The international education services market is actively developing and the integration processes are fundamental in the modern science and education. The increase in the amount and variety of educational services, a growing number of market participants, severe competition, academic mobility of researchers, professors, and students serve as a proof. The world’s top universities have international academic staff, which enables higher education institutions to provide their students with more flexible education and give them an opportunity to examine the issues from a perspective of international colleagues.
The education market in Russia, like in many other countries, is regulated by the state, and the state policy in the sphere of education and science is aimed at enhancing the international competitiveness of Russian universities. Having joined the state programme on competitiveness enhancement of leading Russian universities, Project 5-100, SUSU is competing for the right to attain a leading position in prestigious world university rankings.
The policy our university is aimed at training specialists of the future, who are competitive on the world labour market and who demonstrate competence required for production of new knowledge, world-class technologies, innovations, goods, and services.
The main activity areas of the International Research Collaboration Department at the International Office is creation of a system for recruitment of international researchers, modelling of a platform for development and strengthening of cooperation with the partner countries in the sphere of internationalization of higher education, specifically establishment and development of a wide range of contacts with the world’s research centres and integration in the international scientific community.
At present, the main trend of higher education is internationalisation. Along with the need for attraction of foreign students, one of the important factors facilitating the implementation of this process is the attraction of highly skilled foreign specialists.
Due to the collaborative work of all SUSU structural divisions and specialists of the International Research Collaboration Department, the University has successfully reached one of the compulsory targets included in the University Roadmap: in 2016 SUSU employed 28 foreign specialists, in 2017, 121 people.
Academic mobility is a core of the internationalisation of modern education, which enables students to receive quality education and allows researchers to conduct relevant international studies. Collaboration with leading researchers and publication of joint papers is a major step in the scientific development on the University’s way to its improved position in international rankings. Regarding Russian context, it’s more common to talk about academic mobility of students, not researchers and academics, since staff mobility was traditionally low. However, over the last years this situation is significantly changing in Russian universities, including South Ural State University. Since 2016 our Department has been actively attracting talented academic staff with great prestige in the international academic community. These professionals come from Serbia, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Algeria, India, China, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Indonesia and Middle East countries.
Recalling initial steps of this process (how it all started), I should say that we didn’t succeed with everything, because there was fairly great uncertainty over a brand-new for the University process, i.e. recruitment of foreign scholars. We started working on this issue with Elena Kladova. Today we have an analyst Yulia Balakina and inspector Maria Berdnikova, who lend informational support, consult the University staff members, and carry out intensive work on searching foreign specialists in international field-specific platforms. But even today, after two years of our work, in a well-coordinated process, as one would think, we face questions which we can’t answer promptly. These questions are related both to the congruence of research interests of invited researchers and our well-regarded professors, and in that respect the SUSU scientific units act as the “main violin”, and to different social and cultural, residential, legal and financial aspects of the life of a foreign employee.
The specific character of inviting foreign highly qualified specialists consists in the fact that this process is fairly long (from 2.5 to 3 months) and complicated due to mandatory procedures fixed by law. The specialists of our Department collaborate both with external organisations, for instance Department of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, medical, insurance and financial organisations, and with the University’s structural divisions, namely Human Resources Department, Finance Department and others (hall of residence, hotel). Apparently, this cooperation would be impossible without active support from the University’s administration.
Probably, these challenging and non-recurrent situations make our work interesting and important, and a day becomes wonderful for us when we manage to solve tricky “brain teasers” (just another tricky brain teaser)!
So, what have we learned? Over the last two years we have created a system for recruitment of international researchers:
- We learned to attract and formalise labour relations with foreign specialists for the positions of research fellows, professors, and lecturers
- We established a postdoc institute – learned to attract and employ young, talented foreign researchers for the position of postdocs
- Work on international recruitment platforms, we know the peculiar features of many processes that are inherent in the period of stay and employment in Russia.
It’s been accepted now that a researcher should conduct interdisciplinary studies and take part in international cooperation in order to get high results of his or her work. Due to active assistance and support of our specialists, the international groups of researchers in the field of tourism, geography, chemistry, food biotechnology, and nanotechnology are actively working at the University.
Thus, researchers of the Crystal Growth Laboratory in Nanotechnology Research and Education Centre conduct work on the analysis of functional properties of such a magnetic material as hexaferrite in the collaboration with researchers of National University of Science and Technology (Moscow), Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (Dubna), Institut Laue-Langevin (France), Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Germany), Yibin University (China), Amity University Gurgaon (India). Under the guidance of our researchers, Denis Vinnik and Dmitry Zherebtsov, postdocs from Russia, India and Ukraine are involved in this project.
Academics of the Department of Tourism and Socio-Cultural Service of the Institute of Sport, Tourism and Service collaborates with their Serbian counterparts. Due to active support of the Institute’s Director Vadim Erlikh, the Department actively cooperates with the Geographical Institute Jovan Cvijić of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Belgrade, Serbia), Faculty of Sport and Physical Education of the University of Belgrade (Serbia), and the administration of National Park Tara (Serbia). Researchers conduct joint studies in the field of tourism and discuss prospects for its development in Russia and Serbia. Head of the Department Tatiana Tretyakova takes on an active research role in this direction.
Under the supervision of Head of the Food and Biotechnology Department Irina Potoroko and Medical University-Varna (Bulgaria), the SUSU School Medical Biology (managed by Vadim Tseylikman) runs a joint research project on biologically active extracts. This project is particularly promising, since it allows combining considerable efforts of two research schools from the perspective of pharmacology and medicine and application possibility in the food production.
The common research interests united the staff of the Automobile Transport Department (under the guidance of Yury Rozhdestvensky and Elena Zadorozhnaya) and Technical University of Sofia (Chairman of the Society of Bulgarian Tribologists Mara Kandeva). The researchers study future-oriented materials, including bio-degradable lubricants for friction units of machines and mechanisms. Based on the obtained results they publish joint papers in scientific journals.
We would like to intensify this research collaboration at the University, as such projects are launched in an attempt to improve the quality of research studies and education, cooperate and exchange ideas with leading foreign researchers in order to be in the centre of innovative research and play an active role in it. Such cooperation provides a high level of research and education, increasing publication activity, developing new educational programs, including undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in English and double-degree programmes, integrating the research results in offered courses, improving teaching and learning materials, introducing new educational technologies, and promoting the development of a university staff support system. All these events boost the quality of education, consolidate the university’s reputation, improve its position in international academic rankings, and as a result, its competitiveness on the international market.
Foreign employees to a great extent contribute to the internationalisation of a higher education institution, which, among other things, helps university graduates quickly adapt to the professional environment in the context of globalisation, enhance their employment prospects, and facilitates rapid career progression.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that the most important thing in our work is to understand its significance, be involved in such a field of human activity as science, which is already interesting and honourable! We believe that our efforts bring many useful results and are important for our University.