The HSE Public Policy Department and the University of Bologna are launching a double degree master’s programme in Political Analysis and Public Policy. The programme focuses on political analysis and its application in preparing policy recommendations for decision makers in diverse fields. Nina Belyaeva, Head of the HSE Department of Public Policy gave an interview to the HSE news service about future challenges and her hopes and expectations for the programme.
― In our last previous when we discussed the winter school on The European Convention on Human Rights: The Principle of Non-discrimination, you mentioned that there was an agreement in the pipeline about a double degree, and now, at last it has been finalised...
― Yes, getting the agreement with Italy has been a very long journey, and all aspects of it are important. Overcoming the initial problems has made us stronger. We were up against combining two education systems based on different principles, different ways of evaluating the workload, duration and complexity of the academic year, of registering results. Anyone setting up a double degree programme is going to have to deal with issues of this kind. These differences are a problem for the actual running of the programme too. Our education is extremely demanding, and our attitude to quality is much stricter. We have to align the systems, and construct them so conditions are the same for everyone, and foreign students feel they are team-mates with our students. We’ve spent an enormous amount of time dealing with this. We introduced time limits, admissions and releases, and a great deal else which needed to be foreseen at the start. One of the hitches was that in Bologna the academic year starts in October but students are enrolled in November. There is no selection process so many people who are late or change their minds, are disappointed realising that the course doesn’t suit them, drop out in the first term. Whereas we have to enrol students in August otherwise they won’t be acknowledged as ours. We can’t get around this - it’s a legal matter. We are trying to find ways to get over this hurdle and will have an additional Call for Applications in June-July for those who haven’t even started at Bologna University, but are keen to study there, and we will choose students from among them, hoping that they will enrol and won’t drop out, that they’ll study there for a year and then come and cope with the workload for a year at HSE.
― Who kind of specialists will graduates of this programme be? What kind of career will they be looking at?
― The main area of employment for our graduates is in research centres, human-rights organisations, and political think-tanks. We can overcome the barriers in the field of rights infringements through analysis. We need experts who can write analytical texts, help to write policy papers, find solutions for government bodies. The demand for protecting rights is growing in businesses and in government departments. We have this stereotypical view that human rights is just for activists but in fact, businesses also need to understand rights. They need to know whose rights we are talking about, how they are affected and who defends them and how.
There are a lot of civil-society organisations now that need people who understand how the interests of society, government, business and local community join up. We have an impressive set of courses on conflict resolution and negotiations. Business needs consulting and analysts. Our graduates work on company strategy management to help businesses improve decision making. They also work in global and local think-tanks, business associations and large corporations.
More and more of our graduates are working in national, regional and international government agencies. The demand for specialists in management spheres with defined subject fields is growing. Many of our graduates find jobs in universities and academic institutions. We support graduates who want to do further study or start a PhD.
― How will the course be organised? Will part of it involve study in Italy?
― In the first year students will be at their home university and in the second they will go to their host university abroad. Students love travelling and we encourage that. It’s an international exchange, learning how to try different things, but when it comes to the degree, we want to be sure that students will at least fulfil the minimum requirements of the courses.
When it comes down to it there will be five people from our side and five from theirs. Because of the high wastage we intend to select ten people and have a contest. If someone doesn’t get onto the Master’s, they can still join the exchange programme.
The course will be taught mainly in English and we need to ascertain that the foreign students know it well enough. They will have to present their TOEFL results or a motivation letter, a certificate of English or a sample of writing which shows they can write analytically in correct English. The main thing is that both sides should understand the risks...In the past, double degree agreements were rather different - there weren’t any obligatory requirements. Now we have mutual responsibilities, we have included an interim joint stage to test knowledge. We are going to invite our colleagues from Bologna to be on the exam commission, for the final assessment as well. We are planning to let students do final oral exams on Skype in the future. We hope that our experiment will help the HSE to develop this model for agreements where both sides have obligations at all stages, in enrolment, support, curating the course, etc. Bologna University has students from all over the world and we hope that among them are some who want to get a Russian academic qualification.
Foreigners want to work in Russia. Some of them are romantics who have fallen in love with Russian culture. Russia intrigues them with its problems, and many come here to study its independent civil-society organisations and get practical experience working with them. Volunteering is well developed in Italy and part of the culture. If Italians see an opportunity to go into social work, they won’t let it pass - it is prestigious and could help their career.
There is definitely a demand and our job is to provide the logistics, keep up the level of interest and find a format where we value each other not just for the titbits. A double degree is an institutional framework for cooperation between organisations, which recognises the benefit of the other’s experience. We see an enormous advantage in institutional culture, how much academic culture predominates the administrative side. We hope that we also will put academic interest first. They respect our culture of giving time to students, our culture of integration. We are attracted to the academic culture of discussions, research, flexibility, for students to be able to change their academic path. We hope our programmes will increase and create a single culture, this is the idea of global learning. It took us five years to make this agreement and it is a good example of in-depth integration.
Ekaterina Solovova, specially for the HSE news service