G. Zborovsky

Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
In the crisis of modern Russian society, HE performs a number of new functions. One of them is to save small and medium-sized cities due to the presence of universities in them. The article deals with the problem of maintaining HE in such cities. The keenness of the problem is determined by at least two factors. The first factor is the reform of the education system, which lead to the decline in the quality of education at all levels of the educational system in the peripheral regions and small and medium-sized cities of the country. The second factor is reduction of the means of financing, referring to education in Russia in general, and HE, in particular. This leads to the closure of universities in small and medium-sized cities or to their transformation into branches of universities located in large cities. Both of these factors destroy education in small and medium-sized cities of Russia.

The consequence of such processes is the polarization of the educational space in Russia, with a relatively high quality of education in large cities being preserved, and significant deterioration of education in small and medium-sized cities taking place. This situation initiates the migration of active working-age population from small and medium-sized cities, the outflow of positive human capital, especially for young people, and entails the gradual «dying» of middle towns with the tendency to become «cities of the elderly» (with an aging population), ghost cities.

The article is based on the sociological survey of HE in the UFD, one of the major macro-regions of Russia. The cases of several small and medium-sized cities of the district were studied, in which the problem outlined in the article became obvious. Case studies included the analysis of demographic statistics, education statistics, interviews with university students and teachers, parents, content analysis of Internet sites and forums. Such methods of research as expert interviews and mass surveys of students and teachers of Ural universities were also used.

The purpose of the study is to research the objective prerequisites and subjective assessments of the current crisis situation in the HE of the district.

The object of the study was the system of education in small and medium-sized cities of the UFD. The subject of the study is the relationship between the destruction of the education system and the socio-economic, demographic and socio-cultural crisis in small and medium-sized cities of the UFD.

The solution of the problem of preserving universities in middle and medium-sized cities depends to a large extent on the political and economic macro-factors present in the country and the macro-region. The practical significance of the study is to research the extent of the current crisis situation in the HE of the UFD and the prospects for overcoming it, as well as in informing the necessary administrative decisions.

Abbreviations: HE – higher education, UFD – Urals Federal District.