In line with the Bologna Process, the Russian education system moved to two-tiered framework. In October 2007, the traditional five-year model (Russian: специалист, specialist) of education was replaced with a common European approach: a four-year bachelor (Russian: бакалавр, bakalavr) degree followed by a two-year master's(Russian: магистр, magistr) degree.

The Russian Post-graduate (PhD) system so far retains its unique Soviet model established in 1934. According to the Soviet pattern, there is a distinction between two scientific degrees that evidence a personal post-graduate achievement in scientific research. Hence, scientific degrees in Russia traditionally include two levels of doctoral degrees: the Candidate of Sciences (Russian: кандидат наук, kandidat nauk) and the Doctor of Sciences (Russian: доктор наук, доктор nauk). The titles are issued by Higher Attestation Commission of the Russian Ministry of Education.

A degree is always awarded in one of 23 predetermined fields of science, even if the defending scietific work belongs to different fields. Thus, it is possible to defend two degrees of Candidate of Sciences (CSc). A Doctor of Sciences (DSc) in one field of science may also be a Candidate of Sciences (CSc) in different field.

The title of the Candidate of Sciences (CSc) is often perceived as an equivalent to Western PhD, whereas the Doctor of Sciences (DSc), the highest level, implies achieving significant scientific output and this title is often equaled to the German habilitation level.

In 2013, St Petersburg University became the first university in Russia to start conferring its own doctoral degrees: PhD SPbU and Doctor of Sciences SPbU. Any person with a master's or specialist's degree is eligible to be a candidate for the degree of PhD SPbU. The SPbU's own doctoral degrees are conferred following a positive decision of a dissertation council created by the St Petersburg University for public thesis defense in a full analogy with the Western system of PhD defenses.

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