How Ukraine Crisis Benefited Indian Students Studying In Russia

With the depreciating Ruble against the Rupee, students have been able to save lakhs in terms of their term fee.

Indian students stranded in Kharkiv, Ukraine, last month

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict forced thousands of Indian students to return to India leaving their careers in uncertainty, those who stayed back in Russia had at least one benefit to feel good about.

Because of the war, the Ruble (Russian currency) has depreciated against the Rupee and other international currencies with several sanctions imposed on Russia. The depreciation has reduced the education cost by at least 30-50 per cent for those Indian students who chose to pay for the entire six-year medical course in advance.

Even those, who couldn’t pay the entire course fee at one go due to their yearly payment contract with the concerned college, have also saved a significant amount by paying the fee annually.

“Before the Russian attack on Ukraine, both the Ruble and the Rupee had equal value. One rupee was equal to one ruble. But when the western countries started imposing sanctions on Russia, the Ruble started sliding and at one point one Rupee became equal to 1.9 Russian Ruble,” Sachit from MBBSinfo Educational Services, which provides education counsellor of Indian students in Russia, said.

Speaking over a call from Moscow, he added, “There was a mad rush among Indian students to pay their college fees. Those who were supposed to pay Rs 24 lakh for the entire six-year course ended up paying just between Rs 15-18 lakh.”

Russia has been one of the favourite destinations for medical education for Indian students for the past several years. Every year, 3,000 to 4,000 students head to different cities in Russia to get admission in six-year-medical programmes as it is much cheaper compared to colleges in India.

According to education coordinators, there are 87 medical colleges in Russia and they all open to international students. The education cost annually varies between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakh depending on the college and its location.

One of the oldest medical universities of Russia is IM Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University. It is also among the most expensive as its fee ranges between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 10 lakh. Universities here are mostly categorized into those that have a fixed fee structure for the entire course and those that have an increasing fee structure. 

“IM Sechenov charges an annual fee that increases every successive year. On the other hand, universities such as the Kazan State Medical University signs a contract with students, which allows the fee to remain fixed for the entire duration of the course. For the current batch of students, it has quoted Rs 4 lakh per annum,” another education counsellor, based out of Moscow said.

Aman Singh, parent of one of the students, said that he has saved almost Rs 8 lakh by depositing his son’s full course fee in advance.

Counsellors say that, initially, Master and Visa card ware the favourite modes of fee payment in Russia but now the international operations of these two cards are banned in Russia from March 10. It is only operational for transactions within the country for domestic cardholders. MIR card is also an indigenous payment mode for Russian people, which some Indians are also using.

“A majority of students have already paid their fees and benefited because of the depreciation. At one point of time, the value of the ruble had depreciated as low as 1.90 rubles against 1 rupee but later on it improved and now it is around 1.30 ruble against one rupee,” said Sachit.

He added, “Not all Russian banks are banned from SWIFT (The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), some banks can make SWIFT transactions. Parents can send money in dollars in the account of a Russian bank, and student can then exchange the dollar to Ruble which is also beneficial.”

Those students, who failed to encash on the currency devaluation, are now trying to do it through cryptocurrencies. Their parents are buying such virtual currencies which don’t fluctuate in the short run and sending them to their children in Russia. They then sell these in Russia for physical currencies.

Education coordinators say that dollars are also being used to pay the fee but virtual currencies are more beneficial.  

“Besides Crimea, classes are normally being held in all the cities and the Russia-Ukraine war has had no impact in Russia. Since military drills were going on in Crimea, international students including Indians were asked to leave,” a Delhi-based education counsellor who works for many Russian institutions, said.