Russian students are pivoting to less traditional destinations like Dubai and Turkey, as some institutions cut ties with education agents.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to have far-reaching consequences, including travel restrictions into and out of Russia and limits on international payments, making studying abroad more complicated for Russian students.
One education agent told The PIE News that demand from Russian students remains “steady” but that travelling to major study destinations like the UK is “complicated” and expensive.
Elena Solomonova, director at Moscow-based agency Insight-Lingua, said she is now building new relationships with institutions in countries that have maintained their links with Russia, like Dubai.
However a representative from HiUK, which places Russian students in language schools, said it is a “difficult time” as the number of enquiries the agency is receiving is low, suggesting that shorter courses are more affected by travel restrictions.
“Students and tourists need to look at flights with one to two stops and it is [a] long journey,” the agent said, noting that this option is also more expensive.
Solomonova is sending some junior groups to Turkey for English language courses which are, she said, “more or less similar to what we used to have in the UK or Malta”, but direct travel options mean this is more affordable and logistically easier.
There were over 48,000 Russians studying in other countries in 2019, but travelling abroad only looks to be growing more complicated for Russians, as last week the Estonian government announced that it would stop issuing study visas to Russian citizens.
Although only 396 Russians were studying in Estonia in 2019, other countries may follow suit – Finland is reportedly set to begin limiting the number of visas it issues to Russians.
Meanwhile, some individual institutions have cut ties with Russian agents.
“I can name maybe five or 10 institutions who sent us letters informing us that they want to stop cooperation with us,” said Solomonova.
While most universities are still publicly accepting Russian students, complications with payments as a result of sanctions means some have said they are not able to pay commission to agents.
The University of West London found itself in hot water when in May it rejected a Russian applicant “in response to the recent events… in Ukraine” – after a social media backlash, the university reversed its decision, citing an “internal miscommunication”.
Summer camp provider PGL has confirmed that it is not currently accepting Russian students.
“We felt that having Russian groups or students on sites at this time brought significant welfare concerns as well as considerable administrative barriers,” a spokesperson from the organisation told The PIE.
“That’s something you just can’t solve from either end”
Solomonova said that although she understands the reasoning behind these decisions, she believes this is “strategically wrong” as it will prevent Russian and non-Russian students from developing friendships and connecting with one another.
“It won’t bring the world to the aims we have in mind, it will have just an opposite influence,” Solomonova said
Some Russian students are also encountering difficulties paying their tuition fees.
Three weeks ago, one of the students Solomonova works with transferred money to a European university.
Although the money has left the student’s account, the university has yet to receive the payment.
“That’s something you just can’t solve from either end,” Solomonova said.