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Why Do Moldovans Leave for Studies in Russia?

молдова
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

A young researcher from Moldova came to Russia to study oil & gas engineering. During the years his studies have been lasting, labour migration from his home country to the Russian Federation has nearly stopped. Yet Pavel Tsyglianu, a PhD student at St. Petersburg Mining University, believes career prospects in the state he moved to are much better than in his homeland.

"In the 2000s, Moldovans were actively exploring work opportunities in Russia, for they knew they would earn money here. My motherland, Moldova, is a small, agriculture-based country that provides minimal chances of success in the current climate. Markets for agricultural products were mostly lost, former Soviet enterprises got gradually closed, and the out-migration became a considerable problem already at the beginning of the 90s. About 400,000 people left the country in the last ten years alone!

When the Russian financial crisis emerged in 2014, interest in seeking a job in the country decreased. The exchange rate differential between rouble and leu became critical, and money earned was no longer worth the effort. As a result, people now prefer to move for work to Europe. I, for example, seldom meet Moldovans in St. Petersburg, since they have been replaced by a cheaper labour force. In turn, a new trend came along: the number of youngsters getting their higher education here is on the rise," says Pavel Tsyglianu.

молдова
Фото © Из личного архива

As the young man claims, Moldovan schools meet quite high standards. It is possible to study either in Russian or Moldovan depending on the school choice. There is a roughly equal amount of both.

"On the contrary, when it comes to higher education and professional ambitions, the situation differs. Almost 70% of students end up paying for their studies. Tuition fees are not that high compared to those of European or American universities: an average price per year varies between €300 and €600. The difference is, however, in the quality of education. I remember my parents and school teachers telling me that if I want to achieve something in this life, I will have to move out of here. If some family can afford to send their children to study abroad, they will undoubtedly make use of that opportunity. As for me, I found about an organisation called Rossotrudnichestvo, which is responsible for promoting Russian education services abroad, and decided to submit my application for the contest. It was a real chance to earn a university place and receive free education. If I had not passed the competition, I would have taken my chances on Romania", admits Pavel.

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Фото © mda.rs.gov.ru

Roughly 500 applicants from Moldova were admitted to studies in Russian higher educational institutions. Whereas, as noted by Natalia Sapozhnikova, Chief Specialist at the Representative Office of Rossotrudnichestvo in the Republic of Moldova, over 1,500 applications were received. For comparison, all Moldavian universities offered for the academic year 2020/2021 only 8,645 free study places. Of them, 24 per cent are within the programmes of engineering, technology, and architecture - a little over 2,000 study places altogether.

As the postgraduate student notes, "When making a choice of my future speciality, I thought primarily about my own interests. I was studying in a school class with advanced learning of exact sciences. I was interested in chemistry, participated in several elective courses. With that in mind, I also wanted to be trained in a profession that would earn me a high-profile and well-paid job.

Petroleum engineering meets both criteria. Although there are no large fields in Moldova, specialists in this area are in demand, for instance, in the maintenance of gas transportation infrastructure and storage facilities, or at gas stations. Despite that, there is not a single mining university or at least university offering programmes in mining or oil & gas engineering in my country. Therefore I was glad to find out I was granted a quota and accepted to Saint-Petersburg Mining University. To be fair, I am happy to be a student at this university. I often met students who transferred from other mining schools in search of high-quality education".

Pavel became a student at the Faculty of Oil & Gas Engineering wherein he studied the development of hydrocarbon deposits. Four years later, Pavel graduated with a Bachelor's degree and set his sights on management as he was given a quota once again. The programme he was admitted to is 'Design and Management of Oil and Gas Industry Facilities'. Its uniqueness comes from the fact that students not only learn technical concepts but also study the economics of petroleum production.

нефтегазовый факультет
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

According to the future scientist, "Only a handful of educational institutions offer studies in the economics of oil & gas, and the competition is very high. There are ten times more applicants for this Mining University's programme than the number of those who get accepted. Administration of oil and gas companies are also interested in employees who have an understanding of both fields. They need people who know specifics of field development and at the same time can manage facilities".

While Master's degree programmes already require students to acquire some analytical skills, postgraduate studies lead to writing a comprehensive scientific work. Pavel passed one more of contests organised by Rossotrudnichestvo and entered a PhD programme. Now he is involved in researching economic evaluation techniques in oil & gas engineering.

Whether the postgrad stays in Russia or not after completing his education will depend on the chances of finding gainful employment.

молдова
Фото © Из личного архива

"Oil and gas companies rarely employ foreigners due to most of their data being commercially confidential. A person who is a Russian citizen is thereby more likely to receive a job offer. Fortunately for me, Russian migration policy has undergone a serious transformation over the last few years. Firstly, in November 2019 a new law was issued stating that university graduates with an honours diploma can apply for a residence permit. This is what I did once I had obtained a Bachelor's degree. And now a new decree came into force. Thanks to it, residents of Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Kazakhstan can obtain citizenship if they fulfil certain requirements and have a valid residence permit. Personally, having spent these years in St. Petersburg, I grew fond of the city, and leaving it would be a sad thing to do".