Russia Earns $300 Million a Year by Letting Students from Kazakhstan In

Nurken Khalykbergen, executive partner in Khalykbergen Strategy Communications, explains how this works

According to QS Higher Education System Strength’s ratings, the United States, the UK and Germany are the global leaders in terms of education.

Like a magnet, these countries attract students from over the world. The export of education services is considered a key element of the entire education systems in these countries and is supported by the state. Usually, foreign students bring money not only to the universities but to the host country’s economy as well. For example, about half a million foreign students bring the US economy more than $33 billion. In the UK, foreign students have been spending €7 billion each year excluding direct costs for education itself. Chinese students are the champions; they are spending about $40 billion a year while studying abroad. 

According to the National Agency for Financial Studies (a Russian think tank), more than 300,000 foreign students have been studying in Russia, 75,000 of them are students from Kazakhstan. However, many Kazakhstanis have been studying in Russia free of charge. All these foreign students bring $1.1 billion to the Russian economy. 

«In America or the UK, universities just make money by teaching foreign students while Russia does the same because of political motivation,» said Alena Nefedova, an expert in the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (Russia). 

Even a very general calculation shows that Kazakhstani families have been investing in the Russian economy about $300 million per year including universityfees, accommodation and food.

Moreover, talented students from Kazakhstan often receive an offer to stay abroad while all prime costs to raise a young man were on Kazakhstan’s shoulders including his birth, health care and school education. In contrast, the host country gets already an adult man or woman who is ready to serve society and pay taxes. 

Currently, Kazakhstan hosts roughly 25,000 foreign students, mostly from India, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. If we count their spending at a minimal level, let’s say 50,000 tenge ($118) for shelter plus $118 for meal expenses, it amounts to $72 million a year. This sum doesn’t include university fees. This is not a big amount of money, but there is a real risk to lose them because of shortcomings in Kazakhstan’s education system. For example, Kazakhstani universities require foreign students to bring their school certificates. However, these young people apply to local universities at first, and if they fail they may want to try again in Kazakhstan. However, because of the different timing of the application process in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan can’t take advantage of this opportunity and attract Uzbek youth. 

Given the time needed to prepare for exams and travel to Kazakhstan, these candidates want an extended deadline for application, perhaps until November 2020. If Kazakhstan would fail to change these rules for Uzbekistani candidates quickly, they may decide to apply to Russian universities and invest their money in the Russian economy, not in Kazakhstan’s.

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