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The goal of Project 5-100 is to maximize the competitive position of a group of leading Russian universities in the global research and education market.

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2+2+2 Makes... Job-Market-Ready Graduates

February 6, 2020

Russian universities participating in Project 5-100 have been hosting open-doors events to inform would-be students about the educational programs on offer and assist them in choosing a major. Project 5-100 is a government-funded initiative aimed at making Russia's premier universities more competitive globally.

Experts agree that universities must shift from traditional education to personalized learning if they are to respond nimbly to changes in the labor market. Ural Federal University (UrFU) Rector Victor Koksharov is one of those who believe that students should be given the latitude to “adjust their educational pathways” in order to acquire marketable competencies and secure lucrative jobs.

This chimes in with President Vladimir Putin's views as voiced in his recent state-of-the-nation address. The Russian leader called for university students to be allowed to switch majors or educational programs, possibly striking out into related academic fields, once they had completed their second year. While this was no easy thing to bring about, “do it we must”, said Vladimir Putin.

Now the Committee on Science, Education and Culture of the Council of the Federation, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, has announced that a pilot project permitting students across Russia to change their majors after Year 2 may be launched in 2021.

Meanwhile, several Russian universities already let students modify their learning trajectories. They include several Project 5-100 institutions: Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (IKBFU), ITMO University, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), NUST MISIS, RUDN University, South Ural State University (SUSU), St Petersburg Electrotechnical University (ETU) “LETI”, St Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU), Tomsk State University (TSU), the University of Tyumen, etc.

SPbPU, for one, has been operating on a “2+2+2” schedule since 2014. Students spend four years doing a bachelor's degree and another two completing a master's, but can sel ect a specialization as early as in their second year. For Engineering students (to take one example) it means that, once they have mastered the basics of their science, they may choose whether to major in transport, power, electronic or machine-tool engineering, among other options.

SPbPU's Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Elena Razinkina explains that the basic training students receive during the first two years enhances flexibility by enabling them to transfer to another educational program within the same area of study ('occupational cluster') or even from a different, if related, area. Thus, students can switch from Power Engineering to Mechanical Engineering with little time lost and very few exams to re-sit.

The 2+2+2 format is the one that makes it possible for students to chart individual learning pathways, says SPbPU Rector Academician Andrey Rudskoy. It gives them a chance to adjust their educational trajectories and move beyond mandatory training to acquire skills for the digital age.

In another instance, University of Tyumen students can switch fields as soon as they have finished their first year. According to Acting Rector Elena Tumakova, such early transfers have become feasible because under the new curriculum, in effect since 2017, students take mostly general education courses during Year 1 with only a few specialist subjects thrown in.

Unlike traditional education that churns out graduates like so many assembly-line products, the new approach allows for the learning process to be personalized and aligned with labor market needs.

It also scores over classical methods in having a strong hands-on component. Superior practical skills make graduates more marketable, expanding their range of job options.

Project 5-100 institutions emphasize practical knowhow, too. UrFU, for instance, has designed a professional development program for students which combines personalized learning with a project method. From their first year onward, students work on real-life cases, mentored by their prospective employers' experienced staff.

At MIPT's Phystech School of Applied Mathematics and Informatics, students enrolled in basic science departments are free to do their project work at one of the on-campus industry labs. Third-year students, and occasionally second and first-year ones, can be found wrestling with practical problems at these facilities set up by Russian IT giants, such as 1C, ABBYY, Sberbank, Yandex, etc., says the school's director Andrei Raigorodsky.

Experts believe that the new educational format, when fully rolled out, will make it easier for students to acquire knowledge and skills over and above those taught in mandatory courses, which should give them a competitive edge in the job marketplace. By following a customized learning path and participating in projects run by industry leaders fr om early on in their university careers, they will gain the kind of practical experience that is sought by top employers.