Russian universities going digital discussed at an online conference

Online conference entitled Russian University as an Integral Element for Development of Public Diplomacy took place on 12 May 2020. The participants discussed how academic, research and student communities laid the foundation for Russia’s cooperation with other nations.

E.V. Mitrofanova, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, A.V. Kortunov, RIAC Director General, P.A. Shevtsov, Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, RCSC heads in Brussels and Dushanbe, experts in the field of Russian education and public diplomacy from the Shevchenko SFU, the Financial University, Creative Diplomacy Center for Support and Development of Public Initiatives, Association of Global Universities, and RANEPA took part in the conference. 

These days, Russian universities are taking active efforts to boost exports of Russian education, attract foreign students to Russia, develop partner cooperation in various global locations. 

“Nowadays, anyone — a university or a school student — may find any knowledge and information on any issue. So, teacher training, enabling a quantum leap is the primary task for schools and universities,”stated Eleonora Mitrofanova, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo.

The higher school has already accumulated huge capacities for international cooperation. In a contemporary world of digital technology the internationalisation objectives require brand new solutions. The university web portal and social media activities in foreign languages and for foreign audience comes into the spotlight.

Rossotrudnichestvo annually holds presentations of Russian universities: exhibitions at various venues – including Russian centres for science and culture (RCSC) in different countries – and presentations of specific universities. Thus, Rossotrudnichestvo arranged a separate presentation in Germany for the Moscow Polytech early this year. In autumn 2019, Russian Digital Cooperation in Universities exhibitions were held in Serbia and Turkey. Exhibitions in Albania and Bulgaria are planned for 2020. 

“Rossotrudnichestvo arranges the admission of 15,000 foreign students based on the quota of the Russian Federation, and are engaged in the activity in close cooperation with universities,” emphasised Pavel Shevtsov, Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo.

The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) delivered its presentation Russian Universities on the Global Internet: Public Diplomacy Challenges. International activities of universities is about making and maintaining the appealing image of Russia abroad, unveiling the malign stereotypes and enhancing its attraction among foreigners. To date, English is the main vehicle of global communication, in the education as well. Leveraged use of web resources in English is a crucial factor in the exports of educational services and raising the attraction of higher education abroad. 

“We are now speaking about relevance of three notions. These are public diplomacy, universities and digital dimension of our foreign policy and international relations as a whole. Our RIAC practice prompts me to assert that interuniversity cooperation is a must nearly for any bilateral project we are on,” stated Andrey Kortunov, RIAC Director General.

Vera Bunina, Head of Brussels RCSC, related about European experience of universities changeover for distance learning. In her words, universities in Western Europe are going online for quite a while now: for instance, the Open University as the most renowned of them, have been solely learning online. Rosstrudnichestvo centres abroad have also been adopting the online system: all Russian language courses at Brussels-based RCSC are taking place in that format. 

“We self-test all challenges and benefits during Russian language courses at the RCSC in Brussels. We have more than 300,000 listeners for the country with the population of 1.5 million. Teaching Russian skyrocketed 80% during just 2 years. We are arranging official certification of the Russian language in concert with the Pushkin Institute,” Mrs. Bunina stressed.

Members of universities and public diplomacy experts discussed adoption of “digital” tools into communication channels with students and prospective students, e.g. creation of new platforms, websites and social media. 

A special multilingual super service for foreign prospective students, offering a choice of universities and support for students, would be developed and launched by Rossotrudnichestvo in the next two years as an aid to universities, Mikhail Popov, Director of the Scientific and Educational Projects Management Department maintained. Active deployment of the service starts in January 2022.

“The new super service is an interesting and user-friendly resource. The service will be developed within the next two years, to gather the information about universities, and multilingual support for prospective students. This will be an all-in-one platform,” he noted.

The broadcast recording is available at the official Youtube channel of Rossotrudnichestvo: