HSE St. Petersburg: Finding a Special Focus

HSE has campuses in four cities, and HSE St. Petersburg opened five years after the main campus, in 1997. It has over 4200 students, over 300 faculty members and 100 researchers who focus on different frontline issues in economics, business, humanities, law and social sciences. In 2013 Sergey Kadochnikov,  Doctor of Sciences in Economic Theory and former Director of Graduate School of Economics and Management at Ural Federal Univeristy, joined HSE St. Petersburg as its Director. Prof. Kadochnikov told The HSE Look about what HSE St. Petersburg has achieved, about its international and domestic partners as well as its development plans.

— What makes HSE St. Petersburg special?

— Firstly, I think that we are a very internationally-focused campus, and we have great means to implement HSE’s commitment to global education thanks to St. Petersburg’s geographical position. Secondly, it is important for us to be a platform for dialogue and exchange of knowledge, and St. Petersburg is a good and easily accessible venue for holding conferences and workshops. Thirdly, while economics and social sciences are our strong points, I think that our competitive advantage is the focus on humanities – History, Asian Studies and Philology. Making humanities an integral part of business school education is the edge that could help present us in a unique way not only inside the country, but also internationally.  We are still exploring the ways to implement this idea – one of them would be to integrate Asian Studies into curriculum of the whole campus, but it’s still under discussion.

All in all, I believe that we’ve acquired an identity of our own with HSE and became visible and distinguishable to colleagues from other HSE campuses.

— Does it make sense to create an Asian Studies centre at the very Western border of Russia?

— It’s not a question of border, but rather of St. Petersburg’s legacy. As a former imperial capital it accumulated many cultural artefacts, as was common for other European capitals, so the museums, libraries and archives have vast collections for study of the culture of the Asian-Pacific region. If we speak about humanities in general, we have a very competitive and successful programme in philology. Boris Gasparov is an internationally renowned researcher, and he is the head of the Department of Literature and Linguistics, and each year we get very qualified and bright people applying to work there, one fifth of them are international colleagues.

— How do you develop the international dimension of education at HSE St. Petersburg?

— We invest a lot of resources into opening programmes which are taught fully in English. We offer six such programmes: 3 undergraduate ones– Management, Political Science and World Politics, and Sociology and Social Informatics; and 3 graduate ones - Comparative Politics of Eurasia, Applied and Interdisciplinary History 'Usable Pasts', and Finance. The majority of other programmes have around 50% of courses offered in English, which is enough to ensure variety of courses for incoming international mobility students. Our goal is to have not less than 20% of international students (full-degree and credit mobility) at HSE St. Petersburg in 5-7 years.

— Who are your degree-seeking international students at the moment and what is their background?

— In academic year 2016/17 we’ve had 230 international students out of 4200 total, so it’s around 6%. The majority of them come from neighboring countries, such as Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, and are interested in studying economics, business and finance, as well as civil law – the latter being popular among those who want to build a career in Russia. There are 20 students from ‘far abroad’, i.e. Germany, France, Hungary, Slovenia, the UK, and Ghana, and they choose mostly our MA programmes in Finance and in History. However, it should be noted that officially 2017/18 is the first year when we are accepting applications for BA programmes taught fully in English, so we expect the situation to change. Another potential for development is to attract students from China, because there is a lot of business activity between Russian and Chinese companies, and we see the market and the demand for such future graduates.

— What about internationalisation of the curriculum per se? It is not only the language of instruction that matters.

— We think that the key to equipping students with skills and knowledge that help them live in the increasingly globalized world is to make their learning experience a blend of international and local. Their portfolio as graduates should reflect an understanding of both the world-wide trends and a specific country or region, and we integrate such opportunities into the curriculum design. For example, as a student of Political Science focusing on the study of election campaings, you can choose among several recent campaings in different countries.

One year ago we came up with an idea of a larger scale that prepares students to be Global Citizens. The programme would be designed in a way which allows a student to spend one semester abroad studying, and another semester – doing an internship in a different macro-region under supervision of a partner university. We want to create a Global Economics and Innovation Policy consortium which can unite different universities, business, and research institutions, and it is still in the works, but we are currently discussing the agreement with National University of Singapore and University College of London.

— What are the priority research areas at St. Petersburg campus?

— At the moment we have four interdisciplinary clusters which we develop as Areas of Research Excellence. The first is City, Space and International Development, focusing on economics and urban studies, and among our international hires in this area I should name Jacques-Francois Thisse, Academic Advisor of the Centre for Market Studies and Spatial Economics. Our second cluster is Diversity and Comparative Social and Cultural Research, and our flagship here is the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research supervised by Ronald Inglehart. Digital Science and Humanitiesare the third priority area, focusing on applied IT and geoinformatics solutions for humanities, with Elena Koltsova heading the Laboratory for Internet Studies, and on sociology of education and science, with the laboratory led by Daniel Alexandrov. The fourth cluster is Sustainable Development of Business in the Global Economics, studying corporate innovations, logistics, economics of culture and youth studies. At the central level we are working on the infrastructure for collaborations, such as interdisciplinary seminars which can involve researchers from different laboratories and cluster, and looking for external funding for applied projects which can also explore important fundamental research issues.

— Who are your main partners?

— Regarding academic partners, we do our best to develop strategic partnerships and develop joint products together (e.g. double degree programmes). Currently we are working on a double degree with University College of London and exploring possibilities of partnership with two universities in China. Concerning Universities in the U.S., we are focusing on creating educational products in Russian Studies for top liberal arts colleges.

If we talk about non-academic partners, we have plenty of connections to sustain our Career Days, organise weekly lectures and workshops. In this case the involvement of partners into one of the educational programmes is rare, but we have some potential for a deeper collaboration with IT companies for the Big Data programme, and with the St. Petersburg City Council for public administration.

— How does HSE help shape the urban life of St. Petersburg?

First of all, we try to draw attention to the fact that St. Petersburg is not just a city of port or museums, but that universities are a large part of its intellectual and economic landscape. In 2014 we launched a conference “Education and Global Cities”, and we’ve been holding it each year, discussing challenges and opportunities for contemporary universities in a global world and in their cities and regions. Secondly, we play a large role in shaping the standards for school teachers through our Master’s programme in Education, and there’s quite a significant community of graduates already. Thirdly, we are promoting HSE as a venue for expert discussions and research, and we are quite successful – for example, companies and various governmental bodies commission applied research from us for over 80 mln rubles, and before 2013 we barely had 3 mln. 

— What are your plans and priorities for further development of the campus?

We are focusing on internationalisation, and specifically on getting international accreditation for our programmes in Business and Management. In order to fulfil the criteria not only our programmes, but also our campus services will need to meet the international standards, and it’s a good driver for the transformations which are needed to be able to compete with the best schools on the global market.

One of the steps in this direction is joining the QTEM Consortium of Business Schools which are focusing not only on developing leadership but on quantitative methods, and understanding how to analyse the large amounts of data which can be processed by the computers, for better data-driven decisions in economics and management. 

Read more articles in The HSE Look October 2017 issue