Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, founded in 1899, is one of the largest and oldest technical universities in Russia. We have interviewed Maria Vrublevskaya, Head of International Marketing and Recruitment Center at SPbPU, about admission of international students.
– How many international students are currently enrolled at SPbPU?
– We had over 4500 international students (over 15% of the total student cohort) at the beginning of 2016. On this count, we are the leading technical university in Russia.
– Which countries do most of your students come from?
– For main programmes (Bachelor and Master programmes in English and Russian), the majority of students, around 70%, come from China, Vietnam and other Asia Pacific countries. There are also many students from Africa (13%) and Middle East (11%). Europe and South America each account for roughly 3% of students. We have seen recently numerous applications from Syria, Columbia, Iraq and Iran. We have also been active in the education market of India and Sri Lanka, so we are expecting an influx of students from that region.
– What about your short programmes?
– Over 60% of students in our academic mobility programmes and summer camps come from Europe (Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and, naturally, Finland – they are our neighbors). There are also kids from the United Kingdom, China, India and Brazil. We have seen a spike in interest in our summer schools in the US, and currently 10% of all applications we receive for short programmes come from Americans. We emphasize communications with partner universities from the most represented countries.
– Can your students participate in student exchange programmes?
– Certainly, and this is a magnet for them. We have 293 exchange agreements, so students have a wide array of universities to study at, usually, for a semester. Students from Latin America often prefer partner institutions in Spain for language reasons.
– Please name the most popular disciplines of international students.
– Energy, Civil and Socially Sustainable Construction (it is a hot subject in Europe now), IT, Business and Management lead by the number of applications. Engineering is preferred by applicants from Asia Pacific and Middle East, while Latin American students opt for Business and Management. Natural sciences are particularly popular with Indian, Iranian, Pakistani and Egyptian applicants.
– Does the School offer grants to gifted international students?
– In 2015/2016, we dispensed grants from the Ministry of Education (they fully covered 2-year tuition fees for Master programmes) as well as own scholarships for gifted Masters and Bachelors. Those who passed their first exams with flying colors and applied for scholarships were exempted from tuition fees for the second semester.
– Please elaborate on SPbPU Preparatory Department.
– Founded in 1965, it is very popular. Many international come here to study Russian and certain core disciplines. Applications to the Preparatory Department are usually accepted between March 1 and late September, programmes differ in duration and start dates.
Programmes end with exams, students can take a test of Russian as a foreign language (TORFL) and get a certificate and then apply to any university, there are no limitations here. However, many choose to stay at SPbPU – there is comfort in knowing the campus, infrastructure and faculty...so the majority apply for Bachelor- and Master-level programmes in Russian.
– What are the other advantages of SPbPU (besides the Preparatory Dept.)?
– SPbPU’s big advantage is its massive consolidated campus, where all academic buildings and dormitories are conveniently located. It also features various sports buildings – our students engage in cycling, ice hockey and even construct racing cars. The campus location is very convenient, close to a subway station.
– What kind of onboarding do foreigners coming to Russia for studies get?
– International Office staff will support applicants from the earliest stage as they help with visas, provide detailed information about the university, explain which documents to prepare, how to get to the university etc.
We also have a tutoring service – our students meet foreigners and chaperon them at first. They explain how life in Russia works, which transport to use, where the closest stores and cafes are, etc. By the way, we have a Chinese canteen on the campus and it’s very popular with students. Not surprising, given that we have many students from China.
– Can students work at the university?
– Unfortunately, opportunities are limited now (and these are mostly one-off assignments), but we are trying to develop this area. For example, some students have worked in the Marketing Department, as couriers or in the canteen. Some kids find jobs on their own – for instance, in language schools.
– How are you going to become more international?
– We participate in education exhibitions as they command growing interest. We are working on the quality of our programmes and try to invite more international faculty. Many come for a couple of weeks and read short courses. We are also converting all our English-language courses into dual diploma programmes (which award a SPbPU diploma together with a European/Chinese one). Currently we offer 25 Bachelor and Master dual diploma programmes.
– How do you plan to recruit new international students?
– We collaborate with agencies, take part in education exhibitions and organize tours in universities, distribute printed materials, do online marketing and direct mailing, we are active in social media. We want to step up our overseas activities – this year we have had a successful project with the Embassy of India. Our Representative Office in Shanghai, opened in spring 2016, is already bearing fruit.
We shall also try a new way of attracting international students, via webinars where we shall talk about admission and other topics of interest. We have seen from experience that despite the abundance of information on the website, applicants still have questions and prefer personal communications. We are planning to involve our Admissions Office staff in these webinars – they are responsible for invitations, contracts and the whole admission process, so they know all the details. We think it will be very useful for prospective students.