The best university in the country remains Moscow State University, or MGU, but it's not necessary to come to the capital to get one of the country's best classical educations: Universities in Tomsk and Novosibirsk ranked in the top five of the latest published rating.
The national university rating project was conducted jointly by Interfax and radio station Ekho Moskvy, and grew out of a 2009 order from the Federal Education Agency to create an independent evaluation system for the country's institutions of higher education.
Every year, 90 percent of high school graduates go on to college or university — meaning that about 2 million families a year wonder how best to select a place for higher education, said Alexei Venediktov, chief editor of Ekho Moskvy.
The strongest university in the country is unquestionably MGU, so its rating result is listed as 100, and the other 107 universities that are largely focused on classical education — though 28 have the status of "national research university" — were ranked in terms of a percentage of MGU's result.
The "brand" value of universities was ignored until recently. But now employers look more frequently not just for a specialist with a diploma, but one who has finished a particular institution. Companies that understand the different "brands" and are willing to pay more for graduates of the better schools have increased from 15 percent in 2005 to 35 percent now. According to City Hall, only 5 percent of graduates from Moscow's lesser known institutes find jobs related to their chosen field of education.
The main driver to getting a degree is better salary options. Those with a higher degree can count on 60 percent better pay than those without. With 1.5 million graduates entering the job market every year and competing for work, the significance of the university brand is growing.
Regional educational institutions are much better at generating and managing intellectual property than federal ones. For example, Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk registered 95 patents in 2010, while MGU registered only four for the same period. The regions are also much more active in creating small innovation enterprises, or MIPs, where students and professors work to create and commercialize innovative ideas. Tomsk State University has nine MIPs whose charter capital includes patents valued from 35,000 to 408,000 rubles ($1,250 to $14,600).
The commercialization wave is expected to continue as federal and regional authorities encourage educational institutions to engage in entrepreneurial activities.
The methodology used for the rating system is based on the one used by the magazine Times Higher Education — which last year put MGU as the highest-ranked Russian participant on its list, coming in at 237 in the World University Ranking. Experts say the poor showing was due in part to the lack of internationally published scientific research, which in turn is due to the sad state of scientific research in the country and poor knowledge of foreign languages.