A Change for the Better
The HSE International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF) has been awarded the status of Affiliate Centre of the University of London External System . Sergey Yakovlev, the HSE ICEF Director, talked to us about this development
- Sergey Mikhailovich, what has happened to the ICEF's international status?
- The Administration of the University of London has decided to introduce a new, more formalized policy of relations with the universities who deliver education as part of their External System (Institutions Policy Framework) and as part of this, all universities participating in the University of London external programme, have been ranked according to certain academic indices. As a result, more than 70 universities from all over the world have been selected, with most of them receiving the status of registered centres, and about 15 of the best universities receiving a higher status of Affiliate Centres. The ICEF is one of these 15.
- How was the relationship between the universities structured before?
- The University of London external programme has been running for over 150 years. It was established to enable distance study for students who were unable to physically attend the university. Guidance materials and tests are sent to students. In the more prominent universities there are usually visits from guest lecturers. Gradually a network of dozens of universities has developed, where tens of thousands of students study in their local universities in various areas of education, and, after passing the examination of the External Programme, get a degree from the University of London. Some of the universities (like the ICEF) implement a double-degree programme, but the majority of them deliver education only according to the University of London's programme, acting as its local providers. Strange as it may seem, relations with them, including marketing and administrative procedures, were rather poorly formalized until recently. This year the University of London is starting to build closer relations with these universities.
The ICEF has long had a good relationship with the University of London, for many reasons, including our joint double-degree programme and our excellent exam results.
- What is special about this programme?
- As you know, in the ICEF, undergraduates study a double-degree programme, whose curriculum is richer than that of the ordinary programme of the University of London (due to both the wider variety of subjects and the course contents). We tried not to create a situation when ‘students would study in two separate halves, one in England and one in Russia. That's why we developed an integrated curriculum. The curriculum meets the requirements of both universities and provides students with broader opportunities to master a profession. The syllabus is based on the best features of both national educational systems. Students follow this curriculum, pass annual exams and get two diplomas. Over the last eight years, ICEF students have done exceptionally well in external exams and achieved superb degree results, leading to the ICEF becoming a major player in the field of Economics.
- What does the status of Affiliate Centre mean for the ICEF?
- The ICEF has been running the double-degree programme for over 12 years, and has been recognized both in Russia and internationally. But the new status of Affiliate Centre gives some additional bonuses;‘added value'in its positioning, in the effectiveness of communications with the University of London, and, as a result, a broadening of the opportunities for students. In particular, information on Affiliate Centres will be published in a special section on the University of London website, materials will be prepared jointly and formal procedures will be organized on a ‘one-stop shop'principle - it will be easier and faster to receive answers to questions concerning students'education and examinations. In addition to this, new course opportunities will appear. We are now in the process of discussing the development of one more academic link:increasing the diversity of forms of feedback with professors of the London School of Economics, who check our students'achievements. And, of course, receiving this status is an important confirmation of the quality of education that ICEF students get. But it is important to remember that to retain this status our results should continue to be excellent in the future. Receiving such a status from the world-renowned University of London means international prestige not only for the ICEF itself, but for the whole of the HSE. And this is as it should be, because we should understand that the success of the ICEF is largely due to the fact that it is a part of a dynamic, developing university:many teachers from different faculties, mostly from the Faculty of Economics, also work at the ICEF and ICEF students can use all the resources of the university etc.
- What criteria were used to select Affiliate Centres?
- In the first place, a university had to show a consistently high level of education. Throughout our existence, ICEF graduates, who account for 3% of all students in the University of London External System, have received about 20% of the best results.
- In your view, what were the reasons for these changes in the University of London's policies?
- I think that their administration has come to the conclusion that it is necessary to organize targeted work with universities which provide quality education and whose graduates show consistently high results in examinations. All over the world, the idea of ‘selecting the successful and passing on their experience'is becoming more widespread . Sharing best educational practices means it is possible to increase the quality of education everywhere, and supports the creation of ‘horizontal'connections between universities participating in the External System. It is, I could say, like a ‘mini Bologna process'- inside the University of London External System. This way new opportunities for academic and student mobility arise;because students from all universities involved in the External System take the same exams, then why shouldn't our students go to England, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland or Malta, study there for a year, pass their exams and come back? There's a lot of interesting ideas coming out of this.
Lyudmila Mezentseva, HSE News Service