‘Research is the Lifeblood of the Faculty’
Mark Urnov, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Political Science, told us about the results of the negotiations on the launch of joint Master’s programmes between the faculty and American universities, as well as about research plans, reforms of the educational process and Chinese writing.
- Mark Yurievich, what are the results of the negotiations on launch of joint Master's programmes?
- During the next two years we plan to launch one or two programmes. We've started discussing joint programmes with New York University and George Mason University and are now negotiating with Columbia University on the launch of an MPA (Master of policy administration) programme. The only difficulty is the price of American programmes. They are very expensive. The cheapest is in George Mason University and costs about 24 thousand dollars. Now we are thinking about how we can manage this.
- Have you worked anything out yet?
- It is unlikely that American students would come in flocks for our double diploma. The most realistic solution in this situation is unequal exchange. We come to an agreement about a double diploma for our students. Then we try to find American or Russian sponsors. On the other side, we give academic and infrastructure support to American undergraduate and postgraduate students and teachers interested in coming to Russia and working in any areas of Russian studies. For those interested, we can organize advanced Russian language courses. Costs for visits of American colleagues may be taken into account as a partly compensation for our students'fees for education. One more way to save is to arrange for the students to study the first year in Russia (i.e. at Russian prices) and the second year in the U.S. There is even a cheaper option:to arrange for our students to go to the United States for just the last six months of a Master's course, where they would write and defend their dissertation. Or alternatively:they go there for half a year, then come back and defend the dissertation here, but in English, so that our U.S. colleagues could participate in the process by means of telecommunication. So, there are many flexible schemes to overcome the price barrier. In terms of quality of education, I think the best way would be this:the students spend the first year of the Master's course in the U.S., and for the second year they come back, listen to a negotiated number of courses here, but spend most of their time writing their paper. Thus students could get a good American background and improve their English. But of course this option is not the most economical.
- What if some of the American students would like to get a double diploma?
- For them the Faculty of Applied Political Science can organize at least five good courses in English.
- Have you discussed the themes of Master's programmes?
- Giving a title to the programme is the least important part. It is necessary to understand what disciplines are offered by American Master's programmes, to compare them with ours and see what a combination of the two could be called. In addition, we plan to conduct some marketing research and get a better understanding of the expectations of potential students of double diploma programmes. I think that some combination of economics and political studies will be the most popular.
- Will the existing Master's programmes undergo any changes?
- Our Master's course student is strongly focused on applied knowledge, and this is the main difference to a Western one. The highest level of motivation for studying fundamental academic disciplines is at the first two years of baccalaureate. From the third year onwards most of the students turn to practical knowledge, and at the Master's course this process comes to its peak. When they hear the word ‘theory', they switch off! I'm not blaming anyone, it's just the structure of the market. And we would like to take this into account - to make the master's course strictly applied, to greatly increase the number of master classes by practitioners who would teach the students what is the market demand, so that in two years they would be quite ready to work. On the other side, we don't intend to eliminate the academic, research part. We plan to do the following:while the majority of master's course students will do applied studies, a minor group will study theoretical, superfundamental issues.
- In your opinion, how many people would be interested in superfundamental research?
- I don't think that such a group will attract more than 5 - 7 people. But it is enough! We shall prepare those students for postgraduate studies and consider them an HR reserve for the faculty. We shall do our best to make them stay in the HSE, at our faculty, in research institutes and laboratories - and that will be the process of natural rejuvenation of the faculty staff.
- Do you plan to reform the baccalaureate?
- In the nearest future the theoretical load in baccalaureate will increase. I am very inspired by the experience of the Columbia University. Each student of this university gets a set of six ‘nuclear'disciplines:two philosophical, two culturological and two languages. And this is right. A political science graduate should have a strong background in the humanities. We shall probably try to create two obligatory courses of philosophy:we are in great need of a separate course on the evolution of morality, or history of ethics. Besides that, we need courses on history of arts and world literature. We shall increase the load of languages - we'll give more homework, increase the volume of compulsory literature in English in our basic courses. We'd like to make the second foreign language course obligatory from the second year of education. I think that for this generation of Russian students, Chinese should be included on the list of obligatory second foreign languages. We plan to gradually decrease the load of lectures, to give more time for workshops and reading. We want to restructure the system of course papers - to connect them with the work of research laboratories. It will very probably demand a reduction in the number of other obligatory written works.
-Could you tell us more about the faculty's plans in terms of research?
- We have several priority tasks for the next couple of years. Firstly, a significant increase in the research activities, including those conducted jointly with international partners. Research is the lifeblood of the faculty. Now at the faculty we have a successful educational and research laboratory lead by Valeria Kasamara - the Laboratory of Political Studies. It has already become a centre of attraction for students interested in research work. This year we plan to open an Institute of Political Planning. Now we are working on a project on ‘Value Heterogeneity of the Society as a Factor of Social Dynamics'. We want to find out how cultural heterogeneity stimulates the development of society. Another project is comparing the value and political orientation of young people from different social strata. We already have some outstanding results on homeless teenagers and teenagers from elite schools.
- Let's get back to the initial theme of the interview, which is the joint work with international partners. What projects does your faculty conduct together with international colleagues?
- For example, there is joint research with the Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a large two-year project pursuing two goals. The first is to see what the Russian middle class is, what its consumer and saving behaviour is, as well as its system of values. The second is to find out how development of the middle class is stimulated in the Russian regions (of course, if it is stimulated). Besides that, together with our long-time partners, Science Po - the Paris Institute of Political Studies, we plan to study issues of political identity, nationalism and extremism. In cooperation with George Mason University we are planning a project on the study of public administration effectiveness. Another area which interests Americans as well as ourselves is political analysis of the role of media, in the first place, the blogosphere, in the contemporary world.
- What is the strategy of such partnership?
- You know, today we can't just rely on studying what's happening only in Russia. Interest in Russia among the world academic community is decreasing. In this situation the best we can do is stop focusing on ourselves and plug our brains into the study of universal problems.
Sergey Stepanishev, HSE News Service