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Regular version of the site

‘The Programme is Unique not Only for Russia, but also for the Best Universities of the World’

Sergey Lando, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Mathematics and Head of the master’s programme in Mathematics, told us about some innovations in the Faculty’s master’s courses.

Sergey Lando
Sergey Lando
— Dr. Lando, what are the main features of the master’s programme in Mathematics which you are head of? What are the key elements of the courses and specializations?

— The master’s programme in Mathematics is only in its second year at our Faculty. Up to now,  it has only enrolled graduates from other Russian universities: the first graduation from our undergraduate programme will take place this year. This means that we had planned the expansion of the master’s programme in 2012 even before it was initially launched. We hope that the programme participants have consciously chosen the route of a researcher. The basic courses in the programme are focused on two areas which are the most active at the Faculty – topology and algebra (particularly algebraic geometry). Topology is taught by one of the best topologists in the world – Viktor Vasiliev, member of the RAS (Russian Academy of Sciences), President of the Moscow Algebraic Society, Chief Research Fellow at the RAS Steklov Institute of Mathematics. Algebra courses are taught by Alexei Rudakov, invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians, and Marat Rovinsky, a young mathematician and Doctor of Physics and Mathematics. But the main part of the education is received by students on an individual basis; they have a choice of a large variety of special courses and seminars at the Faculty. After the first weeks of study, each student chooses an academic supervisor, who, in addition to supervising work on their master’s thesis, recommends courses to study.

— You’ve started teaching the programme in English. Why did you make this decision?

— There are several reasons to begin teaching in English. The university is moving up to an international level, and this means we need to attract foreign students. It is natural to do this at the level of master’s studies, which determines the research character of the university. On the other hand, attracting well-prepared international students will make the faculty and the university as a whole more attractive for strong Russian students. We, in our turn, are interested in casting our net wide for future researchers.

In terms of mathematical education, we have something to offer to the graduates of both Western and Eastern universities. The faculty has a staff of the highest-level lecturers. A considerable part of the staff are young lecturers with experience of education and teaching abroad. In fact, teaching in English is not an obstacle today: if there is someone in a seminar who doesn’t understand Russian, the speaker can easily switch to English.

We have accumulated a vast experience of teaching and many materials for the courses as part of the Math in Moscow programme. This programme was established over 10 years ago by the Independent University of Moscow (IUM), and over recent years it has been jointly organized by the IUM and the HSE. Students of the best North-American universities come to participate in it; they spend one semester here, attend mathematical courses in English and take examinations. Many of the lecturers in this programme are members of our faculty.

— What can you say about the demand for the programme among students and professionals?

— We expect that the programme will be of interest for university graduates from several different groups of countries. First of all, we mean Russia and the CIS. For our fellow citizens, the opportunity to find themselves in an international research environment, while at the same time staying in the framework of their culture, can be very attractive.

We also expect interest from Western European students, for example, from the French, with whom we have very strong ties in mathematics. Some of our students already have experience of working with them as part of the international summer camp in Bremen; next year this camp will be based in Lyons. We are also specifically interested in Great Britain. Education there is rather expensive and the price is growing, as well as the cost of living, so our programme may be of interest for British students.

According to our experience of the Math in Moscow programme, education in Moscow can also be of interest to U.S. and Canadian graduates. Graduates of this programme have formed an active internet community where potential participants ask for advice. If they decide that the quality of our programme is as good as that offered in the best American universities, but it is easier to enter, this may well bring some people here.

We also see a huge potential for participation from China and Japan. The Chinese actively invest in educating their students abroad. The Japanese may be attracted by the fact that we have two Japanese professors among our staff.

And, last but not the least, are our own graduates. We very much look forward to both their criticism and support.

Of course it would be naïve to think that during the first year of the programme’s activity each or at least several of those groups mentioned above will make a big contribution to the programme. But continuous work over several years should bring results. The Math in Moscow programme started in 2000 with one student. And only after 2 or 3 years, when leading U.S. universities began acknowledging it as an interesting international partner, it became sustainable, and now it attracts 10 or 20 students each semester.

— What are the career opportunities for the programme graduates?

— We expect that research-oriented graduates will enter the master’s programme. If their work is successful, a natural step for them after the master’s programme will be to enter a doctoral (aspirantura) programme. And not necessarily ours. For example, the doctoral programme of the future Skolkovo University of Technology is tempting for graduates of our master’s programme who are interested in applied mathematics. We also have close ties with the RAS Steklov Institute of Mathematics (there is its vocational training department at our faculty), the Institute for Information Transmission Problems and many other research teams. We also expect that starting from the next year our aspirantura programmes – the existing course in Mathematics of Logic, Algebra and Number Theory and the new Geometry and Topology – will be included in the HSE programme of academic aspirantura. The participants of this programme get a monthly stipend of 25 thousand roubles, which means they can focus on their studies rather than looking for work and this makes postgraduate education even more attractive.

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