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I'm sorry if this is not the right place to ask this sort of question, but I really need an answer.

I'm from the middle-east and wants to apply for a master's degree in Russia, but lately people are discouraging me about the idea, for the following reasons:

  • A Russian degree is not perceived as "very good" in other parts of Europe (western countries) & USA
  • difficult to get a job while (or even after) studying, since you are a foreigner
  • even if you get a job, incomes are LOW
  • there have been several racism-related crimes against Black and Hispanic (etc) people, and all-in-all it's a dangerous country.

Don't get me wrong, I love Russia and Russian culture, but I'm paying a big amount of money, so I'd love to get things in return.

My question is: are my concerns reasonable, or are they just the product of American (Hollywood) propaganda? Would you advise me to study abroad in Russia or drop the idea and find somewhere else?

I mean: is it worth the time/money/effort or not?

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  • What do you want to do after your degree? Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 8:18
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    Is your Russian fluent? Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 9:05
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    What do you want to study there? And why in Russia? If you speak Russian, go to Russian websites and read the relevant topics, e.g. if you are planning to work in another country after that, say in Germany, find a site where Russians discuss finding a job in Germany with a degree from a Russian university. Go to some social sites and search for hints about the general attitude towards middle-eastern people (there are many Uzbeks, Tadzhiks, etc. currently living in Russia, especially in Moscow and other big cities) Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 9:32

4 Answers 4

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I try not to think of myself as a person influenced by the US propaganda (I am more acquainted with Soviet and late Russian propaganda, more likely). However, I can not really advise you to go for degrees in Russia.

First of all, the STEM subjects were traditionally strong in the Soviet time due to the nuclear project. Unfortunately, the professorial level degraded significantly in the post-Soviet 90s, and did not fully recover yet.

Second, you are probably aware that most of the universities in Russia teach courses in Russian. Unless your Russian is already fluent (or at least basic), be ready to spend a year or so mastering it before you will really address your subjects. Unless you plan to work in Russia afterwards, the knowledge of Russian (as opposed to English) is not something that increase your career progress dramatically.

Lastly, having summa cum laude BS and MS degrees, as well as a PhD (or Cand Sci as we call it) from strong Moscow Universities myself, I probably can confirm that many HR departments prefer to see something easily recognizable on your CV, e.g. the University of Oxford as a trademark impacts your progress much better than the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology that sounds almost like Inshallah Salam Alaikum University for someone who never heard of it.

On the bright side, studying in Russia you most definitely will experience interesting adventures, befriend the best guys and hang around the most gorgeous young ladies. Also, if you can solve problems you face in Russia, you arguably are ready to solve them in any other place.

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  • To add to your answer, in France, being from a russian university will not open you many doors, I am afraid... :/
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 6:40
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    You know, you can also befriend ladies and not just admire them.
    – Emilie
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 13:04
  • There are many industries (eg oil, gas) where knowledge of Russian benefits the career.
    – user111388
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 11:32
  • @Emilie studying in MIPT some 20 years ago, I'm afraid Dmitry didn't have that many to befriend (it'd probably be something like 5 ladies to 70+ dudes ratio) :) But great point nonetheless!
    – Lodinn
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 5:20
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I will extend Dmitry's great answer, to answer the later part of your question: "Any alternative suggestions" - part.

Teaching quality:

It is clearly stated (and pretty obvious from History) that Russia used to do a great job in terms of science, but things have changed after since.

Living Prospects:

I don't know what is the real motivation behind your decision to pursue studies and possible career opportunities in Russia, but to me it Russia does not seem like calm waters. Overall, the country is facing political difficulties which may result in economic difficulties which in turn would affect the job market. Additionally, the country is now well known for its racist behaviour (as you have noted). I don't know how would that reflect to your assessment during studies, and living quality overall.

The propaganda consideration:

The same way you assume that you might be biased by the Hollywood propaganda, you should expect the world to be biased by it as well. If we assume that you get a quality degree in Russia, it might not have the same value outside of Russia. What if you decide to switch from Russia to another country afterwards? That would put you immediately in an unfavourable position, especially if you move towards west.

Alternatives:

I would strongly recommend you to have a look at European universities. It depends what your priorities are. If your priority is high quality teaching that you could start with Switzerland, Austria, Scandinavian countries etc. If you want a more laid back working atmosphere you could have a look at South or Eastern Europe: Spain, Czech Republic, Poland. However, if you want to have a strong scientific background, with considerably less living expenses than the other Western Europe countries have a look at Germany.

Note: As the other members have asked, it would be nice to add details about the amount of money you are going to invest, and the field of study you are interested in.

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It was a family tradition to study in Moscow, so I had strong stimulus (both financial and personal motivators) to continue this.

However, things have dramatically changed in a very short period of time. Ten years ago, the country was open to foreign academics (also potential ones) and they were considered a benefit to the country. This is not the case anymore. You could clearly see discrimination, not among your professors, but among the population.

Without fluent Russian you will have a hard time at university. Even harder outside it. I have been mocked, because my Russian, which is grammatically above the average level, even in academia, has an accent. I had also encountered aggression, both verbal and physical, when people notice that I am a foreigner. Young people are quite nationalistic, so expressing any opinion that is different than the current status-quo can be dangerous, if not among the right audience. Contrary to one of the answers here that states that all Russians are the same, I can say that I have met my best and most reliable friends there, and all of them are Russians.

I have lasted there 2 months. However, I have to admit that in the past education from Russia was quite competitive. My grandfather graduated in Foreign Relations and he was working for numerous Western European ministries, because of his degree and experience. Russia had also brilliant scholars in chemistry, medicine and biology.

Nowadays, when someone hears a Russian degree I can clearly see that the first thing he thinks is corruption and "How much this diploma cost?", which I think is rather unfortunate.

Unfortunately, due to the times we live in, being from the Middle East is quite a negative characteristic in the eyes of most people.

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Leading universities (Moscow, St Petersburg and the state universities in the capitals of the former Soviet Republics) used to be very good during the times of the Soviet Union and the first decade afterwards, and it was possible to get a PhD position anywhere in Europe after finishing them (not a post doctoral position after doing PhD there, however). I am unsure about the most recent situation.

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