Vladivostok basks in its freedom

September 8, 2000

The insistence of the old Soviet regime that it approve any new university programmes no longer hangs heavily on a rejuvenated Far Eastern State University.

President Vladimir Kurilov's Vladivostok University has experienced phenomenal growth in the past decade, probably due to a less controlling education ministry.

Since 1992, the university has established four institutes, 20 faculties and 37 departments. The head of what is the oldest and largest institution of higher education in the Russian Far East says university space and the number of programmes has increased threefold and enrolment has doubled.

Dr Kurilov is proud of the new overseas partnerships his university has formed. "In the 1980s, there were no real international relations," said the American and Russian-educated president.

Before the fall of the Soviet Union, universities had to defer to Moscow to initiate new programmes, especially those with international links. Dr Kurilov, who met other Asia Pacific university presidents in Vancouver this summer, joked that "Russian universities receive real autonomy - freedom but not money".

He said the Putin government had become more generous of late, offering increased funds for badly needed infrastructure repairs and taking on board suggestions from the grouping of Russian university presidents to which Dr Kurilov belongs. Far Eastern State has also benefited from Vladivostok's position as the main marine gate for Russia into the Asia Pacific region, capitalising on that to promote substantial exchanges with universities in Japan and Korea.

Having an improved international profile is improving Dr Kurilov's bottom line as his 18,000-student university receives funds from the Soros Foundation and increasingly wins international grants.

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