The Russian government is considering funding the study of domestic students at leading foreign universities – provided they return to Russia once they’ve graduation.
The Russian Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) and the Alumni Club of Harvard University has helped the Russian government to put the initiative together. According to the proposal, the government could provide as much as $5 billion (£3.1 billion) over the next 10 years for overseas study.
This could fund places for more than 100,000 Russian students at leading foreign universities. There is also the possibility that several Russian state-owned corporations and private businesses might participate in the project, as it would help to train up the specialists of the future that they will be looking to recruit.
The authors of the programme plan to build on the experiences of other nations, in particular China, where a similar scheme has been in operation since the 1970s. The Chinese programme has given more than a million students the opportunity to learn abroad.
In order to apply for the overseas study grant, applicants will have to undergo testing. Preference will be given to those students that study niche areas that are not currently available in Russia. However, a list of areas that the government wants to target has not been finalised yet.
Students participating in the programme will be expected to sign a contract with the state, which obliges them to return to Russia and work there for several years after graduation. In the case of a breach of contract they will be obliged to return the money which was spent on them and could face a penalty.
The list of posts that will be offered to returning graduates has not yet been agreed, but according to some sources close to the Russian government, it will mostly be senior positions in the state or municipal service sector or state research corporations.
The project has already been approved by the presidential administration and the Ministry of Economic Development. According to Dmitry Peskov, the head of department for young professionals at the ASI, Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin has also approved the project. However, some representatives of the Russian Ministry of Finance have opposed spending so much on training Russian students abroad.
Once final approval is given, the project should start in mid-2012.