Rossotrudnichestvo is an organisation responsible for promoting Russian education services abroad and distributing quotas to international students. Despite the pandemic, the organisation’s goal remains the same – attract students into the country. Moreover, although the Government of Russia currently allocates 15,000 quotes to foreign nationals per year, the figure is expected to rise to 30,000 by 2024.
Very few quotas are provided to Tanzanians – twenty-six annually. There is seen some positive dynamic, however. Three years ago, only 13 Tanzanian citizens were granted quotas for free studies, whereas next year there could be 50 of them. The number of those who wish to study in Russia is much higher indeed. Students from Tanzania know there is a chance they become employed at some joint Russian-African project. Or, they can return to the home country, and get a job they would not be offered had they graduated from a local university.
“I always knew I would one day be an architect – it was my dream to design and construct buildings. After graduating from high school, I entered a local technical college. And upon its completion, I was hired by the largest architect firm in the country – Epitome Architects. It was, on the one hand, a worthy achievement. But on the other hand, my education prevented me from moving up the career ladder and getting one day a high-income job. The salary a college grad may claim is also lower than that of a university graduate. I needed to pursue higher education,” says Robert Magory, a student of the Faculty of Architecture at St. Petersburg Mining University.
As he explains, studying for a degree in Tanzania is not the best option. The qualification of local teachers is very low. Besides, the focus of the education system is on theory only, whilst applied disciplines remain something unheard of. Therefore Robert decided to explore international study opportunities.
“I was thinking about the US at first. They offer scholarship programs to Africans, but the application process, on the whole, is time-consuming, costly, and involves a lot of paperwork. So I decided to have a look at other countries’ programs. Finally, I found out from the Russian Embassy about the quota system allowing to earn a free study place.
That year 19 quotas were allocated to Tanzanians. Both my brother’s application and mine were approved. And soon I left for St. Petersburg, to study at the oldest higher technical university in Russia, which luckily for me, had a program in Architecture,” recalls the Mining University’s student.
But what about the difference in educational approaches? Here is what Robert has to say on it.
“A university is a place where students need to learn how to think outside of the box. But if one gets constantly reminded about the boundaries, how can they ever overcome them? The Russian approach is different: we learn about the newest trends and the classic styles, and then we learn how to mix them. Practical training is a significant part of the education process here. While my fellow countrymen are reading their textbooks, we are having field trips. We are visiting Russia’s leading architectural offices, familiarising ourselves with design practices and construction methods. The knowledge and skills gained at Mining University are my advantages over Tanzanian specialists,” says the soon-to-be graduate.