International Bachelor's in Business and Economics

Alessandro Boni interviews Elena Shakina, the Dean of School of Economics and Management, on a new unique BA programme in Management and Economics.

International Bachelor's in Business and Economics

This September there will be the first intake for the new programme “International Bachelor’s in Business and Economics”. This degree programme will take the place of the bachelors’ offered by the School of Economics and Management at HSE Saint Petersburg. The main difference in this new Bachelor’s degree is that students will have the possibility to have a common path for their first two years, and then choose their focus between management, economics and a mixture of both.

This is a drastic change compared to the previous system in which students had to choose their specialization at the beginning of their studies. However, in the main page of the programme appear many other features that seem to be very interesting, such as, for example, the collaboration with Vkontakte.

I have had the pleasure to interview the Dean of the school, professor Elena Shakina, to understand what are the main characteristics, changes and features of this new bachelor’s degree which is entirely taught in English.

Elena Shakina
Dean of St.Petersburg School of Economics and Management

Why did you choose to replace the previous bachelor’s degrees with this new one?

We realized that the students at our University are usually confused at the beginning of their studies. They know they want to study in our University, they know they want to study in Saint Petersburg, they know they want to study in our faculty, but they do not know yet what specialization they would like to take. This new system enables them to get acquainted with basic analytical and economical knowledge and gain a sort of sensibility over the topic which allows them to make a more conscious decision.

It is important to underline that we are not just speaking about specialization, we are speaking about professional tracks, which is that it is exactly targeting certain niches in the job market. The tracks they can choose are management, economics, or even a double major in economics and management.

We have done everything to make it attractive for international students

What are the main strengths of this system compared to the previous one?

This programme was built in order to offer students everything needed to be competitive in the job market right after they graduate. During the first two years of studies students have courses which are more academic that can create the basis for their further development. Main courses are related to economics, mathematics and statistics. They will be taught by expert academics. The last two years, the years of the professional tracks, after they choose what path to follow, students have the opportunity to follow courses that develop exactly the type of skills that are needed in the job market, both hard and soft skills.

In fact, we have researched the job market and we have developed a programme that will give the students all the knowledge, skills and qualifications that they need in order to fulfill the needs of employers. This programme is structured in cooperation with Vkontakte, their professionals act as consultants for the development of a curriculum that real companies are looking for.

What are the main skills that students will develop?

As I said, we have conducted a really deep analysis of the job market, we know there is a high demand for analytical skills. We offer courses in Excel, R, Python and Stata for example, so that our students have a strong basis of hard analytical skills. However, there is a high demand for soft skills which are not that evident and easy to develop. What is important to say is that there is not just the need for these skills, but there must be a coherence between them, for example we have done an analysis of the market specifically to understand how different skills should be connected to each other in order to draw the entire picture of a certain profession.

We have observed that there is a precise connection of some hard and soft skills, and there are specific features that are required to enter the job market right after graduation. There is the need for specific knowledge, for example, let’s say, project management, product management, digital marketing. These are skills we will offer to our students. In their learning process students will need to choose an industrial module. At the moment we have 3 different modules: farm industry, IT, retail. For each of these tracks we have a professional partner that helps us create a competitive programme which can lead students to gain the specific skills needed in companies that operate in each of these sectors.

This programme is structured in cooperation with Vkontakte, their professionals act as consultants for the development of a curriculum that real companies are looking for

Can you tell more about the partnership with Vkontakte?

The course will have three main directors: an academic director, a scientific director and a business director. Managers at Vkontakte will collaborate with us and Sergey Mardanov, the vice president responsible for collaboration with Universities, will be the business director of the programme. He will work with the structure of the programme as said before, in addition he will help with networking in order to find and offer valuable internships for our students. He will help with the development of projects our students can take during their studies as well.

We are planning to improve the offering of projects as well, so that our students can apply the knowledge they gain in classrooms to the real business world while they are studying. In fact, we have noticed that our students want to have early professional experiences. These projects will play an important role in the learning process and will give the students the possibility to work with different groups and even students from different years.

Can you say more about the projects as well?

Projects are already part of our offer, they are working experiences that can have different duration, students can apply for them and gain experience and extra credits. We want to optimize this process and make these projects a central part of our educational offer. We want to create a project office, it will be run by the academic faculty but also by students. The role of this office will be to select the projects and assess the work of students, make sure that the quality is good enough, and generally speaking help students who will take part in these projects.

We want to create a better platform for students to choose between the available projects, and create different platforms for each project so that students can communicate between each other, with the project leader, with the responsible teacher. These platforms would be used by the external organizations that ask us to develop these projects as well.

Is this programme suitable to International Students as well or it focuses on Russia only?

We have done everything to make it attractive for international students too. First of all the language used is exclusively English, secondly we have been working a lot with the international market so that international students come to the programme.

What can you tell about the change of the study office functioning?

The process of the study office has been redesigned completely. The study office of our bachelor’s degrees already unitied this year. We have increased the number of collaborators who are part of the front office, who are in close contact with students, for consulting with students, answering their questions and providing quick answers to their requests. There is then a back office which will not have close contact with students, these collaborators will work on the management of the programme.

This programme seems to be very different to the ones that were offered until this year. As understood by the words of professor Shakina, it is extremely oriented to the development of a curriculum that allows students to jump into the job market as soon as they graduate. The cooperation with Vkontakte, the industrial modules and the new role of projects seem to be the strength of the programme.

This programme is certainly very attractive for all the prospective students that are oriented to working in the field of business and that want to have lots of practical and international experiences.

Interview by

Alessandro Boni