Double Diploma Doubles Your Chances

by Paris, ESCP-Europe October 13th, 2007

The Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics (REA) marked its 100th anniversary earlier this year. And in July they celebrated another significant jubilee, maybe less impressive but not less important - it has been ten years since the first group of students graduated from the International Business School (IBS), established within the Plekhanov Academy.

The Academy was the first one in Moscow to work out and implement, in cooperation with foreign partners, an English language curriculum that helped not only to achieve a higher quality of education, but to integrate it into the world system of top class professional training in marketing, management and finance. Each graduate of the -International School of Business receives a bachelor's degree in economics from the Plekhanov Academy and an international certificate or diploma from one of the foreign partner schools participating in the Double Diploma program.

-The idea of this program was born in Dutch universities, in Groningen and Arnhem in particular, - says Nadezhda Ponomareva, director of IBS - After purchasing that program, we started it here under their supervision. The first 18 graduates, who mastered that curriculum, received prestigious documents and were readily employed by the Deutsche Bank Moscow, Nestle, Phillips, Samsung Electronics, Procter & Gamble, Vneshtorgbank, Korkunov, L'Oreal and other companies.

- Presently, there are almost 350 students in our School, - says Nadezhda Ponomareva - from Russia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Finland, France, Sweden. Every year up to a hundred ISB students continue their studies in our partner schools abroad. Here, we accept the same number of people who are exchange students or those who participate in the double-diploma program.

- What is necessary to ensure the quality and success of such exchanges?

- Our students go abroad upon completing two years of studies and six months of practical training. These are the conditions set by our partner schools. And the training should be taken at companies with foreign contacts. That is, they either have to have foreign investments or be local branches of foreign corporations. Our students can also undergo training abroad. That's their right. We help to organize such training thanks to our good business relations.

- Our students have enough knowledge and skills by the time they are ready to go abroad. They have mastered the basics of business correspondence and professional conduct, they know how to make a presentation, to create a competent business plan. These skills are developed by special business games which are held quite often by our business partners major international companies and organizations operating in Russia. In other words by those who are in day to day business. This is a unique opportunity to get excellent professional skills that guarantee successful employment. A combination of traditional Russian fundamental education and applied West European education brings excellent results.

- Judging by what you have just said, your School has good partnerships with business companies, is that so?

- Yes we have really good contacts. One of them is the French bank Societe Generale Vostok. Every year our best students get scholarships from the bank Representatives from many companies (and there are more and more of them) attend our degree examinations viewing our School as a forge of cadres as it was once said in our country.

- Do your graduates have any competitive advantage in comparison to other students?

- Definitely they do. We have a student whose mother is a financier and the girl decided to follow in her footsteps. Their first choice was the Moscow State University. Students get good academic education there but without deep knowledge of foreign languages. Their next choice was the Moscow State University of Linguistics. Well, there, one gets languages without economics. In our School we have both. We have an English language curriculum and the English comes not as a foreign but as a working language. That's why during the entrance examinations all applicants have to pass a special English language exam. Our English language course was worked out with due regard to the labor market as a result of special research done by our students. Those were their yearly essays or graduation theses for the marketing department. As a result we came up with a personified image or model of a professional who would find good employment.Due to the globalization and integration processes the list of requirements for such a professional includes not only a professional education and skills but substantial knowledge of computer technologies and foreign languages. So a second language is a must in our School. Because of the native tongues of our partner schools we offer the choice of German, French, Spanish, or Swedish. A student may also study a third language that is either Italian or Finnish. We also plan to introduce Norwegian.Next During their first and second years our students acquire the skills to work as a team which is quite a new idea for our market According to the curriculum a group is set a task for instance to set up a financial business in Russia. It may be an insurance company bank or a managing company. They have to work out a business plan to estimate possible results and then make good investments with the revenues. This virtual project is defended by the whole group and their shared grade depends on everyone's efforts. So, along with professional skills, they acquire a team spirit. Just what business needs. Any company will profit from the ability of its employees to work as a team.

- How are your students doing abroad? Do they easily fit into a different environments?

- Usually they go in groups and adapt pretty fast. They study well there and demonstrate a profound knowledge, erudition and mental outlook. They return home very self-reliant and mature. Our students are rated highly there. Sometimes amusing things happen. One of our students was training in the Netherlands in the Grolsch Beer company. She proved herself to be such a good worker and the company became so interested in her that a manager came here to back her up during her final exams. The girl got the highest mark, but that's not the point. The company put her in charge of the Russian and Ukrainian markets. So, from Moscow, she forwarded trains with beer across Russia and the Ukraine. She switched off her cellular phone only during the final exam.Our Double Diploma partner schools are in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. With the start of the new school year we plan to establish contacts with the best schools of economics in Austria. Everywhere students study abroad for one year. The exchange program is half that, just one term. Because in this case our geography is much wider. We have connections with two very serious schools in Canada, with schools in the United States, England, even in exotic places like Singapore or Macao.

- Last year your Bachelor of Economics Program received a three year international accreditation at the European Council for Business Education (ECBE). Can you give your comments?

- It means a great success. For the first time in Russia, an original program on bachelorship, that we created ourselves through acquiring substantial experience, received international status. A ECBE commission studied us under a microscope. For a year we were getting documents ready. Three huge volumes, over 700 pages long, containing the whole life story of the IBS. Incidentally, it was a very useful job as we made a lot of discoveries about ourselves. For example, the work load of our teachers is much higher than that of our colleagues abroad. But we are better regarding the students - teacher ratio: I think there is no need to explain that less students in a group means higher quality of education A great plus for us was the number of teachers with various degrees that also explains the qualification of our teachers. While in the matters of gender, we failed as most of our teachers are women. Alas, most men who know foreign languages prefer to work in business. Nevertheless, now we know our pluses and minuses and our place in the international system of business education. It's not a bad place.In October two new programs will start in IBS. One of them is a broad-scope strategic management. it is meant as a supplement to a university-level education. Besides a diploma every entrant must have a two year work experience. The second one is devoted to financial matters. It is sponsored by the Italian Intesa bank that is registered here in Russia and the KMB (credit bank for small businesses) that willingly invest money in new programs.

- How would you define the main task of the IBS?

- My definition may be a bit complicated but correct to facilitate the development of an international educational environment in order to tram highly professional and socially responsible specialists able to foster economic growth and social prosperity under conditions of economic globalization.

Elena Bernasconi

Tags: International Business Bachelor