On June 20, 2018, Russia’s Federal Service for the Supervision of Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) revoked the accreditation of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES).
MSSES, also known as “Shaninka,” was established in 1995 by British academic Teodor Shanin, with the support of Western foundations. Shaninka offers joint degrees with the University of Manchester in the UK and is regarded as one of Russia’s most prestigious and independent higher education institutions.
According to Rosobrnadzor, the university failed to pass its latest inspection in 2018. Rosobrnadzor officials reportedly cited violations related to lecture hall space and faculty credentials, among others. They further alleged that some courses “failed to give students practical skills.” Stripped of accreditation, Shaninka degrees will no longer be recognized in Russia and male students generally will not be able to defer military service while attending Shaninka. The university has however made efforts to accommodate current and future students by offering a joint program taught in partnership with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
In recent years, Russian authorities have taken steps to shut down or apply pressure on several other scholarly institutions, including the European University at St. Petersburg, the Levada Center, and the SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the revocation of a university’s accreditation in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of academic freedom—conduct that is expressly protected under international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom so long as those activities are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Actions aimed at limiting scholarly activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.