Higher School of Economics is one of the most advanced Russian universities, it is located in Moscow. Vice-Rector Ivan Valeryevich Prostakov tells us about HSE's programmes for international students.
– Ivan Valeryevich, how many international students are there at the university right now?
– We started admitting international students five years ago, and since than their number has been steadily growing. In the last two years it increased by 30-40 per cent. Today there are about 1700 international students at the university. We plan to increase their number to 3500 by 2020, or to 12 per cent of the overall number of students. The geography has also expanded: in 2014 there were students from 55 countries, and now there are students from 62 countries. More international students apply for non-degree programmes. Their number has more than doubled to 700.
– What countries do students come from?
– We have always had many students from the Commonwealth of Independent Countries. Today many people come from Germany, Austria, Italy, the Baltic states. The flows from China, Vietnam and Indonesia are growing. Students from Europe and the USA participate in exchange programmes. In general, our university keeps doors open for students from any country.
– What programmes do international students choose?
– The most popular programmes are Economics, Management, Programming and Computer Sciences. The most in-demand Master programmes in English are Finances and Economics, followed with Political Analysis, Population and Development Studies, Computer Programmes, Systems Engineering, and International Business.
– Is there an opportunity for international students to study for free?
– At present, over half of our international students does not pay tuition fees. These are mainly students from the CIS countries, but some students from the Western countries also fall into this category. In general, 400 Bachelor students and 300 Master students get funding for their education from the Russian government.
– Does HSE offer any grants for talented international students?
– Yes, we do. About 30 scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit. We understand that international students face more difficulties during their studies than the Russian ones and want to stimulate the most hard-working and talented students.
– What do you do to attract international students?
– We develop programmes in English. Today our university is the leader among the Russian universities by the number of English-taught programmes. We have 23 programmes in English, two Bachelor’s and twenty one Master’s programmes. We constantly improve our website, conduct Olympiads, organize HSE’s Days in Russia as well as abroad. We offer interesting short-term courses and organize summer schools. We enlarge contacts with foreign universities and develop joint courses. For example, recently we have launched an English-taught Master’s programme “International Relations in Eurasia” together with the University of Kent and the University College London. It attracted many students from the UK, the USA, Taiwan, Germany, Poland, France and other countries.
– We have been conducting summer schools for a long time, and they are getting more and more popular. Since 2014 the number of students at summer courses has tripled. Many courses are held every year. For example, this year we organized the 6th International Russian-Chinese Summer school with 40 participants, mostly from China, but also from Italy and Brazil. In 2014 we launched an interesting project of Summer University. The studies at the Summer University last for 1-2 months, compared to 1-2 weeks at summer schools. After graduation students get credits that are counted by their respective universities. So, you see that we have a wide range of short-term courses.
– Yes, that is true. And what short-term courses are the most popular?
– International students are interested in History, Cultural Studies, Computer Sciences, Mathematics, and Sociology. They also express motivation to learn Russian, to know more about the Russian culture and Russia’s relations with other countries. Last year we organized more than 30 summer schools and winter courses. Registration for summer courses starts in April and ends in the beginning of September, it depends on the course dates. Registration for winter courses 2016/2017 has just started on October, 20.
– Is there a preparatory department for international students?
– Yes, there is. Last year 57 persons studied Preparatory Bachelor’s programmes, and 22 persons studied Preparatory Master’s programmes. Registration for academic year 2016/2017 is still open. At the prep courses you can study Russian language, culture and geography, and a wide range of disciplines, from Mathematics and Informatics to Society Studies and English language. You can submit your application online.
– Does HSE offer courses of Russian language?
– Yes, there are language courses at different levels. You can study Russian at prep courses or at the Summer University. There is also the opportunity to improve Russian language proficiency in a concrete field, as some language courses are tailored to a particular discipline of study.
– Since 2013 HSE has been conducting the International Youth Olympiad. The number of participants has grown from 1,000 to 5,000 from 21 countries. The pupils of grade 8 to 12 and all people younger than 30 are eligible to take part in the Olympiad. You can pre-register online or come right to the place of competition and register on-site. The winners of the Olympiad may get privileges in admission and funding for their education. There is also an Olympiad for students who want to apply to Master’s programmes. About 700 persons, mostly from the CIS countries, take part in it every year. The winners have possibility to study for free or get a maximum score of 100 for a main subject.
– How do you support international students that come to study at the university?
– We have a special support department and a Buddy Club of volunteers. Volunteers help international students, organize various events, conduct city tours. There is a Center of psychological counseling which provides free consultation for students. We understand that it is very difficult to adapt to a new environment, and that sometimes you need to see specialists. International students may also get advice from the HSE Career Development Center that cooperates with Russian and international companies. Every year we update the handbook with useful information for international students providing advice on all aspects of their life in Russia: visa, residence, insurance and so on.
– What are the advantages of HSE’s education, in your opinion?
– First of all, we try to make education comfortable, diversified and conforming to the highest international standards. There are many educational programmes, plus 14 online courses in English, and 80 exchange programmes with universities from 26 countries. The library has a rich collection of printed books and electronic resources. Our students have access to more than 600 thousand printed editions in Russian and English languages and more than 18 thousand periodicals in English. We support international students in their studies, providing English translation in all aspects of education. There is a system of online registration for courses, you can choose the course or download materials on the website. There is an electronic schedule planner that helps every student to make up its personal schedule using a PC or a smartphone application.
– Can you describe living conditions for international students?
– The university residences are located in different districts of Moscow, but all of them are within a walking distance from metro stations, so it is easy to get around the city. Students get a social card that gives discounts on transport in Moscow. All the residences are equipped with Wi-Fi, common kitchens with all necessary housewares, leisure rooms, and gyms. Students live in double and triple rooms at the rate of approximately 20$ per month.
– What advice would you give to students that consider applying to HSE?
– Probably, it is not the most original advice, but nevertheless, I would say that first of all you have to read carefully the information on the university’s website. Actually, there is full information in the special section for international applicants, including programme descriptions, deadlines for submitting documents, and so on. After we receive an online application, we contact every applicant and give him or her a detailed information on what to do next.