Students hardly ever read the syllabus, because it doesn’t really include the information that they need to determine whether they will take the course. Why, then, do professors actually complete the huge amount of paperwork that goes into compiling these documents? The answer is Rosobrnadzor, Russia’s Federal Education and Science Supervision Agency.
The watchdog performs regular inspections of universities and is tasked with issuing and revoking education licenses and state accreditation. Course syllabi are only one among thousands of documents collected and inspected by the agency.
For a year before an inspection, both faculty and staff must prepare hundreds of boxes filled with the documents. Almost all are produced exclusively for inspectors and are never actually used in the classroom. This huge amount of work effectively paralyzes the education process in many institutions.
However, a series of recent decisions by Rosobrnadzor has escalated this problem to new proportions. On June 21, it denied state accreditation to the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, a university where I teach. MSSES is also known as Shaninka, after its founder, the British sociologist Teodor Shanin. Rosobrnadzor’s decision in June followed another, equally ridiculous move two years ago, when the agency revoked the education license from the European University in St. Petersburg. Since then, endless court appeals have not been able to change the outcome of the decision.