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ICEF graduates have been awarded degrees in the residence of the UK ambassador

The 13th of September witnessed ICEF’s 19th diploma award ceremony. Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to 187 graduates and master’s to 15. 47 bachelor’s graduates earned first class honours degrees from the University of London (UoL), representing around 30% of the total number. Inclusive of this year’s, ICEF graduates now total 2000. We have been to the historic house to witness the ceremony and talk to the graduates about what they think and, more importantly, how they feel about themselves before throwing their caps in the air on one of the most exciting days of their lives.

ICEF graduates have been awarded degrees in the residence of the UK ambassador

The historic house in Sofiyskaya Embankment, a perfect venue in Old England style and an attraction to everyone. The old creaky staircase, the tapestries featuring old English hunting scenes, the impressive mantelpieces, the carved ceilings, let alone the balcony overlooking the Kremlin, an ideal place to have your 5 o-clock tea. There is a reason why ICEF welcomed the chance of holding its diploma award ceremony in this wonderful place. Firstly, its graduates have deserved it. Of all HSE programmes, ICEF’s are the most challenging. Secondly, ICEF bachelor’s students graduate with two degrees, one from HSE and one from the University of London, and master’s students with HSE degree and an official letter of validation from the London School of Economics confirming that their level of training meets international standards. This year’s graduands have sat a series of challenging internal and international examinations and studied a programme covering a variety of subjects and reflecting the best traditions of the Russian and the British education. There is every reason to congratulate them. The role of congratulators has been taken over by the first officers of the ceremony.

In his speech, ICEF Director Sergey Yakovlev extended his congratulations and unveiled the secret of collaboration among ICEF, LSE and UoL. “This year has seen an unprecedented number of first-class degree holders and graduates that received offers from western universities but have chosen to enroll in ICEF's master’s programme and HSE’s programmes. It is indicative of the fact that they are high-quality and highly sought-after. But, they haven’t always been like this. Let me tell you a small secret. Our first bachelor’s students failed the exam. We were warned by our colleagues in London that they wouldn’t be able to continue to cooperate with us unless we fixed the situation. We pooled our efforts together and made some really good progress. That our students are highly performing is largely due to the mutual support, understanding, trust and cooperation,” said Sergey Yakovlev.

Congratulation speeches were delivered also by the honoured guests from London – Pro-Director of LSE David Webb, newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of London Wendy Thomson, who said she was delighted to come to Moscow for this very important occasion after thirty years since her first trip, and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of London Mary Stiasny.

The first to take the floor was UK Ambassador Laurie Bristow. He underlined the historical importance of our times and, particularly, of the venue. This house was where Churchill stayed in 1944, and in 1994 it was visited by Queen Elizabeth II. Moreover, it witnessed shaping of the relations between two countries. “You are now a part of the history of this house,” said Laurie Bristow.

Wendy Thomson spoke about the new courses launched by the University of London on Coursera, about the importance of IT skills and multifaceted development in general, and the current trend in fundamental education towards life-learning. “In this fast-moving global world, universities offer people the chance to learn the critical skills they need to make sense of this changing environment and to help others equally make sense of it and succeed in their chosen fields. There can be no doubt that the universities in all parts of the world contribute in an important way in training leaders for the future, preparing people, as well as inspiring the innovatives that help make this world a better place. Wider issues such as sustainability, social and global justice and security require constant intellectual and ethical challenges, and that’s certainly provided by our brightest and best graduates such as yourselves here today. And one of the great virtues of the education experience is that it provides intellectual and living community experience that helps shape the lives of our next generation of leaders. We pride ourselves in our students,” said Wendy Thomson.

No less inspiring was the speech by David Webb. The figures and the stories of successful graduates he cited added to the importance of the earned degrees: “It’s been certainly a great achievement. And I’ve got to say patience and dedication pays of in the long run. The skills you are equipped with will help you shape the new economy of Russia. In the world where things are changing so rapidly – new technologies, new business models, new ways of doing things – the challenges and the risks that we face in this risky world, the world full of opportunities to make a difference, really require well-educated people and that’s what you are. So, the challenge here for you is to really make a difference. You are people that will do that. All in different ways, but don’t be afraid. The world needs you. You’ll help shape the future, believe me, you will.” David Webb’s inspiring message received continuation in the address by one more guest, Mikhail Zadornov, Member of HSE Supervisory Council and Management Board’s Chairman of Otkritie FC Bank. He, too, underlined that the economy of Russia needs specialists exactly like this year’s graduands and he encouraged the guys to contribute to the growing sector of finance: “While five years ago Russia’s finance sector was underperforming greatly, as compared to America’s, the Russian financial institutions of today have the competitive edge as good as that of retails banks globally, and we can say our financial sector performs at the frontlines of advanced information technologies.”

The successful collaboration between HSE and UoL, first touched on by Sergey Yakovlev, became the focus of the speech by Mary Stiasny: “In the early 1990s, the ICEF was just a vision. However, Professor Sergey Yakovlev was able to make it a reality. Collaboration is the key for the University of London.”

While the majority of ICEF graduates start careers in multinationals in Russia or abroad, 40% of ICEF bachelor’s degree holders choose to enroll in master’s and PhD programme offered by leading Russian and western universities. Vadim Radaev sees in it a positive sign: ‘All good things come to an end at some point — including your studies. And you’re probably sad that you didn’t get the chance to study at the new university complex on Pokrovka. Don’t lose touch with the university. Come study in our master’s programmes. And, of course, wherever you work or study, our doors are always open for you.’

There have been many important messages, in fact, that were reiterated by the speakers. They touched on Russia’s economy which suffers the shortage of highly qualified labour; global digitalization; mutually beneficial collaboration; and the important role graduates play in today’s highly global society as vehicles of core values.

Still, whatever messages graduants heard from their lecturers, each of them have attained their own experience of surviving HSE. We asked this year’s graduants how they think their double-degree programme has benefitted them, where they see themselves in a few years’ time, if there’s anything they’ll be missing and how the university has changed their lives.

Maria Lycheva, BSc graduate with HSE honours degree and University of London first class honours degree:

“I realized that Finance would prove a highly promising sector when I was a school student. So, I made up my mind to enroll in a programme that would equip me with internationally recognized skills and competencies. ICEF’s programme seemed a good match also because it uses English as the language of instruction and its courses are very hands-on. They really are, I know it from experience. And they do lay a solid foundation for being able to contribute to the workplace immediately. Add to this the variety of ICEF-hosted employer events. I basically knew from as early as I became a nine-grader what my future academic path would be like.

After the first few months of studies I found myself speaking English as if it were my native language. Gaining a highly-valued degree that goes with advanced English language skills opens the door to sought-after careers abroad. For me the markers of my English proficiency were the LSE Summer School and studying for CFA exam. I can safely say I didn’t have any difficulty communicating with international students and experienced professionals.

What sets ICEF at advantage is the opportunity it gives to pursue careers both in business and academia. In addition to a variety of electives, ICEF offers advanced training programmes, one being ICEF Academia. It boasts high-profile academics who are there to help students learn more. I am grateful to ICEF for the solid training I received from it and the inspiring atmosphere that makes you want to grow and be a better person. And for the LSE summer Schools, which are designed to keep high-performing students going and are an excellent opportunity to experience foreign education from the inside.

Now that I have my bachelor’s degree I might enroll in a graduate programme while my knowledge is still fresh. ICEF is what constantly keeps you on your toes. There are deadlines, effort-consuming courses and other things that you simply won’t be able to handle unless you are a good time manager. And, truth be told, I want to stay around people who give me motivation. My goal is therefore to continue as a master’s student and work in finance in parallel.”

Anna Ivanova, BSc and MSc degree holder:

“ICEF allows students to experience that even the toughest of challenges can be tackled successfully. Having completed its programme, we are able to approach a most daring project. I think this is the most important lesson from my experience at ICEF. Because I earned my BSc degree from ICEF, I knew what to expect of the training process at master’s level – instruction in English, time-consuming home assignments, having to study for the exams throughout all modules, among other things. I’ve gotten close to the atmosphere at ICEF, and I realized there were not so many master’s programmes in Russia that would keep the bar as high as ICEF BSc programme does. And, of course, my choice of ICEF master's programme should be also credited to the lecturers and the interest their lectures spark in students. 

ICEF offers a whole array of courses by practicing professionals. I chose Risk Management II, developed by Dzhangir Dzhangirov and delivered by Sberbank’s risk unit leaders who deal with credit, market, operational and other sorts of risk. This course has changed my vision of Sberbank. I saw the lecturers’ eyes light up as they were delivering their lectures after a long day at work. Together with cases they and their colleagues had just been dealing with a couple of hours before, they would bring inspiration to the class. In fact, with the long list of electives available at ICEF it is possible to gain knowledge as diverse as IB, consulting, and PhD programmes.

Now a Sberbank employee myself, I deal with market risks at IPV (Independent Price Verification) unit. I see my career evolving within Risk Management. I am in parallel giving seminars in Elements of Econometrics and Investment Management to ICEF bachelor’s students on Saturdays. I like juggling my work at the bank with teaching because students are a great source of staying motivated to learn more. I often recall Maxim Nikitin who, when asked at his office hours about the reason for such an extensive scope of home assignments, said that ICEF students should be able to have the time for home assignments, job search, hobbies, and private life. He was right. In my second year, I became capable of juggling my studies with work, teaching and learning snowboarding. There’s nothing like the feeling you get from being quick with life down to your finger-tips! But I wouldn’t have been able to have the time for everything without my supportive friends. ICEF is best remembered for its people. They are kind, versatile, determined and supportive. All of them are – students, academic staff members, Student Services. My message to current and future students would be that ICEF is really a school you can greatly benefit from. Not only will it equip you with knowledge, it will give you soft skills, network of professional contacts, and loyal friends. So, make full use of the opportunity.”

Denis Sosninsky, BSc graduate with University of London first class honours degree:

“There hasn’t been a year during my studies at ICEF that wasn’t marked by this or that internal change or update. Especially remarkable was my first year: I registered for the first-time student conference on ARP (Advanced Research Programme). It sparked my interest in research and I enrolled in ARP in my second year.

This had given me the opportunity to develop my research into a more fully fledged project. I could interact with my professors regularly, with alumni and PhD students. There were extra classes available to research-oriented students, that had never been conducted at ICEF before and proved very useful.

Together with highly inspiring research setting, all this had shaped a clear vision of my academic path before I approached my fourth year. With ample theoretical knowledge of Mathematics and Economics, and the support I enjoyed from my professors, I outcompeted many of the PhD applicants. I received places on several programmes in the USA, of which the PhD in Economics at UC Davis seemed to be a perfect match.

Especially useful was my experience as a teacher at ICEF Evening School, which seems to be always expanding and improving itself. I cannot but say thank you to its organizers and participants. I am grateful to ICEF for its good atmosphere, high level of training, the opportunities to study abroad, inspiring research setting and, most importantly, supportive tutors. And a special thank you to A. AkhmetshinD. Esaulov and A. Zasorin for their remarkably poetic delivery of scientific subjects. And to Emilliano Catonini and Kosmas Marinakis for the support they were giving me during my enrolment process. I take pride in being an ICEF graduate. I wish ICEF every success in implementing further innovations and changes, for the better of course.”

Photo report

Video of the ceremony

Text: Sonya Spielberg

Photos: Pavel Ososov; Mikhail Dmitriev

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