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“You don’t choose the times you live in”: Interview with ICEF Director Sergey Yakovlev

In this interview, ICEF director, Sergey Yakovlev, summarizes some achievements and prospects of the bachelor’s programme in economics and finance, which has undoubtedly become ICEF’s international brand.

“You don’t choose the times you live in”: Interview with ICEF Director Sergey Yakovlev


In this interview, ICEF director, Sergey Yakovlev, summarizes some achievements and prospects of the bachelor’s programme in economics and finance, which has undoubtedly become ICEF’s international brand.

Am I right that ICEF and its bachelor’s degree programme, which actually gave ICEF a start as a college, are turning twenty-five this year?

Yes, you're right. On the 18th of March 1997, the Russian bankers met with the representatives of the London School of Economics (LSE) and HSE to discuss the prospects of starting an economics and finance college for running a top-level international bachelor’s programme with degree from the University of London (UoL), alongside with that from HSE, as an endorsement of its quality. Double degree per se wasn’t an end goal, but it obviously was what that meeting at HSE in 1997 was about.

Over the course of 25 years, ICEF evolved from a provider of one double-degree bachelor’s programme (which has and still is being successfully implemented) into a full-fledged academic institution. The faculty are recruited mostly on the international labor market. They do research and publish in world’s leading academic journals. There is also an international Master’s Programme in “Financial Economics”, which has for four years in a row been listed among the QS Rankings top 100 finance programmes in the world.

Over the years of its existence, ICEF has awarded degrees (HSE and UoL) to more than 2,000 graduates, who are now pursuing further study or work at leading schools and companies in more than 40 countries.

I can safely say that we and our colleagues at LSE and UoL have succeeded in starting a Russian economics and finance BSc programme which enjoys wide international recognition

The LSE’s Director Minouche Shafik in her letter of March 2022 noted that “ICEF has been tremendously successful in educating generations of students in modern economics … The (ICEF’s) BSc students represent the very best of our UoL programme graduates”.
At the meeting with the brightest members of the class of 2021, HSE Rector Nikita Anisimov said, “We rightfully believe that the Higher School of Economics stands as a symbol of the New Russia’s academic success. Similarly, ICEF can well be referred to as the symbol of the academic success of the Higher School of Economics. And ICEF graduates are key to ICEF’s reputation as a well-established school..”

The image of a college is formed by its graduates. Our graduates are indeed our pride, being an ambitious energy in global academia, finance, management, consulting, and real economy sector.

Regardless of the current situation, ICEF graduates are and will remain highly sought-after job candidates on the global and domestic market

Their success is a product of their versatile knowledge, skills to apply their aptitudes, international experience, motivation, and support from the alumni.

ICEF’s classes of 2020 and 2021 showed a record-high performance and exceptional excellence in terms of exam results, graduation papers, and academic grades – despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Approximately 65% of the class of 2021 graduated with First Class Honours. Nearly all graduates with bachelors and masters have started careers in Russian or international banking, financial companies, consulting, industrial sector or IT, or enrolled in postgraduate programmes in Russia and abroad. 

We currently work on the article to summarize the many years of our activity and identify further prospects, and we hope it will be published this year.

Has the double-degree programme been affected by the current geopolitical situation?

To a certain extent, yes. ICEF has been notified by the University of London about its intent to suspend cooperation with all Recognized Teaching Centres in Russia, including HSE, in the delivery of double-degree programmes.

But the good news is that no student of ICEF Double-Degree Programme in Economics (years 1 to 4) will be denied the opportunity to sit the UoL exams and continue their study for the UoL diploma. 

Changes pertain only to students’ status as learners in the UoL programme. While the curriculum that leads to HSE diploma will remain integrated with the UoL, taking the UoL exams will require students to register, and pay, as independent learners. This procedure existed in the UoL until 2019 and has now been re-opened by the UoL management for HSE students.

What awaits the 2022 intake of students?

Demanding but rewarding learning experience. Vigorous student life. New friendships.

Considering its relevance, experience, wide international recognition and potential for further delivery (teaching staff, curriculum, study materials, teaching methods, academic management experience, etc.), we have decided to give our economics programme a new name.

The new name, already approved by HSE Academic Council, reads: “International Bachelor’s Programme in Economics and Finance”. The programme is delivered at ICEF and leads to HSE University diploma – bachelor’s degree in economics.

The possibility for HSE University’s 2022-2023 intake to be trained at the University of London as individual learners is currently under consideration by UoL. Once our current students have sat the UoL exams as individual learners, our next intake might be able to be offered this opportunity, too. In addition to their core curriculum leading to the Russian diploma – at an adjusted fee – they might be able to sit the UoL exams as individual learners. 

Apart from the name, will there be changes to the contents of the programme?

There will be no changes on the academic side to the programme’s curriculum, team or teaching methods. The programme will continue to adhere to the international standards and the principles tried and tested in cooperation with our partners abroad. Nor will there be any changes to the admission requirements.

Programme features:

  • 25-year-long academic partnership with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), one of the world’s leading economics and social science  universities
  • content, curriculum, teaching methods and materials fully consistent with HSE-University of London Double-Degree Bachelor’s Programme in Economics
  • English as the language of instruction (freshman bridge with native English speakers, two-year English course)
  • integrated curriculum and individual learning tracks (specialization courses, optional courses, foreign languages, inter-faculty electives)
  • advanced information resources: e-libraries, databases, information systems, online courses, media resources
  • teaching methods that are practiced by the world’s leading universities, international examinations and academic environment
  • ICEF Academia and student research programmes
  • first Russian bachelor’s programme to receive membership in CFA Institute Affiliation Programme

Academic instruction will continue to be delivered in English – by faculty members selected through international procedures. All previous study materials will continue to be in use, and new ones will be developed, of course. Teaching and learning will follow the previously adopted syllabus that meets the requirements of both universities, so if the opportunity re-opens for ICEF’s future students to sit the UoL exams, they won’t need to take extra training to prepare.

Can the programme’s revised format possibly affect its quality and future?

When designing this programme in partnership with LSE, our primary goal was not the double-degree programme per se but to establish here at HSE the world-class baccalaureate, which would have a double-degree format and degree from a top university, the University of London, as an endorsement to its quality.

As the programme evolved, not only did our collaborative effort lead to competent programme team, proven teaching strategies and knowledge evaluation schemes, it assured quality and consistency of all the programme’s elements with international standards. This makes it a self-sufficient and sustainable tool for ensuring the high academic standards adopted by the world’s top universities.

There is a dedicated council for this programme at ICEF, with members holding PhDs from schools abroad. Also, roundtables are held to provide external reviews, including by international experts. There are scrutiny committees, regular student surveys, beginner teacher seminars, center for teaching excellence – a source of best domestic and international teaching practices. No less important asset for students’ future careers is ICEF Career Services. Its team maintains partnership relations with the Russian and international companies and financial institutions to jointly prepare students for the job market.

We are confident that ICEF’s International Bachelor’s Programme in Economics and Finance will continue to equip learners with advanced skills to help them build careers in all segments of the Russian and global economy.