Russian New University, 105005, Radio str. 22, Moscow, Russia

Rossiiskaya Gazeta: Private education becomes synonymous with quality


On February 25, 2019, "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" published an interview with the rector of RosNOU Vladimir Zernov.

Is the university still there? There is a lack of state support in private universities in Russia

Private education becomes synonymous with quality. Experts who monitored the latest admission campaign to universities are convinced of this. For the first time, the average score of the Unified State Exam of tuition-based students in state universities and of students who enrolled in non-state universities is almost equaled.

In what fields do private universities not concede to state ones today? And why they do not participate in national projects? Vladimir Zernov, chairman of the Association of Non-State Universities of Russia, rector of the Russian New University answers the questions of the RG.


Is the difference between public and private universities erased?

Vladimir Zernov: I would like to believe in this. Unfortunately, words are still not matched with deeds. Since 2007, various competitions for universities have been held in the country. Total winners during this time were about 200 institutions of higher education and about a hundred – secondary vocational education. There is not a single non-state university or college among them. Despite this universities of our sector regularly submit applications and show very good results.

And now turn attention to any world ranking: private universities are at the top positions. The reason is simple: resource efficiency in the private sector is much higher. But there is no state program to support private education in Russia.


Do private universities receive state support in all countries?

Vladimir Zernov: Yes. Not so long ago, I was in Iran with colleagues from the Russian Union of Rectors. In one of the private universities, I drew attention to the huge campus, two hundred hectares. I asked: “Guys, how do you pay taxes for all of this?” They looked at me strangely: “What taxes? This is the education sector.” All over the world, universities do pay neither the land nor the buildings!

For example, the Chinese state transfer ownership of buildings to private universities. Generally, universities repair them, receiving subsidies from the state. The only requirement: the building can only be used for the needs of education.


What about us?

Vladimir Zernov: Everybody pays taxes. But state universities are compensated for these taxes from federal funds. Each Federal Subject has a different tax rate. We have annual taxes on buildings and on land – it is half of all expenses per month. This is a huge amount, especially in the situation when private universities acquire buildings by themselves, diverting resources from the development of the educational process and science.


Do private universities participate in the rankings on a par with state ones?

Vladimir Zernov: In Russian rankings – yes. Private universities are often among the leaders. In many international rankings we are also notable. But there are such “needle ears” in our legislation through which you cannot crawl. For example, the 284th article of the Tax Code limits the income of a university from intellectual property to 10 percent. Take any university from the first hundred of the world rankings, at least Princeton: there this figure is 65-70 percent!

That is, we develop innovations, open laboratories, invent solutions, but cannot implement them. For example, we have unique inventions in the field of cardiometry; our colleagues from Japan and China became interested in them. But if we sell 20 devices – we will immediately lose the license, since the income will go beyond 10 percent of the total income of the university. This is a huge break. We tried to get into the project "5-100" – we have good performance in science. But by the criterion of "budget-funded admissions" we cannot get through. We do not have 4 thousand budget places, and nobody will give them to us. By the way, none of the leading universities of world rankings have them.


Over the past six years, the number of private universities has decreased by 40 percent. Is this some kind of a “purge” – are the inefficient and frankly "fake" institutions removed?

Vladimir Zernov: Mostly yes. The result is seen in the outcome of the admission campaign in 2018: the average score for students who enrolled in private universities is sometimes even higher than the score of state university applicants. And we could be proud of this. What is the problem? As before, in private universities students choose humanities and social specialties. Although, we have the potential in the training of specialists in technical fields. But we need a good teaching and laboratory base. And it is not easy to create.

So far, there are no clear regulatory documents for either network training or basic departments. There are at least a dozen proposals for the creation of basic departments in RosNOU – from "Rostec", "Roskosmos". But we need a license. For example, the Cosmonaut Training Center is not ready to get involved in the licensing procedure. And I understand this position: these are two dozen documents to prepare and collect! I graduated from MIPT, we had a base at S.P.Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, and we also worked in Star City. At that time, no one ever issued any licenses, and the issues of the basic departments were solved very effectively.


What specialties do most students choose in RosNOU?

Vladimir Zernov: Information technologies are in the first place, linguistics is very actively developing. Today we are leaders in the country in terms of the number of students studying Farsi – modern Persian. There is an active student’s interest in studying Chinese – here we are competing with leading state universities. But, I repeat, the main profile of our applicants is humanitarian, although there are nanotechnologies, heat and power engineering, and electrical engineering.


In your opinion, what should be the average price of education at a private university?

Vladimir Zernov: The most expensive education in the private sector is Innopolis: education costs at least 2.5-3 million rubles per year. At the same time, the niche of cheap education is also occupied by private universities. It seems that the optimal cost should slightly exceed the sum of money that the state gives per budget place. It is about 200 thousand rubles in Moscow. It is a little less in the regions.


At a recent meeting of the Association of Non-State Higher Education Institutions of Russia, an interesting proposal was made: rectors before appointing to the state universities, should be given an opportunity to work in the private sector. What for?

Vladimir Zernov: This may work to improve the quality of management in the entire system of higher education. The idea is simple: you need to learn how to effectively allocate the minimum resources that you have, and to achieve the tasks that top management sets. It is relevant especially in such conditions that most of the leaders of non-state universities work today. In the private sector, the rector has zero state financing, and he gets used to work independently. And when such manager will come to a state university, the effectiveness of his work will be much higher, because the experience of “survival” has already been obtained.

As stated in the last professorial forum, if we want our education system to fly like a bird, then there must be two equivalent wings. And now we have one powerful wing, while the second one has already lost all feathers. Such a bird is very difficult to take off.

Read the full interview on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website (in Russian) >>>