How will universities train staff for the digital economy? How is this work being done today at the National University of Science and Technology “MISiS” (NUST MISIS)? Alevtina Chernikova, Rector of NUST MISIS, told Sputnik about it.
Sputnik: What role do the country's leading universities play in the work of digital transformation of education?
Alevtina Chernikova: The world is changing rapidly. A decade ago, the transition to a knowledge-based economy using information technology was seen as something inevitable but distant. Today, digital transformation encompasses all spheres of human activity; it is a global process affecting the education systems in most countries.
The best educational institutions in the world are faced with the need constantly to search for new educational technologies and teaching methods. In the emerging digital economy, the quality of intellectual resources is at the forefront.
Leading Russian universities have been working on implementing the digital university model for several years now. By forming a unified educational space, we are integrating various digital tools and services into the traditional process: learning analytics and management systems, online platforms, access to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), etc.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, has set the task for the rectors of leading universities to develop a comprehensive approach to digital transformation, which should be based on best practices developed by universities. They will subsequently be scaled up to the whole of Russia's higher education system.
In considering the task of digitalising the educational process, we rely on our business partners, including the leaders of the global IT industry. In close cooperation with them, we have established the Huawei ICT Academy, the Big Data Academy of Mail.ru Group, and launched joint educational programmes with Sberbank on the basis of NUST MISIS.
These and other joint projects are very popular with both students and established professionals wishing to gain new competencies. For example, the average age of students enrolled in “Data Science”, an online master's programme in cooperation with SkillFactory, is 35.
Sputnik: What are the priorities for the university community today as part of the project "Human Resources for the Digital Economy"? How are you approaching them at your university?
Alevtina Chernikova: Today we are witnessing a huge demand for education to be personalised, for an individual approach to learning. We can successfully meet this challenge, in particular, by integrating digital technologies into the educational process.
At NUST MISIS, we apply a hybrid learning model that provides students with knowledge both face-to-face in classrooms and through online courses. At present, more than 85 percent of educational content developed by university professors is available in digital format on the university’s online platform.
Another important area of digitalisation of education is working with big data. The digital footprint of students is formed through a unified digital space created at the university, which allows, through the Personal Web Office of an applicant-student-graduate, among other things, to form a portfolio of achievements necessary for successful employment. Today's employers need to see not only the level of professional training of future employees but also the evidence of impressive results in research, creativity, volunteering and other activities.
One last thing: the ability for continuous self-learning and self-education has now become one of the most sought-after competencies for a professional in any field, and its role will only increase over time. The university's goal is to create the necessary conditions for the acquisition of additional knowledge, skills and competencies by both university students and members of the general public.
Sputnik: NUST MISIS was one of the first in Russia to develop a modern strategy of its development and launch its implementation. In your opinion, what decisions were the key ones?
Alevtina Chernikova: A development strategy is a clearly formulated and logically justified programme for achieving the university's ambitious goals, indicating the sequence of actions and the resources required for their implementation. Each university research centre has its own competitive advantages which should be the basis for the formation of priority fields.
The main criteria for the success of an implemented strategy are attracting talent in the broadest sense of the word, concentrating resources on priority areas, and building a strong management team. It is equally important, when developing a strategy, to focus on the mission, the system of values shared by the team.
Another important factor for successful development is systematic cooperation with key academic and business partners. Today, we cooperate with more than 1,600 companies, creating joint educational programmes, providing our students with ample opportunities for internships and traineeships and participation in career events.
The key objective of the university is the success of its graduates. NUST MISIS prepares specialists of the future who think creatively and are ready to solve problems in the conditions of the emerging knowledge economy. In our activities, we follow the so-called “Student First” principle, forming an eco-environment of innovation and creativity that contributes to the development of abilities and talents of each student.
Sputnik: Did digitalisation help your university overcome the difficulties of last year's admission campaign that was held remotely?
Alevtina Chernikova: In 2012, NUST MISIS began developing and implementing Digital MISIS, a “digital university” model, which includes the introduction of new educational technologies, the use of digital tools in scientific research and the development of digital services for university applicants, students, teachers and employees.
In 2015, our university was one of the first in Russia to implement the digitalisation of the admission campaign, and in the first year, more than half (56 percent) of applicants used the opportunity to apply online. Last year, as many as 97 percent of applications were made through the "Applicant's Personal Account" on our website and the State Service website "Application for university admission", and 3 percent used the services of the Russian Post. The digital infrastructure has enabled us to make the 2020 admissions campaign run virtually in normal mode.
Every year well-trained, talented and motivated young people choose us - the university implements dozens of projects across the country as part of the author's professional navigation programme. As a result, the competition for admission is growing steadily, and today the university is among the best in Russia in the quality of its admissions: the average [uniform state examination] score of applicants has increased from 67.3 in 2012 to 88.4 in the 2020 admission campaign.
Sputnik: Which fields of study are most popular with applicants?
Alevtina Chernikova: We are seeing a steady growth in almost all technical fields - materials science, mining and metallurgy. But the demand for IT training is rising most actively. Today, NUST MISIS is among the top five most in-demand universities in the country that provide training in IT specialities, and the average score of the USE in some areas of study at the College of Information Technologies and Computer Sciences is close to 100. Among the popular specialities in this field are applied computer science, applied mathematics, computer science and computer engineering.
Sputnik: How do you solve the challenge of training staff for the university?
Alevtina Chernikova: NUST MISIS works with leading academic and business partners in Russia and around the world, and there is something to learn from each of them. Our teachers are interned in world-class holdings, such as Metalloinvest LLC, OMK CJSC, PJSC Sberbank, with whom we have been working fruitfully for many years to create and adapt educational programmes.
The University is an official participant in MegaScience-level projects: our scientists and professors are at present undertaking internships on the two CERN experiments - LHCb and SHiP. Academic partners in educational projects with CERN include renowned scientific and educational centres such as INFN, the University of Naples Federico II, the University of Zurich, Imperial College London and several other universities and companies.
To ensure that our lecturers can promptly acquire the necessary knowledge and competencies, in 2019 NUST MISIS opened the School of Pedagogical Excellence - one of the elements of the university's digital ecosystem that promotes new educational technologies and disseminates best practices. Last December, we launched, with University College London, a unique teacher re-education project focused on the development of competitive educational programmes in priority areas for the university. To date, more than 700 teachers have been trained.
Sputnik: What are the prospects for inter-university cooperation in training?
Alevtina Chernikova: No national or global problem can be solved by professionals of a single field. The solution lies within metadisciplinary framework – the integrated linking of the capabilities of different fields of science. In this regard, I consider it extremely important to promote the creation, development and strengthening of horizontal communication between universities and research centres. In this manner, we create new opportunities for our students.