- “I chose ICEF, because I knew that here I would have an unforgettable experience and learn a huge amount”
As a prospective student I had heard a lot about the HSE, with almost everyone mentioning how difficult the studies were. Sleepless nights, almost monthly exams… Anyone heading to university can expect a student lifestyle and some unforgettable experiences; I felt that if I came to the HSE, I’d get all that alongside a top-level education. That’s why HSE was my first choice. I specifically chose ICEF too – everyone knows that being able to receive a double diploma is an incredible opportunity, as is an English-language education, which is huge advantage and excellent experience. The Western format was what really settled my decision.
At ICEF, students take many different courses. Can you tell us which ones you remember best?
It’s quite hard to single out specific people – every single teacher was memorable thanks to their interesting and unique approach to their subject. But there are a few that stick out in the memory. Jeffrey Lockshin made us appreciate how lucky we were to be studying in such a unique academic institution (and now I understand how right he was). Dmitry Pervouchine was somehow able to instil a love of statistics in us; Vladimir Chernyak demonstrated his strength in economic analysis. My research supervisor Anatoly Partik was a really astounding scholar, the most impressive theoretician of financial markets and equally skilled in practical fields. I’d also like to thank the head of our course, Nina Zakharova, who was our rock for the whole four years – you could come to hear with any problem, any issue, and she’d always know exactly what to do.
You went on to study on the Master’s Programme at Cranfield University. Of everything you learnt at ICEF, what was the most useful there?
Apart from being used to studying in English, and reading only English literature (which definitely helps you integrate quickly into the academic process in England), I’d say something very significant is being able to study independently. At ICEF there aren’t many classes – you spend most of your time at home, trying to understand everything yourself, which is exactly how I learned to be self-sufficient. At Cranfield there are even fewer classes, so I was back in a similar set-up, with a comfortable and familiar work regime – which is clearly thanks to ICEF.
Why exactly did you decide to continue your studies at Cranfield?
The programme was an MSc in Investment Management, and I think that choosing that course was a smart move for me, and definitely the best choice. Firstly, the programme included everything that I was looking for. My goal was to gain greater knowledge about the field of Investment Banking, and a deeper understanding of Capital Markets, which is extremely relevant for people in the world of finance. In the first term, you take subjects like Valuation, M&A and Private Equity; in the second, Fund Management, Derivatives, Fixed Income Securities and Technical Analyses. Secondly, the programme only begun in 2014, so it was very new and interesting, as the course was structured so differently from – for example – those in Moscow offered by various Economics faculties. Thirdly, I was one of the first graduates of the programme, which makes me quite proud. One of the biggest advantages of the course, though, was the small student body – all in all, there were twenty of us in my year.
But why specifically Cranfield?
I should mention that I only wanted to go on to further study abroad, because it’s such an incredible package – not only in terms of knowledge, but also life experience. For me the top choice was England. Everyone knows that the education market grows more and more competitive each year – there are so many different rankings of financial Master’s degrees. One of them was published by the Financial Times, and that was the one I used to decide where to study next.
There were a few other factors that I based my choice of university on. When I was making my decision, Cranfield was rated fifth in the UK and eighth in the world for financial programmes. There were interesting programmes offered by the university. Of course, I also found out what graduates had to say – I spoke to a few of them, and they were able to share useful information and help me with my decision. Cranfield was also ranked first in the UK for Career Opportunities – in numerical terms, around 95% of graduates find a job within three months of finishing the course – I think that was one of the most important and significant factors for me.
From your experience, what are the differences between studying at ICEF and at Cranfield? What advantages and drawbacks do you see in each system?
ICEF is a unique institution by its nature. It encompasses the best elements of Western universities, while retaining key aspects of Soviet education. One example of the Western practices would be having written exams, which gets rid of the ‘teacher’s pet’ problem that is always present with the oral exams that other universities conduct. Secondly, the rankings system creates a concrete framework amongst students, and motivates them. You can identify the ‘Soviet’ educational influence at ICEF in the large amount of homework! ICEF and Western universities are very similar, so it wouldn’t be correct to set them up in opposition to each other.
What was your favourite thing about studying at Cranfield?
Calmness. There it was much less frenetic than Moscow. Cranfield is a university town. You can walk across the entire place in about 20 minutes, and you’re completely isolated from London (about 40 miles away). You don’t spend time commuting, which is unavoidable in a major city. There was a lot of free time, which I personally spent on sport. I played a lot of football with my classmates, I would play tennis at the outdoor courts in the evenings, and the gym, which was two minutes away from me, had a special place in my daily schedule. I could discuss the interesting study process at length, but at Cranfield I had a thriving social life alongside my studies. There were a lot of different societies that you could join and sports teams you could take part in. I spent most of my time there on my studies, but thanks to not having to waste time commuting, I was always on top of my work.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to continue studying or start work?
Definitely to work. Investing five straight years in education is a lot of time for people in finance – but I’m sure I’ll see a return on that investment very soon.
Ekaterina Rilko, exclusively for ICEF HSE
Translated by Joseph Gamse