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‘It Is Essential to Leave Home and Plunge into Deep Water’

‘It Is Essential to Leave Home and Plunge into Deep Water’

© HSE University

The HSE University’s master’s programme in Science, Technology and Innovation Management and Policy is launching a double degree programme with the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), Brazil. Below, Dirk Meissner from HSE University, together with Bruno Fischer and Gustavo Salati from Unicamp, talk about the importance of academic knowledge for non-academic professions, the selection prerequisites for the programme, and the advantages of this type of cooperation for leading national universities.

The State University of Campinas (Unicamp) is ranked first in Brazil according to a recent study by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and second according to THE university ranking. Established in 1962, it initially focused on medicine and engineering, but has since rapidly grown into a comprehensive university. Unicamp is a strong research-oriented university, with almost half of its students being graduate students, which is an unusually high share for the country. Prof. Gustavo Salati is Associate Professor at the School of Applied Sciences of the State University of Campinas and Coordinator at the Graduate Programme in Business Administration. Prof. Bruno Fischer is Associate Professor at the School of Applied Sciences of the State University of Campinas in Business Administration and research collaborator at HSE University. He is Associate Director at the Graduate Programme in Business Administration.

From HSE’s side, the new joint programme is being implemented by the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK). Prof. Dirk Meissner is Professor at ISSEK, Distinguished Professor, Head of the Laboratory for Economics of Innovation, and Academic Supervisor of the master’s programme ‘Science, Technology and Innovation Management and Policy’.

—How did the cooperation between HSE University and Unicamp start?

Bruno Fischer (BF): It started when I met Dirk Meissner at a conference in Brazil back in 2017, and we started discussing the possibilities for academic cooperation. Three or four months after that, I came to Russia for the first time to take part in the ISSEK annual conference. I saw that HSE University has a good infrastructure, highly qualified people, and access to data. Brazil and Russia have been friendly countries since forever, and we’ve had this strong focus on internationalisation, so I thought it was a good opportunity to establish ties with HSE.

Bruno Fischer
© HSE University

Dirk Meissner (DM): When we met seven years ago, we immediately realised that we have mutual interests and preferences.

BF: And then I taught a course called ‘Strategic Business Partnerships’ for HSE students in 2019/2020, which was online because of the pandemic. In 2021, we started offering it for Unicamp students as well. We changed the content a bit, updated a lot of literature, brought Gustavo Salati along with us to teach the course, and it became a joint course, which is now called ‘Entrepreneurial Ecosystems’.

DM: This is a unique shared course, which means that it involves teachers from HSE University and Unicamp, and is offered to students of both universities. Then we decided to go one step further, join forces, and let students enjoy a real-life experience—to start a joint master’s programme. Russian students can go to the city of Campinas, where it’s never colder than 20˚C, and Brazilian students can come to Russia and see what temperatures below zero feel like.

Dirk Meissner
© HSE University

—Tell me more about the city of Campinas.

Campinas is known as the Silicon Valley of Brazil

BF: It’s a very important technological centre of Brazil and the southern hemisphere. We have the largest particle accelerator in the southern hemisphere, called Sirius. We have a great deal of research infrastructure and the R&D centres of large corporations such as Samsung and Santander Bank. There are federal research units in Campinas that have a close connection with the university in the relevant areas. Campinas is a three-million-inhabitant metropolitan area, and the only metropolitan area outside the Brazilian state capitals. It’s the second-largest city in the state of Sao Paolo, and it’s about a 90-minute drive from the local capital, the city of Sao Paolo.

—Who is eligible for applying to the double degree programme?

DM: Both universities enrol students according to their own rules. And after the first year of studies, we offer our best students the opportunity to enrol in the double degree programme. This programme is limited to five students per year from each university. The applicants should have a strong academic interest, be really motivated students, who’ve demonstrated in the first year of studies that they are keen, engaged and have an academic track record.

HSE students who go to Campinas will represent our university, our reputation. That’s why their best performance is key to us

The selection procedure is rather simple: we ask the applicants to provide a motivational letter, and then we have a panel of three teachers, and we will ask them a bit more about why they want to go there. But be convincing. Do not tell us that you like Brazil or like flying. Do not tell us that the programme is good. We know it. Tell us how you can take advantage of studying in Campinas for your career. Tell us why you need to go to a place where the feeling, the life, the climate, and the mentality is so different from here. We are looking for socially competent students. We do not want to send a student who is in the Brazilian community just sitting in the corner, not engaging with other people.

Russian citizens as well as international students can take part in the programme. It also doesn’t matter whether they are on an scholarship or are paying tuition fees: participation in the joint programme is free of charge. However, they will have to pay for their travel and accommodation expenses.

—How much time will the students spend at the partner university? Is it possible to participate online?

Gustavo Salati (GS): The students must spend at least one semester—six months—at the partner university. The total length of the programme is from 18 to 30 months.

Gustavo Salati
© HSE University

DM: We insist that students travel abroad as part of this programme: you can’t take the partner university’s courses online, while sitting in Moscow at home with your grandparents, since it’s against the spirit of the programme. We believe it is essential to leave home and plunge into deep water.

—What is the language of the programme?

DM: The programme is taught in English. You won’t need any command of Russian and/or Portuguese to study.

GS: We have some Portuguese courses that students can do if they want, but these are not mandatory.

—Is the programme more practice-oriented or research-oriented?

DM: It is focused on research, it is an academic programme, but I need to emphasise that there is a common misunderstanding here. If you are focusing on practice, it is primary school level: here is a problem, find a solution. Finding a solution is simple. But what makes us different as a university is that we say: find a problem, describe the problem, and only then find the solution. The graduates should be capable of finding a problem and then solving it. And this approach is much more practice-oriented than finding typical solutions for typical problems.

BF: This is a cultural challenge that I know Russia faces, and it is the same in Brazil—it’s the distinction between practice and research. We see them as separate things.

At the end of the day, our graduate is going to be a person who is not only capable of solving a problem, but of identifying new problems. And that’s what innovation is based on

Our graduates can stay in academia if they want, of course.

© HSE University

—What about the other career opportunities, besides academia?

BF: The graduates can start their own companies, go work for other companies, or for governments. I am an academic, and I work government institutions, as well as with Samsung. It is important for students to know that even though this is a research-based programme, it does not prevent them from using this in their careers, in the market. It is definitely not a limitation—on the contrary, it expands their possibilities.

DM: If you look at our alumni, they go on to all sorts of careers. This is the generation who can design the future of a company, of a country, and so on. They are not the guys who are sitting there and waiting to be told what to do. They know how to find an opportunity.

—What will the graduation project look like?

DM: It will be a master’s thesis with two defence procedures, at HSE University and Unicamp. Then they get a Unicamp diploma and an HSE diploma, eg two degrees, issued by each university independently.

—Why are such joint programmes important for universities in Russia and Brazil?

DM: It keeps us alive, it gives us fresh blood. It gives us a chance to look at what we are doing across the Atlantic.

If we want to be recognised beyond Russia’s borders, we have to be convincing. This is a good way for us to think about whether we are on the right path or not

© HSE University

We have to revise and fine-tune our curriculum and delivery. Our Rector has said that we are a leading international university: we are following standards and setting standards. We have a number of collaboration partners, and we check our programmes mutually. We have to have evidence that the standard we deliver in our programme is recognised not only in Moscow, but also in other countries. And with the University of Campinas, we are talking about one of the best universities in Brazil.

BF: Large countries, such as Brazil and Russia, usually are very inward-looking. I know Russia is like this, you care a lot about what is going on within your country, and Brazil does the same. So, internationalisation for us is essential. It is different from a small nation, a European nation, from which it is easy to drive to a different country and come back after work. For us everything is really far, as it is for you. This is not something that comes naturally.

And on top of that, when we think about the impact that internationalisation has on scientific research—and this is confirmed in a research project that I co-authored—countries such as Brazil and Russia benefit a lot from international collaboration. And we are trying to build a stronger programme, research-wise.

And from the student side, it is a very important experience for them to develop not only as researchers, but also as human beings, to go and find out about another culture, how they carry out research here, how they live in Moscow. And the same is true for foreign students who come to Brazil and try to understand, to develop their social competencies and knowledge of how the world works.

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