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Nikolai Golik Prezident.


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12.04.2017 14:13

How the President’s “May decrees” aggravate working conditions in the universities

Putin’s so-called “May decrees” envisage, among other, increase of the university professors’ salaries. Formally, the decree will be implemented, but in effect, their salaries go down. The Russiangate reports, why that happens.


“Professors’ salaries nowaday could be compared with the doles of Mexican unemployed while the Russian professors work hard,” a professor in Saratov state university Vera Afanasyeva told the local Vzglyad-info newspaper in January.

She also complained that the university staff had to buy stationery, purchase tickets for business trips, publish research and bear other costs from their own pockets.

“Recently, we were told to contribute to the deputy director’s salary so the university could hire a new one to replace the retired dean,” she said.

After Afanasyeva published that letter, she was questioned by the police and the investigation had been opened. The Saratov university did not respond to the Russiangate’s inquest.

“I am a high-rated Ph.D., actively doing scientific researches, and my salary is 26,000 rubles ($480), this is an average salary level in Saratov. But why should I care about the average?” Afanasyeva told the Russiangate.

She does not rule out that when the scandal fades, she might face problems in the university.

Professor Igor Safronov and his wife Vera teach in the Moscow Pedagogical state university (MPGU). In 2016, they both receive only eleven monthly salaries.

They are convinced that had been done to punish Igor Safronov for his collaboration with the Dissernet - the grassroots movement uncovering plagiarism in the scientific community. Safronov had been the only member of the MPGU dissertation council who had voted for stripping a deputy head of Kursk regional Duma Alexander Kichigin, whose theses contained plagiarism, off academic credentials.

Safronovs told the Russiangate that they had unsuccessfully attempted to sue the MPGU for salary arrears in the Khimki district court.

MPGU deputy director Vera Baranova told the Russiangate that Safronov “have frequently been on sick leaves in the last year”.

Professor Igor Safronov voted for stripping a deputy head of Kursk regional Duma Alexander Kichigin off his academic credentials for plagiarism.

Professor Igor Safronov voted for stripping a deputy head of Kursk regional Duma Alexander Kichigin off his academic credentials for plagiarism.

The University Solidarity has been Russia’s only independent trade union of the university professors, comprising several dozens of universities.


Chairman of the University Solidarity branch in the Ural federal university (UrFU) Dmitry Trynov told the Russiangate that he has been stigmatized in the UrFU as a British spy.


In January 2017, a deputy head of the educational and science trade union Tatyana Kupriyanova told the United Russia’s convent about the real drop of professors’ salaries.

Since 2015, cutting of the wage rates and increasing workload has been underway in the UrFU to meet the roadmap drafted by the Education Ministry. The roadmap envisages that one professor should teach 12 students. Trynov believes this is too high a proportion leaving no time for the professors to conduct scientific research.

“The average salary of the UrFU professors approaches 60,000 rubles ($1000) today”, UrFU deputy director Daniil Sandler said in summer 2016.

The University Solidarity refutes his words pointing at actual salaries of 20 to 40,000 rubles.

Trynov says the salaries have not been adjusted since October 2014, and the figures announced by Sandler include professors’ moonlighting.

The UrFU did not comment on the Russiangate’s inquest concerning the average salaries.  


Trynov alleges the UrFU management has not been efficient: the budget allocates 136,000 rubles ($2400) per student annually but the professors receive just a small share of that money.

The University Solidarity holds a rally against the director of the St-Petersburg university Nikolai Kropachev. Photo by University Solidarity.

The University Solidarity’s activist in the Yugra state university Vanda Tillers says there are 197 professors and 462 administrative staff in her university. The university’s administration refused to disclose the staff job descriptions to the Solidarity. Tillers says the professors have been paid both by wage rate and hourly work. The latter has been comprising a significant part of the workload and its pay rate has not been changed for 10 years yet.

“Like everywhere in the country, an average pay rate is rather high here, but no one has seen a particular professor who receives that salary. The professors, on the average, are paid 1.5 times less compared to the official statistics”, Tillers says.

The University Solidarity suggests that in the Yugra university several administrative workers have formally been employed as professors which might affect the statistics.

“Who stole my average salary in the SPbGU? The assistant - 50,000, senior lecturer - 65,000, professor - 100,000. Prosecutors must check it!” the members of the University Solidarity demanded during the reunion of the SPbGU graduates in February 2017.


In the Higher School of Economics university, a professor’s monthly salary could reach 200,000 rubles ($3500), honoraries for scientific publications extra. But this is rather an exception than the rule. The rule is, the state aims at cutting the number of students and, therefore, of professors, a director of one of the private universities told the Russiangate on condition of anonymity.

“The last thing that bothers the universities’ top managers is the professors’ wellbeing. They have to meet the licensing requirements, struggle with prosecutors and tax inspection, deal with federal education watchdogs, oil the Education Ministry. Everyone spits on the quality of education and no one checks it”, he said.

He says the private universities have not been required to increase the professors’ salaries so far. He believes the very idea to meet some average salary level has been wrong: no one controls if a professor actually conducts scientific research and how he or she prepares for the lectures.

“My relative teaches at the Moscow State University, her salary is 18,000 rubles ($320). This is dismal but she doesn’t leave because she spends in the university only a day and a half a week. The university professors have an opportunity to work somewhere else”, he admits.

A co-chairman of the University Solidarity Andronik Arutyunov believes the salaries of the professors depend on the universities’ financing. For a university director, it is easier to cut the salaries of staff than to complain to the Education Ministry, as the directors are afraid of being investigated regarding the efficiency of their own management.


In the relatively rich universities, the money has been spent for “promotional” events. Their directors find it more advantageous to conduct a forum to show off for the Education Ministry, a governor or western partners than to increase the staff salaries.