Russia ripe for skills revamp to aid growth

January 13, 2006

Russian universities face key modernisation challenges if they are to produce graduates with economically useful skills, according to senior government officials.

Mikhail Strikhanov, deputy director of the Russian Ministry of Education's state policy department, told the closing conference of the European Union's Delphi II project last month that forging better links between education and training provision and the needs of employers, the labour market and Russia's fast-changing economy was critical to the country's chances of full integration into the European educational space.

Delphi - the Development of Educational Links and Professional and Higher Education Initiatives, a three-year E5.2 million (£3.5 million) technical assistance scheme - is likely to lead to two key policy recommendations: the establishment of structured social partnerships to ensure that regional policy initiatives could be passed back to Moscow and the development of skills councils.

Mr Strikhanov said that Russian higher and vocational education was undergoing radical change and had to be open and responsive to challenges if it was to meet the demands of modernisation. "We need to adapt our educational system so that our graduates are relevant to the labour market.

There is a huge role here for federal and regional interaction," he said.

"I believe that the ministry will benefit from (following) recommendations from our regional experts and we should use these recommendations to build the national system of education."

His comments reflect a growing awareness that the pace of Russia's integration into European educational priorities must be grassroots-driven within a national policy framework.

Mr Strikhanov said that Russia's classical universities suffered from a perception of academics as ageing, poorly paid and out of touch with the real economy and this was hampering chances to attract new blood and new ideas to the sector.

Andrew Sheridan, Delphi II project team leader at the British Council, Moscow, said that results from pilot schemes in 29 institutions over the past three years demonstrated the value of creating structured dialogue between stakeholders in education, employment and administration.

"As the (Russian) population declines at the same time as the economy develops employers are demanding more highly trained workers from a shrinking population. People will need to be more skilled, flexible and able to undertake lifelong learning. Structured dialogue is essential to this process," Mr Sheridan said.

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