Education in Europe: Russia and Romania (Part II) Martina Mocinecová

Where is it worth studying? What is the potential in different countries’ education? Are the Cold War stereotypes of Eastern Europe still valid? These are some very open and debatable questions. 

How expensive is studying in a certain country? What are the facilities offered at the country’s universities?  I think that in order to answer these questions one needs to address them to the right person. Who could give a more specific answers than those who experienced the chances and possibilities of their country and were part of the education system of it? Former and current students framed their opinions in this article.

After Education in Europe - Part I , in which we presented the education in Austria, Belarus and Germany, in this article, with the same factors, we focus on Romania and Russia. 

Andrada David is currently studying International Relations and European Studies at the University of Babeş-Bolyai in Cluj Napoca and after spending half a year in Prague, she became an active member of the Erasmus Student Network in Cluj Napoca. She presents the Education System of Romania. 

Ksenia Naumova presents the education in Russia. She finished her studies in Pharmacy in Russia, and is now studying International Relations and European Studies in Cluj-Napoca. She is working for the American Experience Youth Program.

Education system in General

Russia: In Russia it is obligatory to have 8 years of general school. At the end of year 8 students take State exams, which decide if they can access high school. However, there is a second option. Students can transfer their papers to colleges (or technical schools). After graduating from high school, which is two years, students have to take state exams a second time, which  now decide their options for the universities. Each university in Russia has its own officially established access rate, meaning the amount of the exam points you need to have in order to enter one of the universities. 

Most universities in Russia have introduced bologna system. Just a few still use the traditional system (5 years education, with a Master type diploma at the end, meaning no separation between Bachelor and Masters). 

Usually students choose their universities according to their interests. But of course it is important to mention that a lot of students don’t choose their university themselves as their parents do it for them. 

Romania: The Romanian educational system is structured into multiple levels of education. It is mandatory to complete at least 10 years of study. A recent change brought to the system is the newly-established Grade 0 which marks the transition between kindergarten and school. Children are usually enrolled to this class when they are 6 years of age and it is meant to be a preparatory year before getting enrolled into primary school. This latter phase lasts for 4 years and provides children with basic knowledge of their own language, history, geography, culture and mathematics. At this point, children are also taught basic notions of at least one foreign language. After the completion of primary school, children attend a secondary level of education which also lasts for 4 years. During this educational phase, a strong emphasis is put on the development of their already acquired competencies and also the expansion of their abilities. 

During secondary school, Romanian children learn notions of physics, chemistry and biology. They also often start learning the basics of a new foreign language. The completion of this educational stage is marked by an exam which is meant to check the language and mathematical abilities acquired by the children during the previous study years. According to the grade they receive at this exam, children will get enrolled in high schools and get specialized in a certain area of study. In theoretical high schools, the most popular specializations are: social sciences, mathematics, informatics, philology, biology and chemistry. Those who are not interested in studying at a regular theoretic high school, can enroll in a vocational school and put the basis of some practical abilities (such as a mechanic, cook, tailor etc). After the completion of the 4 years of high school, Romanians need to pass the Bacalaureat exam which focuses on 3 main topics according to their specialization. Although most of the times the grade they receive at the Bacalaureat exam is not the most important criterion in getting accepted at a university, it is still an important factor in the admission process. Universities are rather autonomous and thus faculties can decide on their own the method of admission. Most of the times, students have to take at least one more written exam and also submit their Bacalaureat degree. Romanian universities generally follow the Bologna system of education. In most faculties, students get a BA in 3 years, an MA in 2 years and the length of study for a PhD varies according to the field the student is specializing in.

Attitude of students

Russia: Most of the students are very passionate about what they are studying and of course about student life in general. It is not popular to learn foreign languages in Russia, it is taught at schools and universities, but as I mentioned before there is no big interest. A lot of Russians think that “I live in Russia, we all speak Russian, so why should I learn something that I wouldn’t use?”. 

Romania: The general attitude in Romania towards education is academic oriented. This means that most students plan to get their Bacalaureat degree and then pursue academic studies. However, this is an issue at times since some segments of the labor market get saturated by the huge number of students which graduate from university. Because of this reason, some of them will get hired in extremely different fields of activity or they will be determined to look for experience elsewhere and thus decide to travel abroad and enrich their resume. 

After University

Russia: Usually, students are starting to work before their graduation. Most of the time just as a source of income to support themselves. Mostly the jobs are not related to the field of their studies. However, there are students who are enrolling into different projects e.g. as researches at the university which may help them find jobs in their own field.

The situation with unemployment in Russia is not that critical, there are a lot of jobs for graduates. Other factors may instead affect the student’s job choices e.g. the problem with salaries and career development. Some graduates want to work for what the money market offers them, this is the main reason for why they tend to look for jobs that are not linked to their degree, however, well paid. 

Romania: The unemployment rate in the country is around 23%, which is not as dangerous as in Spain or Greece, but around EU average. In theory, there are some programs supporting young entrepreneurs, but in practice because of the high risks, many people give up on the idea. Also there is a general tendency around graduates to move to the West, because of higher salaries and safer economic environment. While some of them return back home to get the job they have always wanted, others prefer to stay abroad and find the job of their dream away from their home country.


Russia: There are a lot of universities in Russia that are very old which in some cases makes the facilities outdated. But recently, the government started to invest more in education; improvement is seen in each and every university, starting with general renovations of classrooms and laboratories, followed by new equipment like books and computers. In general the situation is improving, but it is still a very long way to reach European standards.

Romania: When it comes to the facilities offered by state universities, students can benefit from modern libraries, laboratories and gyms, especially if they are enrolled in a top university. 

Public vs. Private

Russia: It is rather expensive to live and study in Russia. Prices for rent and food are very high. Education fees are varying from university to university, and from city to city. Moscow is the most expensive city in a lot of aspects, education is one of them. However, if you move more towards East, prices decrease. There is almost no difference between fees for public and private universities, though, public universities have higher status and recognition than private ones. 

Romania: The Romanian educational system also provides students with free education in case they have good grades. Thus there are students who pay no tuition fees and others who may pay around 500-2500 euros/year depending on their respective fields of study. 

Special thanks to Andrada and Ksenia for sharing their thoughts on the realities of the educational systems in their countries.

Edited by: Lisa Enocsson