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Transformations in Education Model at HSE

HSE aims to be a globally competitive university both in research and in education, focusing on economics, social sciences, IT and humanities. Part of its mission is to provide international quality of education and to spread best international practices in Russian academic environment.  In order to make its educational products better suited to the global audience, the university works both on the content of programmes and on their structure.

Flexible curriculum

Traditionally, curriculum in Russian universities used to be rather rigid, with a very limited number of elective courses, and it made responding to the labour market's changing demands rather difficult.  In order to ensure the employability of its students, HSE changed the model of its undergraduate programmes, allowing for more flexibility through individualised study tracks, early exposure to the professional environment and intercultural experience. This transformation was achieved through introducing the following key features of the education process:

  • undergraduate courses are grouped into clusters of majors and minors: there is a number of structured minors (e.g. philosophy, economics, etc.) available to all HSE students, which also allows for greater exposure to students from other faculties;
  • students have the opportunity to choose which competences they want to acquire and to get practical experience during their studies;
  • research and project work became an integral part of the study process, empowering the students to immerse early into professional life;
  • MOOCs can be incorporated into the students' curriculum, either through a «white list» specified by the Academic Council of the programme, or on a case by case basis.

Employers are increasingly interested in graduates with intercultural experience, and both outgoing and incoming mobility serve this purpose. While it is impossible to send 100% of students for outgoing mobility exchange, incoming students from partner universities help to create a more complex and intercultural classroom dynamic, thus contributing to the ‘internationalisation at home'. 

It is difficult to attract a large number of students internationally without offering courses in English, and HSE has been placing a heavy emphasis on this for a long time. Over one-fifth of all courses at HSE are offered in English (over 20% of all courses in 2016/17 academic year), and 42 programmes are taught jointly with partner universities from UK, Germany, Austria, France, USA, Finland, etc., including 42 double degree programmes. HSE wants to attract the best talents globally, be it students or faculty, and English-taught programmes play a vital role. At the moment there are 5 bachelor’s programmes (2 in Moscow and 3 in St. Petersburg), and 22 master’s programmes, with 3 more about to be launched in 2017.

Technical solutions for a spread-out campus

Flexible and individual tracks present a challenge in terms of organising the study process. Taking into account that HSE has a spread-out campus, with key buildings and faculties grouped in different parts of the city, the new model required lots of coordination.

The key elements in making the logistics of a flexible model manageable are the electronic schedule and personal timetable builder. As a back-office tool, the schedule allows the programmes to match the lecturers, time slots and rooms. For the public use, the individual schedule is available on every teacher's page and each student can find the timetable of their courses in HSE Learning Management System (LMS) or through a mobile app. The system displays the most relevant information about the classes– when and where they are held, what is the language of instruction, and in the case of changes or cancellations notifications are send to HSE e-mail accounts of the students who chose this course and the changes are reflected in the mobile app.

While degree students have a more predictable choice of courses even in the flexible system, exchange students from partner universities often face the challenge of how to pick the classes which their home university is going to approve and which are not going to overlap. HSE developed a Personal Timetable Builder tool, which allows filtering courses by the language of instruction, the level of education and module, as well as search by course title. The student can easily browse available courses and their syllabi and see how the selected courses match in their personal schedule.

Going Online

A different solution to the problem of arranging classes in physical space is to add online courses as part of the curriculum. HSE is offering 53 MOOCs on Coursera, 19 of them in English, and plans to double this number. In addition to attracting the external audience, the university is interested in using this resource for its own students. HSE Academic Council approved the requirement for every Master's programme to offer a list of MOOCs which the students can include into the elective part of their study plan, and undergraduate programmes are going to utilise the MOOC's potential for developing their students' soft skills.

HSE is preparing to launch a self-service video course recording studio, so that faculty can use this tool for their courses at the university programmes, and the experience of those professors who already developed MOOCs can come in handy.

Academic governance

Last but not least, is the introduction of a new academic governance model for the programmes, which allows them to develop individually. Previously the priorities we set at the Faculty or Department level, and under the new model each undergraduate and graduate programme has an Academic Supervisor. It is a faculty member responsible for the decisions on the curriculum, partnerships, for building connections with potential internship places. Some of the programmes choose to also form an Academic Council – a governing body, comprised of HSE faculty, researchers and professors from other institutions and partners from the industry, who help to make the programme and its graduates competitive on the market.

Several programmes are headed academically by the international faculty, and it gives them a unique perspective, since from the very start they envision an outreach beyond the country borders for the programme.

From HSE Look (English language university bulletin)

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