Empowering RUDN-Latin America Education and Training Common Area
Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University) will seek to further develop mutually beneficial cooperation in education and research with Latin America.
It has been agreed to step-in cooperation and commit to deepen strategic partnership in education and research focusing on three key pillars: academic mobility, access to Pre-University and Russian Language Training infrastructure , strengthened thematic cooperation and doubling the number of Hispanic exchange students and trainees in Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, during RUDN recent visit to the region.
"We have put education and training on the RUDN University – Latin-American map; now let's make RUDN University a destination of choice for Latin-American students, professors, etc. Education and human resource training are the foundation of nations building. Jointly addressing common challenges requires opening up of education and science programs, coordinating education and training agendas and promoting increased synergies with instruments of external cooperation. For example, the winners of the very first intra-universities Olympiads recently held, would be able to get free education in RUDN University”, said Vice-Rector for international academic mobility of the University Larisa Efremova in her interview to the RIA Novosti special correspondent Anna Terekhova.
How important Latin America is to developing cooperation in education? What are the key priorities? How are the tasks organized and prioritized?
— Increasingly, we are focusing our internationalization efforts in specific geographic regions. Latin America is one of our specific geographic priorities. We think there is a great opportunity for the students from Latin America countries to submit applications and to explore scholarships readily available for the university intake in RUDN University. Looking in this direction, RUDN University selected Latin America as its one of the top target regions for recruiting international students.
We are not only mentioning internationalization in our institutional mission statement, RUDN University is doing so with advancement of and enhancement in academic mobility. Over the past years graduate studies at RUDN have prepared students for leadership positions in professional life in many countries of Latin America. Our university is well known for its focused approach in many countries, including those recently visited: Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Chile.
Since the university's opening day 56 years ago, education systems in many Latin America countries have undergone impressive growth and change; as competition spread, the market has become progressively opened for foreign countries, with the USA, Great Britain, Germany and France, etc. trying to lead this competitive environment now.
Therefore, our main objective is to attract the most talented students to study at our university. By 2019, RUDN University intends to extend the number of Latin- America students reaching 15% compared with 9% in 2015. Students in Chili know less about Russia yet, they are more focused on the USA, Great Britain, and Germany. But we think it might be changed, partly through market presence increase and better awareness.
What universities are of most interest to set up cooperation with? What are main directions of education cooperation?
— We lay emphasis, first of all, on establishing contacts not only with the best national universities, but also with QS World Ranked Universities, for example, a well known University of Antioquia. The two higher education institutions have physics, mathematics, medicine, agronomics, and space research as their current education policy priority. Economics and engineering sciences are of interest too, as well as international relations where RUDN University has a very rich experience and where several generations of diplomats took courses focused on excellence in knowledge and skills.
Cooperation takes different forms, for example joint education programs, double diplomas, apprenticeship, exchanges of students and professors.
How do you plan to motivate and developing Latin-American students' interest towards studying in Russia?
— We will soon open a Center of Pre-University Training and Russian language courses in Ecuador, where students can take the level test, get a B2 certification and then apply to accreditation to study in Russia. It was also agreed to localize some of courses offered by RUDN University in a wide range of subjects via the specialized classes.
A specialized class is a virtual platform that provides access to the distance learning programs (either in English or any other language), multiple information, advertizing and reference materials about RUDN University, methodical recommendations and etc. RUDN University professors will also come and give lectures at a partner higher education institution in the foreign country. Each platform will also held joint Olympiads and competitions in physics, mathematics, medicine, agronomics and others.
Such programs are not only aimed at promoting and positioning RUDN University, but also the entire system of public education in Russia. In fact, a specialized class is a focal point for selection and recruitment of the most talented students for our university. This agreement on opening of the center was sent to our partner's consideration.
What could be other ways to attract more Latin-American students? What do they want to get from Russian education?
— Tuition prices, costs of education scholarship are important decisive factors in the choice of a higher education institution. Now, low-cost higher education in Russia with costsdropped, significantly in fact, if compared with the USA and Europe, is certainly beneficial to Russian universities. Infrastructure - comfortable campus and students residencies - is important too, as well as, safety and security issues, leisure possibilities and sports.
RUDN University graduates’ employment receives particular attention by foreign students, together with labor market statistics, success stories and discussions on how RUDN Universitygraduates are well prepared as they enter the workforce.
Foreign students want to have education programs in their native languages, especially in English. We are following this trend and are seeking to increase the number of such programs and courses at the university. RUDN University has developed some targeted programs for Latin America, for example, Agrarian - Technological Institute is currently working on the "Plants protection program" to launch in Spanish.
What languages other than English and Spanish do you consider to develop education programs in?
— We also offer academic programs for students wishing to study in French. However, about 80% of our students are Russian speaking and this language is very important for us too.
We are not likely to make all RUDN University education courses, programs, curriculum available in all official languages of the United Nations yet.
Olympiads, grants and scholarships programs are effective measures to attract and recruit foreign students. What experience does RUDN have in this area?
— Once we start in, we'll get a feel for the project. Olympiads on physics, chemistry, mathematics, Russian language and biology in Ecuador and Colombia which were organized with the Institute of Languages and Cultures named after Leo Tolstoy, were the starting point. Friendly atmosphere, competition in Spanish, great awards -,in fact, achieving a high ranking in these Olympiads guarantees access to RUDN University and a fellowship,- would be vital to their success.
Olympiad tasks have been developed by RUDN University. We have a pool of professors from different faculties - physics and mathematics, natural sciences, engineering, agro sciences, linguistics etc. – eligible to prepare tests and to evaluate assignments to mark students’ written answers to the tests.
It was agreed that in the city of Medellin with the assistance of the Russian Embassy a first distance Olympiad will be held.
There will be special quota for the most talented youth, Olympiad winners and prizes, so as the University will cover tuition fee to approximately 10 Ecuadorians and 4-6 Columbians. RUDN University will also provide professional enrichment for experienced professionals from Ecuador, in particular 4 teachers of Russian as a foreign language.
As for the scholarship programs, special meetings were organized with the relevant national commissions, Ministries of Education and Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the four countries. The agreement RUDN University reached last years with the scholarship commission of Ecuador, said that the University would award10 scholarships, - I already mentioned, while Ecuador Fellowship program would provide 20 grants. Fellows will be jointly selected with the assistance of the Russian Embassy in this country.
Is there any primary interest in joint scientific cooperation?
— RUDN University had meetings with heads of public and private universities in these countries–all large higher education institutions with 20 - 35 thousand students enrolled. Universities we visited have modern and well equipped labs and carry out various research programs. Grant award stimulating research that requires steady efforts in coordination, planning and development of projects at these universities are federal allocations. There are good reasons to think that we may possibly set up joint research activities in the future.
What do negotiations results in Latin America tell us?
— Large universities and institutes in Latina America we had meeting with, are result oriented. We were all interested in archiving practical outcomes during these meetings. This strategy produced the desired result. Collaboration of stakeholders is needed in order to agree on and implement a package of feasible programs. In most cases, agreements we considered and reviewed would envisage setting up of working groups, drafting action plans and developing common strategy and grounds aimed at engaging direct dialogue with employees to set the long term direction needed to give business and population the confidence to develop, and to focus on manpower preparation for the labor market. Timely, targeted and reliable programs to develop human resources and to make up-skilling - is an important prerequisite.
We plan to hold talks with Brazil and Mexico in the second half of this year, and the next year — with Argentina and Venezuela. It's about quality, not quantity, when it comes to seeking a reliable partner, especially at the time when all universities want to be considered top-performing schools and to be ranked at international level. Quality over quantity – it's a simple concept taught to us throughout our years of experience.
Are your interests limited to this region?
— This activity isn't by any means limited to this region, but just an example. Our further plans are Middle East, in particular Jordan, where we are planning to open an Ecuador model center. Negotiations will be held soon.
The next year we plan to open a center in Africa — in Ethiopia, and consider Sri Lanka and Vietnam as possible venues in Asia. To succeed and make uneven progress a foreign country readiness to cooperate under this project should reflects its long-standing support for such actions.
In China Russian philology is quite well developed, and we plan to create specialized classes on the basis of Russian -Language Schools. This idea enjoys a firm support from the Chinese Ministry of Education. Under the frame work of Sino-Russian joint working group in education RUDN University received a list of 100 Chinese secondary schools that are willing to have Russian universities’ specialized classed incorporated, promote and support Russian language skills development and professional development initiatives and programs within their teaching staff, receive visits of Russian professors and organize their lectures.
RUDN University delegation is in China now where my colleagues are discussing practical modalities of setting up specialized classes and are drawing on the long-established practice of exams and competitions, providing a forum for students/teachers etc. of Russian to demonstrate excellence in the Russian language, and to test their knowledge of Russian in open competitions.
According to the plan, the percentage of foreign students enrolled of the total number of students will steadily increase by 2019. Except Latin America, the share of students from Asia has to reach up to 22%, with a total of 20% now; the share of African students has to rise from 12% to 15%. In this regard CIS students ratio will decline from 40% to 30%.
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