In many Western countries, after 3 or 4 years of study at the university a student receives an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree. To obtain a graduate degree, one has to attend a separate graduate programme, where after 2 or more years they will gain a Master’s or Doctor’s degree.
This system is relatively new to Russia, and today the predominant majority of Russian universities offer undergraduate degree courses alongside diploma degree (specialist) courses, in which Russian higher education institutions bypass the undergraduate, and directly provide for graduate education.
Russian higher education institutions (HEIs) commonly offer the following degrees:
A student receives a Bachelor’s degree after 4 (full-time) or 5 (part-time) years of study at the university (minimum level to be recognized as having Higher Education).
To gain a Master’s degree, one has to complete a 2-year (full-time) or 2.5-year (part-time) postgraduate course.
A student receives a Degree (specialist) diploma after 5 (full-time) or 6 (part-time) years of study at the university. The Russian university curriculum is more fundamental and generally broader than in Western universities. After successfully presenting a graduation paper (usually 70–100 pages) to the Qualification Committee of the Department, the Russian Diploma (specialist) degree roughly corresponds to a Western Master’s Degree.
Russia has a two-tier system of doctoral degrees.
The first level academic degree in Russia is called "Kandidat nauk" (that could be translated verbatim as a "Candidate of Sciences"). This academic degree may be matched by a Western PhD degree. It is granted after 3 years of study and research in a postgraduate school. The qualification requirements are higher than in most Western universities, with mandatory publications in peer-reviewed journals (usually 3 publications suffice), 3 exams (one in their speciality, one in a foreign language and one in the history and philosophy of science), and public defence of the theses with open scientific discussion and approval at the Federal government level.
In countries with a two-tier system of doctoral degrees, the degree of Kandidat Nauk should be considered for recognition at the level of the first doctoral degree. In countries with only one doctoral degree, the degree of Kandidat Nauk should be considered for recognition as equivalent to this degree.
The second and highest academic degree in Russia is called "Doktor Nauk" (that could be translated verbatim as a "Doctor of Sciences"). The degree of Doktor Nauk may match a German Dr. phil. habil. or roughly correspond to an American Full Professor. This degree is granted to those who made a substantial contribution to research in their area of study, after public defence of a thesis and a number of publications including monographs. In Russia, only holders of this degree qualify for the academic title “Professor” awarded by the Higher Awards Commission of the Russian Federation.
In countries with a two-tier system of doctoral degrees, the degree of Doktor Nauk should be considered for recognition at the level of the second doctoral degree. In countries in which only one doctoral degree exists, the degree of Doktor Nauk should be considered for recognition at the level of this degree.
University Academic Year: 10 months – 2 semesters
The Academic Year officially starts on 1st September and lasts until 30th June, and it is divided into two semesters:
Winter holidays – 2 weeks (the first half of February)
Students have a winter break during the New Year holidays, usually starting on 31st December before New Year and lasting for a week in January.
Summer holidays – 8 weeks (July – August)
The national grading system is based on a 2 to 5 scale where 5 corresponds to excellent performance; 4 − good performance; 3 − satisfactory performance; 2 − failure.
The assessment can be also made in terms of “passed” (zachteno), “not passed” (ne zachteno) or “attended” (proslushano).
If failure is assigned, then the student is to re-take the exam or test. The university grade scale corresponds with ECTS grades: “excellent” – A; “good” – C; “satisfactory” – D; “fail” – F.