IPACS Director Igor Bartsits: We are opening the door to Russian– Spanish academic cooperation
2019 will be the year of Spain at the 6th Moscow International Education Fair (MIEF), which opens on April 10. Spain has officially confirmed its participation as a special guest and a partner country at MIEF-2019. One of the key events of the first day of the fair will be the presentation of the Academic Alliance of Russian and Spanish Universities. Igor Bartsits, Director of RANEPA Institute of Public Administration and Civil Service (IPACS), will moderate the roundtable, Academic Alliance of Russian and Spanish Universities: From Idea to Prospects.
– Why was Spain chosen as a special guest and why is this alliance being created with Spanish universities?
– Russia is developing educational projects not only with Spain, but also with leading European countries. Suffice it to recall the Russian-French University, a pioneering project, as well as cooperation with universities in Italy, Germany, and English-speaking countries. The Asian track is also very important. As for Spain, I would say the current level of educational cooperation with that country does not correspond to our two countries’ potential or the interest from students of Russian and Spanish universities.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to host a radio program with the then attaché for education, culture and sport of the Spanish Embassy in Moscow, Tatyana Diez. She asked for an explanation of my idea for the title – Unknown Spain: why “unknown,” when annually up to 1.5 million Russians travel to Spain, when we all study the history of that country at school, read the best pieces of Spanish literature and tirelessly admire its culture. But these are just a few of the facets of Spain. We are only beginning to discover it as a country of advanced education and science, high technologies in engineering and medicine.
When we began the cooperation with Spanish universities, we literally reopened that seemingly familiar and charming country. It became clear why Spain is the leading host country for foreign students in Europe as part of the ERASMUS and ERASMUS+ projects (the non-commercial EU program for student and teacher mobility – IF), why Spanish universities are increasingly moving up in international rankings, why more and more Russian students become interested in joint educational programs. For example, IPACS is implementing joint undergraduate programs with the University of Valencia – Politics and Law, and Foreign Regional Studies – as well as master’s degree programs on economic and political cooperation of the European Union and EurAsEC. In 2019, RANEPA Institute of Industry Management (IIM) and the University of Oviedo in Asturias will launch a master's program on International Tourism.
– What other universities are included in the new association? What is the idea of the Alliance?
– At the first stage, four players are declared on each side. On the Russian side, we have the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA); the Russian Foreign Trade Academy;MISIS National University of Science and Technology; and Tomsk State University. The Spanish participants will include University of Valencia; University Carlos III of Madrid; University of Oviedo (Asturias); and Rovira i Virgili University (Catalonia). As you can see, the schools’ specialization and the regional factor are taken into account to expand cooperation.
The initiative to create the Alliance belongs to the Spanish side. Former Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Russia, Ignacio Ibáñez, and the current Ambassador, Fernando Valderrama, have played the most active role here. I hope the ambassadors will not be offended if I also note the role of the attaché for education, science and sport at the embassy, Aurelio Villanueva.
I think the Academy’s leading role in the Alliance is predetermined by the school’s significant cooperation potential, essional and good human relations with colleagues from Spanish universities, a relevant cooperation infrastructure already in place, and a group of enthusiasts. Without the interest from these people, their effort, we would have not succeeded in the development of this project. First of all, credit must go to Director of the RANEPA IPACS Russian-Spanish Center Olga Pirozhenko and Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Regional Studies and Regional Administration Valentina Komleva.
The idea of the Alliance is to pool the efforts of various Russian and Spanish universities located in various regions and specializing in various studies. Together they will create programs to attract smart and promising young people, so that Russian students discover the yet unknown Spain, and Spanish students, a new Russia that is open to the world.
– What challenges are to be met to establish the Alliance?
– The main factors that guide foreign students in choosing a university are the language of instruction, the prestige of the country, the school’s reputation, the cost of tuition and living, and the compatibility of qualification requirements. These criteria easily reveal some objective, natural difficulties for Russia’s positioning in the global educational landscape: 1) the growing global competition for educational migrants, while Russia does very little to promote its universities on the world market; 2) a lack of agreements on the mutual recognition of degrees; 3) differences in the organization of the educational process in Russia and abroad; and 4) climate and language issues.
First of all, I would like to note that an agreement is going to be concluded soon on the mutual recognition of diplomas and degrees. The issue is long overdue and simply cannot be delayed any further. If the process is successfully completed, Spain will become the second EU country to sign this agreement with Russia. The pioneer was France in 2015.
Next, certain changes need to be made to the current legislation to facilitate the implementation of international programs, and policies need to be worked out to promote Russia and its universities in the Spanish educational space, and to adapt Spanish students in Russia. This is not just about improving the legislation and procedures concerning education – we must also take into account the immigration laws, the visa regime, etc.
One of the main goals of the Alliance will be to attract Spanish students to Russia, and perhaps the Alliance will serve as a bridge via Spain to South America.
A special format could be developed within the Alliance – an online platform for direct contacts between students from the two countries. Filled with educational content (online courses, primarily languages, as well as historical, economic, and cultural awareness content), this platform would provide for communication that is not only enjoyable, but also useful for accumulating social as well as human capital. It is this combination of results that should guarantee long-term and self-developing cooperation and partnership between Russian and Spanish youth.
– You mean the activities of the Alliance will not be limited purely to education. Obviously, its mission is much wider.
– Of course, we are talking about a major effort to build a proper and true image of Russia in Spain. Without stretching the truth, we have to admit that the so-called mainstream media are far from showing us in the best light.
Attracting foreign students is an important political task. <...>