I am going to study "Bioengineering and bioinformatics" for the next 5 years and plan to pursue a scientific career afterwards. My family does not have much money to support me studying in cities like Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, so I chose a university with the best cost/prestige ratio(Mordovia State University). I am worried that the type of my diploma (specialist) and mediocrity of the university will decrease my chances of getting admitted so much that hard work won't be able to offset that (grades and research experience won't be an issue, I invest all my time in studying). I know that 5 years is a lot of time and I haven't even started to study, but I don't want to find out one day that my degree is useless and I won't be able to achieve my life goals.

So the main questions are:
How is the specialist's degree in such a field perceived in UK/Ireland?
How much will mediocrity of my university affect chances of getting admitted to a PhD program in a more or less good university?
What is more important in the admission process anyway, prestige of a university or hard work and passion that a candidate has?

  • I am surprised that website of your uni is nice and transparent, mrsu.ru/en/edu/spec_edu3/detail.php?ELEMENT_ID=35962 all information about program, accreditation and name of lecturers are available, some of them have international education, but most of them are not yet docents, why??? I dont understand this. how you can be lecturer without being a docent? – SSimon Mar 9 '18 at 3:13
  • web site of faculty is ok, but I think it is mediocre. you should go for 3 year or 4 years BSc program. – SSimon Mar 9 '18 at 3:16
  • 1. I don't think you can make precise plans that much in advance. In the UK, only a minority of funded PhD positions is available for non-EU students, and you may have to go to another country, likely France or Germany, if you wish to stay in Europe. Also, in 5 years you may change your mind about doing a PhD abroad. 2. There may be a few middle options between Moscow and Saransk, e.g., Novosibirsk. 3. Big universities normally offer affordable housing for students. With that, living costs in Moscow or St. Petersburg may not be much higher than elsewhere. You should research that. – Alexey B. Mar 11 '18 at 6:24

tl;dr: Don't do this.

Long version: Studying in a second-class university for a 5-year long program will significantly reduce your chances to get admitted to a MSc/PhD program in UK, Europe and US. In particular:

  • The "specialist" programs are not known in western world. While a specialist diploma from MSU could be recognised by some Universities as a MSc degree and allow admittance to a PhD program, a similar diploma from unknown universities will be only recognised as an evidence of BSc-level education or not recognised at all.
  • The educational program in Mordova University is likely to be outdated and the assessment standards are likely to be low. It will be very difficult for you to keep yourself motivated through all 5 years. Inevitably, people get sidetracked from such programs into self-education and tend to become IT specialists or self-learnt coders rather than scientists.
  • Your current level of English is decent; it is likely that a second-class University program will not help you to improve you language skills above your current level.
  • It is very likely that lecturers in Mordova University are not really involved in international research. You will not obtain essential understanding of how the research is done in the western world, and this could significantly limit the scope and success of your applications.

Suggestion: Try to get yourself a stipend/scholarship/loan and get yourself to a decent program in Moscow / St. Petesburgh. Alternatively, search for any BSc program which admits you in any EU country.

Remember, 5 years of your life is a huge commodity. If you are going to spend them on education, make sure this time is not wasted. Good luck.

  • 1
    +1, as someone from the UK, I have no idea what a specialist diploma means or entails. – astronat Jun 7 '17 at 13:37
  • Thank you for your answer. Although, to make any conclusion, I still would like to see anything from a professor who actually participates in the admission process and knows the field. The decision to wreak havoc on my family's budget is a serious one. – Aleksandr Illarionov Jun 7 '17 at 14:34
  • @AleksandrIllarionov As someone who is involved in PhD admissions, I want to reaffirm that Dmitry's answer is basically correct. As Dmitry says, there are things you can try doing that do not involve wrecking havoc in your family finances. – Boris Bukh Jun 7 '17 at 14:52
  • Your answer is unreasonably discouraging. 1) In the UK specifically, "specialist" degree is not a problem, and there is no formal requirement to have an MSc to start a PhD. But then, it is not guaranteed that OP will be able to go to the UK, so he should also consider admission rules in other countries. 2) In Moscow/St.Petersburg, lecturers are as likely to not be researchers. – Alexey B. Mar 8 '18 at 17:51
  • @BorisBukh what is the name of this specialist programs? degree name? – SSimon Mar 9 '18 at 3:00

I work in the field of bioinformatics. I have studied in an International PhD program in Germany after completing a BSc in Biology from a university in Ukraine. Upon admission my university mattered - one of our faculty members was from the same university and they could reassure the admission committee that the education quality was decent. However, what I think was crucial for their final decision to accept me, was my internship abroad. Come to think of it, over half of my class did at least one. No matter where you decide to study, I can certainly recommend to apply for an internship in the country of your choice. It gives you an edge over other candidates, provides you with practical experience, shows that you are able to adapt.

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