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‘In a Changing World, Strategic Logistics Management is Gaining Momentum’

The Master's in Strategic Management in Logistics offered by HSE University in St Petersburg trains students in logistics and supply chain management. In this interview, Vladislav Lukinsky, Academic Supervisor of the Master's, talks about the programme's main features, what makes it relevant in today’s changing world, and why students from all educational backgrounds are welcome to apply.

© HSE – St. Petersburg / Stepan Likhachev

© HSE – St. Petersburg / Stepan Likhachev

Details on the number of places and other admission-related information for the 2022 intake can be found on the programme’s official webpage and on the website of the Admissions Committee for Master's applicants.

— Vladislav, could you tell us what is taught on the Strategic Management in Logistics programme?

— Students enrolled in our programme learn how to manage material and other related flows—information, finances, human resources, and others. The main focus of our programme is on the resources transported between infrastructure facilities in supply, production, and distribution systems. This knowledge ensures that our graduates will always be in demand on the job market.

— How relevant is logistics as a field of study these days?

— Despite the fact that the world is becoming more digital each day, technology might not be able to fully automate our lives. Hence, there is a growing need for specialists who know how to manage material assets. For example, in Russia, nearly fourteen percent of jobs are related to logistics, including transport, warehouses, distribution facilities and supply chain management. And in the rapidly changing world we live in, in the context of traffic and goods flow redistribution, strategic logistics management is more relevant than ever.

— Is the programme aimed at students with undergraduate degrees in logistics? 

— It is hard to say to whom the programme would appeal more: those who are continuing their studies in logistics or those coming from a completely different educational background. But either way, we welcome applicants with logistics-related undergraduate degrees and those from other areas such as management, finance, marketing, history, philology, state and municipal administration, and others.

For example, one of our graduates enrolled in the programme with a bachelor's degree in philology. After completing their studies, they secured a job in a logistics company and became a sought-after professional in this sphere. The combination of proficiency in foreign languages and the knowledge of cold-chain management allowed our graduate to climb the career ladder and get a well-paid position.

— What are the benefits of the programme?

— Well, there are many of them. The opportunity to freely access electronic resources is one of the programme’s key benefits. In fact, the HSE library is comparable to those of the world's leading universities. That said, our students can also take advantage of free access to well-known journals such as the European Journal of Operational Research, Management Science, Expert Systems with Applications, and more.

The knowledge and hands-on skills that students acquire during the programme allows them to secure managerial positions in leading manufacturing, logistics and distribution companies. Apart from that, our programme boasts a great number of graduate success stories. For example, a 2020 cohort graduate, Igor Bernadsky, has become a leading specialist in the data analysis and control department at Baltika (one of the leading brewers in the Russian market). And in 2021, Igor began teaching on campus and was named one of the best teachers by students.

— How is the educational process organised on the programme? 

— It is a full-time programme that lasts two years. Students attend lectures and seminars for a year and a half, and the remaining six months are devoted to scientific and pedagogical practice. After that comes the final thesis. 

Classes for undergraduates usually begin in the evening, at 6 pm. Sometimes, there are classes on Saturday, but this happens quite rarely. Thanks to this flexible schedule, students can combine working and studying. You can find out more details on how the educational process is organised on our programme’s official webpage.

The first year is aimed at developing analytical competencies. During that period, professors help undergraduates gain insight into a variety of research methods relevant to the master's degree. Classes are conducted by Honoured Scientist of the Russian Federation Professor Valery Lukinskiy, Honoured Scientist of the Russian Federation Professor Boris Sokolov, and Nikolay Nikolaevsky—who was named the best teacher at HSE University in St Petersburg in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 (in the framework of a research seminar). Also, during the first year, students of the master's programme participate in project activities conducted by practicing teachers.

In the second year, professors who also work in the business sphere share their expertise with students and prepare them for the challenges they might face when getting their first job in logistics and supply chain management. Professor Maxim Maximov, Commercial Director at Solvo, gives classes in the course ‘Digital Logistics, Robotics and Additive Technologies’. There is also a separate course devoted to interorganisational and interfunctional conflicts in supply chain management. This subject is taught by Viktoria Isaeva, who works for Swedbyte, and Irina Zolotukhina, former Deputy Director of Ford Sollers. During this course, students learn how conflicts can slow down business operations and prepare their own solutions to real-life challenges. There is also a course called ‘Strategic Development of Corporate Distribution Networks’, which is conducted by Dmitry Leontiev, Head of Logistics at the Sveza group of companies. In the 2021/22 academic year, Timofey Orlov, who previously worked at Agility and DHL, became a faculty member.

It is hard to single out one particular course in the curriculum. Our students learn about management strategies, economic and mathematical models, and more. We also invite foreign professors to conduct classes and seminars. For example, Professor Harri Lorentz from the University of Turku, Finland, has been teaching the course ‘Strategic Procurement Management in Supply Chains’ to second-year students since 2018.

— The programme places particular emphasis on customs processes in logistics. Why is it important to study these topics?

— People engaged in foreign economic activity have to deal with a lot of tasks connected to customs processes. We do not immerse students in all legal aspects related to customs processes—after all, this is not our specialty. But we do have two separate courses called ‘Customs Operations’ and ‘Customs Procedures’ that give students an understanding of how to organise effective supply chains, as well as what customs clearance is and how to work with it.

— You mentioned that some teachers work in large logistics companies. How does the programme benefit from these ties to the business world?

— We work closely with companies of various levels whose leaders and experts are willing to conduct classes, give lectures, share expertise, and accept our students for internships. This allows our students to gain experience and business acumen to help them make the right decisions quickly.

This ability to take decisions quickly and remain flexible in changing situations is exactly what companies are looking for in the job market. Judging by the past two years, with people switching to distance learning, countries imposing travel restrictions, and consumers' payment ability decreasing, we can see that demand for specialists with this set of skills is higher than ever.

Again, businesses needed to quickly change their strategy in order to stay afloat. Companies had to look for ways to quickly move their business online and improve the efficiency of their supply chains. Since March 2022, we have been hearing every day from officials about the need to develop logistics and supply chain management and search for new solutions in these strategically important areas.

— Are there opportunities for academic mobility?

— Of course. Firstly, the HSE University campus in Moscow has a programme which ‘mirrors’ ours called ‘Strategic Management of Logistics and Supply Chains in the Digital Economy’. We cooperate with this programme, so our students can study in Moscow.

Secondly, depending on the circumstances, it is possible to study in other countries or take classes remotely at our partner universities. But in general, I must say that the specifics of our specialisation is that master's students are in high demand in Russia, so many choose to stay in Russia to combine working and studying.

— Regarding the admission process, why there are no entrance exams for the programme?

— You are right, we do not have any entrance exams. Despite the fact that examinations simplify the assessment process, we have decided to implement a portfolio competition as a means of entering the programme. We believe that this is the best way for applicants to demonstrate the results of their growth over several years. 

In the portfolio, applicants can describe their working experience, specify how long they worked for a company. We also recommend that applicants attach certificates of their English level, their publications in journals, or certificates of participation in scientific conferences. We look at how well applicants studied in their bachelor's programme, what their theses were devoted to. We also welcome the winners of Olympiads in logistics and supply chain management.

It is possible to prepare for admission to the Master's programme from the first year of a bachelor's degree by participating in conferences and projects and publishing articles in scientific journals. Some students start putting portfolios together during their fourth year of undergraduate study—they participate in the Winter School and various competitions, improve their grades, and prepare motivation letters.

— What are the benefits of master’s degrees in general and of your programme in particular?

Well, enrolling in any master's programme at HSE university is a great opportunity to get a high-level, practice-oriented education. And as for our particular Master’s in Strategic Management in Logistics, I would say it gives a holistic view of all aspects of material flows, an in-depth knowledge of logistics and supply chain management, and a guarantee that our graduates will be in demand on the labour market.

Find out more on the programme's webpage