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Monday, 11 August 2014 17:03

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF THE BRICS UNIVERSITY?

MOSCOW, August 11, 2014 (Russkiy Mir) -- The BRICS are working on the creation of a joint university network and this ambitious project has already been launched by the People's Friendship University of Russia (also known by its Russian acronym RUDN), which has also organized such university networks for the CIS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Who will benefit from this type of networked higher education and how? RUDN Rector Vladimir Filippov shared his thoughts with the Russkiy Mir portal.

 

— Vladimir, what stands behind the triad of networked universities: CIS, SOC and BRICS?

— This reflects the world trend toward networked interaction using IT, higher academic mobility and internationalization. Not only in education. The CIS University Network works within a certain continental space, the SOC network has a broader scope and BRICS network enjoys even broader geography: several continents and half of the planet's population.

 

— Why is such university needed?

— The idea of the BRICS University Network was supported in 2013 at the meeting of education ministers from BRICS nations at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO. First, the world knows that the influence of networking is growing. Secondly, the BRICS nations have heard about the experience of networked SOC and CIS universities. Thirdly, logically enough, it was RUDN that initiated creation of the BRICS University Network, given that students from 150 countries study at our faculties.

 

— Are you not afraid of creating a major competitor with your own hands?

— This is a matter of geopolitics: graduates of which universities will steer global politics in 15-20 years from now? The bachelor-master system purports to solve this problem. After completing the bachelor's course a graduate may enter the master's course of another university. In the US, for example, it is considered bad manners to enter a master's program at the same university where a student completes a bachelor's degree. This is even forbidden at some US universities. When studentship freely migrates within one nation or between countries in the search of education at the level of international standards, it will be unnecessary for them to go abroad. The networked universities of CIS and SOC are the obvious examples. BRICS will mean another experience of obtaining a dual diploma. In other words, students come home with two diplomas. Thus the system of joint master's courses and networking in education reduces the brain drain to minimum.

 

— What universities will form the backbone of the new structure?

— In BRICS all universities are equal — Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Russian or South African. They all are the network participants. Simply RUDN has to tackle the burden of organizational work. On June 11, 2014, we were allocated financing by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science: nine million rubles a year. These funds will be used to support the staff and administrations of networked CIS, SOC and BRICS universities. In parallel, subdivisions will be established on the basis of the Pushkin State Institute of the Russian Language — to train foreigners who will then disperse between different universities. The subdivisions will provide the prerequisite training not only in Russian language, but also in physics, mathematics and biology that students may study at MISIS, medical universities — anywhere they prefer. The need for subdivisions emerged because the Pushkin Institute, where only Russian is taught, does not provide this diverse knowledge. So the decision was made to expand networking between universities. The knowledge in Russian will be given by the Pushkin Institute, mathematics, chemistry and other subjects needed to prepare people for networking will be taught at RUDN. What we are doing is one of the new and progressive forms of higher education, a logical extension of the Bologna process — moving towards creating the common educational space for the sake of mutual recognition of diplomas.

 

— How will the BRICS University Network be different from the CIS and SOC networks? The two latter universities were created for the sake of issuing universal diplomas and expansion of the international labor market. And what about the BRICS University?

— In all of these models we started with the concept of academic mobility, even without dual diplomas. But the logic brought us to dual diplomas. Ideally, a year of master's course at home and another year — in some other country. Master's programs with dual diplomas may benefit both the student and the country. In this respect the BRICS University Network is in no way different from the networked universities of the CIS and SOC. At the same time we understand that nothing should be just copied. To be sure, the programs and names of master's courses can be different at these three universities. For example, BRICS nations are in need of energy. All countries — India, China, Brazil and Russia — want to develop the space industry. It's clear that the BRICS University Network will train specialists for space and energy sectors. BRICS nations do not care much about ecology as an academic discipline while in the SOC network, on the contrary, the master's program on ecology is rapidly developing. In the CIS University Network only Russia and Kazakhstan are interested in space studies, others do not care about it. So to my mind some areas won't heavily overlap in the BRICS and SOC networks. But this also means there will be no sharp competition between them...

 

— And what is the dynamics of demand for education? What professions are in the mainstream and which ones are the most popular?

— There are two trends: the interests of students and the interests of different nations. Students generally prefer humanities like economics, law, international relations. These are the annual hits. But nations have their own needs. Since these university networks offer free education paid from the national budgets, it is the nations that decided on any specific quotas, proceeding from the needs of their economies. Any particular nation decides what professions are most relevant: programmers, economists, engineers or lawyers.

 

— For what areas is there increasing demand rising in the CIS?

— There is a boom in the sphere of engineering and technology, namely the demand is high for mechatronics and robotics, material engineering and automation of technical processes. This reflects positive dynamics: the economy keeps rising, even if slowly.

 

— Can you forecast what specializations will be in highest demand in the BRICS network?

— IT, energy and space technologies. And I believe China, India and Brazil will contribute to greater interest in natural sciences — biology, molecular biology, chemistry — which will definitely be in high demand. The disciplines popular in the CIS, such as economics and law, will hardly be popular in the education network of the BRICS nations.

 

— When will the BRICS University Network start operating?

— September 1, 2015. These will be pilot enrollments for some master's programs, but students will start coming en masse from 2016 on.

 

— What will the working languages be?

— In the SOC — Russian and Chinese, in the CIS — Russian, in the BRICS — Russian, English and Chinese. Portuguese won't be excluded either — we'll probably teach it to our students for the sake of Brazil.

 

Interviewed by Vladimir Emelyanenko

 

 
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