A Strong Profile in IT and Humanities

The HSE Look talked to Anna Blyakhman, Deputy Director of HSE Nizhny Novgorod and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Management, about the educational programmes offered at the campus and its international students.
Does HSE Nizhny Novgorod have any special focus in terms of its programmes?
Regarding higher education programmes (BA, MA and PhD), obviously, we have ‘core’ topics at HSE, (i.e., economics, management and law). But one of our defining features is a strong education in all fields of IT and computer science.
Nizhny Novgorod is the birthplace of business informatics programmes at HSE. We’ve enrolled the first students in business informatics back in 2004, and the curriculum and educational standard for licensing the programme was largely developed by Nikolay Petrukhin, Professor of the Faculty of Informatics, Mathematics and Computer Science and Academic Supervisor of HSE Nizhny Novgorod, by the former director of the campus Oleg Kozyrev, and by Valery Kalyagin, Head of the Laboratory of Algorithms and Technologies for Network Analysis, Professor and Head of Department of Applied Mathematics and Informatics.
Applied mathematics and informatics, software engineering, as well as mathematical physics, are some of the strongest parts of our educational and research portfolio. It just so happens that the Faculty of Humanities at HSE Nizhny Novgorod developed initially as a part of our IT focus –through an MA programme in computer linguistics. Later, it encompassed a wide range of educational programmes, such as fundamental linguistics, philology, political linguistics, and even a PhD programme in language theory and foreign literature. It’s rather unorthodox for the Faculty of Humanities to develop within the Faculty of Computer Science, but it has created unique opportunities for the natural development of multidisciplinary cooperation in teaching and research.
What is the role of international partnerships in regards to the educational programmes offered at the campus?
We are interested in providing meaningful opportunities for international mobility to our students, so that this experience becomes an integral part of their educational life at HSE, rather than be a more or less well-matched range of courses taken at a partner university. For example, we are planning to launch an MA in fundamental mathematics together with two universities in Germany and the Czech Republic. We are currently hammering out the details with our Italian colleagues about academic mobility and internship placements for the lean management study track, which is still in the works. Moreover, we find programme-specific agreements to be especially useful for this, and we are doing our best to develop new programmes in close cooperation with our international partners from the very beginning.
Could you tell us more about one of the current double-degree programmes?
One of the successful examples is an MA programme in Global Business, which has been offered by HSE since 2013 in conjunction with Johannes Kepler University Linz (Austria) and University of Bergamo (Italy). During the first year, students from each university - around 30 in total - all study together, taking courses and participating in internships in each of the three countries. The second year is spent at a home university and is mostly devoted to writing a thesis and specialized courses that are of interest to students.
The opportunity to study, do projects together and get familiar with the work of the companies in Russia, Austria and Italy during the first year provides students a unique experience of multicultural environment and allows them to better understand the business environment of different countries, thus giving them an advantage in successfully navigating the international job market. Some of our alumni work abroad or at Russian branches of international companies, some come back and are glad to meet with current students and work closely with our Career Centre in helping them to find internships or job opportunities. All in all, they invariably say that the knowledge and practical intercultural experience they gained while taking part in the programme provided them with a practical advantage in their professional lives.
How many international students are at HSE Nizhny Novgorod?
At the moment we have over 120 full-degree international students. Most of them come from post-Soviet countries and Mongolia. Occasionally, we get students from further away. For instance, one of our MA students in business informatics is from Puerto Rico. Speaking about our exchange students, there are around 30 of them and they mostly come from our partner universities in the USA, France, Belgium, Germany and Italy.
In terms of the overall number of students at HSE Nizhny Novgorod, over 150 international learners make up for 7% of the overall student body, and their presence influences campus life in many ways, both inside and outside the classroom. Concerning university life, our local students are very actively engaged in cultural events and mixers, which help international students become a part of our community faster, as well as participate in language clubs and a buddy system.
Speaking about the classroom side of things, obviously, a multicultural classroom is a challenge, but its benefits are immense. Our professors are encouraged to look for innovative approaches to teaching, and we are developing the number of courses and study tracks offered in English, so as to facilitate academic exchanges.
Are there any educational projects in which the campus is actively engaged in the region?
In terms of education, we play quite a significant role in facilitating the school-to-university transition. We work with school teachers and administrators, as well as pupils and their parents directly.
Most importantly, HSE Nizhny Novgorod is actively engaged in making career and vocational guidance available to minors and their parents. With this in mind, we organize events and workshops both at schools and the university itself. In close relation to that, we also hold webinars on preparing for the Unified State Exam, including a stress management course for students and their parents.
Another thing worth mentioning is the Smart Classroom project, which was launched by HSE five years ago. We’ve selected two typical schools in the city and, through partnership with them, we got actively engaged into the 10th and 11th-grade curricula. I think it’s safe to say that there have been positive changes in the performance of students and the schools as a whole.
Last but not least, we have several ‘evening schools’, which are geared towards talented students. For example, the one in mathematics is run by Dmitry Kuznetsov, head of the IT and Math School for pre-university education. His students have won intellectual Olympiads in mathematics many times, thus gaining more opportunities to enrol in highly competitive university programmes.
We see this involvement in the campus and educational life of Nizhny Novgorod as an integral part of our mission as a university. Moreover, it is very important for us to contribute to the region’s development through providing our resources to secondary education in this way.

Read more in The HSE Look July 2018 issue