Attention to the European educational system has deep political and historical roots in Russia. European universities with their long history, used to be a prototype for the first Russian universities, which were established in the middle of the 18th century. Due to this reason, the Russian higher education system, particularly, the roots, structure, activities and modern development tendencies of its leading universities, are very similar to the European ones. Moreover, the current political developments have raised the interest in the modern practice of the European universities. Russia´s striving for joining the European political, economical and cultural area as a full and equal partner, as well as changes in the Russian foreign policy encouraged the apprehension and adaptation of the European experience. Economical reasons speeded up this process considerably: Russia´s transition to market economy made it vitally important to commercialize the professional education for the country´s and international needs. The Russian higher education faced a problem of gaining a worthy place in the international educational arena.
There is no doubt, that Russia familiarized with the European experience, taking into consideration the Magna Charta Universitatum, signed in Bologna in 1988. This document reflects ideas about social and historical role of universities in the 21st century. It states the main principles of universities´ existence: moral and scientific independency from politics and economy (autonomy), inseparability of learning process from research; freedom of teaching, research and learning; crossing political and geographical boundaries and necessity of mutual perception and intercultural interaction.
Just recently, during the last 10 years, Russia made its first direct steps towards Bologna process, i.e. when the main principles have already been formed and the system of cooperation and control have already been established. Behind the interest in Bologna process was understanding of the fact, that it is necessary to develop such an educational system, which would conform with the market mechanisms and could be equally good or even compete with the European one. With this aim in view, it is essential to create conditions and find ways for recognition of the Russian academic qualifications in Europe.
Documents of European Summits (European Council Presidency Conclusions) in Lisbon (23-24 March, 2000) and Santa-Maria da Feira (19-20 June, 2000) stated, that educational systems of the European Union should correspond to reality of the 21st century, and that "continuing education should become a main political program for the civil society, social integrity and employment". This approach has also been fixed in the Concept of development of adult education in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that was signed during the 8th Conference of the CIS Education Ministers in Moscow (13 May, 2003).
At present, the EU, the CIS and Russia understand, that the strategy of continuing education should be based on cooperation between authorities and non-governmental organizations, the so called «social partners», because it is them, who have a close contact with the interests and needs of citizens and communities. Besides, a common educational network should strengthen the link between formal and informal educational institutions. All this is being implemented by means of open universities, distance learning and etc; the universities present their educational offers to the population.
Developing politics in the area of continuing education in Russia, pays a growing attention not only to its economical necessity, caused by the changes on the labor market, but also to its social and cultural importance. Education becomes a key factor of both professional and personal success. As education plays the main role for individual´s career start, so it will play a decisive role for his social inclusion in the future.
According to paragraph 1.4 of the Conception of modernization of the Russian education, priority task of the educational politics is to provide a high quality of education, conserve its fundamental principles and meet the current and future needs of an individual, society and state. The quality of higher education means more than just aims and values of the educational institutions, though they are regarded as its intellectual and theoretical basis. The quality of higher education and measures for its achievement and improvement mean, that universities should develop towards better understanding and satisfying of communities´ and individual needs: social, economical and cultural.
It is important to preserve one the main principles of the Russian higher education - its fundamental character, which has always been based on fundamental science and scientific schools. This contradicts with uncertainty caused by the ongoing discussions in the West, on whether universities need science. One of the most strong aspects of the Russian educational system is, that even freshman students are involved in the scientific work under the guidance of professors. From the very beginning, they become a part of the scientific school and get an opportunity to work with the scientists of different generations and ages. Successful cooperation with the youth starts already in school, where the leading university professors teach talented and clever children, preparing them to become graduates and future students for the Russian universities.
Russia´s integration into common educational area should run not only at the level of state and ministries. In order to succeed, it should find support among all Russian educational institutions; it should involve the whole scientific and educational community, including the Russian students, post-graduates, professors and scientists.
- Higher education in the 21st century. Approaches and practical measures. World conference on higher education (5-9 October, 1998). Paris, UNESCO, 1998.
- Conception of modernization of the Russian education till 2010. Decree of the government of the Russian Federation, 29 December 2001, № 1756-r.
- Implementation of the state requirements to content minimum and level of training, needed for obtaining additional qualification «Teacher for higher education»: Decree of the Russian Education Ministry, 24.01.2002 № 180 // Bulletin of the Russian Education Ministry. 2002. № 3. p. 19-20.
The work is submitted to Scientific Conference "The Problems of International Integration of Educational Standards", England (London) - France (Paris), April 20-28, 2009. Came to the Editor´s Office on 02.02.2009.