Russians cash in on Chinese shortfall

June 21, 2002

Oriental music and the high-pitched tonal sounds of Chinese chatter echo through the central hall of Volgograd's teaching university as students break for lunch. Milling around an exhibition of Chinese arts and crafts, Russians talk to Chinese students dressed in traditional costumes.

The Chinese are no strangers to the local undergraduates - they are classmates, not visitors on a cultural exchange. The exhibition is only temporary, but there are always plenty of Chinese.

"We have 150 foreign students this year," said Victor Pavlov, vice-rector for international affairs. "But we expect 200 next, most of whom will be Chinese."

Seeing a potentially rich source of income, the university has forged partnerships with six colleges in China.

Across Russia, Chinese students are pursuing courses, taught in Russian as the demand for education at home outstrips the supply of places.

"The Chinese account for around one in ten of all foreign students at Russian universities now," said Andrei Alexankov, deputy director of external relations and marketing at St Petersburg State Technical University's Institute of International Educational Programmes. "They come because the competition at Chinese universities is so intense - only one in ten can get a place."

St Petersburg is one of the top destinations for the Chinese, who are drawn by its reputation as a city of culture. It attracts more foreign students than Moscow.

The quality and cost of courses plus the extent to which institutions are ready to tailor their courses for foreigners are the key factors. Mr Alexankov's institute offers foundation courses, including intensive Russian classes.

"For the Chinese, studying in Russia represents an opportunity that may be denied them at home - most are from the provinces. Often after studying, they consider emigrating and setting up businesses, rather than going back home," Mr Alexankov said.

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