International College of Economics and Finance

Interview with Professor Amos Witztum

March 14-17, 2012 Professor of the London Metropolitan University and the LSE Amos Witztum visited ICEF.
Interview with Professor Witztum >>

Interview with Amos Witztum, Professor of the London Metropolitan University and the LSE:

- Professor Witztum, what is the main purpose of your visit to the ICEF this time?
What has been done so far?

The main purpose was to take a look at the state of the undergraduate programme and discuss where it is standing in terms of the quality of teaching, the quality of students, in terms of coherence of the programme, in terms of the potential possible development in the future, in terms of the quality assurance, in terms of more substantial development.

- You participated in the creation of ICEF from the very beginning, when ICEF started to implement the BSc double degree programme. In recent years the College has developed rapidly. Today in addition to the BSc programme ICEF realizes MSc programme "Financial Economics"; two years ago the International Laboratory of Financial Economics was opened at ICEF.
What can you say about the development and distinctive features of the MSc programme and research at ICEF?

I think, the MSc programme in Financial Economics is a good idea. Even though, personally I think, it would be better to have a broader portfolio of Master’s degrees. I would put more efforts in trying to develop and recruit students to other branches of MSc programme and to advance areas of research at ICEF other than Finance.

- As an experienced teacher, you well know the system of the British education.
What do you think ICEF should adopt from the experience of the LSE and other British universities?

ICEF have already adopted a lot of things from the LSE. We have been the inception of ICEF and the process of raising up has been done in constant collaboration with the LSE. A lot of things indeed – curricula, instructional programme  - include already a reflection of the English degree.
It is important to understand, that there are different views on education:
the English view is option one and certainly not the one that dominates in Russia and is not consistent with the Russian culture, where the education is about preparing people for market and therefore the degrees are more specialized. And the continental view is that the people need education as a broader part of their maturity.
And what we did created at ICEF from the beginning is a very unique programme, which was unique to ICEF alone, which was the combination of the both – the Anglo-Saxon and continental views on education. So, students not only have to study and specialize in subjects but also get the intellectual context of it.

- As a member of the International Academic Advisory Board, do you think that the cooperation between the two universities - LSE and HSE – on the ICEF project should be continued? If so, why?

The idea of ICEF was to plant the seed of excellence in higher education, that will spread in the Russian higher education and become a common currency in Russian education, both in terms of teaching programmes, teaching practices, but more important – research and research-led teaching. On that front there is a certain gap between the development of ICEF and the degree to which ICEF practices have been adopted across the board in higher education in Russia, even in the Higher School of Economics.
I think it is imperative to preserve the autonomy of ICEF, because other institutions have not yet sufficiently be reformed, and the only way to preserve this autonomy is through the very constant and intensive collaboration with the LSE.

- What is your teaching philosophy? How do you manage to raise students’ interest in you subject?

It is terribly important that a teacher should love his subject in a way which is demonstrable, that the students can see. Usually the students can very easily detect whether a teacher likes what he is doing, whether he is excited, whether he is enthusiastic about his subject or whether he doesn’t. If the lecturer is bored and uninterested, so and the students will be. If the lecturer has an excitement, interest and enthusiasm to the subject, it will catch on.

- As far as I know, you are involved in the joint project of the LSE and the Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU). How are things going with the Kazakh project?

The Kazakh project is an attempt to do exactly the same thing as ICEF, but for the Kazakhs.
The circumstances in Kazakhstan are very different from Moscow. Moscow is a city of 14 mln people, which is the entire population of Kazakhstan, which is very big in territory.
The pool of students available was much smaller than it was here. And in addition to this there was very stiff competition from the state, because the state in Kazakhstan provided students with funds to go and study abroad (I mean the Bolashak Scholarship).
So that all means, the students, who have the language, the skills and the ability to become students of the programme, receive the Bolashak Scholarship. And indeed the experience was that the best students of the first year usually ended up in the second year somewhere abroad, which was a bit frustrating.
The project is going well in the sense of institution building: we have made there the recruitment of already five full-time academics, and KBTU is very supportive of the project.
But there is no comparison of the scale of operations as there are very small operations in Kazakh project.

- Please tell me something about your professional interests and your recent publications?

My research has always been methodology about ethics and economics relationships in various forms and shapes. In recent papers I have been exploring the absence of important social dimensions from some traditional and important areas of economic analysis. Not recently I wrote a paper, the essence of which can be formulated as follows: “regulate market more and introduce far greater redistributive tax policies”. So, I’m in favour of greater government dimension, I’m in favour of economists directing more attention to examine the question of how can government operations become more effective: various forms of mechanisms and designs. We really have to have greater government dimension, we really have to regulate markets and we really have to redistribute income.

- What would you like to wish or advise ICEF students?

I wish, of course, great success. Advice… to the students I would say this:
even if you came to the university to get a good job, you are here for 4 years, you have an opportunity to reform, inform and open your mind in a way that would  never ever happen to you again. Why then reduce studies to just passing exams instead of using this opportunity and delving into the material with hunger and thirst of a beast, who wants to be fat?

Alina Volokhova/ PR specialist ICEF HSE