The study will address a paradoxical situation surrounding the development of private higher education in Russia. In the hostile normative and regulative climate for private institutions and their perceived lack of legitimacy, enrollments in non-state colleges and universities continue to grow. The goal in this thesis will be to show how Russia’s newly-established private institutions secure legitimacy in the eyes of the government, the public, sponsoring organizations, and other constituencies. To this end, the study draws upon a number of organizational theories and uses a qualitative exploratory research design. Its theoretical and conceptual framework is informed by the literature on both private higher education and organizational sociology. Using content analysis of print media reports, laws and regulations regarding private education, and data from personal interviews, the study investigates various sources of legitimacy for private institutions, as well as their legitimating strategies and tactics.