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‘You Showed Tenacity, and You Succeeded.’ How ICEF Celebrated Its 20th Anniversary

The HSE International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF) is turning 20. The college celebrated its anniversary with a gala at the Pushkin Museum and with its largest graduating class ever.

Global Alumni

Over the last 20 years, some 1,500 students have graduated from ICEF – students who, according to ICEF Director Sergey Yakovlev, now live in 88 cities in 35 countries around the world. The most recent graduating class was the largest ever in ICEF history with 171 students receiving their bachelor’s from the dual-degree programme and 29 completing the master’s programme, which is also carried out with the support of the London School of Economics (LSE). Nearly 60% of undergraduate alumni received first- and second-degree diplomas from the University of London, which once again highlights the level at which they have performed. The master’s graduates, alongside a diploma from HSE, received a certificate from LSE signed by the school’s new director, Minouche Shafik.

‘Each of you deserves praise,’ Sergey Yakovlev told graduates during the diploma award ceremony. ‘You showed tenacity, and you succeeded. You master this complicated programme – a programme which opens up your professional path in any area of international economics.’

What’s important is not only your knowledge, but also your personal characteristics – flexibility, creativity, leadership skills, and an ability to create a changing world and not just watch the changes occur…

Following tradition, the diploma award ceremony took place at the residence of British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow. The ambassador called the ICEF bachelor’s and master’s programmes an excellent example of the collaboration that takes place between the two countries’ systems of education.

‘We live in a world of uncertainty and very rapid change. This concerns both what I do and what you will do as well,’ Mr Bristow told students. ‘That is why what’s important is not only your knowledge, but also your personal characteristics – flexibility, creativity, leadership skills, and an ability to create a changing world and not just watch the changes occur. You will definitely not forget the people you met during your time in school or the relationships that formed between you. And no matter what you do, the most important thing just might be these very connections and your ability to push the boundaries and overcome differences.’

First Investment Project

HSE President Alexander Shokhin, who 20 years ago discussed the details of the new LSE project with Sergey Dubinin (the former head of the Central Bank and current chairman of the ICEF board of trustees), discussed the cohesive role of education at the ceremony. ‘Who would have thought that HSE would become a university similar in scale to Moscow State University or that ICEF would be catching up to LSE’s scope of activities!’ Mr Shokhin noted. ‘ICEF is evidence that no sort of geopolitics can hinder humanitarian connections. And through this type of cooperation we are able both to establish bilateral political relations and to push geopolitics in the right direction.’

Students’ success is a sign of the robust success of the joint programme between LSE and HSE…

The British speakers shared these ideas in their address to the graduating class. University of London Vice Chancellor Adrian Smith noted the role of the ‘production, distribution, and effective exploitation’ of knowledge in a world that continues to ‘develop economically, technologically, and socially.’ According to Mr Smith, universities teach people the critical skills needed to understand the overall complexity of the changes taking place. This is necessary not only so students can attain personal success, but also so they can help solve tough problems. ‘The University of London is proud that it is helping to develop talents all over the world,’ Mr Smith continued. ‘The University of London’s international programme now has over 51,000 students, and over 800 of them study here in Russia. I hope you continue being part of our international family.’

The London School of Economics sets high learning standards, and ICEF students have proven that they can meet these standards, LSE Pro-Director Paul Kelly says. ‘Students’ success is a sign of the robust success of the joint programme between LSE and the Higher School of Economics,’ he told graduates. ‘You are lucky to have gotten such an education, and I call on you to use this luck to better yourselves, your families, your country, and your friends. Tell people about LSE and ICEF when you have the chance. And if you get rich, don’t be shy and support students and universities.’

Studying at ICEF can be compared to an initial investment project, when a student invests their time, efforts, and talents into developing their own human capital, according to Sergey Dubinin. ‘I’m certain that here at ICEF you’ve gotten not only knowledge, but also enjoyment out of what you’ve done. And I want to wish you future happiness in your work. This will help you in everything, including your family life,’ he said.

The Russian Education Locomotive

At the anniversary gala, many speakers drew attention to ICEF’s particular role in HSE’s overall development and in the development of Russian education as a whole.

‘We are not only celebrating a successful project by Sergey Yakovlev, Oleg Zamkov, and their acquaintances,’ HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov added. ‘We are celebrating the successes that Russia achieved in the 1990s. There weren’t a lot, but ICEF reminds us how much can be done when you’re free. This was the first large-scale attempt to integrate Russian education into global education and integrate it honestly and uncompromisingly without imitating anything. ICEF has served as a “locomotive” for the transformation of all higher education in Russia.’

HSE Academic Supervisor Evgeny Yasin called ICEF an ‘internal benchmark that HSE strives to equal.’ ‘I feel that ICEF students are approaching the level of academic preparation seen at the world’s best universities,’ he added. HSE Vice Rector Ivan Prostakov agreed with this: ‘ICEF is one of the examples created at HSE where you can find a quality of programmes, instructors, and diplomas in no way inferior to international counterparts.’

This was the first large-scale attempt to integrate Russian education into global education…

According to HSE Vice Rector Vadim Radaev, many of the things that now seem like the norm, things that are natural for HSE, were proposed and tried out right at ICEF. An example is the very idea of institutional partnership and dual-degree programmes with foreign universities. This also concerns instruction that takes place in English and even the creation of a board of trustees. ‘The university now has a board of trustees and other boards, but they came later. In addition, ICEF was the first to start hiring specialists from the international job market 20 years ago, and now the same is done in all faculties.’

Also at the ceremony were alumni from previous years who have already built successful careers. One example is Artem Arkhipov, the head of macroeconomic analysis and research at UniCredit Bank and a 2002 ICEF graduate. ‘I know for certain that it was all worth it,’ he said. ‘Over the years I have come across many ICEF graduates from other years. They’re all different people, but I see one common characteristic in all of them. When you present them with a problem, they say, “even if I don’t know how to solve it, I’ll figure it out.” And I myself understand clearly that if there’s a problem, I’ll be able to handle it and that my background will be enough to do that. The ability to sort out a problem and find a solution – that’s what this school teaches you.’

Below, 2017 ICEF graduates talk about their time in the programme.

Roman Skoromny, bachelor’s graduate

I’ve loved maths since I was in elementary school, and I looked for ways to apply it to real life. That’s why I went to a school that gave me this opportunity. I knew I would go here since the 9th grade, ever since I came to open house here and saw how much I liked it. At first ICEF’s overall academic pace seemed new to me. I needed time to adjust, but I am very pleased with how everything turned out. I’m getting my undergraduate diploma from ICEF today, and in a few days I’m headed to Oxford for the mathematical finance master’s programme.

Ekaterina Lopareva, master’s graduate

I got both my bachelor’s and my master’s from ICEF. I made the decision to study in the master’s programme here in order to supplement my knowledge, and it’s really helped me in my work. I work at a commercial bank, and I work with my department on liquidity planning. Before joining ICEF I spoke with a lot of other graduates, and the opportunity to receive a second diploma from such a well-known university like LSE was really important. To anyone hoping to go to ICEF I would recommend being prepared to really concentrate on your students. Time management will really help you out as well, and being able to analyse large amounts of information must become a habit. If you add to that some hard work starting your very first year, everything after that will be easier. But overall, all of the hard work is worth it. I’m even thinking about post-graduate school.

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