Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Russian higher education system had to adapt to a rapidly changing political and socio-economic environment. After the shockwaves of the 1990s Russia entered a period of relative stability since 2000, which had an important impact on higher education. The Russian government formulated a modernisation policy to increase the quality and efficiency of higher education. An important impetus for reform and internationalisation was given, as Russia joined the Bologna Process in 2003. However, despite significant efforts challenges remain. For example the EUA Trends Report 2010 noted: “the infrastructure for Bachelor/Master is in place, but the transformation of contents and teaching/learning methods are still to be achieved” (cf. European University Association: Trends Report 2010, p. 119). While the Bologna Process “became a symbol […] of internationalisation for Russian higher education” the level of internationalisation remained lower than expected. The ECTS system, which was formally introduced at many HEIs, “remained vague and for most staff and students” (cf. European Journal of Higher Education, 1/2012, p. 45).
Against this background it is not surprising that topics such as the implementation of the Bologna Process, the reform of course contents, the transformation of teaching methods and the alignment of higher education to labour market demands are of highest practical relevance for Russian HEIs. This is even more valid for the regions of Siberia and the Far East, which are targeted in the proposed project. Siberia and the Far East are two underdeveloped and remote regions of Russia which suffer from a weak economic performance. Young people in these regions are inevitably discriminated through their distant location from leading centers of higher education. This vulnerable situation results in a weak position on the labour market, lower incomes and a hampered possibility for self-realisation. In order to address the challenges outlined above, EduSFE aims to strengthen higher Education in Siberia and the Far East of Russia in line with the Bologna process and EU standards. The project shall increase the capacity HEIs in these remote regions to offer educational services of higher quality and enhance access to contemporary European education.
In a nutshell, the goal of EduSFE is to modernize existing Master programmes in Finance at Russian HEIs and launch related double degree programmes between EU and Russian HEIs. These programmes will be developed jointly together with experienced EU HEIs. The subject of Finance was chosen, as it is a crucial factor for economic development and skilled graduates in this field are coveted by the business community and the public sector alike. This request has further increased through the on-going financial crisis. The global search for an “efficient and sustainable financial system” (cf. EU 2020 Strategy, p. 8) underlines the need for experts in Finance on an international and regional level. This topic also matches with the priority of the Tempus call to focus “on subject areas insufficiently covered by past or existing projects”. A review of previous curricular reform projects in Russia under Tempus IV reveals that Finance was hardly a topic at all (there exists only a project on e-commerce, which peripherally touches finance). The regional focus of the project was chosen, as Siberia and the Far East are underprivileged territories in the Russian context. This approach is in line with the intentions of the Russian government to enhance higher education in Siberia and Far East. The Russian Ministry of Education and Science approved this project idea during the EduSFE preparations and gave positive feedback.