St Petersburg University has hosted a visit from a delegation of the Embassy and Honorary Consulate of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The agenda included the development of cooperation with Bangladeshi universities and an increase in the number of foreign students at the University.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bangladesh to Russia Kamrul Ahsan said that many Bangladeshi citizens have acquired higher education in the Soviet Union. Currently, however, the number of scholarships for foreign applicants seeking to study in Russia has decreased. At the moment, there are only 65 scholarships available for the whole country, and applicants often choose to study in other countries. On many occasions they opt for the USA or Australia, but obtaining a visa for those countries is a challenge, so a significant number of Bangladeshi students enrol at universities in India or China. The diplomat remarked on the higher quality of education at leading Russian universities, as compared to universities in Western countries. As a result, the People's Republic of Bangladesh is particularly keen on increasing the number of students pursuing higher education in Russia. Mr Kamrul Ahsan noted a particular interest in master’s and postgraduate programmes.

Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University Sergey Andryushin explained that each year the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation

(Rossotrudnichestvo) awards about 18,000 scholarships to foreign applicants. Besides these, St Petersburg University also conducts independent enrolment of foreign nationals within the annual quota. Any national of any country can become a student of the University. In order to become a student, it is necessary to submit a portfolio for an open competition of application documents. In order to develop cooperation between the University and Bangladeshi universities, Sergey Andryushin came up with the initiative to sign a direct agreement between St Petersburg University and the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. This agreement will enable the development of Bengali studies at the University and enhance student exchanges between the two countries. Several years ago, a similar agreement was signed with the People's Republic of China; it has already proved effective.

Mr Kamrul Ahsan has indicated an interest in concluding a cooperation agreement and has asked for a draft document to be forwarded.

He also mentioned the effective marketing policy of China's universities, explaining why many Bangladeshi students choose to study in China. The Ambassador suggested organising an advertising campaign for St Petersburg University in Bangladesh. He invited the University representatives to take part in educational exhibitions in order to present their academic programmes and inform potential students about the unique features of studying in Russia. They can also conduct seminars and workshops for schoolchildren. Conducting presentations in an online format will gather an even larger audience, added Sergey Andryushin. With the support of the Russian Consulate, as well as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bangladesh to Russia, such an event could be organised in the coming months. The Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University stressed that the University has extensive experience in conducting marketing campaigns in many parts of the world and would be willing to give greater consideration to the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

The meeting was also attended by Alexey Rodionov, Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies at St Petersburg University. According to him, there are about 70 languages of Asia and Africa, including Bengali, which are taught at the University.

To ensure a good quality of education, it is important to work in close cooperation with ministries of education, embassies and consulates, as well as higher education institutions in each country.

Alexey Rodionov, Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies at St Petersburg University

‘I would like to express my gratitude to Sergey Fursenko, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Bangladesh, who has been supporting us for more than a decade by providing scholarships to our Bangladeshi students. It is very important for all of them. After graduation many students go to Bangladesh to work on various Russian projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant. Thank you and the consulate for the assistance,’ said Alexey Rodionov.

Assistant Professor Ekaterina Kostina (Department of Indian Philology) spoke in Bengali to the Ambassador about research conducted at St Petersburg University. The negotiations also covered the issue of establishing and developing cooperation with Bangladeshi employers. In conclusion, Sergey Andryushin invited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bangladesh to Russia to chair the Board of the Bengali language programme.

As a result of the meeting, it was agreed to prepare a draft cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Work will begin on a roadmap for developing cooperation between the Consulate and the University.