New challenges and opportunities for foundation courses
Having about 20 years of professional practice in the field of international education, I can confidently say that the current stage of development of this industry is one of the most difficult in history. Not because there are no prospects for development. It is the opposite: together we have to restart education export, give it a new start in the emerging reality.
Of course, Russia offering excellent opportunities for education and further professional development, can become a Mecca of educational tourism and academic migration.
The global education market, which has been developing rapidly since about the mid‑1990s, was seriously affected by the onset of the global pandemic, when international travel became difficult at first, and then almost impossible. Students have lost the opportunity to get to their educational institutions. The international education market has been hit by another ailment — an epidemic of pessimism among both market players and potential students.
Many educational institutions have tried to minimize losses by transforming educational programs into digital formats. Moreover, it was done quite quickly, despite the fact that a significant part of the traditional academic community was skeptical about the use of online education tools. Nevertheless, this approach has not received support from students: yes, digital technologies have entered all spheres of our life; yes, young people literally "live" in the digital world; but the mass consumption of international educational services in an online format remains if not a utopia then a dream, and the use of online tools is still of an auxiliary nature.
In my opinion, the complex of reasons for the relative failures of the great online experiment, particularly in the field of international education, lies in the lack of knowledge of the motivation of applicants who are ready and able to leave their countries for studies. Let's imagine an applicant from, say, Nepal or Gabon. Making such a decision, the applicant chooses between the opportunity to stay at home and maintain usual lifestyle and development framework, and the opportunity to get access to the best education, unlimited career growth and brilliant life prospects. At least, this is what young guys who want to go abroad to study dream about.
I do not compare all foreign applicants to pilgrims who went on wanderings in order to establish their own colony — now national cultural and educational centers of various countries work everywhere, as well as qualified educational consultants who are responsible for the fate of each client. But it's impossible to ignore the fact that most of the foreign students who go to study at their own expense seek to adapt to a new country, get an education and stay there.
There are a lot of studies, links to which can be found even on our website, which confirm the stated judgment. The short conclusion is that from 40% to 70% of all foreign students, depending on the level of education and the study majors, stay in destination countries for more than 1 year after graduation. This is also facilitated by the migration policy of many countries, which allow foreign graduates to stay in the country for at least 1 year to find a suitable employment option or continue their studies — up to obtaining a residence permit and citizenship. Such transparent, understandable, student-driven policy is, and will always remain, a guarantee of high interest in the country from talented, ambitious and strong young people.
In the context of the above, it can be noted that the leaders of the world market are still Anglophone states, which facilitates access to education for foreign students, taking into account the global dominance of the English language. However, due to the ongoing changes, the professional community of Russian international education experts should begin to form a new, attractive image of Russian education for foreign applicants.
Despite temporary difficulties and limitations, Russia is reviving as a world power, which, among other things, forms its own educational and professional space. This space, even though experiencing an era of trials, being in the "island" mode, has sufficient potential to attract foreign students:
  • The quality of education in Russian universities continues to grow and is recognized worldwide;
  • The cost of training in comparison with other market-leading countries is low;
  • The labor market is ready to absorb unlimited amounts of skilled labor.
Of course, Russia offering excellent opportunities for education and further professional development, can become a Mecca of educational tourism and academic migration.
The only challenge is the language training of foreign students. It's no secret that even young people from the CIS countries are gradually losing their Russian language skills – what can we say about guys from Far Abroad! Poor knowledge of the Russian language restricts access to education and work in Russia and doesn't allow to fully integrate into Russian society and become part of our cultural space.
There can be only one way out: dramatically increase the status of preparatory faculties, make them centers of adaptation and integration of foreign applicants. At the same time, it should be taken into account that an increase in interest in studying in Russia will lead to an increase in the number of levels and sublevels, directions and subdirectories of programs of preparatory faculties: long, short, intensive, for work in the field of hospitality and service, for higher education, for secondary education, for negotiations, and so on, in all its diversity.
The foundation course as an educational and social phenomenon, the world-famous podfak, should receive a new impetus for development. Many new processes are to be completed and launched, including educational standards for the maximum possible number of directions and levels of mastering the Russian language should be developed and constantly updated, existing methods and technologies of language training should be analyzed, private educational institutions of higher and additional education should be made full-fledged players in the market of language training of foreign citizens.
The role of Russia in the modern world is rapidly increasing, therefore, undoubtedly, foundation courses as an integration tool should be focused on meeting the goals of future students and — in the future — students of Russian universities.
Dmitri Nersesyan, CEO of Education Export Center (Russia)
Received education in fields of international management and law in Russian leading universities. Dmitri has been working in the field of international education since 2002. Worked in different universities of Russia on both junior and senior positions. Dmitri specializes in developing international business of universities, higher education international marketing, and promoting universities on global educational market.