The Moscow News reports:
Russia's higher education system has been brought in line with that of the West after President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on a two-tier higher education system on October 25.
Until now, most universities offered a diploma after five years of schooling. This kind of diploma was the equivalent of something between a bachelor's degree and a master's degree, meaning that with it a student could go on to study abroad either for a Ph.D or a master's degree. But the new federal law establishes a "four plus two" system, much like the one in place in the United States and Europe. A student will have to study four years for a bachelor's degree and two for a master's degree. Specialist degrees like those in medicine will continue on the five-year system.
The federal law will make most universities offer four-year bachelor programs by 2009.
This introduces significant changes to the availability of higher education in Russia. By law, a university education is supposed to be free for all Russians who make the grade. But in a two-tier system, that only applies to a bachelor's degree. Going to school for two additional years to get a master's degree will become more difficult - most of the available places will come at a price, and with just 10 to 15 percent of allotted free spaces, the competition will be high.
Aimed at modernizing Russia's universities and boosting their curricula so that are more compatible to the Western system, the federal law is just another step in years-long attempts to become a signatory to the Bologna Declaration on Higher Education, a pledge by 29 countries to reform their higher education system.
Objectives in the Bologna Declaration include the adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees and adopting a system based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate. The new federal law applies to both objectives.
Some universities in Russia have already adopted the two-tier program. The Journalism Department at Moscow State University, for instance, already offers bachelors and masters degrees separately for foreign students, and has been doing so for years.