Russian education system was originally inherited from the Soviet Union without any significant changes. In the Soviet Union, education of all levels was free for anybody who could pass entrance exams; students were provided with small scholarships and free housing. It has produced nearly 100 % literacy. In the Soviet Union institutions were funded entirely from the federal and regional budgets.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, institutions found themselves unable to provide adequate teachers’ salaries, students, scholarships, and to maintain their facilities. Many state institutions started to open commercial positions. The number of those positions has been growing steadily since then. Many private higher education institutions have emerged, too. In 2004, 35 % of all first-year students were paying for their own education in state institutions and 20 % were enrolled in private universities.
Education in Russia may be arranged into three major groups: secondary education, higher education, and postgraduate education. Secondary education in Russia usually takes eleven years to complete. After graduation from the 9th grade, which is compulsory, a pupil obtains a Certificate of Incomplete Secondary Education. After that a pupil has can either continue education for two more years at the secondary school, or to go to a Community College.
The latter variant usually takes three to four years to complete and provides a pupil with qualification sufficient for most blue-collar jobs.
After obtaining a Certificate of Complete Secondary Education a student can enter a University or a Community College. Nowadays, the country has 685 governmental higher education institutions and 619 nongovernmental higher education establishments (1,162 of which are state-accredited). In 2003—2004, the total number of students of higher education institutions was 5,947,500.
There are three different degrees that are conferred by Russian universities: Bachelor’s Degree (4 years), Specialist’s Degree (5—6 years), and Master’s Degree (6 years). Bachelor’s degrees were introduced relatively recently and are not offered by many six-year institutions. After obtaining a Specialist’s or Master’s Degree, a student may pursue postgraduate education. The first level of postgraduate education is aspirantura that usually results in the Candidate of Sciences Degree, roughly equivalent to the Ph. D. in the United States.
The second stage would result in the Doctor’s Degree. A Candidate of Sciences Degree may be accompanied by honourary degree of assistant professor and a Doctor’s Degree may be accompanied by honourary degree of professor.