Higher Education for Adults in Russia: Barriers and Models

Higher Education for Adults in Russia:
Barriers and Models

Popov D.S.

Cand. Sci. (Sociol.), Leading Researcher, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia. dmtrppv@gmail.com

Shestakova D.A.

Postgraduate Student, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS, Moscow, Russia. shestakova.darya@mail.ru

ID of the Article: 8994

For citation:

Popov D.S., Shestakova D.A. Higher Education for Adults in Russia: Barriers and Models. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2022. No 2. P. 34-44


Lifelong learning is a common practice and strategy for highly skilled professionals in developed countries. It is an important attribute of contemporary social life, which allows a person to maintain necessary qualifications for professional achievements. But is it so in Russia? The first part of the paper offers an overview of sociological perceptions on adult education and of recent empirical results in the area. After that with the help of internationally representative PIAAC data we show the difference in participation in adult education between the people in Russia and the OECD countries. While education turns into a widespread usual lifelong process in the most OECD countries, in Russia people aged 25–65 (prime-age workers) are much less likely to learn. Further on we rely on the materials of our own exploratory qualitative study to investigate this difference. The qualitative analysis is aimed at studying various educational strategies of adults (aged 30 and over) who have entered engineering higher education programs in Russian universities. We also study the barriers and constraints that these professionals face in their educational efforts. The focus was done both on institutional and situational barriers. A number of issues were analyzed, among which are the problems related to the content of educational programs; problems associated with the organization of the educational process; problems of financing; the balance between work, study and private life. In the discussion we review public policy measures related to the systemic development of adult education in different countries. These policies make it possible to maintain economic competitiveness and to deal with challenges faced by ageing societies. Finally, based on the completed research, recommendations are proposed for implementing certain policy practices in the Russian Federation.

adult education; lifelong education; PIAAC; human capital; human potential; barriers, returning to education


Bekova S. K., Terentev E. A., Maloshonok N. G. (2021) Educational Inequality and COVID‑19 Pandemic: Relationship between the Family Socio-Economic Status and Student Experience of Remote Learning. Voprosy obrazovaniya [Educational issues]. No. 1: 74–92. (In Russ.)

Bondarenko N. V. (2017) Formation of lifelong education in Russia: analysis based on the results of all- Russian surveys of the country’s adult population. Newsletter “Monitoring of education markets and organizations (MEMO)”. No. 5(104): 4–23. (In Russ.)

Lukyanova A. L. (2010) Return on education: what the meta-analysis shows. Ekonomicheskiy zhurnal HSE [HSE Economic Journal]. No. 3: 326–348. (In Russ.)

Petrova N.P., Bondareva G. A. (2019) Digitalization and digital technologies in education. Mir nauki, kul’tury, obrazovaniya [World of science, culture, education]. No. 5(78): 353–355. (In Russ.)

Roshchin S.Yu., Travkin P. V. (2015) Job-Related Training on Russian Enterprises. Zhurnal Novoy ekonomicheskoy associacii [Journal of the New Economic Association]. No. 2(26): 150–171. (In Russ.)

Tikhonova N. E. (2020) Russian Professionals: Specificity of Jobs and Human Potential. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological research]. No. 10: 71–83. (In Russ.)

Efendiev A. G., Gogoleva A. S., Balabanova E. S. (2020) About the influence of computerization on the social aspects of the labor activity of specialists. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological research]. No. 9: 114–121. (In Russ.)

Becker G., Murphy K. (2003) Social Economics: Market Behavior in a Social Environment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Broek S., Hake J. B. (2012) Increasing participation of adults in higher education: factors for successful policies. International Journal of Lifelong Education. Vol. 31. No. 4: 397–417. DOI: 10.1080/02601370.2012.663801.

Coleman J. S., Hoffer T. (1987) Public and Private High Schools: The Impact of Communities. New York: Basic Books.

Cross K. P. (1981) Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass Publishers.

EURYDICE (2009) National Summary Sheets on Education System in Europe and Ongoing Reforms. Belgium: EURYDICE.

Fredricks J., Blumenfeld P., Paris A. (2004) School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research. No. 1: 59–109. DOI: 10.3102/00346543074001059.

Habermas J. (1971) Knowledge and Human Interests. Boston: Beacon Press.

Habermas J. (1984) The theory of communicative action, Volume 1: Reason and rationalization in society. Boston: Beacon Press.

Kin C. L., Low S., Samir A., Cheang P., LaBoone E. (2012) A model for teaching, assessment and learning in engineering education for working adults. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning. No. 4: 16–21. DOI: 10.3991/ijac.v5i4.2249.

Kosyakova Y., Gerber Th.P. (2005) Adult Education, Stratification, and Regime Change: Upgrading and Sidestepping in Russia. Sociology of Education. No. 20: 1–26. DOI: 10.1177/0038040718823192.

Mezirow J. (1981) A critical theory of adult learning and education. Adult education. No. 32: 3–24.

Mezirow J. (1978) Perspective Transformation. Adult Education. No. 28(2): 100–110.

Mincer J. (1958) Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution. Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 66. No. 4. P. 281–302. DOI: 10.1086/258055.

OECD (2013) Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Prokou E. (2008) A comparative approach to lifelong learning policies in Europe: the cases of the UK, Sweden and Greece. European Journal of Education. No. 43(1): 123–140. DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2007.00338.x.

Ritchie J., Lewis J., Elam G. (2003) Qualitative research practice: designing and selecting samples. A guide for social science students and researchers. No. 1: 77–108.

Saar E., Täht K., Roosalu T. (2014) Institutional barriers for adults’ participation in higher education in thirteen European countries. Higher Education. No. 68: 691–710. DOI: 10.1007/s10734-014-9739-8.

Sabirianova K. (2002) The Great Human Capital Reallocation: A Study of Occupational Mobility in Transitional Russia. Journal of Comparative Economics. No. 30: 191–217.

Schleicher A. (2008) PIAAC: A New Strategy for Assessing Adult Competencies. International Review of Education. No. 54: 627–650. DOI: 10.1007/s11159-008-9105-0.

Voronina N., Popov D. (2019) Participation in Adult Education: Russia in Comparison with OECD Countries. Ekonomicheskaya sociologiya [Economic Sociology]. Vol. 20. No. 2: 122–153. (In Russ.)

Content No 2, 2022