New forms of engagement of international students in Kuzbass
Kuzbass Research and Education Center (REC) has been included in the Top-5 list of world-class RECs established in Russia in 2019 within the Science National Project frameworks. Kuzbass REC is comprised of 6 universities and two science and research centers. T. F. Gorbachev Kuzbass State Technical University (KuzSTU) is also a part of this REC.

The main task of academic participants of Kuzbass REC from an education export perspective is the recruitment of international students to study at universities of the Kemerovo region and the creation of the unified academic brand of the region. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to online classes since the second quarter of 2020, another important task has emerged: retaining students and continuing effective communications with international partners in lockdown conditions. As a result, 2020 has become a very rich year in terms of the use of new ways of recruitment and retention of international students, including blended methods, online events, and distance projects. We want to share some of them with you.

Kuzbass REC and its academic members, including KuzSTU, have demonstrated successful solutions to this task. We have made a unanimous decision to engage international students in a creative process and announced creativity competitions. One contest has been dedicated to International Day of Russian Language for International Students in June 2020. And the second contest was a photo competition confined to the International Day of Tolerance (October-November, 2020). The results of the contests and interest that they generated confirm their success. Russian language contest has involved 82 students of 6 Kemerovo regional universities from India, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Guinea, and Germany. Judges at the contest have selected 11 winners. Apart from gifts, prospective students have received certificates allowing them priority enrollment to Kuzbass universities.

The photo contest dedicated to International Day of Tolerance — November 16 — has allowed participants to share their culture and values while staying thousands of miles away from each other.

The contest has drawn certain attention and involved 58 participants from all Kuzbass region universities. Over 80 photos have appeared on the Kuzbass REC Instagram page, reflecting their home countries' traditions, culture, and history. Judges have already selected aspirants in 5 nominations and awarded special prizes to them, including KuzSTU students.

Joint participation of Kuzbass REC and KuzSTU in the Russian- German research and education exhibition on September 15, 2020, and November 11, 2020, has become another successful experience that included work with a virtual expo booth and negotiations. This experience has shown that it is possible to find German partners for educational programs and academic cooperation even during the limitations period. For example, a unique vocational training program has been launched at the KuzSTU Interregional Center for Competences on Post-mining and Ecology in cooperation with Georg Agricola Higher Engineering School (Bochum, Germany). The program name is Actual Issues of Complex Recycling and the Use of Byproducts of Coal Combustion, and restoration based on Best European Practices. The program is delivered by KuzSTU with support from the Russian Ministry of Energy and Heinrich Boell Foundation, information support from the Gluckauf magazine, and in partnership with Georg Agricola Higher Engineering School (Germany). The program consists of two parts: recycling of mining byproducts and land restoration based on the European ecological approaches. The program's expected outcome is a presentation of pilot projects on land restoration in Kuzbass based on the best European practices.
In contrast, German experts and specialists are expected to be present during the final presentation. This unique and highly demanded program will attract international students from the countries where resolving ecological problems is the key to their sustainable development: China, India, Mongolia, Nigeria, and the Republic of South Africa. The program graduates will become "new-generation ecologists" — highly qualified specialists in chemistry, ecology, medicine, and technical subjects.

The presented samples and practices of joint activities of Kuzbass REC and KuzSTU provide a good example that new interaction forms are successful and viable. We have already planned a new contest for international students and prospective students in 2021. It will be dedicated to the 300th anniversary of Kuzbass. The current situation is difficult and dangerous for universities. Still, at the same time, it urges us to search for new effective types of projects and work which probably has the potential to become even more interesting with international students than the ones that we got used to. Indeed, according to Mark Twain, if you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way.
Inna Pevneva, Head of International Relations Department, T.F. Gorbachev Kuzbass State Technical University. Inna has been working in the higher education since 2001 and has been involved in international education and teaching for over 15 years. She is a participant of several international exchange programs including academic and cultural exchange program in the United States, Fulbright international exchange for International Educational Administrators and had internships and training in the universities of China, Chile, Spain and Italy. She is also the author of several research projects and publications on international education and cross-cultural communication.
Ivan A. Skornyakov, Head of International Relation Department, Kuzbass Research and Education Center (NGO). Ivan is in charge of international relations and cooperation in the sphere of education and science. Ivan graduated from Kemerovo State University with a degree in international relations. He has been working in the higher education since 2011 and has been teaching for over 9 years at the Kemerovo State University. Ivan is a PhD of political science.