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The Development of Legal Education in the Russian Federation
30 June 2022
16:30—18:00
KEY CONCLUSIONS
Russian legal education system is ready for change, introduction of mentoring is required

How can we improve our legal education? <...> It is not in the number of years we teach, but in a way we teach so that the education is of higher quality. <...> How many of our bachelors do not continue their education the first year after they graduate? Turned out, it is about 50% — Nikolay Kropachev, Rector, St. Petersburg State University.

We have traditionally understood the theory of law as the base of our education, sometimes the history of law too. Certainly, without those there can be no quality legal education... But we did not have mentoring in the law on education, and only recently mentoring functions have appeare — Nikolay Kropachev, Rector, St. Petersburg State University.

Is there a need for ideology in educational institutions? Of course there is, because education and mentoring are two inseparable processes — Olga Alexandrova, Rector, The All-Russian State University of Justice.

Is it necessary to address ideology in the process of education? <...> And how can we go on without ideology? We have a brain, we have consciousness – are we brainless creatures? Everyone should have some idea in their head. And we do — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

It is not about the two degrees: the bachelor's and the master's. <...> The important thing is the quality of education people should receive from a really great faculty. <...> Some universities sometimes do not give any legal education, diplomas are simply printed out. Let me remind you: the Soviet Union was a large country, it had 57 law schools and departments for 280 million citizens. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the population shrank by almost half, yet there suddenly was 1,500 of them. <...> What kind of universities were these, where did they come from? Some were in basements, some were three rooms big... just a money-maker for some and just a diploma for others. Then came the attestation, they worked tirelessly for several years, out of 1500 only 112 have been attested, some of them refused to provide any materials at all. <...> Today there are about 450. <...> I generally advocate that we make a ranking of law schools — Sergey Stepashin, Chairman, Association of Lawyers of Russia; Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Territorial Development Fund.

ISSUES
Current Anglo-American system is no match to present educational challenges

The American-English system does not presuppose any kind of mentoring. And our education system... assumed mentoring. The Soviet and Russian systems were supposed to educate a person who already knew why did he or she come to the university for, what they wanted to become — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

We must not simply educate specialists... but citizens responsible for statehood. <...> The legal ideology that we are talking about today, it must be created by our education system, but why did we introduce the American-English version of education? And who are we going to educate? And our education system is supposed to educate patriots. Why are we afraid of this word? <...> Today it is time to have an ideology of obligation, of responsibility for the future of our country — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

Why did we have to drag [English terms. – Ed.] in again? <...> At least on this front of our education let us move away from bachelors, which is probably an English word. Master's degree is probably not a Russian word, neither is postgraduate. <...> Why is it impossible to restore the Soviet graduate school? <...> The Soviet graduate school trained scientific personnel. <...> It took me 8 months to write my PhD thesis and it took me another 12 months to defend it. All along I received a decent stipend: 100 rubles — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

Educational process is too long, being a professor is not prestigious anymore

Today graduate school is the fourth form of education or what? How long can we study? Is it to complete PhD theses at an old age? Graduate school at that time was a forge of personnel, scientists and teachers. Young legal scholars created new methods, made modest, but their own discoveries. Today, it seems to me, it is important to restore not only the Soviet higher education, but also post-graduate education. Today the prestige of teachers has fallen below zero, while back then the salaries were decent. Now there is a void in terms of professors — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

Quality evaluation must be improved

Now we have an expert council, which includes 450 people. These are the best lawyers in the country, representatives of the best law schools. They are already analyzing the educational programmes in terms of the curriculum itself and the requirements for it, the implementation of this curriculums, who teaches, how many associate professors, professors, teachers, facilities, in terms of where graduates end up, how high is the demand for them — Sergey Stepashin, Chairman, Association of Lawyers of Russia; Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Territorial Development Fund.

Undoubtedly, it is necessary to continue the work to reduce the number of these universities, and we believe that this work should be put at a higher organizational level. <...> We see that the work of the Association [of lawyers. – Ed.] needs administrative support. <...> Let there be fewer lawyers, but real ones, those who can do things, who understand the law and can serve the law. <...> If after a bachelor's degree a person comes to study law, not being a lawyer – it is a disaster. You cannot get a law degree in two years, it is another self-deception. If a person studied geology for four years, suddenly comes and starts studying law, what are we talking about? — Evgeny Zabarchuk, First Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation.

The stipend students receive cannot support a decent living standard

Yesterday, our students came to me and asked: "Departmental universities have a stipend of 18–20 thousand roubles, but our stipend was 2,500 roubles, and now they have cut it to 1,800 rubles. How is it possible to survive on this money?" Why do we never talk about our students, what they need? Is it possible to survive on 1,800 roubles now, is this even realistic? — Olga Alexandrova, Rector, The All-Russian State University of Justice.

Now they say: we should collect the money from the person who does not want to get a job at the end. Colleagues, in order to collect money, we must make higher education free of charge. Excuse me, how many of our students are state-funded? Let us collect from state-funded people, those who are paid for by the state. <...> Basically, we exist at the expense of paid educational services. <...> Let free education be for the really worthy, and the stipends will be normal — Olga Alexandrova, Rector, The All-Russian State University of Justice.

SOLUTIONS
Best practices from both Soviet and Russian education systems should be merged to train lawyers to work in Russia

Let us go back to the Soviet system of education. Not literally Soviet, but Russian, the one that goes back to Lomonosov. He created science, the Moscow University is named after him for a reason — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

Russian education was a form of service to the Fatherland. <...> We had our own legal ideology — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

All the scientific achievements of the Soviet and pre-Soviet period came from by our higher school. <...> Let us somehow get back to this, from Peter the Great, from Lomonosov, from Uvarov. <...> Then our children will probably thank us for the fact that we stopped just in time, looked around, corrected some things a little bit, and went on to the excellent result of preparing our young lawyers — Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

The main trend of the time was that our diplomas would be in demand abroad. But a lawyer is a national product, they are made for the country and must serve the country — Viktor Blazheyev, Rector, Kutafin Moscow State Law University (MSAL).

Those seeking legal education should get some life experience first

It is not us, the rectors, who should determine how to change Russian education, but our customers. <...> The kids who come to university are not socially ready to receive a legal education. In my opinion it would be good if they could work somewhere for two or three years, and then come to get such an important degree. Likewise, I believe that admission to work... was carried out by professionals, the diploma is just an excuse to come to pass the state exams — Nikolay Kropachev, Rector, St. Petersburg State University.

There should be an assessment from the employers, how do they evaluate university graduates — Nikolay Kropachev, Rector, St. Petersburg State University.

We see the level of legal education of those graduates who come to work for the Ministry of Justice. This is, let me remind you, a multidisciplinary ministry in terms of branches of law... and this is like a litmus test. <...> In addition to the fact that there is no mentoring process – the graduates come in, but there is nothing inside, there is no sense of attachment to our country, no sense of the need to defend its interests. It is such a gray mass: the wind blows and they [the graduates. – Ed.] will fly away. <...> The state has invested a lot of money in you, you are in public service, you are obliged to serve the state, and initially this idea is laid down: in serving the Fatherland, in serving the high ideals of preserving our land — Evgeny Zabarchuk, First Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation.

The material was prepared by the Russian news agency TASS