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Masters Study in Russia - A Guide for 2019

Two continents, nine time zones, 17 million square kilometers of land, 144 million people and 896 universities – Russia boasts some remarkable numbers.

And the country’s higher education system is just as impressive – it’s estimated that over half of the Russian population have degrees.

What could be better for a literature student than to learn about great writers such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in their home country, or for those interested in history to study in close proximity to iconic sites such as the Kremlin and Red Square?

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Postgraduate opportunities in Russia – what’s on offer for 2019?

Russia is a major player in the international academic community – just ask the 240,000 foreign students enrolled at its universities.

These are just some of the reasons to consider studying a Masters degree in Russia:

  • Fascinating national history – Russians are proud of their rich and unique heritage, and as an international student you can enjoy the many time-honoured Russian customs which are still enjoyed today
  • Varied cultures – From the metropolitan life of Moscow to the tradition of rural communities, Masters study in Russia will introduce you to the country’s diverse population and plethora of contrasting cultures
  • Affordability – Tuition fees in Russia are cheaper than many other study abroad destinations and the cost of living has remained relatively low, even in the capital

Masters Study in Russia - Key Details
Universities 896
Oldest University Saint Petersburg State University (1724)
International Students 243,752
Course Length 2 years
Typical Fees €2,900 to €3,165
Academic Year September to June

Russian universities

As the birthplace of some of the world’s most influential figures in the fields of literature, art, politics and science, Russia has an international reputation for cultural and intellectual excellence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a country of its size, Russia (or 'The Russian Federation') is home to 896 recognised universities. There are two types of universities in Russia:

  • State – These include National Research Universities, federal universities and two ‘special status’ universities: Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University
  • Private – These are becoming increasingly popular with students as they offer more specialised or niche tuition than state-funded universities

Unlike the UK, a ‘postgraduate’ degree usually refers to PhD-level degrees: these are aspirantura (doctoral programmes) and doktorantura (post-doctoral programmes).

Russian university rankings

The Russian higher education system has been under rapid reform over the past decade, with the Government investing in improving university facilities and providing better training for faculty staff.

As such, many Russian universities have climbed the global rankings – we’ve listed the top ones below.


Top Russian Universities in 2019
University THE 2019 QS 2019 ARWU 2018
Lomonosov Moscow State University =199 90 86
Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology 251-300 312 401-500
Higher School of Economics 301-350 =343 -
National Research Nuclear University MEPhI 351-400 =329 -
ITMO University 501-600 511-520 -
Novosibirsk State University 501-600 =244 -
Saint Petersburg State University 501-600 235 301-400
Tomsk Polytechnic University 501-600 =373 -
Tomsk State University 501-600 =277 -
Kazan Federal University 601-800 =439 -
National University of Science and Technology (MISiS) 601-800 =476 -
Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University 601-800 404 -
RUDN University 601-800 =446 -
Bauman Moscow State Technical University 801-1000 =299 -
Belgorod State National Research University 801-1000 - -
Novosibirsk State Technical University 801-1000 801-1000 401-500
Samara University 801-1000 701-750 -
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do university rankings matter for postgraduates?

University league tables can help you in your search for a Masters degree, but you need to know what to look for. Our guide to university rankings for Masters study can help.

Russian university cities

Russia is one of the world’s most popular destinations for international study, but students don’t just flock to its capital Moscow. Other cities such as Saint Petersburg, Kazan and Tomsk are just as attractive to international students and house several prestigious universities.

The city of Novosibirsk also has its own ‘academic town’, Akademgorodok, comprising of Novosibirsk State University and several research institutes.

Course types

Since signing up to the Bologna Process in 2003, the Russian higher education system has started to resemble that of other European countries, meaning it typically takes around two years to complete a Masters degree.

The academic year in Russia is split into two semesters with a winter break in between. The first semester begins at the start of September and ends in January, and the second semester begins in February and ends in June.

Higher education in Russia is split into ‘levels’:

  • Level 1 – bakalavr (Bachelors) degrees
  • Level 2 – specialist or magistr (Masters) degrees
  • Level 3 – kandidat nauk (Candidate of Science) and doktor nauk (Doctor of Science) degrees

Most universities in Russia offer MA (Master of Arts), MSc (Master of Science) and MBA (Master of Business Administration) courses. These can be taught on a full-time, part-time or distance basis, with courses taught in English becoming increasingly common.

Course content at Masters level is a mixture of written assessments, exams and a dissertation which, depending on the course and university you choose, may have to be written in Russian. Most Russian universities follow the ‘5-point’ grading scale ranging from 2 (“fail”) to 5 (“excellent”), but some use a Pass/Fail grading system.

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Masters fees and funding in Russia

Tuition fees for a full-time Masters degree in Russia are on average between €2,900 and €3,165 a year. However, fees could be as low as €1,675 or as high as €5,935.

The Russian government offer a set number of state scholarships to international students (15,000 ‘state-funded spots’ were given out in 2017). To receive one of these scholarships, you’ll have to submit an application and pass an entrance exam, and they cover tuition fees, dormitory accommodation (if it’s available) and a small maintenance allowance.

Applying for a Masters in Russia

The Russian higher education system is extremely competitive and to get onto a Masters course you will need to have successfully graduated from a Bachelors or specialist degree and pass an entrance exam.

When submitting a Masters application for at a Russian university, prospective students will need to provide:

  • An application form detailing the intended discipline
  • A certified copy of a Bachelors certificate or equivalent (original and a copy translated into Russian)
  • A health certificate and HIV blood test results from a Russian Consulate-accredited health insurance company
  • A copy of your birth certificate
  • At least six passport-sized photographs

International students are usually required to go through a process of competitive selection. This involves successfully passing entrance exams or Introductory Unified State Examination (EGE) tests.

Many universities also hold academic competitions for native and international students, where the winner is granted admission without having to sit an entry exam and often receive scholarships.

Admissions requirements

International students from some countries will need their education documents legalised in the country of issue. This basically means verifying the authenticity of the documents so that they can be recognised by the relevant government departments dealing with your application.

Other countries, such as China, Italy and Ukraine, signed a treaty with Russia under which no legalisation of education documents is required for foreign students wishing to enrol at a Russian university.

Application deadlines

Deadlines vary between universities, but applications are typically open from March to July, allowing plenty of time to arrange your visa, funding and accommodation before you travel.

Language requirements

Although an increasing number of Russian Masters programmes are taught in English, the language of instruction for most courses is Russian. Depending on which university and programme you choose, you may be required to take a language proficiency examination during the application process.

However, many universities now offer preparatory Russian language courses for international students and there are more Masters programmes taught in English than Bachelors programmes.

Masters student visas in Russia

Applying for a student visa in Russia can be long and complicated, so it’s important to get everything right to avoid delays. Before the visa application process can begin, you must first have received a letter of invitation from a university indicating that you’ve been accepted onto your desired course.

Once a university has offered you a place, their international department will file a student visa application for you. This usually takes around a month to process but could take longer, so it’s wise to start arranging your visa several months prior to arrival.

International student visas must be registered within 72 hours of arrival into Russia and are valid for an initial period of three months. They can then be extended to a year, after which they can be renewed for longer depending on the length of your course (but additional documentation may be required).

Who needs a visa to study in Russia?

Prospective students from most countries will need a visa to enrol on a Masters programme in Russia. The exceptions are students from countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, such as Armenia and Ukraine. To complicate things further, students from some countries will still need a valid passport, whereas others won’t – so it’s worth checking with the relevant sources before starting your application!

Application requirements

In addition to the application form, you will need the following documents when applying for a student visa in Russia:

  • A copy of your passport (must have two adjacent blank pages and be valid for at least six months after you intend to leave Russia)
  • One or two recent passport-sized photographs, signed on the reverse side
  • A letter of invitation from your prospective university
  • A copy of a HIV test certificate showing a negative result
  • A certified copy of your Bachelors degree or equivalent
  • A copy of the invoice from your prospective university showing that you have paid for tuition

Please bear in mind that this list is intended as a general guide to the Russian student visa application procedure – the required documents differ from country to country.

Health insurance for foreigners entering Russia has been mandatory since 2016. This can be arranged prior to arriving in Russia or immediately after. The minimum price for private health insurance is around €1,380.

Next steps

Studying abroad and learning another language is attractive to employers on the international job market, and Russian universities know their graduates want to stand out. That’s why graduate programmes combine lectures and classroom instruction with opportunities to conduct individual research or practical work.

University career development centres are available to help students write CVs and provide advice for job hunting. Many employers in Russia run graduate schemes which are open during the spring or autumn.

Search for a Masters in Russia

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Russia on FindAMasters.com

Last updated 18/01/2019

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