The Post-Soviet track, Russian as a foreign language and new regionally oriented classes: Anna Dekalchuk about the updates of the curriculum of the BA Programme in Political Science & World Politics
This year our BA Programme in Political Science and World Politics is launching a new regional track – the Post-Soviet Space. We have talked to Anna Dekalchuk, the academic director of the programme, to learn more about the updates made for our future and current students.
- Why have you decided to introduce a track on the Post-Soviet space?
For a long time, we have had two regional tracks in the curriculum – Europe and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). These tracks are linked to the languages our students are to choose among from: German, French or Portuguese for the European track, and Chinese or Portuguese for the BRICS track. A couple of months ago the Academic Board of the programme decided to broaden the regional scope of the curriculum and came up with the idea to launch the Post-Soviet track. A lot of our students and applicants are interested in this region, especially those applying from other countries; while studying here, in St. Petersburg, students naturally want to learn more about Russia and its neighborhood. Moreover, we decided to introduce Russian as a foreign language along with the new track.
- What does the Post-Soviet Space mean within the scope of this track?
For us, this is the region covering those countries which used to be the republics of the Soviet Union. Quite often this notion of the Post-Soviet Space is confined to Russia, first and foremost; we disagree with this approach, and Russia will not be the major focus within the track. Why? First, all students of the programme follow the class in Contemporary Russian Politics, regardless of the track they have chosen. Second, students may study Russian politics within the BRICS track, since “R” stands for Russia. Another geographical limitation of the track’s focus has to do with the Baltic States because they are quite different from other countries of the region and, moreover, they are all members of the European Union since 2004 (thus, geographically they belong to the European track). Nevertheless, if some students are interested in those countries, of course, we will take this into account when developing our curriculum.
- What would you like to achieve by launching the new regional track?
Our campus is striving to become a truly international hub for education and research, and, of course, St. Petersburg is a wonderful place to fulfill these aspirations – in terms of geography, culture, etc. In line with this goal, in 2017 our program became an English-taught one. Another sign of progress in this direction is a constantly growing share of our students enjoying their semester abroad experience. These are all signs that our programme and the campus in general are becoming more and more globally-oriented.
And as I talk to applicants and colleagues from different universities, I see that there is a demand, especially among international applicants, in studying the Post-Soviet space. It is, indeed, nice to come to a country of this region and to study the Russian language, which is still spoken in many Post-Soviet countries.
I think we have two goals to be achieved by the introduction of this new track: on the one hand, we would like to attract those applicants, including international ones, who are interested in this region; on the other hand, to train professional experts in the area, naturally, not only international students, but also Russian citizens enrolled into the programme. This is our vision.
- Is Russian in the curriculum also a sign of such internationalization?
Surely. The Russian language will be available for those who will enroll from 2020 / 2021 academic year onwards. Of course, it is neither very interesting nor useful for those who speak Russian fluently, rather it may be of interest to those who does not speak Russian at all.
All students coming to the HSE in St. Pete’s from other countries who do not speak Russian, may study the language as an optional class for a year, free of charge. Now, our students, having attended this class for a year and acquired some basic knowledge, can continue studying Russian within our curriculum during their 2-nd and 3-rd years. Hence, in sum they will be studying the language for three years in a row.
It does not mean, however, that the Post-Soviet track is open for international students only. Other disciplines of this track are open to other students, who would choose other foreign languages.
- What are the new disciplines to be introduced?
Let me start by saying that now we have only two classes, directly focused on the regional tracks. During the third year of their studies students choose either “Politics and Society in European Countries” or “Politics and Society in the BRICS Countries”. Then, during their fourth year, students take another ‘regional’ class, depending on the track chosen. Now we would like to strengthen the ‘regional’ dimension of the curriculum by introducing another ‘regional’ discipline during the fourth year of studies.
So, during their third year, students will be able to take one class out of three: “Politics and Society in European Countries”, “Politics and Society in the BRICS countries” and “Politics and Society in the Post-Soviet Countries”. In the fourth year there will be two disciplines instead of one: each student is to take one ‘regional’ class in the first semester and the other one in the third module. This option will be available already for the current juniors. They are still confined to the two regional tracks, but the variety of ‘regional’ disciplines during the fourth year will be extended, which, I think, is amazing. Our current sophomores will even be able to choose the Post-Soviet track. However, the Russian language will be available only for those who are enrolled this fall. So, all the changes will be introduced gradually.
|European Countries||BRICS Countries||Post-Soviet Space|
|Second foreign language||German, Portuguese, French||Chinese, Portuguese||Russian or any other from other tracks|
|3rd year|| |
Politics and Society in European Countries
Politics and Society in the BRICS Countries
Politics and Society in Post-Soviet Countries
|4th year, 1st semster||Political System of the European Union|| |
|Integration Projects in the Post-Soviet Space|
|4th year, 2nd semester||The EU - Russia Relations||Contemporary Chinese Politics||Central Asian Countries in Regional and International Organizations|
- Are your going to invite new instructors with the expertise in the Post-Soviet space?
Our colleague Oleg Korneev who has joined us recently, is a wonderful expert in Central Asia. He has a rich experience of fieldwork research in Central Asia, which he is happy to share with our students. Moreover, together with Andrey Shcherbak, the head of the Department of Political Science, we are now looking for new colleagues with the expertise in the Post-Soviet space, in particular, in the Western (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine) and the Caucasian (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) countries of the region.
- In general, how will the programme change?
I believe we will have more options to choose from. Basically, our curriculum is designed the way that students themselves define what they would like to study. This is an approach of our university, in general. You have an opportunity to choose a minor programme, a language, a regional track, classes within the so-called ‘Comparative Policy Studies’ section of the curriculum. In this regard, students have more opportunities to mould their own study trajectory, which seems great.
But this is a certain ‘evolution’. As for the ‘revolutionary’ changes, I think our programme is becoming more and more international and multicultural. Currently, each year about 12 per cent of our freshmen are international students. We are doing our best to make this programme truly international and to increase this share. I can easily imagine that it can be 20 per cent or more.
I have this idea that our programme should be more global. I think these innovations, among other things, will also contribute to the transformation of our own perceptions of the programme as a truly international one.
About the Programme
BA Programme in Political Science and World Politics is an English-taught programme at the HSE - St. Petersburg. It provides students with the skills necessary for pursuing careers in policy development and world politics by integrating, political science, public policy, international relations and project management. The programme is accredited by the Central Evaluation and Accreditation Agency (ZEvA).