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What Does Russia Have to Offer International Students?

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Released today, the QS EECA Rankings 2020 provide insight into the top universities within emerging Europe and central Asia.

While this isn’t a global region that’s spoken about very often, the academic institutions in these countries are often some of the most innovative, teaching highly specialised curriculum to their students and developing strong ties with global employers.

One country dominates the EECA Rankings above all others - Russia. Over 100 of the universities in this year’s ranking are based here, including all of the top three.

To get more information about what Russian universities have to offer international students, we spoke to faculty and staff from St Petersburg Mining University, which was ranked among the world’s top 20 universities for mining engineering in the QS World University Rankings by Subject earlier this year.

An extensive and thorough curriculum

Universities outside of the traditional top study destinations in North America and western Europe know they have to offer something special to attract the brightest minds.

So, it’s no surprise that universities like St Petersburg Mining University take great pride in offering an academic program that’s rigorous, challenging and fully adapted to match the needs of today’s students.

Professor Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of the university, described the teaching at St Petersburg Mining University as extremely comprehensive: “We are a classical university with a focus on training in mining engineering, covering all the disciplines which might be necessary (e.g. rare metals, oil & gas).

“We have eight research centers and some of the most advanced equipment possible. We also have a state license to dig and explore, and to the north we have our own plots where students can actually apply their knowledge in real life.”

“St Petersburg Mining University covers every specialisation you can think of which might be required while you work with mineral resources. Not just mining, but oil and gas and geology. It’s not just engineers, we produce managers and heads of production too.”

A degree which actually prepares you for the working world

A complaint frequently levelled at the world’s top universities is that their degrees have increasingly failed to prepare students for graduate life, with important soft skills required by employers not touched upon.

The most innovative academic programs are the ones which bring employers into the classroom and allow students to develop the skills they’ll actually require as an employee rather than just getting bogged down in theory.

St Petersburg Mining University are proud of their industry connections, with Professor Litvinenko highlighting the consulting work done by the university for global companies as one example of this.

“In particular, we have a longstanding relationship with BP, and they support our students, offering them internships and providing about US$1m per year to the university which is quite unique. “From their second year, students can become involved in actual company projects and many of them will be offered a job for when they graduate. The high demand from the market means companies are actually competing for students and each student is able to predict where they will be working in the future.”

In addition, the university tailors its teaching to the demands of the outside world, with its international faculty training students according to requests made by major employers in the field. The university is even expanding its range of German-taught degrees to help the German government tackle a shortage of skilled workers in this area.

A surprisingly diverse student body

Russia is unlikely to be the first place you think of when considering where you should study abroad, but the country is unfairly maligned for a lack of international diversity. Universities here regularly attract students from around the world, and although the language barrier is more significant here than in other countries there are plenty of English-taught degree programs.

Professor Litvinenko told us: “One of the key challenges is the requirement for all faculty members to be fluent in English. This is something we’re working on. However, after four years all students graduate with professional fluency in English and nearly half of all courses are taught in English. We also teach several courses in French due to the high number of African students we have.

“We have lots of European students which is unusual for a Russian university. We even have full-time students from as far as Canada and Latin America.

“We also have a big focus on exchange students, who come from other European institutions. The curriculum is synchronised with their home university and they come here for six months to continue their studies. Excluding summer schools, we have about 1,000 international students a year.”

A university degree that won’t leave you in debt

Going to university - particularly if you have one eye on a postgraduate degree and/or doctorate - isn’t cheap. Especially if you’re only considering universities in established study destinations like the US and the UK.

One advantage Russia and other locations in emerging Europe and central Asia have is that degrees are often cheaper in order to be more attractive to students.

Professor Litvinenko explained: “Mining engineering is quite a particular market. Continental Europe provides lots of grants and scholarships for mining engineering students and at our university all international students are given scholarships and provided with accommodation. If you study really well, on top of your scholarship you can receive further financial support.”

This lack of financial burden is even more important when you consider the high figures earned by mining engineering graduates - up to US$119,828 in the US and £75,000 in the UK.

The chance to make a difference in the world

There are so many university students around the world today that it’s easy to feel lost in the shuffle, especially when you’re one of a large crowd in every lecture and you feel disconnected from your fellow academics.

This inability to connect with your studies and properly make a change in the world is easily dealt with when you choose to apply to universities which can offer a more intimate and transformative student experience.

St Petersburg Mining University has a relatively small student body of just over 10,000 full-time students. You’re unlikely to feel like just another face in the crowd here!

Plus, what better way to have an impact on the world than study mineral and mining engineering? We spoke to Alexey, a PhD student at the university, who was motivated to study the subject because of dreams of helping his home town: “My hometown is in the south of Russia and some 50km away from where I grew up there are floods that happen repeatedly every two to three years. It’s a problem I’d like to deal with.”

As part of his studies, Alexey has gone on to present an idea on how to tackle this issue to industry figures from some of the world’s top companies in this field.

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Written by Craig OCallaghan
As editor of TopUniversities.com, Craig oversees the site's editorial content and network of student contributors. He also plays a key editorial role in the publication of several guides and reports, including the QS Top Grad School Guide.

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