International College of Economics and Finance

‘ICEF strengthened my self-confidence and my abilities’

Maria Verbetskaya, a 2018 ICEF Bachelor’s programme graduate, placed 2nd in HSE University’s Student Research Paper Competition (NIRS) and is now studying on the Master’s programme at the Rotterdam School of Management. In her interview Maria explains what she learnt from her participation in NIRS, how ICEF made her stronger and her love for management.

- Please tell us when you got interested in economics?

- While at school, I studied at Lyceum No. 1535 with a focus on economics and mathematics. In addition to regular economics courses, I also attended an optional course in economics. Later, many of those with whom I attended that optional course ended up studying at ICEF. I always loved learning, and starting from the 9th grade, I started taking part in economics and mathematics Olympiads, and also was a prize-winner of the regional phase of the All-Russian Olympiad in Economics for school students.

- Did you look at other universities before applying? Why did you choose ICEF?

- No, I didn’t consider other universities. I specifically applied to ICEF, as many of my fellow graduates from the lyceum recommended it. Also, when comparing ICEF with the other schools of Economics of Moscow-based universities, I realized that ICEF’s system was the best combination of theoretical and practical knowledge. I was interested in getting a basic education, after which I would focus on my field while doing a Master’s. In addition, the idea of getting a double degree at ICEF was attractive for me.

- What did you like most of all about studying at ICEF? And what, perhaps, might be improved?

- Studying at ICEF was a major breakthrough for me. I learned to face completely new tasks as ICEF boosted my confidence and faith in my own abilities. During the first year of studies, it was quite difficult. But, with every passing year, it became easier as ICEF effectively trains its students.

Under ICEF curriculum, students don’t really have enough time to take part in international exchanges. For instance, it’s impossible to do this in the spring semester, as the London exams at ICEF are taking place in May. But studying oversees is valued, especially when either applying for a job or a Master’s degree. Perhaps, if autumn semester at ICEF could be less intense, students would have more opportunities to take part in exchanges or take e-courses to study new subjects.

- Why did you participate in the NIRS competition? Was this your first experience with it?

- The first time I submitted a paper to the NIRS contest was after my second year at ICEF. My paper featured some interdisciplinary research, the study of the phenomenon of “diploma factories” and the role of state regulation (my academic supervisor was Olga Kuzina). However, owing to the interdisciplinary nature of the work, I submitted it to the ‘State and Municipal Management’ section, which wasn’t entirely what my research was focused on. So, I didn’t win the NIRS prize. Nevertheless, this work got good reviews and I was invited to take part in the student section of the 3rd Russian Economic Congress, held by the New Economic Association. I got a lot of confidence from this, so I decided to continue my study of this particular topic.

- What was your second paper about, which placed 2nd in the 2018 NIRS competition?

- It was basically a shortened version of my diploma. I presented a theoretical model, which describes competition between elite universities and the universities from the mass sector of the higher education market. Based on this model, I analyzed global practices with respect to state regulation, including admission policies, subsidies for tuition fees, direct funding provided for universities and quality assurance bylaws, etc. With this model, I tried to show the specifics of educational processes, including the so-called “peer effect”.

- Are you looking at an academic career?

- I’ve never planned on doing that. Before even applying to ICEF, I was interested in making a career in management. So, after getting a basic education in economics, I went ahead to pursue my dreams. Also, when writing my diploma, I relied on vertical differential models, which are very popular in marketing analysis. So, the knowledge and skills I received while preparing my diploma turned out to be quite useful for general market analysis. I also hope to apply this knowledge when writing my Master’s thesis.

- What programme are you currently pursuing?

- I am now studying at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, taking part in the Master’s in Management programme. While studying at ICEF, I realized I wasn’t particularly interested in finance, but rather took an interest in working in the real sector. So, I looked at various Master’s programmes concerning management, marketing and strategic management, so that I could get the most relevant knowledge and skills in this field. Furthermore, I think it’s invaluable to study and work in a multicultural environment. So, I only considered a foreign Master’s programme. At the Rotterdam School of Management, I had the opportunity to take part in a competition for the Orange Tulip Scholarship, and when I was awarded this scholarship it played a major role in my final decision.

The Orange Tulip Scholarship (OTS) is a scholarship programme at Dutch universities for talented students from Russia. A total of 14 Dutch institutions take part in the programme, offering over 40 grants for participating in Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes in various fields, from economics to medicine. OTS may cover part or all of their tuition fees, including, in certain cases, costs for accommodation, visas and insurance. Russian citizens permanently residing in the country aged 18 to 35 years may apply. Applicants must have a good command of English (as confirmed by IELTS and TOEFL results). Furthermore, when applying, students should not be either studying or working in the Netherlands.

- How the learning process is structured in Rotterdam?

- Since my programme is for people with different life and educational backgrounds, the learning process there is very demanding and intense. The subjects run for a maximum of six weeks. And the goal of a teacher is to provide as much knowledge and practice in various business-related fields as possible. The criteria for students are quite different from those in Russia. A significant focus is on independent study of papers and group projects. I like the fact that within 6 months I’ve managed to work in teams with all the students of my programme. I got to meet many different people, studied their approaches to work and tried out different roles in our team projects.

- What are you future career plans?

- After finishing my Master’s, I plan to work in the Netherlands for a few years so that I can gain experience.

- Which country would like to live and work in the future?

- In the future, I would like to return to Moscow and work there.

- How do you spend your free time?

- I travel a lot and like to read. It’s surprising, but you have more time for yourself when doing a Master’s. I am trying to make the most of this!

Anastasia Chumak, specially for HSE ICEF