The Competitive Strength of Our Students Is the Best Indicator of the University’s Effective Performance
Ivan Lobanov, Rector of the State University of Management, has given an in-depth interview to RBK and spoken about how the university has managed to find a window of opportunities during quarantine, about the university’s innovative projects, international collaborations, and its main pride – the graduates.
— These days, a popular phrase in Russia and beyond is the statement that ‘the world will never be the same again’. Would you agree with that? Has the crisis caused by the pandemic affected the university?
— New technologies and digital formats have become an essential part of our lives. Digitalisation is an irreversible global process, and we need to learn how to manage it.
The State University of Management already has an internal infrastructure for quick and effective communication. This has allowed us to switch to working remotely quite quickly and not lose the connection between the professors and the students.
So in our case, I wouldn’t say that the crisis caused by the pandemic has really affected us. But it’s true that remote operations have increased professors’ workload who essentially switched to working with students one-on-one.
Overall, during the period of remote education, SUM conducted 9.5 thousand lectures; over 13 thousand practical tasks and laboratory works were completed and graded. It’s a colossal amount of work.
—What makes the State University of Management special? And has the period of remote education opened a window of opportunities for the university?
— Nowadays, digital technologies are the main resource that determines the development of any project in all areas of human activity. That’s why our task as a university is to train well-educated, modern managers who are capable of applying new technologies in different economic sectors and in the field of management.
When it comes to new opportunities, now it’s becoming possible to use more complex educational materials. It can be, for instance, a VR university with full immersion, and cross-cutting technologies such as AI that would analyse students’ digital footprint and build individual learning tracks.
In order to make it possible, we have data engineers specialising on education, as well as access to various databases, educational platforms, and digital products. We will be reinforcing this area further.
Our other focus is project work conducted by our students. I personally see project work as the basis for the development of intellectual initiative, and therefore – innovations.
SUM has a Digital Economy and High Technologies project laboratory where our students can use their skills and broaden their knowledge and IT competencies.
We have new projects every year, from web portals to complex scientific developments. For instance, our students have created a face recognition system based on artificial neural networks and machine vision.
The SUM Marketing Institute pays special attention to project work and challenges its students with difficult and ambitious tasks. Project work based on real-life cases and business tasks allows our students to start building their own portfolios from the first year of education.
We support the initiatives of our students and have a dedicated acceleration programme for this purpose. Students cooperate with different departments and divisions of the university, learn how to present their ideas and developments, and compete with IT companies.
We also develop international partnerships and represent our university across international online educational platforms. We are already cooperating with 48 leading international universities and 74 international companies, acting as a platform for the effective work of researchers, professors, and lecturers from all over the world.
— As a university of digital technologies, is SUM going to preserve the traditional offline form of education? Will any programmes become online-exclusive?
— A university is first and foremost an environment that has a huge influence on a person and their character development. That’s why online education is only an addition to the traditional format, and it is not going to replace live communication.
The pandemic has obviously led to massive popularity of online technologies. But according to data from the SUM Research Institute of Digital Economy Transformation Management, in 2019 26.8% of secondary and secondary vocational education institutions and 39.3% of higher education institutions were already using online technologies. That means even before the pandemic universities successfully combined in-person and online education. And that determined their readiness for an emergency situation.
Our personal experience has shown that digital format is suitable for not just providing educational services but also for inviting students to participate in research projects. Thanks to modern technologies, SUM has been able to work with its international partners from Ningbo University (China), Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (Finland), Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences (Germany), and specialists from partner departments in industry companies, and launch the #GUU.CODE virtual laboratory. This vector of activity allows the students to not only gain experience in solving practical industry tasks, but also to establish connections with industry companies, i.e. their future employers.
— Universities’ engineering centres are instruments for introducing latest scientific developments into the manufacturing industry. Which centres are available at the State University of Management and what kind of tasks are they working on?
— SUM currently has two engineering centres: the Centre for Interindustry Innovation Projects and the Centre for Digital Management Technology.
The first one was created two years ago with support from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education; the centre’s main areas of focus are power engineering and energy-efficient technologies. We are talking about designing industrial and household modular boiler systems and working on technologies for intelligent control over the production of heat energy during the periods of peak load.
The second centre was created in collaboration with Rabus LLC – developer of software platforms and supporting instruments for solving management tasks. It has two laboratories: Mathematical Modelling and Knowledge Engineering, and Advanced Information Technologies.
— Can you please tell us about obtaining further education at SUM.
— The State University of Management is one of the leaders among Russian universities and has been developing the system of further professional education for over 50 years.
We have created two business schools: the Higher Business School and the Institute of Business and Business Administration. We are training professionals for some of the largest corporations. The attendees of our programmes are members of the business community from different regions and industries. We are currently offering over 150 programmes of further professional education, programmes of professional training and further professional education for citizens aged 50+, as well as women with children under the age of 3, and specialised programmes for civil officers.
The SUM MBA programme has AMBA accreditation, which means that apart from their diplomas graduates also receive AMBA certificates.
— During a recent meeting with the Minister of Science and Higher Education, you mentioned the ‘Stepping into the Future: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy’ international research forum. How different is the upcoming forum going to be from the previous ones?
— The ‘Stepping into the Future’ international research forum has become somewhat of a signature of our university. Last year’s topic, ‘Smart Nations: Economy of Digital Equality’, was aimed at developing and implementing the national Digital Economy programme.
We also discussed subjects like the social phenomenon of digital inequality, which emerged due to the technological breakthrough of the new digital economy.
This year, we will be holding the ‘Stepping into the Future: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy’ International Forum for the fourth time. Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media will act as SUM’s strategic partners for the event. France is the invited guest country of the upcoming forum. The main topic of discussions will shed light on the future of the development of information society and artificial intelligence.
I would also like to point out that we are committed to developing our international collaborations: SUM is a member of a number of international academic associations.
This year, following the results of the competition initiated by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, SUM’s research teams have launched their two-years-long research projects in collaboration with scientists from Vietnam and Belarus. This cooperation will serve as the foundation for expanding the activities of international research laboratories at SUM. All findings and developments will be presented at the AI Forum.
— Another stage in the development of international partnerships is the university’s new ‘Societal, Legal, and Ethical Frameworking of Knowledge Societies’ UNESCO Chair. Could you tell us more about the initiatives and projects the Chair is working on? It’s quite a unique experience.
— A year and a half ago, we launched the ‘Societal, Legal, and Ethical Frameworking of Knowledge Societies’ UNESCO Chair. Its main tasks include the development of international cooperation and popularising the mission and the ideas of the UN related to education, science, and culture.
For instance, during last year’s ‘Stepping into the Future: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy’ international research forum, UNESCO Chair organised a youth conference/business game called UNESCO Model; 150 university students and school graduates took part in the conference. The UNESCO Chair also held the ‘Future World, Joint Efforts, Genuine Progress’ international research-to-practice conference of young scientists, in honour of the 75th anniversary of the UN.
The SUM UNESCO Chair has launched the Digital Volunteers online educational platform, which aims to make education accessible to all groups of citizens.
The UNESCO Chair has already been commended by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the Chair has become a member of the Ethics Committee on Artificial Intelligence under the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO.
— Graduates of the State University of Management are the face of the university. Many of them are well-known, and some have an impact on the development of specific regions and even the entire Russia. What’s your advice for contemporary students and applicants? What can they do to achieve such outstanding results?
— Our university has already trained over 100 thousand professionals. The list of our graduates includes Dmitriy Patrushev, Minister of Agriculture, Roman Artyukhin, Head of the Federal Treasury, Mikhail Babich, First Deputy of the Minister of Economic Development, Vasily Golubev, Governor of the Rostov Region, Andrey Nikitin, Governor of the Novgorod Region, Georgiy Kalamanov, Deputy Director of the Rosatom International Business Development Division, Famil Sadygov, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Gazprom and Board Member at Gazprom Neft, Olga Polyakova, Deputy Chair of the Central Bank of Russia, and many other respectable figures.
The demand for our students is, perhaps, the best indicator of the effective performance of our university. The standard they are trained to makes them competitive in both Russian and international markets.
But in order to become successful, you need to be able to set your priorities and make choices. Applicants and their parents are about to make an important choice. It’s crucial to select the right university and future profession.
— Are any of your graduates – members of the business community or government authorities – giving lectures at the university?
— Yes, our graduates do take part in the education process. We invite heads of federal executive authorities and some of the largest corporations. We have already made respective agreements with representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Construction Industry, Housing and Utilities Sector, the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Federal Treasury, Rosstat, and other government authorities.