In a long insightful conversation, the new rector of RUDN University (Russian Peoples’ Friendship University), Oleg Yastrebov, discusses the latest developments, educational reforms, student enrollment as well as cultural diversity at his multinational university.
When meeting the author, Rector Oleg Yastrebov particularly emphasized the importance of effective monitoring and evaluation of student performance by hard-working academic staff. He wholeheartedly supports that the university staff and academic teams provide the necessary knowledge and cutting-edge skills to young aspiring leaders, which makes the university the first class among many in the Russian Federation.
RUDN University is an educational institution located in Moscow. Established in 1960, it mainly provided higher education to Third World students during the Soviet era. Many students, especially from developing countries, still come to this popular university from Latin America, Asia and Africa. It is the most multidisciplinary university in Russia, which has the largest number of foreign students and offers various academic disciplines.
Here are the interview excerpts:
What are your thoughts on the popular saying – a new leader, a new approach to management?
The former Rector of RUDN University, who is now its President, Professor Vladimir Filippov has assembled a unique scientific and expert team. I am not a new person for them, as a graduate of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia – this is the full name of RUDN University. I was the head of the Law Institute, so I know most of the teachers. The entire administration of the university is required to preserve and strengthen the achievements. We are the most international, multidisciplinary and friendliest university in Russia. I am sure that with the arrival of new people in the team, the university will become even more ambitious, international, digital and with a new approach to the quality of teaching. We are a modern university and we are ready to remain a dream university for many brilliant students.
Most recently, you assumed the post of rector. What would you count as notable accomplishments and successes in those few years?
Over the past year, RUDN University has strengthened its position among the best universities in the world. We are the greenest university in Russia. More and more talented students are coming to us. Brilliant international students continue to enroll at RUDN – last year we had new students, for example, from Portugal and Lesotho. We have signed agreements with strong partners – Sistema (the largest Russian investment organization), Kaspersky Lab and the European Medical Center. I would like to note separately that RUDN was the first in Russia to receive the right to validate and verify greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the current challenges and tasks as you take up the post of rector of RUDN University?
The first priority is a new approach to teacher recruitment criteria. These should be people with genuine professional practical achievements. A teacher who tells books is a transmitter of information, but not a source of new knowledge. We understand the importance of moving forward to motivate students and initiate startups in collaboration with employers. By this direction, it creates a competitive environment among students and employers will be able to notice talented students even before graduation.
We will continue to strengthen science at the university. We integrate successful educational technologies into the education process. We are expanding the network of partner universities. There is serious progress in a multilingual environment – all of our graduates from bachelor’s programs speak at least one foreign language to a serious level of proficiency. The plan is to make two languages.
I would like to mention here that we have updated the whole university environment. The campus is changing, it is also an important factor for the students. Co-working spaces, sports and leisure spaces, dormitories are becoming more and more stylish and trendy. Interestingly, 300 students have already moved into the newly designed halls. Indeed, 450 rooms are being transformed for the new semester. RUDN was the first university in Russia to open the first multifunctional student center, where you can get all the basic documents about studies. The process will only take 5-15 minutes.
On the other hand, what do you suggest as significant steps to raise the cultural profile of students from different countries?
RUDN worthily preserves long-standing traditions: national culture weeks for example, and we have signed the Declaration of Tolerance. We have over 100 community organizations and international study groups. We have active students who help first-year students adapt to new study and living conditions. There is a volunteer center with more than 200 volunteers – it’s a kind of international student office, which helps foreign students adjust to life in Russia. Their work is based on the principle “Buddy For Each Foreigner”. Each foreign student is assigned a Russian conservative friend. The curator is in touch and ready to help a foreign service in any situation – from “I’m lost” to “help me with this task at home”. In addition, students organize informal meetings, where they get to know compatriots, make friends, help each other in their university studies.
What are the peculiarities of running an educational institution like RUDN University, especially in a liberal market economy?
About 70% of the budget the University earns itself. It is not only an educational activity, but also additional professional training, income from science. Revenues are mainly generated by Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics and the Institute of Innovative Engineering Technologies. The humanities mainly work on a grant basis, they provide all kinds of scientific advisory services.
What is the competitive advantage of RUDN University? What advantages does it have over other similar educational institutions in the Russian Federation?
RUDN is the most multidisciplinary university in Russia. A student can choose from 446 directions. Here you can get technical, scientific, medical, economic, humanitarian education. Engineers, lawyers, doctors, diplomats, financiers, agrarians, physicists, mathematicians, linguists, journalists are trained at RUDN.
RUDN has the strongest language school. By studying languages, students receive an additional diploma as a translator. A student can choose from 12 foreign languages to study: European, Oriental or Russian as a foreign language.
RUDN has all the conditions for doing science. We have more than 200 laboratories, more than 40 scientific and scientific-educational centers equipped with modern equipment, annual scientific conferences, grants, scholarships, joint research projects with leading foreign universities.
What can you say about the education and training system, especially for foreigners, as well as regular educational exchanges as a means of establishing closer relations with the university?
RUDN is an international university. Representatives of 160 countries study here. We have an established system for recruiting international students. We interact with candidates from Asia, Africa and Latin America directly through the Olympiads, our pre-university classes and our training centers.
Last year, 4395 foreigners enrolled at RUDN University. That’s almost 500 people more than expected. Especially – on “Medicine”, “Dental Medicine”, “International Relations”. Egypt, Zambia and Nigeria were among the top three (3) African countries in terms of number of international students.
We have exchange and internship programs, double degree programs in cooperation with foreign universities, international conferences, summer schools. The geography of RUDN’s educational and scientific cooperation is vast: more than 250 agreements have been signed with educational institutions in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, d Africa and Latin America. Since 2007, graduates have received a European Diploma Supplement, recognized worldwide.
What motivates you as a rector in this educational environment? Who are the most notable people, besides Russians, with whom you interacted during the work at RUDN University?
Students motivate me a lot, especially when I see their success in the scientific, educational, sporting and creative fields. Apart from the students, I am also very motivated by my colleagues who sacrifice a lot, devote their considerable energy and time to carry out their work effectively, efficiently and conscientiously.
To all appearance – education and vocational training – are aspects of diplomacy. Do you think young people should be involved in this public diplomacy?
Without mincing words, youth is our future. All development and technological progress depends on them – the current young generation. Therefore, at RUDN, we teach them to become professional leaders in various fields, equip them with the necessary skills and help them acquire the knowledge of communication on an international scale.