“Russia occupies the best starting position to promote higher education” according to Joe AvisonOctober 21, 2015
A seminar-workshop “International Master’s Programs: Development, Positioning and Recruitment of Students”, organized by Project 5-100, Project universities and V. Potanin Charity Fund, was held in three Russian cities. The seminar was attended by provosts for international relations, coordinators of Master’s programs, employees involved in academic and student mobility and specialists in external communications. Kazan Federal University (seminar on 12 October), MISiS (14 October) and Ural Federal University (16 October) acted as partners of the event.
During his address to those attending the seminar, Victor Koksharov (UrFU Rector) explained that “The existence of competitive education is a pre-requisite for the development and stability of our country. Today, here and now we have an opportunity to speak with the world’s best specialists in the promotion of education.”
Joe Avison (Director for International Cooperation, Chronicle of Higher Education) chose to focus on the importance of image. His presentation contained a series of examples of successful brand promotion by various universities, for instance, by the Australian Monash University, the American universities of Connecticut, and Rice University (located in Texas). The speaker drew his audience’s attention to the example of New Zealand – an island state with a small population that nevertheless can boast of a vast contingent of foreign students. Among former-Soviet countries, Avison singled out Kazakhstan, which in recent years has been committed to investing significant amounts of money and effort towards achieving gains in national education.
Megan Brenn-White (Head of Brenn-White Group) quoted statistics for English-language Master’s programs in the world: last year, she informed her listeners, in Europe alone more than 8,000 Master’s courses were taught in English. Brenn-White also spoke about the factors which are important for students when selecting their future alma mater. For 40% the greatest priority is the subject they want to study, followed by their country of choice, and only then by selection of a specific university. One in every five students first selects the country where he/she would prefer to be educated in, and only 5% of the students listed as the deciding factor the actual university they would attend.
The speakers reminded the audience that promotion of national universities in the international arena also helps to improve the image of the country as a whole. Joe Avison stressed that Russia has an advantage compared to other countries in promoting its higher education because Russia has a rich history, an impressive scientific tradition, and a strong education system and proven record for structuring university education.
Yulia Selyukova (Head of University Marketing and Development at Project Office 5-100) noted the growing competition for positions in the post-soviet education market, where universities fr om the UK, France, Germany, Turkey and other countries are very active. She urged everyone to abandon the illusion that students from Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are going to study in Russia simply because their parents did so.
Oksana Oracheva (General Director of V. Potanin Charity Fund) spoke about additional resources which can be used by the universities to support new Master’s programs, including programs in foreign languages. “In 2013, our Fund’s focus shifted towards Master’s programs. We support teachers and students involved in Master’s degree programs”. According to Oracheva, the Fund gives aid to various aspects of university life – from program development to implementation of new teaching methods. Oracheva is certain that an individual approach is both a personal success story and an effective promotion resource. When the Fund published an interview with a grantee on its website, the number of visitors to the site increased fivefold.
Dmitry Tayurski (Provost for Education, KFU) welcomed the guests of the seminar in Kazan and then expanded on his theme: “We are practicing something that is called “inclusive education”, wh ere foreign students come to study with us for a time and earn credits”. In the past, most foreign students were attracted by the field of Humanities; however, in recent years, according to the Provost, KFU is seeing more and more students drifting in the direction of the Sciences. His colleague from MISiS University, Timothy O’Connor (Provost for Education at MISiS) spoke about overcoming cultural stereotypes, which almost all universities have to deal with when competing in the international arena.
“People in the West want to know more about Russia”, asserted Joe Avison in the winding down period of the proceedings. Moreover, according to both of the foreign speakers who were present, Project 5-100 universities are capable of ascending to leading positions in world academic rankings."The week we spent in Russia with Project 5-100 was an incredible experience. We were able to meet with universities in Kazan, Moscow, and Yekaterinburg and share our thoughts on international branding, marketing and recruitment - as well as learn a lot about their current activities, challenges, and hopes for the future. It was also a pleasure to learn more about the important work of the Potanin Foundation in this area. There is a lot of work ahead for all of these institutions, but they are building on great traditions and certainly have a lot to share with the world outside of Russia. I have been working with Project 5-100 for a number of years now and have already seen some quite amazing changes -- and I look forward to working more with the project and individual institutions in future", - concluded Megan Brenn-White.