KALASHNIKOV IZHEVSK STATE TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY Interview with Alexander Gubert, Acting Rector of the Kalashnikov Izhevsk State Technical University
It is necessary to refer to the interests and needs of potential students, and develop educational programs. It is necessary to understand which specialist is in demand in the labor market now. Therefore, educational programs should be at the level of world requirements and world demands.

Alexander Gubert, Candidate of Technical Sciences, Acting Rector of the Kalashnikov Izhevsk State Technical University.

Good afternoon! I know that foreign students study at your university, as well as at many other Russian universities. In this regard, I would like to learn more about programs that you are implementing. As far as I know, the university implements not one or two English-language programs — you have four such programs (actually there are 6, two more are implemented only for students.)! How did you come to the decision to create English-language programs in such quantity, why exactly these specialties and how many resources were needed to create these programs?

Alexander Gubert: It all started with programs in English in the mid‑90s. We had a translator institute, where we taught our ordinary students according to the program in a foreign language, and the program was technical. At that time, this was legally allowed, so we implemented a regular educational program in the field of mechanical engineering, but in English. Together with the diploma of higher education, graduates received an additional qualification as a translator in the field of professional communications. That's when a powerful teaching base was laid. Teachers of humanities, natural sciences and special disciplines throughout the year not only increased their English language skill to the required level, but together with teachers from the Department of Foreign Languages developed training courses in English. They went to training laboratories and specialized classrooms, learned machine tool designs, translated all manuals. Subsequently, the university began to actively develop international relations, and we began to explore the foreign market. And this base allowed us to launch English language programs for international students.

Since 2006, IzhSTU and the Egyptian-Russian University have been linked by strong partnerships. IzhSTU was the main strategic partner of the young Egyptian university: the main part of the educational process was built based on the curricula of IzhSTU. The President of the ERU and one of the initiators of the creation of the University, Soliman Sheriff, holds the title of honorary professor of IzhSTU. The training of Egyptian students began with conducting industrial practices on the basis of IzhSTU and the city's enterprises, and subsequently developed into a semester-long included training in English.

And in 2013, within the framework of our cooperation, these two universities signed an agreement on double diploma programs in the fields of Construction and Mechatronics and robotics, and the first group of Egyptian students had arrived.

The experience turned out to be useful and positive; we began to actively promote this and look for what other English-language programs we could create. As a result, we launched programs in the areas of Management, Software Engineering and Oil and gas business.

In addition, we are currently implementing the English language program "Telecommunications". In my opinion, however, this program still needs to be adapted so that it could interest potential consumers. In addition, there are organizational and technical problems, and, frankly speaking, the teaching staff is not so eager to work in this field.

Alexey Ryabchikov, Candidate of Technical Sciences, Associate Professor, Director of the Institute of International Educational Programs:

— We need a good starting group where we can try everything out. And in this sense, a very good training ground is, of course, the Egyptian-Russian University. While there are always a lot of mechatronics and builders, there are fewer people willing to study at the Egyptian-Russian university on telecommunications programs.

Alexander Gubert: Another program is "Software Engineering". To implement it, teachers need to speak a foreign language. But, unfortunately, we do not have a sufficient number of specialists of such qualifications. Which is strange for me. After all, it's all linked to language: there the syntactic construction of the programs is focused on English.

I think it is easy to organize these programs in the IT sphere, as the specifics there allow us to conduct modern technologies remotely. So to speak, take it and use it! But for now it is our dream to raise the level of the program and bring it to the international market. In addition, unfortunately, there are many segments in the IT sphere that we have not yet involved. So far, it is not possible to use, for example, the mobile application sector, so the scope for work is limitless. And the second problem concerns our education in general. Unfortunately, we are not focused on the end consumer. We offer only what we can do. Although it is necessary to refer to the interests and needs of potential students, and develop educational programs. It is necessary to understand which specialist is in demand in the labor market now. Therefore, educational programs should be at the level of world requirements and world demands.

It is clear that we can talk about the quality of Russian education, history, and fundamentals, but we must take current trends and needs into account when implementing these programs. This is a task for the future.

I think we have to expand the list of programs, to identify new ones. We can't stop, we need to understand how we can improve existing programs and find those programs that would be interesting. At the same time, I consider the approach that English-language programs are only for foreign citizens to be incorrect. These are programs implemented in a foreign language. And a Russian-speaking student can study on this program, if they have the need and desire to master the program in a foreign language.

As a final question on this topic: what is the outcome for the student themself? Are potential employers interested in personnel who speak English, or is this an additional potential for graduates when they go to Europe?

Alexander Gubert: A few years ago, such requests began to arrive from enterprises.

We are looking for new markets. Arab countries are interested in specialists. We know the market of these countries. Unfortunately, it is still difficult for us to get to Europe. Literally two or three years ago, such requests began to appear from enterprises in the region. So far, these are mainly defense enterprises that are being repurposed and invest their funds in the production of civilian products aimed at those countries where their military products already exist.

Today, for example, export support centers are interested in our students in order to promote exporting enterprises from the Udmurt Republic. They teach our students to work on all kinds of marketplaces, so that they look for, say, distributors of goods produced by enterprises of the Udmurt Republic in their countries.

I believe this is the first step, and in the future there will be service centers in foreign countries, in which our graduates will again be in demand. In any case, technical support should be provided. Our modern enterprises used to suffer from the fact that they could sell finished products, and then maintenance problems started to occur. This niche can be filled with the aid of our graduates who speak English.

As I understand it, historically all international relations began, in part, with Egypt. How have partnerships with other countries developed?

Alexey Ryabchikov.: As for Egypt… Dr. Sherif, having already finished his work as an attache for Culture and Science at the Egyptian Embassy, and knowing our universities well, returned to Egypt and soon headed the work on founding of the Egyptian-Russian University. He used all his achievements and connections. Using familiarity with our university, knowledge of our educational programs, he opened an Engineering department at the Egyptian-Russian University.

But still, if we observe the historical chronology, it all started with Europe. The first contacts with foreign partners began in the early 1990s. And the first country was Slovakia. Initially for participation in joint scientific conferences, then for internships of students, masters and postgraduates. Then we started cooperating with Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Our students went to Germany, did research, wrote diplomas, defended them here, but actually using knowledge collected in Germany. Currently, work with these countries continues, students, undergraduates and postgraduates travel to their Centers of Excellence, created with grants of the European Union, they are doing research there.

Alexander Viktorovich, here's another question about international educational ratings. In the past, you focused on QS, on the rating of THE. How do you personally feel about these ratings? How is the university trying to raise its position?

Alexander Gubert: I will say, maybe that will not sound very politically correct, but I see them as an inevitable evil. No matter how we feel about these ratings, students see them, communities see them. That is, whether we want it or not, we are involved in all this. I don't like that we have completely turned off the national publication evaluation system, and the evaluation of scientific activity is completely focused on Scopus and so on. It's like selling your brain for your own money.

At the same time, we understand that this is a marketing tool, it is an assessment of the university's activities, in particular. At the current stage, of course, we strive to get into the ratings or at least show positive dynamics, understanding the complexity of the assessment.

IzhSTU is a specific defense university, and we can't even show something that should get into the ratings. Therefore, when we begin to evaluate global rankings, we are looking for professors to publish. But it turns out that half of the publications cannot be published, other half also cannot be used, although these publications are of a high level. Therefore, this is a shaky field; we need some kind of comparable national scheme or the creation of a global rating.

We understand that we will not break out of the TOP, but our task is to demonstrate the growth of our indicators, to show that we are not excluded from the world community, that we want to be interesting and recognizable. We will try our best in the part where we can do it without violating the requirements of the legislation of the Russian Federation. We analyze which positions and industries we may be of interest in.

We see the specialities with the demand a bout 3 0%. For example, "Software engineering". It is necessary to understand how much this demand can be turned into students, and then show students in the ratings.

It should rather be our internal restructuring, the task of the university to reorient the departments. The departments should show that the more students they attract, the more they develop and improve.

Another important question here. Alexey told me that in in 2012, the university was named after Kalashnikov. And how does this name help the university in the global international educational arena? Do you receive more recognition? Do people talk about the university?

Alexander Gubert: I think it was a very strong move. In any case, when any organization gets a name, it already indicates that it has reached a certain level. In our case, we got the name of a person who really has worldwide fame, worldwide significance. We are known as an educational organization with our advantages and disadvantages, but sometimes the brand works for itself. A striking example is African students coming to study at the university where Kalashnikov worked.

How do you best present yourself in these countries, tell about yourself, so that applicants trying to get quotas would think first of you, not Moscow universities?

Alexander Gubert: Kalashnikov's strength lies in the fact that he assembled well-known technical solutions into a unique engineering design, which turned out to be much better in aggregate. The selection, the optimal combination, the optimal solution is what the engineering school is about. We strive to show that we are not a militaristic university, but a university that changes the ideology of engineering creativity, aimed at analyzing a large variety of technical solutions and forming optimal solutions in each area. This is exactly the approach that allows a person to open up, that is, to show creativity, breadth of knowledge, and fundamental training in order to solve an engineering task, technical task or any other one.

The University will soon be 70 years old. Maybe some events are being prepared?

Alexander Gubert: We will have big events. Gunsmith's Day, Kalashnikov's Birthday, Missile Troops Day, Higher Education Worker's Day — all these events will be dedicated to the 70th anniversary. There will be a retrospective screening of films about IzhSTU. We'll introduce students to the history of the university. We will dedicate a number of events to how we see the development of the university.

Do foreigners participate in this?

Alexander Gubert: They do. We have created a branch of the Association of Foreign Students. Two years ago we created the International Student Club. We are building a hostel for them. We also hold monthly meetings of the rector and the Foreign Student Council. They participate in all events, from sports to cultural and thematic ones.

We need consistency in our work. Applicants analyze the information received from us, view our website, our landing pages and social networks, websites and social networks of other universities. That is, the content, the dialogue with the applicant, the creation of trust in the brand of the university through different communication channels are no less important. And building this system gives the result.

At what point did you realize that it was necessary to change the approach in your work to the recruitment of foreign applicants, and what prompted you to do this?

It is difficult to single out any particular aspect here. We've been coming to this for a long time. The main prerequisite for this was the instability o f t he offline recruiting tools used by the university. Working with recruiting agencies, joint educational programs of two diplomas with foreign partner universities, educational exhibitions, attracting their own graduates of the sub-faculty and bachelor's degree to continue their studies did not provide a stable target number of foreign applicants. As a result, back in 2018, we thought about creating a steady influx of foreign applicants on our own. At the initial stage, a situational analysis was carried out, new channels of communication with applicants were proposed (university website, educational portals, ratings, social networks, Youtube, MOE platforms). We began working on some of these channels. However, this work was not systematic and the focus remained on traditional tools. The pandemic, of course, gave a powerful impetus to the transfer of work with applicants online. At the beginning of April 2020, we realized that it would not be the same as before, and that it was necessary to develop a program of electronic internationalization of the university. A lot has been done within its framework — from the formation of a portfolio of export-attractive programs and the development of the university's digital brand to the improvement of the university's Internet communications and the promotion of its scientific potential. And the main problem we faced at the same time was the huge complexity of processing the received applications for training. Back then the number of applications was in the tens, but now their number reached several hundred. As a result, the next step in the work was the use of a CRM system to automate work with applicants.

What tools have you decided to use for this and how can you assess their effectiveness?

CRM systems have many excellent tools for effective work with applicants. First of all, these are CRM marketing tools — e‑mail and SMS mailings, analytics tools, the use of telephony, messengers and mail to communicate with applicants, and, of course, the creation and use of robots in the work that allow you to create any communication scenarios.

What advice could you give to colleagues from the international departments of Russian universities (either about the introduction of CRM, IP telephony, participation in exhibitions or collecting leads, or maybe personal advice, wishes to colleagues, in a difficult time for everyone)?

Consistency in work. None of the recruitment tools for applicants is a panacea. When we started working with the CRM system, it seemed to us that right now we would drive thousands of leads through its and easily get hundreds of high-quality and solvent applicants. It turned out that everything is not so simple: applicants analyze the information received from us, view our website, our

landing pages and social networks, websites and social networks of other universities. That is, the content, the dialogue with the applicant, the creation of trust in the brand of the university through different communication channels are no less important. And building this system gives the result.
      Alexander Gubert
      Candidate of Technical Sciences, Acting Rector of the Kalashnikov Izhevsk State Technical University