Two Qualifications, Projects with 18 Companies, and Studies in English: The Unique Advantages of the International Bachelor's in Business and Economics
The International Bachelor's in Business and Economics opened at HSE University-St Petersburg a year ago. The programme offers English-taught studies in both economics and management at the same time. It is supported by corporate partners: VK, Gazprom, Sberbank, and others. Victor Krakovich, Academic Supervisor of the programme, explains how the educational process in the programme is structured.
— The programme's first intake is already record-breaking—almost 500 people. What are your impressions?
— It is clear that very bright and talented people come to us. Everyone has their own interests, and that makes it even more exciting to study here.
Though there are a lot of people, we don't have any organisational difficulties. Seminars are held in groups of 30 people, so every student can ask the questions that interest them. Lectures have more people: from 80 to 240. But there, students should mainly take notes and listen to the lecturers. Such wide-ranging lectures are to our advantage as well: it means that we can invite the best professors without wasting time or making compromises.
We never leave our students one-on-one with difficult topics. If we see that something is hard for them, we offer consultations or supplementary materials. I'm also always open to students: always ready to talk to them and answer any questions. No student is left behind and the programme pays attention to everyone.
It is good for project activities when there are so many students. They can choose from a great number of narrow tasks and work with those who are passionate about a common goal.
— The International Bachelor's in Business and Economics includes two areas of training. How does this work?
— Our students can indeed get two qualifications: in Economics and Management. The diploma of higher education includes both of them. At the same time, if a student wants to focus only on one training direction, such an opportunity also exists.
In the first two years, all the students study together. The curriculum is designed in a way that demonstrates the close connection between economics and management. Economics is a science about ways of finding new opportunities for business, while management is about how to organise them. To divide them like this means limiting your opportunities. Why would you do this if you can, quite the opposite, increase your chances in the labour market? A manager who knows how to work with data is much more productive than one who simply works well in a team. The same goes for economists who can not only do calculations brilliantly, but also know how to organise processes in a company. The combination of these skills is very profitable.
For our applicants, the difference between economics and management also wasn't that big; in most cases, they had previously applied for both programmes. Now, they don't have to make that choice at the admissions stage. They study for some time, learn what they need more of, and only then decide what to focus on.
— For the first two years, the programme is the same for everyone. How does it become more personalised over time?
— It is up to the students to choose their professional track. There are currently four of them, but this number may change depending on the situation in the labour market. At the moment, we are planning to design tracks on Management, Data Science for Economics, Data-driven Management and Finance.
In the third and fourth years, the students will have elective courses in every module. They are organised by topic: there are courses in marketing, HR, data analysis, accounting, and product management. So the scheme is: a student chooses a primary track in the field that interests them most, then specifies a career trajectory with elective courses. For instance, if they want to work with teams, they can choose the managerial track and courses in marketing. At the end of their studies, the students will be fully trained for their future profession.
— The programme positions itself as an English-taught one. What is this connected with?
— Our students can study fully in English right from the start. But if they want to, in the first and second years, they are allowed to study courses in mathematics and economics in Russian. The managerial courses are taught in English from the beginning.
Why is this necessary? First of all, for students' careers. It is important to help them get used to working in English: writing reports, making presentations, and using English-language databases. There is much more data in English, and the more data there is, the more representational the results are.
Secondly, to know a subject means to understand its language and how to implement it in business and science. As HSE is a national research university, it is important to introduce students to global scientific tradition. Without English proficiency, it is impossible to understand the roots of contemporary management and economics. I teach the theory of finance myself—and it is much clearer in English.
And the most amusing discovery for us is that English proficiency is an indicator of personal investment in their education. Those who have high points in English later pass our exams in linear algebra and mathematical analysis well. Sometimes they do it even better than students with high points in mathematics! So if it is possible to create a motivated community with the help of the English language, we will do it.
— What international opportunities does the programme offer?
— Students can still study on an exchange programme at foreign universities—the most important thing is to pass the selection process. But it is not that hard; 42 students of our programme were accepted to participate in the mobility programme.
We also have a double-degree programme with the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Only the most active and motivated students will be able to take part in it. They will present their theses in English twice—once to the committee of each university. If they succeed, the students will get diplomas from both universities. We are working on launching such programmes with several other universities.
— How does the programme work with partners?
— The curriculum of each course includes joint events with employers. In the first year of studies, we implement a term project on SWOT analysis. This is the first time our students meet with partner companies. The tasks for students have been provided by 18 companies, including those in consulting, production, IT, and organisation in the sphere of culture.
At the moment, 60 students are working on projects for VK. They will help to develop Skillbox, Mail.ru Answers, and other services.
Gazprom is a major employer in St Petersburg. Their headquarters are located here, and we are interested in allowing our students to implement projects with this company. The students will also work with Sber, Setl Group, Tele2, Bookvoed, Northern Capital Gateway, the Alexandrinsky Theatre and the Fabergé Museum. We also work with ex-Big Four companies currently operating under local brands. They are researching their perception as employers.
During their studies, the students will have a chance to work on projects with several significant companies. This will help them to choose the most suitable firms and vacancies for internships and future work.
— How do you plan to develop the programme further?
— First, we want to establish more partnerships with foreign universities and Russian companies. We have already taken steps in this direction. We also want to expand the students' opportunities to take part in scientific life, which is constantly developing as well: in January, the faculty opened the Centre for Strategic Entrepreneurship under the supervision of Galina Shirokova. There is a very strong research team, who will study strategic management and the entrepreneurial mindset. This is highly valued at HSE University. Moreover, we have quite a lot of researchers on the economy of culture. The projects with the Alexandrinsky Theatre are now supervised by Marina Matetskaya. I think, after a while, there will be more of them—especially given the fact that the faculty has the Master's programme 'Arts and Culture Management'. There are also the Centre for Market Studies and Spatial Economics led by Sergey Kokovin and the International Laboratory of Game Theory and Decision Making headed by Alexander Nesterov.
— What are the enrolment requirements for the programme?
— The first thing is to submit your documents. You have to get at least 60 points in each of the two HSE University entrance exams (mathematics and English or Russian). Many people enrol via olympiads, so you should check the list of them—it might help your admissions process easier. This is the way!