Organization and Implementation of Final State Certification at HSE, Questions & Answers
The Final State Certification (FSC) is an obligatory part of a higher education programme (HEP). It is organized for all final-year students in accordance with the Regulations for FSC of Students of Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s Programmes at National Research University Higher School of Economics (the Regulations).
What functions do State Certification Boards (SCB) have?
1. defining whether the level of a student’s training corresponds to the requirements of federal state educational standards for higher education (HE FSES);
2. reaching decisions on awarding a degree and a degree certificate of higher education with a respective qualification based on a student’s FSC results;
3. coming up with recommendations based on the results of a SCB’s work in order to improve student training and instruction.
Who determines the list of state examinations?
The specific list of mandatory state examinations, incorporated in the FSC for students of a given degree programme, shall be defined in the state educational standards of higher education.
What are the types of FSCs?
In accordance with paragraph 1.5 of the Regulations, the FSC may comprise one or several state examinations of the following types:
1. state examination:
- final examination in a given course;
- final interdisciplinary examination in a given field of study (concentration) (final interdisciplinary examination).
2. thesis defense.
Is a thesis defense obligatory?
In accordance with paragraph 1.7 of the Regulations, defense of a theses is a mandatory part of the FSC process.
Who defines the requirements for state examinations?
The programmes of state examinations and assessment criteria for theses are approved by academic councils of faculties and departments (or heads of departments of continuous education). The approved programmes are published on the websites of the appropriate faculties and departments.
What is the structure of a SCB?
Several local SCBs may be organized from their members for the purpose of holding the FSC for a particular degree programme, in accordance with the list of state examinations included in the FSC for students taking part in the programme in question:
- a local SCB for holding a final exam in an individual course;
- a local SCB for holding a final inter-disciplinary exam in a given field of study;
- a local SCB for thesis defenses.
Who are the SCB members?
An SCB is chaired by a chairperson, whose duty it is to coordinate and monitor the work of all local SCBs so as to ensure uniform standards with respect to graduation requirements. Furthermore, SCB chairpersons may also head one of local SCBs or take part in the work of any local SCB as a member. Deputy chairpersons of SCBs are approved by the HSE Academic Council upon the recommendation of respective faculties/departments. A faculty dean or department head can serve as a deputy chairperson of a SCB. Furthermore, First Vice Rectors and Vice Rectors of HSE who coordinate academic affairs are SCB deputy chairpersons by virtue of their positions.
Deputy chairpersons of SCBs in programmes implemented by continuing professional education departments are usually the heads of these departments. SCBs at the faculties and departments of HSE’s affiliated regional campuses must include a representative from the teaching staff in the respective field from HSE in Moscow.
What is the FSC procedure for students?
The FSC shall be held according to the curriculum of the degree programme in question and the academic calendar. Students receive programmes for final exams in specific subjects and final interdisciplinary exams in their chosen fields of study not later than half a year before the FSCs start. They are also provided with all necessary conditions for proper preparation for exams. Consultations are carried out when necessary.
State exams are passed and theses defended at SCB meetings in presence of at least two thirds of the total number of committee members. Resolutions of SCBs are adopted at closed meetings by a simple majority vote of the members present. In the event of a tie vote, the chairperson shall have the right to cast a vote.
How are the FSC results assessed?
Outcomes of any types of state examinations included in the FSC shall be assessed following a five-point and 10-point scale (i.e., Excellent (8,9 10), Good (6,7), Satisfactory (4,5) and Unsatisfactory (0,1,2,3)). FSC outcomes are announced on the day of exams after the SCB’s meeting minutes are fixed according to the established procedure, except for those outcomes of state examinations held in writing. In this case, it is possible to set the date for written assignments’ review (but not later than 3 days after the state examination) where results are announced.
Are all forms of thesis subject to second reader’s review?
In accordance with paragraph 2.7 of the Regulations, all graduation theses in degree programmes are subject to a second reader’s review.
What shall be the final examination in a given course?
The final examination is aimed at evaluating a student’s academic progress in a given course of their degree programme and covers all course content, as stipulated by the respective HE FSES.
A final examination in a given course can be done before graduation. Students who have finished the theoretical course in the given subject shall be admitted to the final examination in the course.
What is a final interdisciplinary examination in a given field of study (concentration)?
A final interdisciplinary examination is an examination with respect to profession-focused interdisciplinary problems. Overall, it should cover general requirements for final year students, as stipulated by the HE FSES for a given field of study. The final interdisciplinary examination helps to reveal and evaluate the graduating student’s theoretical base, which, in turn, is necessary for solving professional tasks and bearing competency for career development in the principal focus areas of their chosen profession.
Pre-examination consultations on subjects included in the final interdisciplinary examination programme shall be provided to students prior to the examination process.
The final interdisciplinary examination can be held orally or in writing.
When a state examination is held orally, students receive examination cards with assignments prepared in accordance with the approved state examination programme and featuring three or four questions. When a state examination is held in writing, students receive examination cards with written assignments.
While preparing their oral answers, students may make necessary notes on sheets of paper that are handed out by the local SCB secretary and stamped with the relevant faculty’s seal. The first student shall be entitled to at least 45 minutes to prepare their answer, and subsequent students shall answer in order of precedence.
While a student answers questions and thereafter, members of the local SCB, with the permission of the chairperson, may ask the student to provide clarifications or answer additional questions within the scope of the state examination programme.
After a student answers all of the questions and the chairperson declares that the examination is finished, members of the local SCB shall note the grades for each answer along with a preliminary grade in their records.
When an examination is held in writing, it shall last for up to four academic hours. Grades given to students are to be based on the results of examination assignments in accordance with the methodology approved in the examination programme.
After the examination is completed, the SCB shall discuss the answers or written assignments of each student (after checking it) at a closed meeting. Then, they shall give each student an agreed-upon final grade in accordance with the approved assessment criteria. If members of the SCB fail to reach a consensus regarding a student’s final grade based on the grades given individually by each member, the SCB must then approve a decision by a simple majority vote of its members attending the meeting, which requires the mandatory presence of the SCB chairperson or deputy chairperson. In the event of a tie vote, the chairperson shall be entitled to cast a vote.
Final examination grades for the final interdisciplinary examination on a five-point or 10-point scale shall be announced to the student, as well as recorded in the examination protocol and the student’s academic record. Furthermore, it shall be signed by the SCB members and the chairperson, along with a relevant protocol.
What is a final graduation paper (thesis)?
Theses are written in order to obtain:
- Bachelor’s degree – Bachelor’s thesis;
- Specialist degree – Specialist thesis;
- Master’s degree – Master’s thesis.
Requirements for thesis work are defined in the relevant HE FSES as part of the requirements to the graduate’s FSC and the degree assigned after his/her successful completion of final state examinations.
The topics of theses for students in continuing education programmes are to be developed by the continuing education departments’ teaching staff. Furthermore, they shall be approved by the appropriate faculty departments and confirmed by an HSE directive.
A student has the right to choose a thesis topic or suggest their own topic as long as they provide a rationale for its development.
During their thesis preparation, each university student, including those receiving continuous education, are assigned an academic supervisor and, if necessary, consultants. The time spent for thesis preparation shall be considered when planning the relevant curriculum. Furthermore, the time period is regulated by HE FSES in the respective field of study.
Bachelor’s theses may be based on a generalization of term papers written by the student, as well as be prepared for defense during the final period of their theoretical studies.
The supervisor shall check the thesis via the Antiplagiat system. If plagiarism is detected, HSE’s ‘Regulations for Disciplinary Actions for Violation of Academic Norms in Writing Academic Assignments’, which is Appendix 7 to the University’s Internal Regulations, shall be applied.
A thesis defense shall be carried out in accordance with the approved schedule of state examinations at an SCB meeting in the appropriate field of study.
Furthermore, a defense starts from a student’s report on the thesis topic. Up to 15 minutes shall be spent for the report on a Bachelor’s thesis, and up to 20 minutes on a Specialist or Master’s thesis.
A student should describe the key contents of their thesis freely without reading from any written text. Computer presentations, graphic material (tables, graphs) or other visual material may be used in the presentation to illustrate the key points of the study. After the presentation is completed, members of the SCB usually ask students some questions, both directly regarding the thesis topic, and in regards to related subjects. The student can use their thesis to answer the questions. To defend the thesis, a student shall receive an opinion and a review from their supervisor. After the discussion, the student shall present a closing speech. In their closing speech, the student shall answer the reviewer’s comments. After the closing speech, the thesis defense procedure is considered completed.
The SCB shall then make a decision on the student’s final grade, based on the grades given by:
- the academic supervisor, for the quality of the thesis and its adherence to related requirements;
- a second reader, for the thesis in general, taking into account its innovativeness, real-life applicability, and the reasonability of the conclusions and recommendations made by the author as a result of their research;
- members of the local SCB, for the contents of the thesis and its defense, including presentation, answers to questions, and the second reader’s comments.
The procedure for theses’ preparation and defense is regulated by the ‘Regulations for Term Papers and Theses Prepared by Students at the Bachelor’s, Specialist and Master’s level at HSE’.
Is it possible to change a thesis topic during one’s final year?
It’s possible to change or alter one’s thesis topic, but not later than a month before the scheduled defense data. Any change must be made on the basis of a written request from the student to the department head and approved by their supervisor.
Who can be admitted to the FSC?
Students, who have complied with their curriculum, or an individual curriculum in a given degree programme, without academic failure can be admitted to the FSC process. One exception may be a final examination in a given course (including a state examination done in English). Students, who have complied with their curriculum, or individual curriculum in a given degree programme, without academic failures and successfully passed all the preceding types of FSCs in the curriculum, shall be admitted to final interdisciplinary examinations.
Students, who have successfully passed all state examinations and submitted their theses accompanied by their academic supervisor’s opinion in due time, shall be admitted to take part in a thesis defense. In turn, students failing to meet deadlines and who have not been admitted to the thesis defense process shall be dismissed from HSE for failing to pass the FSC.
What is the due time to retake a final examination or defend a thesis for students who have failed the FSC owing to their absence from a state examination for a valid reason?
A student who has failed the FSC for a valid reason (valid reasons include an illness confirmed by a standard medical certificate submitted to the programme office on the date when studies commence, as well as other extraordinary reasons confirmed by documentary evidence) may retake the FSC no earlier than within three months and no later than within four months after their application, without being dismissed from the university.
What is the due time to retake final examinations or defend theses for students who have failed the FSC due to their absence from a state examination without a valid reason?
Students who fail to pass the FSC without a valid reason, including those who have received an unsatisfactory grade for the FSC, shall be dismissed from HSE. Such students shall be issued a certificate of study or a certificate for their period of study. Upon resuming studies at HSE, such students may retake the FSC, but no earlier than within a year and no later than within two years after the FSC, which the student had earlier failed.
Who decides on issuing a degree certificate with/without honours and on what basis?
A student shall be awarded a degree and a degree certificate of higher education if they successfully pass all the required types of examinations included in the FSC.
Based on a student’s positive FSC results, the SCB can make a decision on awarding a degree and a degree certificate of higher education with a respective qualification.
What are the conditions for issuing a degree certificate with honours?
In accordance with established federal rules, HSE graduates receive degrees with honours if the share of ‘Excellent’ grades specified in the diploma supplement, including grades based on FSC results, come to at least 75% of all grades, except for ‘Pass’ grades specified in the diploma supplement, and all grades received at FSC are ‘Excellent’. With respect to continuing education programmes, retaken grades are also accounted as part of the calculation.
Is it possible to retake an examination in order to increase one’s grade and get a degree with honours?
n accordance with the Regulations on the interim and ongoing assessment of HSE students’ academic performance, students may not retake examinations with positive grades. For HSE MIEM students enrolled before 2012, in accordance with the Regulations on studies administration at MIEM during its transition period, the question as to the possibility of retaking tests and examinations graded higher than ‘Unsatisfactory’, aimed at increasing the satisfactory grade, shall be dealt with by HSE MIEM’s Academic Council individually at the student’s request.
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