‘It is Impossible to Imagine a Similar Situation in Moscow’
On March 1st the deadline passed for HSE students to enroll for the Summer School on ‘Comparative Public Administration. Experience of Great Britain’run by London Metropolitan University . Pat Gray, Deputy Head of the Department of Law, Governance and International Relations, London Met, told us more about this project.
- Professor, this is the sixth school that you have organized for Russian students. What is London preparing for them this year?
- We always try to invent something new for them, to diversify the programme of their visit to Great Britain. Every year - and the current one will be no exception - as an addition to the basic educational course we plan to show the students something of the life of the country outside London. Previously we have organized trips to Oxford, and this time we shall probably go to Cambridge or Brighton. Many students wish to get a closer view of the British political system, and they get this opportunity as well. Every year we visit the House of Commons, sometimes also the Treasury and other government departments. And last year's participants had the opportunity to visit the Olympic venues which are currently being built- this was an amazingly interesting experience for them. We'll see what we shall be able to organize for them this year:it largely depends on what institutions we'll manage to get access to. Sometimes students tell us what places they want to visit independently, and in this case we try to help them, to give practical advice in terms of the institutions they want to visit.
- Russian and British political systems and traditions are very different. Given this fact, in your view, is it possible to learn anything from each other?
- The idea of the School is to find an answer to this question. We offer students the chance to consider which British practices may be used on Russian soil, and where our differences are fundamentally opposed. In our discussions we try to pay special attention to the tradition of transparency of public government in Great Britain. That's why we attend sessions of local governmental bodies, where important administrative decisions are made. It is very important and useful for Russian students to see how open and transparent this process can be. Through very specific examples they understand how democracy works. One of the most notable was a hearing for bar and nightclub licensing which we attended with the students two or three years ago. The owner of one of the bars, who was suspected by some people of being a criminal, tried to renew his license. But the local community opposed him, and the bar was closed. As I was later told by the students, it is practically impossible to imagine a similar situation in Moscow.
- Do only students studying public administration participate in the Summer School?
- Most of them are indeed from the HSE Faculty of Public Administration, but prospective sociologists and political scientists also come here. They are also interested in the courses offered at the Summer School. Some students from Moscow State University and the Finance Academy under the auspices of the Russian Government also participate in the School. Sometimes PhD students also make enquiries, but the Summer School is not really geared towards such specialized courses.
- Why is the London Metropolitan University is interested in such cooperation?
- London Met has had relations with the Higher School of Economics for many years. We have participated in many joint projects, the Tempus project among them, and we have similar interests, particularly in the sphere of public administration research. It is valuable for us to work with students of such a good university as the Higher School of Economics, and our staff are highly satisfied with this collaboration. In addition to that, this cooperation brings us money. So it is not a kind of charity project from our side.
- Professor, now let me ask you about your British students. Do they participate in the activities of the Summer Schools?
- They certainly do. We usually involve them in the organization of the ‘cultural programme'- excursions, walks around the city, shopping and, of course, evening events. They certainly know the London nightlife better than we professors do. It is very likely that this year's Summer School will be larger than usual:we expect to welcome some participants from other European universities. I believe that such multiculturalism will broaden the boundaries of communication between our students.
- But how interested are British students in Russia, its political and administrative system?
- There are programmes and educational modules at London Met which focus on the political and social structures of East European countries and Russian-European relations. We try to encourage our student to participate in Summer Schools in Russia, but we haven't succeeded yet. This is an expensive affair and there are plenty of organizational problems with visa arrangements. However, many Russians trying to come to Great Britain also face these problems, so we are in the same boat with this.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service