The decision to invite the British to develop internationally recognised vocational qualifications came after education and employment officials did an exhaustive study of quality control measures in several countries.
Valery Bezlepkin, director of the Russian education ministry's training and skills development division, said: "We have no criteria or standards for professional training and no programmes or ideas on how to evaluate the quality of work-based education individuals receive."
Russia is pressing for parity with the European Union in education and training, since it will depend on the export of expertise in the increasingly international markets.
"Without the British input we would not be able to go ahead in quite this way, as Russia still lacks market economy experience. But it is not charity. We're providing matching funds and regard the Know How Fund project as an expedient catalyst, helping to unfold a process we had already begun."
The Pounds 3 million contract gives the colleges and Royal Society of Arts exam board a unique foothold in the former Soviet bloc to do wider trade.
Helen Stott, the RSA's chief consultant to the project, said new markets were not a motive for getting involved. But the international market for training materials is huge.
"The key point is that this is not a British system: it's wholly owned by the Russians," she said. "The RSA is not going to come in here and sell certificates, it is not interested in that. The RSA is here in Russia simply because it was asked to design a quality assurance system that ensures the Russian system meets requirements for international recognition."
Training will be on a "cascade" model, developed with the support of British colleges in the 1980s. Under the Enterprise Training Initiative, cash under is being used to teach 120 Russian vocational skills trainers how to apply rigorous quality standards to existing finance, management and commerce qualifications. They then pass on the skills to 600 professional trainers and office managers who will promote national training standards.
The project is a joint initiative with the federal education ministry and labour ministry, which will match the Pounds 3m cash. Ten specialist qualifications in management, finance and marketing, will be offered at 30 approved colleges in Moscow and regional centres, including Vladivostock, Tomsk and Saratov, under local courses run by lecturers trained to British standards. The qualifications, which will be available from June of next year, include accountancy, project management and market research.