Two-stage Higher Education Looms Large
In Russia according to changes in the Federal Law on Education approved two years ago and coming into effect with the start of the new academic year, the majority of universities will be enrolling students into Bachelor's and Master's programs instead of traditional five-year courses . The HSE Deputy rector Vadim Radayev comments on the innovation for the RIA Novosti correspondent Yulia Medvedovskaya.
Yulia Medvedovskaya: What are the main difficulties in the swap over to the Bachelor's and Master's system?
Vadim Radayev: One of the main problems of the Master's system of education is a lack of preparation among students enrolling from different fields of education with different theoretical bases. Everyone can enrol on a common basis, but they may not have sufficient knowledge. So for those who want to change their area of focus, preparation for enrolment and study in the area of specialisation for the Master's course is necessary. Universities need to offer preparation courses, which help not only to be accepted into the Master's, but also help with successful study during the course. From 2009, we are preparing to create such a preparatory department for students who have finished a Bachelor's in a different field. The course will last one year and be free.
Despite the different levels of preliminary preparation, we decided not to divide into different groups those students who are enrolling into our Master's program from our Bachelor's program and those who came from different universities or faculties. Dividing them, naturally, would make things easier, but we decided not to do that. Formally they receive the same degree and the results should be the same. And it would not be fair to those who came from different specialisations. The fact that they will study together will help the weaker students catch up on what they lack.
YN: What will happen with Bachelor's graduates who don't enrol in a Master's? How will employers relate to them?
VR: I consider that Bachelor's graduates who don't continue with Master's should not have any fundamental problems with employers. People, of course, are still not used to the two-stage system, because the question arises about what is this Bachelor's and is it just an "unfinished" higher education. With time they will start to relate to them differently. Much that now we consider normal was taken with suspicion five to seven years ago. In fact, five-year specialist education is not so fundamental, especially if you consider that many afterwards don't work in their specialisation; the educational foundations are laid in the first two to three years.
YN: One of the ideas of the Bologna process is to provide students with academic mobility as Master's allows for a change not only in specialisation, but university as well as geographical location. In what way will the Higher School of Economics stimulate student's academic mobility?
VR: To help orientate university students we publish information on our site, conduct open-door days, distribute booklets. We have thought up another interesting method to help students understand the new system. In February, the Higher School of Economics for the first time conducted four winter schools for students of different universities who were interested in Master's and wanted to enrol in it.
As concerns student mobility, we need to develop cooperation between universities. We are trying to set up these ties. Representatives of our university are travelling around various towns, talking about our university, about the Master's program, about what professions you can acquire with us. Cooperation between universities is stimulated by such exchanges. Students need to have more possibilities to communicate with future colleagues from different universities. Isolation within one faculty and within one university (even if it is a good university), is naturally not worth it.