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Education Briefing

Ross Hunter,
MA (Cambridge), Headmaster,
English International School.

Autumn is the season for getting applications together for next year’s universities. Families with children now in their last year of school will read the acronyms UCAS, SATs, maybe ToEFL or IELTS with a mixture of angst and excitement, and the words rent, student loans, debt waiting lists and maybe even “clearing” with undiluted dread. Does it help to state the obvious? Maybe! The knowledge that thousands of families like you are going through the same process at least eases the loneliness of the predicament.

Autumn is therefore also high season for recruitment fairs, in various formats. First off was the keynote British Council “Education UK” fair, held in October at the Ritz Carlton. By every possible measure, this was the best yet. The capacious exhibition halls were packed from early Saturday to late Sunday. There were significantly more universities and UK schools present, and on average, they were higher up the rankings. Most striking, each stand had higher profile staff —directors of admissions, professors, experts in their fields, and professionals who could answer detailed admissions questions.

Why such an impressive turn out? Some factors are obvious. Those early economics lessons in demand and supply suddenly seem more relevant.

As Russia’s economy and society develops, expectations and hopes rise. The demand for overseas higher education is rising exponentially. If the UK is good enough for exiled oligarchs, business entrepreneurs, newspaper magnates, writers and football club owners, then it is attractive for aspirational families too. European and especially UK universities are more than happy to welcome them. Inquiry-based learning, top quality courses in a large and disparate selection of fields, flexibility, freedom of thought and globally-recognised examination standards together make a powerful magnet.

On the other side of the equation, higher education is not cheap. The cost of tuition for local students is rising in large steps, so that next year there will be little difference between “home” and “international” students, at least for arts courses. (Putative scientists, medics, and astronomers, inter alia, beware, and check prices carefully before you commit yourself!) The BA and BSc courses which started as the leaves began to fall are the last before tuition costs all but triple, at least in England. Competition for places this time round was tighter than ever before. September 2012 may well have shorter queues. The universities are agile, market wise and entrepreneurial. It is a good time to be an applicant.

Throughout the weekend, the flow of potential students was impressive. The British Council (www.britishcouncil. ru) managed the event with impressive aplomb. Few stands did not have steady queues, and guests staggered down the opulent curving staircase with full magazine bags and fuller dreams.

The following week, the Radisson Hotel at Kievskaya hosted another fair, with a remarkable variety of schools and universities in assorted places as far apart as Spain, Finland, Switzerland, Canada, parts of the USA, Belgium, Italy and preuniversity courses in Moscow and the UK and more, and dedicated colleges for catering, languages and other specialisms.

For your diaries, the next big event is on 19 November at the Swissotel, where a large variety of pre-schools, schools and universities will be on display, representing institutions from Moscow, the EU, across the Atlantic and even across the Pacific. Your correspondent will be there, so I hope to meet you. November’s.

Education Briefing will highlight higher education options in Moscow and beyond, and this topic is also a focus of the AEB’s “Bringing Ex-pats to Moscow” conference in late October. At least 12 UK universities host undergraduate or graduate courses in Moscow: if you are one of them, please contact PASSPORT Magazine or ross_ so we can pass the word on.

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