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Sep 20, 2017
‘Russia’s Human Capital is Being Created Right Here’
On September 15, a gala event was held for the 20th anniversary of the International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF) at Pushkin Literary Museum in Moscow. In attendance were the heads of Higher School of Economics (HSE), the University of London (UoL) and London School of Economics (LSE), as well as representatives of academia and the business community, ICEF faculty and, of course, its alumni.


The event was commenced by ICEF Director Sergey Yakovlev, who talked about how the college was able to succeed over the last 20 years. He highlighted the following accomplishments:

- over 1,500 graduates with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees who have successfully pursued careers in international business and academia in over 35 countries;

- building a world-class institution from the ground up, based on a new type of partnership with LSE, not only including collaboration in educational programmes but also in research, putting together an excellent teaching team and academic administration;

- the development of Russia’s first world-class Bachelor’s programme in economics, as confirmed by the double degree granted from the University of London to graduates;

– putting together a modern research department (with 19 staff members) within a short timeframe, focusing on economics and finance by hiring academics from the international market (ICEF was the first institution at HSE to do this 12 years ago) and making it possible to successfully develop and offer the Master's Programme in Financial Economics in partnership with LSE and run the same-named research laboratory;

- development of administrative bodies that include representatives of the global academic and Russian business communities (International Academic Committee, ICEF Board of Trustees).

The ICEF Director expressed his gratitude to all of the people without whom the college would not exist, including Emeritus Professors Lord Richard Layard and Richard Jackman from LSE, Sergey Dubinin, Chair of ICEF’s Board of Trustees, Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE Rector, and Alexander Shokhin, HSE President.

The HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov started his speech at the event with his own recollections, noting the unique role played by ICEF in regards to HSE’s development and Russian higher education in general.

’Twenty years ago, my colleagues from the Faculty of Economics at MSU came to HSE, which was quite a young institution at the time, and proposed doing this project,’ he said, adding: ‘As you can see, the project has been realized and, today, it’s not just the successful project of Sergey Yakovlev, Oleg Zamkov and their colleagues. We can also talk about a Russian success story from the 1990s. There weren’t that many then, but ICEF reminds us about all of the things that can be done in an open environment. This was the first large-scale attempt to integrate the Russian education system with the global academic environment and to do this without compromise and honestly, making sure nothing was a poor quality imitation. Furthermore, ICEF has been an engine for transforming the entire Russian higher education system. I would like to thank our British colleagues, who had faith in this initiative and the resilience of the team that started the project. Today, we can clearly see their contributions.’

Vice-Chancellor of UoL, Professor Sir Adrian Smith, noted that, 20 years earlier, ICEF made its start with just one Bachelor’s programme, only 13 students graduated first time. This year, 171 Bachelor’s and 29 Master’s degrees were awarded. ‘This is an enormous achievement, which has been recognized outside of Russia, including among my colleagues in London, who view ICEF as a first-class institution with the top of the class students,’ he said.

The success of the ICEF Master’s programme in Financial Economics, which was developed in partnership with LSE, is quite clear and apparent. ‘ICEF’s Master’s programme has a very good reputation among both employers and academia,’ said Pro-Director of LSE, Paul Kelly. He noted that ‘ICEF graduates are highly valued on the international job market.’

The efforts of the college’s British colleagues who contributed to ICEF’s development were highlighted by HSE’s leadership. For instance, UoL Vice-Chancellor Sir Adrian Smith, LSE Pro-Director Professor Paul Kelly and LSE Emeritus Professor Richard Jackman were awarded the HSE Academic Honours Medal, while Dr. Mary Stiasny, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of UoL’s International Programmes, received the HSE Rector’s Letter of Commendation. Dr Stiasny noted that ‘this partnership is helping us grow together. I think this will continue well into the future.’

Representatives of Russia’s business community, many of whom directly took part in ICEF’s creation and development, passed on their congratulations to the institute. For instance, Alexander Shokhin, HSE President and head of RSPP, noted that HSE itself is an excellent project, while ICEF might be the best of its faculties. ‘My employees and doctoral students include ICEF alumni,’ Shokhin said, adding: ‘These are people who can immediately adapt to the demands of the market and employers and don’t require further training or retraining.’

In turn, Sberbank President Herman Gref said in his video address: ‘Artificial intelligence is currently liquidating jobs. At the same time, a new wide range of opportunities is appearing for those people with innovative knowledge, who are intellectually open-minded and self-confident. These are the kind of people that come out of ICEF. I hope that you end up doing more than you ever planned, even exceeding your wildest dreams.’

VTB24 Bank President and Chairman Mikhail Zadornov, in his presentation, made the following observations: ‘For VTB Group, this partnership with ICEF is one of the best investments of all time. At VTB Group, we employ many ICEF graduates and they are very good workers. I would also like to congratulate Sergey Yakovlev, Oleg Zamkov and other professors for developing human capital for Russia. Human capital has no boundaries and, today, ICEF graduates work in many different countries.’

The Chair of the ICEF Board of Trustees, Sergey Dubinin, who played a major role in supporting the college’s founding and development on the part of the business community, noted that, 20 years ago, the project’s initiators faced a key challenge: would this work and would it be in-demand? The answer appeared quite quickly. ‘ICEF is now standing firmly on its two feet,’ he said, adding: ‘The main thing is that it adheres to very high standards. The fact that our graduates are in such high demand by employers is a very natural and nice outcome.’

Alexander Auzan, the Dean of the Faculty of Economics of Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), reminded that the idea for ICEF was born at MSU, but was subsequently realized at HSE: ‘What do parents normally feel if their child has left home and built a brilliant career? They feel pride, amazement and love.’ Professor Auzan also presented a gift - a bell made at the MSU foundry - to the ICEF team. The bell, according to Professor Auzan, is ‘a symbol of Russian freedom and veche’ (independent peoples' assemblies, which were common in medieval Russia) and should remind us all of ‘commitment to academic freedom and the autonomy of the university.’

Shlomo Weber, the Rector of the New Economic School (NES), was also at the event and offered his congratulations. Professor Weber is certain that ICEF and NES have made each other better. ‘There is a good English term "coopetition", which denotes something between "cooperation" and "competition”’, he said, adding: ‘And this coopetition with ICEF has proved to be very useful and beneficial for both our institutions.’

One of ICEF’s founders, Emeritus Professor Lord Richard Layard recorded a special video message for ICEF’s anniversary. He said this project was based on a basic idea: providing students with both Russian AND international qualifications that are in line with the highest standards. Furthermore, in the pursuit of this goal, it would be next to impossible to overstate the role played by Sergey Yakovlev, Sergey Dubinin, Yaroslav Kuzminov and Richard Jackman. ‘This is an unbelievable success story, which has a bright future. At LSE, we eagerly look forward to the continuation of our partnership with ICEF,’ he said.

Video message from Lord Richard Layard>>

‘ICEF has proven itself as a leading educational and research institution. Moreover, I am very pleased to see that LSE has contributed to achieving this,’ said Nobel Prize-Winner LSE Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides in a video message.

He also wished ICEF further success over the next 20 years.

Video message from Sir Christopher Pissarides>>

Furthermore, people were able to find out directly from ICEF graduates about their career outcomes as more than 300 alumni from the past 20 years were there, who freely communicated while listening to live music (the songs, in fact, were performed by ICEF staff, alumni and faculty). Moreover, ICEF Deputy Director Oleg Zamkov presented the anniversary collection ‘Portraits of ICEF Graduates’. This book features reflections of graduates on their career trajectories, their pastimes, family life and memories of studying at ICEF, while also offering their valuable advice to current and future students. The event also featured a photography exhibition prepared by ICEF graduates.

ICEF alumnus and head of macroeconomic research and strategic analysis at UniCredit Bank, Artem Arkhipov, shared the following: ‘Over the years, I have repeatedly met ICEF graduates from different years. This is a diverse group of people. However, I do see one key quality in all of them. Whenever you inform them about some sort of problem, they’ll always tell you that even if they might not know the solution, they’ll still try to figure it out. I too take this approach if I have a task that needs to be solved since I have the necessary background. This school gives people the capacity to figure things out and find solutions.’

Even graduates who were far from Moscow were able to congratulate ICEF on its anniversary through video messages. For instance, Vladimir Mukharlyamov (2008 graduate), Professor at Georgetown University, noted the ability of ICEF’s founders ‘to foresee things several steps ahead’, which, in turn, has helped the college ‘put together a first-class team of teachers, who can bestow both knowledge and skills that can be really useful in work and life.’ Furthermore, ICEF has created its own culture among its students – each of them ‘is keen to achieve a lot and do this with their own efforts, while not pursuing the path of least resistance.’

Zhanna Sharipova (2005 graduate) expressed her hope that ICEF will continue to ‘grow, develop and progress with the times and still be called home by its students, faculty and graduates’. In addition, her former classmate Mikhail Savkin stated his optimism that ICEF‘s ‘family of graduates will be replenished with excellent people, so that everywhere in Russia and the world it might be possible to meet other ICEF alumni.’

At the event, the ICEF MEMORABILIA charity auction was held. Individual lots were presented by the Russian and British participants. Under the auction hammer were such historic items as a fax from Lord Richard Layard on the signing of an agreement between LSE and HSE on the creation of ICEF dated June 4, 1997, as well as ICEF’s first posters and other interesting pieces.

Photos from the event>>
Video >>

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Thoughts and Impressions of the Guests

- HSE Academic Supervisor Evgeny Yasin: ‘ICEF serves as an internal benchmark for where HSE wants to be. I really feel that its students are getting close to the level of preparation that we can see in the best universities around the world’;

- HSE First Vice Rector Vadim Radaev: ‘Sergey Yakovlev was the first to bring in people, especially the representatives of major banks, who were able to sponsor this project. We now have a Board of Trustees, as well as other boards that appeared later. Furthermore, ICEF was the first institution, 12 years ago, to start hiring experts from the global market. This now happens in all of our faculties’;

- Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of UoL’s International Programmes, Mary Stiasny: ‘Our partnership enhances all of ICEF’s activities, while also maintaining a high quality of students, who are, in fact, outstanding. Their commitment to studies helps the college to move forward.’