Spring Admissions Deadline for HSE Doctoral Programmes Extended to March 13
The first admissions period for HSE’s doctoral programmes continues. The PhD programme in Economics is one of the programmes still accepting applications. Doctoral candidates of the programme have the opportunity to defend their dissertations before the specialized dissertation council and receive a PhD from HSE University.
In 2017, HSE University was granted permission to create a degree conferment system in correlation with the Russian state system of certification. For the past two years, the new degree system has been implemented at the University. Doctoral candidates who successfully defend their dissertations now receive diplomas from the Russian system as well: a candidate of sciences degree and a doctor of sciences degree.
This reform has affected not only degree conferment, but education and curriculum in HSE’s doctoral programme in economics.
New Dissertation Council
In February of 2018, a new Dissertation Council in Economics was created. The council is a body of 30 professors and researchers co-chaired by HSE Full Professor Svetlana Avdasheva (Doctor of Economics), who was one of the first professors to join HSE in 1993, and Associate Professor Anton Suvorov (Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences), who received his PhD in economics from the University of Toulouse and was a student of the Nobel laureate Jean Tyrol.
The Dissertation Council includes professors who hold Russian doctoral degrees (i.e., a Candidate of Sciences degree and/or a Doctor of Sciences degree), those who have earned PhDs from Western universities, as well as those who hold both Russian and Western doctoral degrees. ‘This ensures that we have representatives of different traditions in economic education and research participating in the dissertation defenses,’ says Professor Svetlana Avdasheva.
Until 2018, HSE University had different dissertation councils in economics that were responsible for specific subfields. Now this artificial division of subfields has been done away with and there is only one council, which the council believes is more appropriate for economics.
A Committee for Every Defense
To ensure a professional evaluation of dissertations, a committee of five specialists of the given field is formed before each defense. Members of the committee carefully read the candidate’s work, and voting on the basis of a superficial impression of the work is prohibited.
Another factor that increases not only the quality of the committee’s evaluation but a candidate’s confidence in the committee’s objectivity is the participation of at least one outside reviewer from a leading international university. HSE finances the outside committee member’s travel so that they can be present at the defense.
The Council, and before that, the dissertation committee, can review the work and submit comments to the candidate, so that they can draft a response before the defense. Thus, accidental or minor errors do not cause grounds for failure of the defense.
At HSE University, dissertations may be written in English or Russian. Correspondingly, the defense, too, may be conducted in English or in Russian.
The new system also allows doctoral candidates to submit a set of research articles in lieu of a dissertation to their committees. In this case, the Council has the opportunity to employ the additional expertise of international peer-reviewed journals.
Is the New System Simpler or More Difficult?
Those considering doctoral studies in economics at HSE University and defending a dissertation before the Dissertation Council in Economics may wonder: is it easier or more difficult to pass a dissertation defense with the new procedure in place compared to how it was before when the traditional procedure of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science was used?
‘In our Dissertation Council, the defense procedure itself—a detailed review of the dissertation by a committee of specialists—ensures the objectivity of review,’ says Anton Suvorov. ‘The doctoral candidate, thus, is protected against possible unreasonable or unfair claims by colleagues who did not understand the work, and this, of course, simplifies the candidate’s task. On the other hand, the candidate must prove that his or her dissertation meets the high standards of the international academic community and take into account all of the comments of the committee members who are experts in the topic of study. This is quite challenging.’
For the defense before the Council, the candidate’s number of published articles should not be less than the number dictated by the Russian degree conferment system. HSE does everything within its power to ensure that candidates successfully fulfill this requirement. To this end, doctoral students can enroll in the Full-time Advanced Doctoral Programme. The programme offers students a generous scholarship stipend and requires that they complete an internship abroad.
Starting in the fall of 2020, all graduate students will have the opportunity to work as teaching and research assistants in departments of HSE. The Faculty of Economic Sciences provides support for doctoral students for conference participation and supplemental education programmes both in Russia and abroad. In addition, dissertation scholarships are available to provide support for dissertation writing and research.
The Faculty of Economic Sciences and other HSE departments are generally pleased to hire alumni who have successfully defended their dissertations before the Dissertation Council in Economics.
What about the Two-level Russian Doctoral Degree System?
Despite the transition to a new dissertation defense system, HSE University has not abandoned Russian doctoral degrees.
‘The discussion about doctoral degrees in the world is far from over,’ says Svetlana Avdasheva. ‘There are arguments both for and against the two-level system, and the extent to which the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa differ for different disciplines. We act on the assumption that the doctoral degree testifies to the readiness of its holder not only to conduct research independently, but also to lead research teams.’
The HSE Dissertation Council in Economics is now accepting dissertation submissions, and candidates may choose between the traditional format of a full-length dissertation or a collection of articles.
HSE provides support for faculty members who are in the process of completing their doctoral dissertations. Employees may qualify, for example, for a one-year leave of absence. You can read more about forms of support in the February issue of Windows of Growth.
How to Apply?
HSE doctoral programmes, including the Doctoral School of Economics, do not limit admission to applicants who hold a master’s degree from HSE University. In order to facilitate a more thorough evaluation of applicants, the HSE doctoral admissions process is organized into two application periods—spring and fall. International students are eligible to apply for full-tuition scholarships provided through the Russian government scholarships (Quotas).
For applicants who do not hold a master’s degree from HSE University, applying to an HSE doctoral programme by the spring deadline of March 13 makes it possible to agree upon a research project and timeline with one’s academic advisor before classes begin in November.
Below, graduates of the HSE Doctoral School of Economics describe their experiences preparing and defending their dissertations.
Alexandra Morozkina, Assistant Professor, Faculty of World Economics and International Policy, HSE
Although I graduated from Moscow State University with a bachelor's and master's degree, I did not particularly think about where I should go for my PhD. The reason is that by the time I came here, I already had experience working with my future supervisor, Professor Leonid Grigoryev.
I combined my doctoral studies with work in the Economic Expert Group, and this work involved participating in conferences and publishing articles. The graduate school provided information and organizational support—it was always clear what was happening, what needed to be done, and what the deadlines were. This allowed me to focus on the substantive part of the work and not be distracted by technical issues, and for that I am very grateful to my colleagues.
Researchers who are specialists in your dissertation topic are involved in the preparation for the defense and defense itself, which allows you to discuss the work and the results you received. The new defense format does not merely consist of reading reviews, but a lively discussion with a committee who is interested in the quality of the study. After the first stage of the discussion, I had to make significant changes to the dissertation. I had to deepen the analysis, improve the first chapter, and almost completely reevaluate the econometric models I used in the third chapter. Given the tight deadlines, it was difficult to take into account all the comments, but it was possible. And it was precisely this aspect that the committee praised, noting that such a volume of work can be done only when you have a good knowledge of the topic.
The main thing when working on a dissertation is not to give up, to be self-confident and at the same time be open to criticism and discussion. Dissertation defenses at HSE are not easy. It takes a lot of effort, high quality work, and a desire to finish the job. My supervisor and I continue to collaborate. Currently, we are working on an expert council to ensure a Russian chairmanship of the BRICS, and we are teaching a joint course at the HSE.
Anna Demyanova, Senior Lecturer of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, HSE
I received a degree in public administration from HSE. Choosing between further alternatives, I decided to get involved in labor economics and develop my research skills in quantitative methods. In addition, I was interested in the topic of employment of people with disabilities, which is the subject of my dissertation.
Due to the change in faculty and topic, it took some time to get a firm handle of the current body of research, to understand the legal framework and statistical data about employment and disabilities, and to master econometric methods. The courses and seminars I took in the doctoral programme in addition to conferences at HSE and beyond as well as meeting with specialists helped me immensely. The research seminars at the Laboratory for Labour Market Studies and the Centre for Labour Market Studies were especially useful. I always got valuable ideas for improving my work.
The most significant part of the discussion of the dissertation took place before it was submitted to the dissertation council — specifically, at a research seminar and pre-defense discussion. At each of the meetings I had three opponents, each of whom was a recognized expert in the field of labour economics, econometrics, and social policy. The dissertation at these stages was also read by other colleagues. After each discussion, I made revisions and finalized the text over the course of several months. Thanks to this in-depth discussion before the defense, I did not receive any significant comments from the committee members.
The longer I worked on my dissertation, the more I realized how fortunate I was with my supervisor. Anna Lukyanova is extremely professional and versatile. Through joint work with her I developed a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of economic phenomena, more advanced econometric methods, and an openness to ideas. I also learned that criticism is the best kind of feedback you can receive in the preparation stage of the dissertation. I am very grateful to Professor Lukyanova for the opportunity to learn from her and for the attention and support she has given me all these years.
Evgeniya Chernina, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Social Sciences, Research Fellow, Centre of Labour Market Studies, HSE
I earned my bachelor’s from Gorky Ural State University and master’s degrees in economics from New Economic School and the Toulouse School of Economics. I chose HSE for my doctoral studies, because a laboratory was opened here for the study of poverty and inequality, and this is exactly the topic I was interested in. I started working in the laboratory while also studying in the Full-time Advanced Doctoral Programme. My dissertation focused on foreign workers in the Russian labour market.
I had been preparing for the old system dissertation defense procedure but ended up defending my dissertation in the new system procedure. However, I am glad it worked out this way. In the old system, an important procedure is the defense itself, that is, a twenty-minute presentation by the candidate followed by a discussion. A lot depends on what kind of impression the candidate makes on the committee and how he or she handles their questions. In the new system, while the defense itself is also important, the work done by all the participants long before the defense is much more important. The main product — the text — plays a more significant role.
Three members of the dissertation council, and then the five members of the dissertation committee who reading the dissertation are well versed in its subject. In this situation, it is impossible to level out the shortcomings with a good presentation of the material, which means that more careful work on the text is required from the graduate student. And it is really nice that serious researchers have carefully studied your work, that your results aroused interest, and that you can take very constructive feedback into account.
It is believed that a PhD dissertation is an entry ticket to the scholarly community, but I felt like a member of this community already during my studies in the doctoral school. We had a wonderful doctoral seminar where colleagues from other segments of economic science gathered and it was possible to go beyond the boundaries of our field. I am particularly grateful to Olga Lazareva, my supervisor. I sometimes get carried away with details, and it can be difficult to bring a project to its end point, and she helped me structure the work, keep to the deadlines, and stop at the right time.
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