Exams victory for rectors

December 2, 2005

Russian universities will keep their own system of entrance exams when the country introduces its long-delayed unified state exam, a nationwide scheme similar to A levels.

Years of lobbying by rectors of top universities to halt a common school-leaving/university entrance exam seem to have paid off after the Education Ministry announced a much modified new parliamentary Bill last month.

Measures allowing universities to have flexible entrance requirements replaced earlier plans to scrap college tests in favour of the new exams, which Viktor Sadovichny of Moscow State University called "tick-box testing".

A Bill to introduce the exams across Russia by 2008 was agreed after a series of meetings between Andrei Fursenko, the Education Minister, and groups that included members of the Russian Union of Rectors, education officials and pedagogical experts.

The Bill - which is likely to become law within two years - will allow universities to accept students based on an assessment of their unified state exam results, scores in regional and national subject "olympiads"

(public competitions that test the knowledge of Russia's top students) and their own entrance exams.

"We cannot call this a complete victory because they are not leaving university entrance exams entirely alone," said Evgenia Zaitseva, a spokesperson for Professor Sadovichny, "but this is what the rector has been fighting for."

Alexander Kachanov, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, said the unified state exam would be rolled out nationwide by 2008.

Universities would have to accept the results of the new exams but could demand supplementary tests if a student fell short of an institution's benchmark.

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