TSU: a Classical University in Siberia’s Student Capital

05 October 2017 © TSU

National Research Tomsk State University has a long history. In 2018, it will mark the 140th anniversary of its foundation. TSU International Office Director Vadim Senko tells what the University can offer international prospective students today.

– How many international students study at the University?

– As of now we have some 2,000 international students. This is a rough estimate because not all the young people admitted to the University this year have arrived yet. We enrolled more than 800 international students for preparatory courses and basic training during 2017 intake. Also, we have international students from partner universities coming to TSU on exchange programmes for a semester or two. We try not to take more students than is required for providing quality training.

– What are the top origin countries for international students at TSU?

– We have students from 48 countries. A majority are from Kazakhstan due to the latter’s proximity; they make up more than 50 percent of the international students’ body. We have many students from other CIS countries as well as from China. Students from Latin America (Ecuador, Salvador, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela) came to TSU for the first time this year; they will study geology. This major is popular with Mongolian prospective students who have excellent basic training. TSU maintains strong ties with European universities; it has regular philology exchange programmes with Italian partners. Incidentally, many Chinese students are interested in this field of study. TSU has a top-notch philology department.

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– What other fields of study are popular with foreigners?

– Aside from Russian and linguistics, foreigners are willing to take management, both as quota or contract students. Training is provided by the Institute of Economics and Management, established as a result of a merger between International Department of Management, Faculty of Economics and Higher School of Business. Students from the Middle East, Pakistan and India are interested in IT programmes. We launched a bachelor’s programme in IT in English this year.

– Do you have many English-taught programmes?

– We have 11 such programmes in all: two bachelor’s and nine master’s programmes (one of them is a double degree programme with Maastricht University). At present, three English-taught programmes are available: Informatics, Linguistics (bachelor’s degree) and Psychology (double degree programme with Goldsmiths, University of London). The other programmes are in the pipeline.

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– Which countries’ students would you like to host in the future?

– Owing to the university location, we welcome students from southeast Asia. We try to enlist more students from Vietnam. TSU has been developing good relations with Laos. Laotian applicants’ potential is no worse than their Vietnamese counterparts’. As a rule they are children of those who received education in the Soviet Union. They include both contract and quota students. Laotians show a great interest in master’s programmes because their universities mostly provide bachelor’s degree training. Indonesia is yet another country TSU views as promising. Indonesians take an interest in Russia, learn the Russian languages, host our teachers and come to study in Russia. We have a quota for Indonesians but they are also willing to study under contract as tuition fees in Russia are lower than in Australia where many Indonesians study.

– What do you do to attract international prospective students?

– We work on improving the quality of key education programmes and develop English-taught courses. Our university is large, so taking care of all fields at once is surely not possible. We identify priorities and work on them. They are biology, linguistics, economics/management, international relations, chemistry (an English-taught programme will be available next year) and IT. We participate in education exhibitions in CIS (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan) as well as in China, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia several times a year. In all likelihood, we’ll take part in China Education Expo 2017 in late November. We also plan to present TSU at education exhibitions in Vietnam and Laos around that time.

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Please tell about the preparatory department for foreigners.

– Pre-university training starts on 1 October and ends on 30 June. A general Russian course is taught until mid-January when students have to choose between humanities and engineering. We understand that beside teaching general Russian language skills we have to prepare students for basic programme studies. To enrol at the preparatory department, prospective students are required to submit an application to the International Relations Office int.admissions@mail.tsu.ru, send copies of their passport and education certificates, sign the contract and make a pre-payment. Tuition fee is 160,000 rubles ($2,700) a year.

– Do you hold summer/winter schools?

– Yes, we have many short programmes offered both in Russian and English. Running Russian language schools is an established practice. Sometimes we prepare bespoke courses for a group of students from partner university. For example, we have a Russian language winter school for students of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. It’s not just the programme that appeals to students, it’s also a touch of exotic: Singapore does not experience winter while we have snow here; they see sights and learn about Russian culture. Every year, we run an intensive Russian language school, one of the most popular short programmes. After completing it, many students come to TSU to take basic courses.

TSU has an interesting summer school on climate change focused on natural conditions in highland and artic areas, landscape patterns and soil study, permafrost  and biota (TSU Research Station in Altai). Siberia is believed to influence the global climate, so foreigners are willing to come for this school. They are mostly master’s students and postgraduates engaging in unique field research. TSU prides itself on its climate school.

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Other English-taught short programmes include The Heritage of Eurasia: Past, Present and Future (arts and culture in Siberia), International Siberian School, Cross-cultural Business Communication and Management in Siberia, Cross-cultural Communication in Interpreting and Translation, Summer IT School and Mesozoic and Cenozoic paleobiogeocenoses of the Northern hemisphere. Application for summer school begins from February; winter school application opens in September.

– What olympiads for foreigners does your university have?

– TSU participates in onsite Open Tomsk Region Inter-University Olympiad for Russians and prospective students from former Soviet Republics. The points scored at the Olympiad are counted in as entrance (exams) points.

– Could you tell about international students’ living conditions?

– They’re excellent! Arrivals are accommodated at the new dormitory Parus and provided with the essentials including bedlinen, mattresses, blankets, pillows etc. Dormitory kitchens are equipped with electric stoves and refrigerators, the laundry is well-stocked with washing machines and has a dryer room; a gym and study rooms are available. We have a dancing hall, a conference hall, a music lounge and exhibition space. Dormitory accommodation costs around 900 rubles ($15) per month. Friendly personnel of the Students Help Centre on the ground floor are always ready to provide assistance to international students.

Students have to comply with hotel tenancy regulations. The University has a large campus where all faculties are conveniently located. It is important that our university has a well-developed English language environment with English direction signs all over the campus.

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– How do students spend their free time?

– TSU offers language clubs, culinary master classes, sports, trips outside the city, sightseeing tours, discotheques and visits to theatres and museums... However, students enjoy national holidays best of all. They make all arrangements themselves and prepare a quite professional programme while the university gives them a hand. Russian students are actively involved in these events.

– What opportunities does TSU offer to students wishing to engage in sports?

– TSU has 30 sport clubs and groups engaging more than 1,000 students who represent the University at inter-university, city, regional and all-Russian competitions. The University boasts modern sport infrastructure sprawling on more than 8,500 square meters. TSU House of Sports has games, aerobics, shaping and fitness halls, a workout room and a chess club. It has on its premises a football stadium with secondary fields, a swimming pool, a training facility for divers, outdoor courts and racetracks. The University has two skiing centres and a sport and recreation centre for 150 guests on the bank of the river Ob. We have a scuba diving club, a chess club, tourist, mountaineering and speleology societies and a karate club. In 2016, TSU set up the Siberian Lions football team fully staffed with international students.

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– How do you support new international students?

– We have adaptation programmes for the newcomers; guidance is provided immediately upon their arrival and includes meetings at the airport or railway station, counselling, medical examination, city and campus tours and shopping. Buddy Club volunteers help foreigners cope with such basic matters as a visit to a doctor or a bank etc The students taking English-taught programmes are offered a semester-long Russian language adaptation course. There are several options to continue language studies: some faculties offer extra courses as part of their programmes; also, there are free spoken Russian clubs and extra courses with tuition fee depending on the number of classes and group size.

– What advice on TSU enrolment would you give to international prospective students? What should they pay attention to?

– Properly drawn documents are crucial. This would seem a routine answer but in actual fact we often have to redo translated documents. Sometimes, they bring documents with no translation attached, non-standard certificates or even fakes. Entering TSU with such documents is not possible; we have a tight control. TSU is a high-level university; we take all candidates seriously. We have to deal with visa problems now and then because foreigners do not always realise how strict our migration legislation is. So I advise prospective students to carefully study all instructions and requirements.

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– Why it is advantageous for international students to study at TSU?

– It is the oldest university in Siberia; it will mark the 140th anniversary of its founding date next year. TSU is a classical university offering nearly all fields of study. We have professional staff and opportunities to invite top scientists. By the way, the University has always been focused both on education and science. Our university is developing at a rapid pace, its world rankings are rising but there is room for improvement. Tomsk, the TSU host city, accommodates five universities and many students of different nationalities. A student from any country feels comfortably in our calm, safe and tolerant city.

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