conditions, what needs to be rebuilt in international marketing, how will relations with foreign partners be built? These issues were brought up for discussion during the round table "Prospects for the development of international marketing of Russian higher education", held on March 29 at the site of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).

The event was attended by representatives of international departments of many domestic universities, including SPbPU, SUSU, KFU, TPU, RSUH, UNN, MSTU, DSTU, MIET, MPSU, NArFU, HSE, KubSAU, SibSU, KemGIK, etc., as well as experts in the field of education and science.

The round table was attended by:
  • Ivan Timofeev, Program Director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC)
  • Elena Karpinskaya, Deputy Program Director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC)
  • Vera Skorobogatova, Leading Researcher at the Institute of Demographic Research of the FCTAS
  • Gulnara Krasnova, Chief Researcher of the Competence Center for International Services of Educational Organizations of the RANEPA under the President of the Russian Federation
  • Larisa Taradina, Director for the Development of International Education and Cooperation of RANEPA under the President of the Russian Federation
  • Dmitry Nersesyan, General Director of the Education Export Center
  • Olga Bakumenko, expert in the field of international and digital marketing of universities
  • Victoria Panova, Vice-Rector for International Relations of FEFU
  • Alexander Bedny, Vice-Rector for International Affairs of UNN
  • Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St. Petersburg State University
  • Dmitry Savkin, Advisor to the Rector of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI
  • Alexander Hoffmann, Head of the Information Support Department for International Activities of the RANEPA under the President of the Russian Federation
  • Natalia Syulkova, Deputy Vice-Rector for International Affairs of the RUDN
  • Vera Zabotkina, Advisor to the Rector's Office for International Activities of the RSUH
  • Elena Ponomarenko, Head of the Department of Political Economy, RUDN, Director of the Russian-French Center for Education and Consulting, IPACS, RANEPA
  • Victoria Belyaeva, Head of the Department of International Relations of the Ural Humanitarian Institute of UrFU
  • Anna Mezit, Head of the Department of International Cooperation of SibFU

Current international events that have led to sanctions measures against Russia, including the termination of air traffic, the closure of airspace, restrictions on the operation of popular foreign social networks and services, the suspension by educational platforms Coursera, EduEx and the British rating company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) of work with Russian universities, the "freeze" of cooperation with Russia in the field of education and science by a number of Western countries, have a negative impact on the possibilities of promoting Russian higher education on international markets.

In the current conditions, it is important to determine the opportunities available to Russian universities for international positioning, attracting foreign students to study, and opportunities to enter new educational markets.

As a result of the discussion, priority areas of international cooperation, the international aspect of Russian education, effective tools for international promotion, as well as the principles of working with foreign applicants, students and graduates were identified.

Speaking about the priority areas of international cooperation, most of the participants in the discussion agree that Russian universities should not abruptly cut off international ties with Western countries, since in the future relations can improve and long-term experience of working with colleagues should not be lost. With the end of the crisis, science and education will become the first areas that will be restored and pull all other communication channels with them.

Despite the lack of communication and constructive dialogue with some Western colleagues, Russian universities, mainly located in the western part of Russia, strive to maintain cooperation with European universities.

In addition, cooperation with Eastern countries, including China, and African countries friendly to Russia is successfully developing.

The participants of the round table believe that Russia needs to enter and master new educational markets: the territories of the Middle East, Arab and Southeastern countries. Of course, there are countries and territories that are of particular interest to Russia and in which it is "impossible to give up positions" — countries located in the post-Soviet space, as well as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Iran, and the Central Asian region as a whole.

Discussing the international aspect of Russian education, experts came to the conclusion that it is now important to understand what goals Russian education abroad will pursue, what values it will convey to foreign partners, colleagues and students.

"Soft power" or effective dominance is a business process subordinated to SMART goals and objectives, which, in turn, are based on the missions and values embedded in the system. Getting an education abroad is the highest form of the success of "soft power", since it is the result of an individual's conscious need and the fruit of the successful work of other elements of influence — culture, sports, information policy, diplomacy, etc.
Dmitry Nersesyan, Director of the Education Export Center

The speakers reviewed the country's foreign potential for the development of international education.

Russia ranks first in the CIS, the Baltic States, and Georgia in terms of the number of students coming from there. According to the integral rating of effective dominance _ bookmark in the world, Russia ranks second, after the United States.

At the same time, in a number of regions, the Russian Federation lags far behind other countries: in Africa — ranked 4th after France, the USA and Morocco, in Latin America — ranked 8th, in Asia — ranked 9th.

Experts suggest certain measures to mitigate and prevent the existing threats the educational environment in the country currently faces:
  • ratify the 2019 Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education in the Russian Federation;
  • activate the information campaign, including in order to expose fakes;
  • develop a strategy to solve logistical and financial problems in the educational environment;
  • make offers for the regulatory framework for its further modification (in particular, on the recognition of certificates);
  • maintain productive areas in the field of humanitarian cooperation with other countries.

Separately, the rating problem of Russian universities was noted. As long-term practice shows, ratings are important for applicants when choosing a university, therefore, great importance is attached to working with them.

The speakers recommended trying to create their own scales together with other countries, as well as finding an alternative to well-known foreign rating systems that will allow Russian higher education not to fall out of this system as a whole. For example, the rating system "Three University Missions" is recommended.

The participants of the round table discussed the possibilities of using effective tools for international promotion.

One of the powerful tools are network universities (SCO, CIS, RICS universities), which currently remain international channels of communication with the foreign community and will remain in the long term prospects.

Many universities, solving educational, informational and recruiting tasks, have begun to open representative offices in various countries. For example, FEFU opened representative offices in 4 countries: Vietnam, China, India, Japan, and MEPhI opened its branch in Kazakhstan. Thus, universities have their own "agents of influence" in these territories. Currently, it seems important to open more representative offices abroad to establish contacts with foreign students and their possible further recruitment.

A special role in the promotion of Russian education abroad is given to Rossotrudnichestvo. This state institution is able to take on the role of a guide and help universities in the international arena.

Experts assign an important role in promoting Russian universities abroad to the association. Many speakers believe that joint access to a foreign audience will now be one of the best solutions. Russian universities are offered to hold joint events not only with potential applicants, but also with foreign scientific colleagues and partners: round tables, conferences, meetings, exhibitions. In addition, experts believe that in-person events will be of great importance.

During the discussion, such effective promotion tools as language centers or mobile summer campuses were also mentioned. Moreover, the successful example of creating a campus has already been demonstrated by RANEPA, which has been implementing the project on an annual basis since 2013. In addition, Russian universities are working on the creation of international-level university campuses. One of the first universities participating in this program is UNN, which is currently working on the creation of an IT campus.

Among many other effective promotion tools, Russian universities are offered to pay attention to the holding of international contests with the participation of foreign partner universities, the development of a double degree program. In addition, experts recommend digital tools for positioning and promoting Russian universities: first of all, these are university websites, as well as a common platform for advertising universities abroad.

In the conditions of blocking popular social networks, it is important to re-design the digital path of foreign target audience. Russian universities still have various educational portals, exhibitions, blogs, messengers, and e-mail newsletters at their disposal. Since March 2022, there has been a digital migration of university accounts to the social networks of Russian origin — Telegram, VK, Odnoklassniki. One of the main problems of such a transition is the loss of an Englishspeaking audience that does not use these social networks. It will take some time to create and develop accounts in new social networks, but this deserves special attention.

The speakers expressed confidence that the publications of employees, scientists and researchers on foreign scientific portals are a noteworthy method of scientific promotion of Russian universities. Experts believe that it is absolutely impossible to lock ourselves inside the country, but it is necessary to preserve the competitive component so that the quality of Russian science not only remains at the same level, but also constantly develops. For these purposes, it is worth using such resources that remain open to Russia, for example, ResearchGate, Mendeley, Academia.Edu and other social networks.

During the discussion, the speakers paid great attention to the principles of working with foreign applicants, students and graduates. The participants of the round table gave a number of examples of successful work in this direction that can be adopted.

We are talking about student adaptation and support services, the opening of hotlines for foreign students, situational centers for helping foreign students. Such measures, as experts believe, will help in the current conditions to solve emerging difficulties for students.

In addition, during the discussion, the opinion was expressed that in order to strengthen interaction with students, it is necessary to pay attention to the formation of a sense of involvement not only in the educational process, but also in extracurricular life. Students should be involved in various unifying communities, circles and clubs, volunteer programs, work with fellow countrymen; it is necessary to diversify the multicultural environment of the university.

Most of the speakers paid attention to the problem of interaction with students after graduation. There is no unified strategy of interaction with Russian and foreign university graduates in Russia. The issue of employment, internships, etc. has not been worked out.

It is important not only to work with graduates within the framework of one university, but also to create common ties with foreign graduates of other universities in the country. Experts suggest to involve them in the help within the framework of the university's work with current students and partners.

Summing up the results of the round table, most of the speakers came to the conclusion that the most important thing at the moment is to maintain the position of Russian higher education in the world. It is important not to be confined within the country, but on the contrary, to maintain and strengthen contacts with those partners who wish to continue cooperation with Russia, and to focus not on the number, but on the quality of partners. It is necessary to outline and develop new trajectories of international marketing of Russian higher education.

Despite the many obstacles and risks that exist today, many positive aspects can be found, since the circumstances that Russian higher education has faced open up many opportunities for the development of internal potential. It is important to realize that now, in the conditions of space liberation, a favorable moment is being created for one's own development and growth.