International College of Economics and Finance

From Economic Thinking to Complex Case Solving: ICEF Academia Enters New Season

ChatGPT is unrivaled when it comes to academic paper screening, a routine it performs just seamlessly. But plodding away at routine is not what economists are valued for in the first place. It’s their economic thinking, soft skills, and ability to solve cases even with little verified data at hand. In their recently held opening session 2023, the managers, faculty and students of ICEF Academia spoke about how to gain these qualities and where they are needed most.

From Economic Thinking to Complex Case Solving: ICEF Academia Enters New Season

ICEF Academia is an integrated training program for academically-minded students.  Its team of practicing researchers involve trainees in research projects, providing individual guidance on their path to becoming economic scholars. ICEF Academia is offered extra to the core curriculum and targets those intending to start careers in academia and earn PhD degrees from the world’s top universities.

Offered gratis, ICEF Academia is a common choice among our best-performing, highly motivated students.

Inflation data missing for Cambodia

In 2004, senior lecturer Andrey Dementiev of HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences, was asked to be an advisor to an investment project in Cambodia. The assignment required Cambodia’s inflation statistics.

“The problem was that there was utter lack of information. Googling for statistics was a waste of time because it simply didn’t exist. Cambodia was recovering from civil war and there was still a lot to create in its economy,” said Andrey Dementiev. Eventually he did obtain the data. He didn’t give details as to how, though, but said the graduates of ICEF Academia should have enough skills to do the same. 

“Equipping learners with these skills is exactly the task of Economic Thinking,” added Andrey Dementiev, describing the course he leads at ICEF Academia. 


Model thinking: Economics

ICEF Academia trains future economic scholars and has among its core courses Economic Thinking.

This course starts off with online course called Model Thinking. “About one third of its contents is devoted to economic thinking,” explains the expert. Providing the essential basics, Model Thinking is a good run up to the core material. 

“It offers enough time to play fun economic games, many of which have to be missed in other economics courses for lack of time,” he adds. Showcasing the practical workings of game theory, economic games are a great way to learn the logic and mechanics behind formation of expectations and consumer behavior.

Along with economic games, the course involves the economic analysis of real-life cases and some paradoxes of the economic theories.

ICEF Academia’s other courses include advanced mathematics and statistics. Its mathematics course is called Calculus++, not Calculus as in ICEF’s core curriculum. To designate its advanced level, the name has ++, like with the programming languages C and C++.

Apart from mathematics, logic and statistics, ICEF Academia can really level up economists’ soft skills. Its Social Science Thinking and Research course teaches to think like social scientists, and the above mentioned Economic Thinking course instills the economic mindset.


Learn how to learn

A good specialist isn’t only knowledgeable, but is able to source required data, says ICEF Academia’s newly appointed Academic Coordinator Tatiana Mayskaya, Assistant Professor of ICEF: “ICEF Academia has its focus on cultivating the ability to correctly formulate the question, search for information, and find the answer. Even professionals with a wealth of knowledge can find themselves unable to give instant answers. Therefore, the most important ability we can give you here is the ability to learn.” 

Associate Professor Victoria Dobrynskaya of HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences presented the second part of ICEF Academia — Advanced Research Programme. With further exposure to research as its essential purpose, the second part pays special attention to interpreting scientific papers, another skill required of a good researcher. “Reading research papers is a special skill and can be quite difficult at first,” says Victoria Dobrynskaya.

ICEF Academia’s Advanced Research Programme offers three tracks. Prof. Dobrynskaya is in charge of Asset Pricing. She cited as examples of the topics to be covered by the students cryptocurrency market analysis and asset portfolio optimization.

The framework of the ICEF Academia 2023-2024 was presented by coordinators Natalia Kogutovskaya and Natalia Arkhipova.

ICEF Academia course framework

The passion-driven course

In 2023, the Quantitative Analysis track received the eponymously named hands-on seminar. Designed by learners of Advanced Statistics, it has its focus on Financial Mathematics and Statistical Methods for Data Analysis. 

“Quantitative Analysis started as a student initiative when some of the students started to stay after classes to discuss their research progress and ongoing projects. It wasn’t until this year that we incorporated it into our academic framework. Little did those students know it would evolve into a full-fledged course,” says Assistant Professor of ICEF Yaroslav Lyulko.

“It’s one thing to learn from lecturer-provided material, but it’s quite another thing to go it on your own – get together in the evenings to work out the agenda and the contents,” says Yaroslav. “It takes being strongly motivated and disciplined. Those participating in this seminar seek to pursue both fundamental and applied research.”

“ICEF Academia offers skills for use in PhD studies, economic analysis and in the workplace,” says ICEF Academia Coordinator Natalia Kogutovskaya, Assistant Professor of ICEF.

“ICEF Academia is a great opportunity to do something together,” adds Natalia. Here, the students can pursue research as part of a group and form co-authorships with their teachers to produce scientific papers. 

One example is master's student Valentin Stepanov. He and his co-author Prof. Elena Fedorova of HSE had their paper published in European Journal of Innovation Management.

The two researchers focused their study on how news affect stock market value rates. “Our assumption was that for low-liquid stocks, the effect of news on profitability would be different,” says Valentin Stepanov. “The study involved text analysis and made use of the Machine Learning course taught at master’s level.”

Text analysis is a study method that uses neural network to quantify text structure and parameters. Neural networks can be trained to evaluate texts in terms of sentiment, main topics or keywords.

“In my study, text analysis was used to divide the body of news into positive and negative, as well as classify them into topical groups,” continues Valentin Stepanov. Among the many outcomes of his study are research-based conclusions and personal insights, one being that data collection can take months and that the last stage of a study can be the most rewarding one.

“In ICEF Academia, students learn to cope with very serious research tasks long before they start their PhD studies,” says ICEF Professor Maxim Nikitin who supervises ICEF Master’s Programme in Financial Economics.

“After ICEF Academia, you will find yourselves on the frontlines of the competition between human brain and artificial intelligence,” says Andrey Dementiev. As artificial intelligence takes over the research function, ICEF Academia is instilling soft skills that machines can never learn to use effectively.

At its opening session, ICEF Academia summed up its last year’s performance and, as is the tradition, announced its best performing students (Y1&Y2). 

ICEF Academia 2022-2023 best performing students (Y1):

  • Mikhail Gavrilov

  • Elman Kheirkhabarov

  • Ilya Demsky

  • Andrey Okhlopkov 

ICEF Academia 2022-2023 best performing students (Y2):

  • Anton Samokish

  • Maria Rogotskaya

  • Ivan Ashmarin

  • Anastasia Dergileva

  • Georgy Kiselev 

The top nine students received as prize the trips to SWUFE Summer School (Southwest University of Finance and Economics in China) fully covered by ICEF. Each student was presented with a souvenir branded with the ICEF logo. 

Congratulations on your well-deserved success!