How did higher education work in the Soviet Union?


What options were there if you wanted to continue studying after school? How accessible were higher education institutions to the average citizen? How would things like funding work?

Like say you were really good at Physics in school, would you have a realistic chance of being able to get a Physics degree for example?

In: Culture

Generally, college was free and job placement was 100% since it was government centralized and there was a huge focus on preparing students for the workforce, and education was a priority. You picked a job before you graduated and had to work there for a certain number of years to sort of ‘repay’ the education.
Unfortunately degrees gained in the ussr weren’t transferable (in at least some cases). I know a few professors here who had to redo their PHDs because they weren’t accepted in the us.

From historical records, if you wanted to continue studying it was just a simple application and vetting process. Based on records from the former Soviet Union and East Germany, it was pretty common for people to get higher education after applying for them. Arguably you could say that the Soviet Union’s strong strength in mathematics, applied engineering and early rocketry was due to this system. However, funding wise you still received “pay” on top of whatever the state provided for you. The higher you climbed, the more “benefits” you earned. Generally speaking the more talented you were, the more state benefits you received and the likelihood of earning better pay.

I need to find an old citation, but I remember being told that higher education in the Soviet Union was actually easier to find than in the US. However, due to the quantity of students, the Soviet Union had far less to spend on funding universities and they had worse facilities and equipment as a result. The Soviet Union even had an excess of some higher educated citizens to the point that they did not have enough jobs for highly trained citizens. And yes, they were meritocratic so its likely you would have a very high chance of getting a physics degree if you were good at physics. In some cases it might even be mandatory if the SU deemed it important that you pursue it.

I was good in math and physics at our rural school. Got some additional self education. Wanted to become a ‘computer guy’. Went to Moscow to apply to a leading profile university. Wrote exams. It was like 2-5 applicants on a place. I went through. No money was spent, except transportation. I lived for free in the campus. I even received scholarship enough to feed myself, buy clothes, etc. It was common for 70-80% of the students. We were promised to be hired on the local electronic plants. But USSR collapsed so I never worked the profession I was taught.