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SA-Russian Scholarships


A sterling partnership for knowledge production has been forged, reports Phakama Mbonambi.
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Corporate social investment, the idea of transforming society by planting seeds of goodwill today that will blossom tomorrow, is not confined to the corporate world; it also takes place between countries. The South African education sector is one shining example of this.

To equip South African postgraduates with specialised knowledge that will benefit the country well into the future, and realising that it cannot go it alone nor rely on local education institutions, the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has linked up with the Russian government to offer scholarships that afford local students a chance to study in Russia.

The scholarships are available for bachelors, masters, postgraduate and postgraduate medical studies (internship, clinical residency). Studies at Russian universities are carried out in Russian, making it essential for international students to learn the language so as to succeed academically. According to the DHET, there are currently 28 South African students in Russia pursuing various fields of study – from music to the sciences. Wendy Adams, scholarship manager at the DHET, explains the goals of the programme: “The Russian Government Scholarship programme fits well with the overall strategy of the DHET and its Scholarships Office, for two main reasons.

“First, scholarships provide South African students, particularly at postgraduate levels, the opportunity to pursue studies in specialised and scarce skills fields, at international institutions. Second, of direct benefit is South Africa’s collaboration with countries that are part of the BRICS consortium.”

Adams says the scholarships programme “takes place within the ambit of activities of the Joint Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), and [is] in line with bilateral agreements between the two countries”. The ITEC is a platform that allows for greater strategic cooperation between South Africa and Russia, facilitating two-way trade and investment, as well as critical skills development and technology exchanges between the two countries.

While the BRICS partnership is no doubt a factor in the DHET’s involvement in the programme, Adams points out that SA’s partnership with Russia predates BRICS.

“The DHET’s International Relations has had long-standing relations with Russia. With respect to the International Scholarships programme, the first Russian government scholarships were awarded in 1998 and 2000,” she says.

“A gap of more than a decade followed, with scholarships again [being] awarded from 2012 onwards. It was during the 10th session of the ITEC that the offer of scholarships was again made by Russia.

“In 2013, the two governments also signed an agreement to facilitate the mutual recognition and equivalence of educational qualifications and academic degrees.”

So far, the DHET has received five Russian government scholarships for the 2012 to 2013 academic year, 10 in 2013 to 2014 and 16 in 2014 to 2015. For the 2016 to 2017 academic year, 18 scholarships have been awarded to SA, with 10 being offered at Master’s Degree level in the field of nuclear physics. The selection process has not yet concluded. Adams acknowledges that since the scholarship programme was put in place,  “the number of scholarships and applications has been relatively small, most probably due to the focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines and scarce skills areas”.

How to apply:

  • You must be an SA citizen in good health with a strong academic record.
  • Available to study in Russia.
  • Demonstrate an interest in Nuclear Physics and Technology, and a commitment to the development of SA.
  • All students must meet the minimum academic requirements for entry into a similar programme at a South African university.

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