Russian students who go overseas for work or study could lose their grants for that time under a regulation adopted by many universities.
Rules governing the payment of stipendia - designed for those students sent by a university - also apply to students who find their own work programmes, as a student from one provincial university who returned from a summer working abroad earlier this month found to his cost.
A 20-year-old student at Saratov State University who organised his own visa and job placement in the US during the summer, earned a monthly stipend by achieving a series of A grades in last summer's exams.
But when he tried to collect his stipend on his return he was shown an order stating that grants were suspended for students away for more than three months.
The student, who had permission to be away for longer than the summer holiday, said it was the first he had heard of the rule.
"It's not a huge sum by western standards - about £30 - but for Russian students that's a lot of money. I don't understand why students with initiative and drive who find placements for themselves should be penalised in this way," he said.
Svetlana Mushtakova, vice-rector for education, said the rule was based on the principle that federal stipends should be used for the common good of students.