Higher Education for Adults in Russia: Barriers and Models

Higher Education for Adults in Russia:
Barriers and Models

Popov D.S.

Cand. Sci. (Sociol.), Leading Researcher, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia. dmtrppv@gmail.com

Shestakova D.A.

Postgraduate Student, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia. shestakova.darya@mail.ru

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Popov D.S., Shestakova D.A. Higher Education for Adults in Russia: Barriers and Models. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2022. No 2. P. 34-44


Lifelong learning is a common practice and strategy for highly skilled professionals in developed countries. It is an important attribute of contemporary social life, which allows a person to maintain necessary qualifications for professional achievements. But is it so in Russia? The first part of the paper offers an overview of sociological perceptions on adult education and of recent empirical results in the area. After that with the help of internationally representative PIAAC data we show the difference in participation in adult education between the people in Russia and the OECD countries. While education turns into a widespread usual lifelong process in the most OECD countries, in Russia people aged 25–65 (prime-age workers) are much less likely to learn. Further on we rely on the materials of our own exploratory qualitative study to investigate this difference. The qualitative analysis is aimed at studying various educational strategies of adults (aged 30 and over) who have entered engineering higher education programs in Russian universities. We also study the barriers and constraints that these professionals face in their educational efforts. The focus was done both on institutional and situational barriers. A number of issues were analyzed, among which are the problems related to the content of educational programs; problems associated with the organization of the educational process; problems of financing; the balance between work, study and private life. In the discussion we review public policy measures related to the systemic development of adult education in different countries. These policies make it possible to maintain economic competitiveness and to deal with challenges faced by ageing societies. Finally, based on the completed research, recommendations are proposed for implementing certain policy practices in the Russian Federation.

adult education; lifelong education; PIAAC; human capital; human potential; barriers, returning to education


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Content No 2, 2022