Both Quiet and Noisy: HSE University Opens Its Largest Coworking Space for Students Yet
A meeting room, a presentation hall, a quiet zone for individual study, areas for discussing group projects—the new space will become the main attraction for all those who study at the HSE building on Staraya Basmannaya. HSE News Service attended the coworking opening ceremony and learned whether it is possible to sleep there, where HSE’s psychological hub is located, whether Mikhail Boytsov’s ID card works, and what students think about the new place.
With the cutting of a red ribbon and a round of applause, the entrance to the new space for work and creativity is now open. The student coworking launch, it turned out, was ambitious. Here students of the Faculties of Humanities, Physics, and the School of Foreign Languages can now gather every day to study and carry out projects.
After the opening ceremony, all participants of the event went on a tour of the university’s largest coworking area. During the meeting, HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov thanked representatives of the HSE School of Art and Design and the construction contractor for the design project. The HSE rector was the first to try out the bean bag chairs in the lounge zone and concluded: ‘They’re firm—you won’t fall asleep!’
The first performance took place in the coworking presentation hall. Yaroslav Kuzminov noted that the opening was a joyful event for HSE University after going through COVID-19, self-isolation, and the total transition to remote work. According to the rector, the University not only overcame difficult times, but also had some positive achievements. In particular, HSE University attracted a lot of international specialists and students.
‘There is another phenomenon of our new online life and education: strangely enough, students and staff started to better prepare for classes, to speak more clearly. Intellectually, we have not lost anything at all, we have even gained something in some areas. And now at HSE University, 10% of the curriculum is conducted for all four campuses, and we’re not going to deliver lectures offline,’ said Rector Kuzminov. ‘However, this year we feel that we have lost something. We have lost the non-essential component of the university, the feeling you get when you come to the library and suddenly want to read one journal and take notes from another one, because you see the same nerds sitting around you, and this aspect needs to be restored.’
Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE University Rector
We’ve lost the joy of what I would call casual, non-essential communication. That Brownian motion of the university, where you meet people, get to know them, or just overhear what they’re talking about. This doesn’t work online and, of course, the first thing we see when we go offline is that we want to stay in the buildings, which become like home in some way. At the building on Pokrovka, which is the central psychological hub of HSE University, I regularly see students from Strogino, Basmannaya, and the School of Art and Design who just come because it is a shared space. It’s difficult to explain, but it is clear that people have an emotional craving for the university: a sense of participation and communication, which online education lacks. Basically, a lot of discoveries, both personal and universal are accidental. Let's recall Isaac Newton: if he hadn't sat under that apple tree, there would have been nothing, there would have been no physics. Therefore, we are now entering a new stage of the University’s development: we need 5-6 times less lecture halls than before, seminars are also held online, and this should be replenished by something else. This coworking is an idea of what it should be replaced with. In such spaces, you work collectively or individually, but first of all, you look at others, you feel others, and the university keeps on developing.
Mikhail Boytsov, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, thanked all those involved in the creation of the coworking space and expressed hope that there will be more similar spaces in the building. He also shared a small discovery: ‘I want to say that I tried to get in here some time ago and I’d like to share an important note with you: my ID card didn’t work. I strongly suspect that the ID cards of some other senior managers do not work here either. Therefore, I am hinting [to my colleagues] that they should take advantage of this while they can. On the other hand, we liked the place so much that we almost decided to move our dean's office here. We will think about it.’
Students also shared their impressions of the new coworking space. Immediately after the opening, they explored all the work areas: the meeting room, the quiet zone, and the noisy one. ‘I really liked the area: it is cozy and there is a lot of space where you can sit comfortably. I liked the meeting room: there is good ventilation and everything is set up well for students,’ says Anastasia Bunova, 2nd-year student of the ‘Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication’ programme.
The chair of the Student Council of the Faculty of Humanities, Matvey Svoysky, says that he had long known about the opening of the coworking space and participated in the project’s approval. ‘We got the project layout, and we looked it over closely. In particular, we asked that more outlets to be added, and now we can see that they did it, and we are very grateful.’
The concept of the noisy hall is really cool: here you can arrange a lot of tables for discussions and use the presentation hall for public lectures
Matvey, 3rd-year student of the ‘History’ programme, admits that they lacked this kind of space in the building on Staraya Basmannaya. ‘We have a library, but it's a quiet place where you can't really talk or work together. You can read a book there, but you can’t gather six people at a table and make a project, though our university is project-oriented. There is a lot of space here, and, in general, it’s really cool.’
Dean, Faculty of Humanities
Yaroslav I. Kuzminov
HSE University Rector