An international Summer school organized by the HSE Laboratory for Entrepreneurship Research and the Netherlands Institute for Knowledge Intensive Entrepreneurship (NIKOS) at the University of Twente (Enschede), the Netherlands, was held this August. Alexander Chepurenko, Academic Supervisor of the Laboratory and Dean of the HSE Faculty of Sociology, told us about this school.
The school had two phases: first, the Dutch team hosted an event, while the second part took place in a hotel near Moscow. The joint organizing team was headed from the University of Twente by Professor Aard Groen, Director of NIKOS, and from the HSE by Alexander Chepurenko, Academic Supervisor of the Laboratory for Entrepreneurship Research and Dean of the HSE Faculty of Sociology.
— Dr. Chepurenko, who were the participants of this school? What was the contents of their work as part of the school?
— The organizers selected ten Russian and ten Dutch undergraduate and postgraduate students who had carried out small group research projects during the winter and the spring, and their results (texts and presentations in English) became the subject of discussion at the summer school. In addition to this, both universities prepared a short, yet intensive programme of lectures, master classes and discussions on various aspects of theory and practice of entrepreneurship, development of the national innovative infrastructure of both countries, corporate governance, business statistics and entrepreneurship…
— What was the main idea behind this summer school?
— Summer schools have become an important and essential part of our laboratory’s work. They are where we introduce our students to modern research in entrepreneurship, and primarily with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor project, where the HSE has been participating since 2006. But this, the third summer school on entrepreneurship, involved something new. The two previous ones (in 2009 and 2010) were purely national, we selected students only from Russian universities, but each time also attracted a prominent international experts as a lecturer and a ‘fresh mind’ – to comment on the student presentations, and to assist participants in terms of theory and research methods. This year, however, we have taken a new step: together with our colleagues from Twente we created a joint organizing committee which prepared an interesting and mutually complementary programme. From their part it included a lot of case studies, as well as lectures on business organization and financing. Our section involved comparative analysis of entrepreneurial practices in both countries, the specifics of corporate governance in Russia, international standards of entrepreneurial statistics and their applicability in research practices on both national and international levels, as well as social entrepreneurship (still a rare thing in our country). The comparative analysis of entrepreneurship practices in both countries was based on Global Entrepreneurship Monitor data as well as other sources.
In addition to this, the students had to present their research projects on various aspects of entrepreneurship in the participant countries of the summer school, as well as carrying out another team project in mixed Russian-Dutch groups. This means that there was a lot of teamworking, which successfully supplemented the standard educational procedures and promoted internationalization of the students’ research competencies. One other important and useful element of the programme also was the necessity of communicating on professional topics in English. And last, bu not least, working with representatives of another academic culture gave both students and teachers an opportunity for comparison.
— And what did you learn from this comparison?
— We understood that the Dutch students in general were much better at working with paper material, they can carry out precise analysis better. At the same time, one of the strengths of our students is their skills of empirical analysis for solving specific tasks (although they sometimes have problems with interpreting the results). We also saw – on the basis of feedback forms from the aprticipants – that some of our lecturers were very highly regarded (for example, Maxim Bratersky and Alexander Settles), in terms of both their level of teaching skill and knowledge of their subject. Generally, according to the feedback from the students of both universities, the school exceeded their expectations: over a short period of time they got to look at many new things, learnt much about data analysis and team project work in international groups as well as having the opportunity to meet and make friends with each other and see some interesting places in Amsterdam and Moscow. The fireworks over the Moscow River in the end of the working programme really chimed with the students’ mood.
— Did you encounter any problems when organizing and holding this event?
— Firstly, there was, of course, the visa problem (an inconvenient process for both sides). And the main issue here is that it becomes impossible to replace any of the participants if someone is unavailable (although we had an excellent pool of potential participants). Secondly, it was very difficult to find adequate sources of financing and methods of organizing a summer school with international participation under the current Russian laws in state purchasing. Only special efforts from the Laboratory for Entrepreneurship Research staff, particularly Olga Obraztsova, Head of the Laboratory, Maria Gabelko, her Deputy, as well as our graduate Ekaterina Murzacheva, and support from some of the HSE’s administrative departments (particularly the Office for International Cooperation and especially Elena Artyukhova) allowed to finally overcome these hurdles.
— So, what happens next?
— The organizers themselves have gained a huge amount of experience from running this project (at the beginning both we and our Dutch colleagues viewed the organizing of this school as a step into the unknown). We have analyzed the feedback, as well as our own impressions, and are quite sure that next year we will be capable of organizing an international school in a wider form – with the participation of other European partner universities. The idea is to make the school truly European and open, and on this basis to start gradually building a double degree European-level master’s programme in entrepreneurship studies.
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