There are both public and private higher education institutions (HEIs), many of which have branches and representative offices across the country and abroad (mainly in the CIS countries). Currently, the following five types of higher education institution exist:
- Federal university (Федеральный университет/federalny universitet): a leading higher education institution and centre of research at the federal level. Currently, there are 9 federal universities that were established following the merge of a number of regional universities.
- National Research University (Национальный исследовательский университет/natsionalny issledovatelsky universitet): a higher education institution integrating regional research activities.
- University (Университет): a higher education institution offering a wide range of programmes of all cycles in many disciplines.
- Academy (Академия): a higher education institution that delivers diverse programmes of all cycles in a certain area (e.g. agriculture, health, arts etc.). It also performs research in this specific area.
- Institute (институт): an education institution that trains specialists for a specific profession. Institutes may not have third cycle programmes and they are not obliged to carry out a wide spectrum of research activities.
Higher education institutions differ in their status and academic freedoms including the right to independently design and approve education standards, requirements to conditions and procedure of delivering higher education programmes. Moscow State University and St. Petersburg State University enjoy a special status granted by the federal law, giving them a right to adopt own HE standards and award own diplomas and degrees.
All types of the higher education institutions in RF provide full-time, part-time, correspondence and external tuition. Distance learning programmes are becoming increasingly widespread. The profile of higher education programmes is either academic or professional. All public higher education institutions must have a state license and accreditation to award nationally recognized degrees/qualifications. Every higher education institution has a charter and is an autonomous legal entity.