HSE University Launches Its First Combined Master's-PhD Track
HSE University is offering a new form of support for students who choose to pursue a career in academia – a combined Master's-PhD track. The competition is open for first-year master’s students in state-funded places. Sergey Roshchin, HSE Vice Rector, spoke about the interesting features of the combined track.
In many countries, there is a type of postgraduate programme—a structured PhD—with the master’s level included. When a student applies for such programmes, they attend master’s courses during one or two years; then, in some cases, they earn a master’s degree and proceed to writing a PhD thesis. There is no separate procedure for the PhD programme application. This path bridges the gap between master’s and doctoral studies.
In Russia, leading universities, including HSE University, have developed an initiative to create similar combined programmes several times. Despite the existing institutional obstacle—the need to pass entrance exams during the transition from the master’s to the doctoral programme—we believe that this idea has a lot to offer. It was actively discussed during our work on the HSE Development Programme up to 2030, which later included the concept, and this year, a decision has been made to proceed with its implementation.
The combined Master's-PhD track is a form of support for younger colleagues who graduate from the bachelor’s programmes and understand that they want to work as researchers. For those who choose the combined track, the individual master’s curriculum is coordinated and adjusted by the relevant doctoral school according to the topic and the goals of their research. The academic supervisor of the student’s master’s thesis is potentially the academic supervisor of their PhD thesis. Meanwhile, the students get all the basic parts of master’s education.
Obviously, academic research consumes a lot of time and resources. Several years ago HSE University faced the problem that doctoral students aren’t able to survive on an ordinary scholarship, so it launched the Full-time Advanced Doctoral Programme with increased scholarships and opportunities to participate in paid projects at the university and beyond. Those who choose the ‘combined track’ will receive similar support: the scholarship will be 50,000 roubles for the master’s level and 70,000 roubles for the doctoral level.
For this track, we would like to select students who do not simply ‘want to do research’ but who have already gained some experience in research during their bachelor’s studies and have published co-authored or individual papers. The selection process will be as open and transparent as possible, in line with the approved procedure. The research achievements will be considered and discussed in the relevant university departments, and experienced colleagues will evaluate the prospects for each student and the possibility of supporting them as part of the new track.
Of course, students selected for the combined track, in case they successfully graduate from the master’s programme, will have to apply for the doctoral programme in accordance with the rules that have been set for everyone. We have no doubt that their level of knowledge, competencies and involvement in the academic environment will boost the quality of their portfolios, which will help them successfully pass the doctoral programme entrance exams.
This year, the combined Master's-PhD track will have 50 slots. These slots are not distributed among master’s programmes in advance; rather, the idea is to enrol the best students regardless of their specialization and the doctoral school in which they plan to write their theses.
In the next academic year, we will continue this project and announce a new selection. Fourth-year bachelor’s students at HSE University and other universities can consider the combined track as an opportunity for further professional development.
I hope that implementing this project will promote an inflow of talented young researchers into the field of academia and that after graduating from the doctoral programme colleagues will successfully defend their theses and come to work at universities and research centres, becoming part of both the Russian and global academic community.
Alaa N. Assaf is a doctoral student at HSE University’s Faculty of Law. In addition to doing research for his PhD thesis, he teaches undergraduates. Alaa has shared his thoughts on studying international law, life in Moscow, and what he misses about teaching in person.
HSE University continues to develop its new study format for students embarking on a research career: the Combined Master's-PhD track. This year, there will be 75 places for Master’s students on the track—two thirds more than last year. HSE Vice Rector Sergey Roshchin talks about the appeal of the combined-track option, how to enrol, and the achievements of last year’s applicants.
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