Be modern and unique
Time challenges every participant of the educational market today. All universities, and, in particular, RUSS University, are interested in ensuring that their educational products are in demand among potential students, and their graduates become sought-after specialists for potential employers.
But how do we achieve this and what problems need to be eliminated?
Let's start with a few statements that will help us regain our footing a bit later.

First of all. A potential employer today, for different reasons, cannot state their expectations towards university graduates, in a structured way using educational terms.

Second. Unstructured desires and expectations of the employer towards a new employee are manifested in their own way in the information field. Both candidates for training and their parents or legal representatives get familiar with them. As a result, applicants, their legal representatives, and other decisionmakers, when choosing a future educational track, expect to find of some kind of a "wow" offer which will finally solve the question of choosing a university and specialization.

Such "wow" offer should, at least, meet two characteristics: be modern and unique. Namely, to give the feeling that this educational product corresponds exactly to those unformulated desires and expectations of future employers, and, at the same time, to the desires of applicants, so that they would think: "I will not get such a profession anywhere else."
To what extent do our current offers on the educational products market correspond to this "wow" model? To a very little extent, actually.

First of all, we are not unique in many ways. Even in social work, where we were community leaders a few years ago, we are not unique anymore. We are no longer the only ones there, and not the most advanced, and not the most demanded. And, unfortunately, not the most modern. Just like everyone else, at comparable cost. The problem is: these "everyone else" in the person of HSE, RANEPA, MGIMO, MSU — they don't really need it, they have anchor target client segments. In some cases, generally, they are anchors themselves.

But we do need it. Because without such a "wow" offer, a gap will remain in the minds of our customers — a gap between what we offer to them and what they think the market wants.

By customers in this case we mean, first of all, prospective students and their parents. And our offer should be made in their language and meet their expectations of "getting into the market".

Another thing is that during the period of study at the university, training should be provided in a way that would meet to employers' expectations. But this is a common practice in business. Choose expectations, satisfy these expectations, and then make sure that the content of these expectations meets expectation of another group, i.e. your end customers. Bill Gates, for example, earned his first millions by selling "panes"(Windows systems), which at that time did not even exist in the form of a stable beta code. There was a system architecture and there were some interface components that he showed everyone. Everyone really liked this interface — because at that time everyone was living in a simple tabular reality of Norton Commander. And after these successful sales, he fulfilled the expectations of customers in a few years — not without problems, but with integrity. And we got the undoubted world leader of operating systems.
So, since we are not talking about the employment of our graduates during enrollment (there are at least two more years in the case of the master's degree, four — in the case of the bachelor's degree, and five — in the case of the specialist's degree), then it is not about the expectations of employers, but about the expectations of future students.

Therefore, we need to understand their expectations, perhaps them to the framework that we ourselves will see in the information field of the education market, and offer something that fulfills our potential to the maximum, but it is called THAT WAY and contains THIS ONE THING that applicants and their parents expect.

There is simply nothing more significant, in the external contour of the University's development at the moment. Because if you try to solve ten problems at once, you will not solve any at all, and because the rest of the tasks are the scope of internal reconfiguration of processes and procedures.

Applicants should have a certain insight like: "So, I found a clear and relevant educational product. And getting enrolled to this University and this educational track, I am more likely to be in demand on the market, with good salary and benefits, with good social and career prospects, than in a similar specialization, but in another institution. That's what I need!"

The next obvious question is: where will such a "wow" offer that will determine the choice of applicants and parents in our favor come from?

Theoretically, it can be invented top-down, then handed over to direct performers. Well, really, at least in theory, what prevents us from coming to a marketer and saying — come on, look at the market, what is in demand now? And then provide the performers with a ready-made solution and instructions.
Moreover, that's exactly what we did, for example, with further vocational education (PBA/PPA programs). But there are a lot of nuances. For example, an employer emulated in the PBA/PPA program would not express its needs in an open manner. He's used to saying, "Just be good to me." A certain professional work that in the Western world is called expectations collection was carried out. Then these expectations were decomposed, then it was projected onto the educational structure, subject coverage, technological and resource support. And many more different "later". The result is a kind of innovative product; this year we will check what will happen to it next.

However, it is more correct and appropriate to detect and show market expectations together with the final performers. In this sense, and at this stage of educational production, our colleagues can be called "producers" — those who currently produce a traditional educational product, while being a high professional in their field. If we prepare an analysis of market expectations by ourselves, without them, we will sentence ourselves to a not-so-obligatory phase of broadcasting innovations. But it will take a certain amount of time, which is very expensive.

"Producers" will need to reveal effective methods of analysis and somehow give the performers the tools that will help to identify and structurize the desires and expectations of both parties — a potential employer and a potential student. And then "producers" themselves will project the future framework of hybrid projects and automatically step over the first two phases of the attitude to innovations, namely, denial and rejection.

And finally, the key question is what this educational product should be, which will form the basis of our "wow" offer. It seems that there are two frameworks here — general and private.

The general framework is what, in our opinion, higher education should be in whole.

Frankly, this topic is not new at all. Namely, the difference between university and institute education. We need to position all education in the RUSS University as truly university-based, that is, education with a strong common cultural component.
And we will, starting from this academic year, give a high-quality common cultural foundation in all our training fields. Common cultural does not mean that it will be only about art. Although we are sure that for a person with a university degree, the issue of culture is important. I would not expect our graduates to have a refined and subtle sense of the difference in the handwriting of Monet and Cezanne. Nor confident discussions of the role of pointillism in the formation of impressionism. But at least a person with a university education should know what impressionism is. We are convinced of this! And who Petrov-Vodkin is and why the horse is red — this you should know as well. And the First Symphony, and how Oginsky said goodbye to his Homeland, and what the 40th Concert is! In the end, you need to know who Konenkov was and why there are some streets in Russian cities named after him.

It's not just about the artistic aspects of culture. Because natural scientific knowledge is also a necessary element of the common culture. Therefore, all RUSS University students will also receive a natural science course, even if their major is totally humanitarian. We believe that our graduates should know that planets fly in ellipses. They may not need to know for sure whether tellirium is a metal or not, but we must tell them about Dmitry Mendeleev.
And not only that:

We need to teach them basics of history, at least at the level of understanding the civilizational difference between the Greek-Mycenaean and Chinese cultures, for example. We need to teach them basics of legal studies as well, so that they do not confuse a piece of paper with a legislative act.

And, under the inclusion of these common cultural components in our educational foundation, we will try to somehow unload the time sheet of students. Naturally, without loss of quality and without violations of the law.

This is the first group of the hybrid educational product of RUSS University. We have to implement this and then we will be able to say, "Now we have a real university education."
So, the first frame of our "wow" offer is common to all.

The second frame is rather context-dependent, and it is responsible for the constant coasting of us as an educational "liner" in the waters of the educational "sea".

Now we will constantly monitor and predict the market. If there are any stable trends, we will decompose these trends and turn them into educational products; these will be different products, depending on the nature of the detected trends — from the discovery of long-term new areas of education to the implementation of short trend courses of vocational education.

Moreover, in creating such educational courses, we will actively use a "hybrid" approach, expecting to get a new quality by combining heterogeneous content. For example, if we combine traditional economics and traditional ecology, we will get a trending "green economy" for today. And we can already offer a sufficient number of such "hybrid" products aimed at the market.

We have a clear understanding that a hybrid product is not just a "two deans agreed" sort of story. The situation is a bit is easier with the "green economy": it is a composition of what economists and environmentalists do. It is a composite hybrid product. Put together the KSAs (knowledge, skills, bilities) and competencies — and the prototype of the product is ready.

But, for example, artificial intelligence is a completely different story. Here, it is necessary to "adjust" something in linguistics, and to reformulate something in psychology. And the main thing is to efficiently instill them on the IT platform, transforming the content of most disciplines. In contrast to the composite hybrid, we call such a product an integrated hybrid. Obviously, it is much more difficult to create such products. But for this exact purpose, we have expanded modern scientific directions in the new educational structure of the University — cognitive and behavioral science, qualimetry, and so on.

In other words, hybrid products are not always similar. Some may represent a competent, good, seamless merging of some contents (a composite hybrid product), while others may represent a mutual change of contents (an integral hybrid product).
Sometimes, you can just combine them, but in other cases you need to create a new quality, which may not even exist today. But if we want to be in demand on the market tomorrow, we must have these new qualities.

The question arises — what to do if there are no specialists at the university to implement integrated hybrid products? The answer strongly depends on how much this product corresponds to the identity, the "self" of the University, reflected in our development strategy; or, in other words, on what the nature of the potential product is, whether it is corresponding to the core of the University's strategy or responding to the detected steady trend.

If we are talking about a trend — we have found an undeveloped bay in the "blue ocean" of higher education — then everything depends on whether we have the appropriate resources. If we do, we are exploring the space while we are still the first in there. If the competition has already grown, we pack things up and leave. If we initially do not have such a resource, we share our ideas with our partners and sail on. Perhaps by playing some role in their educational products; perhaps not.

But, if we pass "test for selfhood", for compliance with the identity of the RUSS University, then our approach to the formation of competence will be completely different. In this case, we don't care if we have such specialists at the moment or not. No — we will find them, invite them, create them! And we are not going to not give up such an educational product even in the thick of the "red ocean", in the toughest competitive environment.
Dzhomart Aliev
First Vice-Rector of the Russian State Social University
PhD in Economics (Bauman Moscow State Technical University), Doctor of Philosophy (Kennedy Western University, USA).
From 2000 to 2001 worked as First Vice President of LUKOIL-Europe, and from 2001 to 2002 — head of the Center in the parent company.
2002–2012 — Bank URALSIB, First Deputy Chairman of the Board.
2012–2015 — Director of Rosatom Overseas.
2016–2017 — Chairman of the International Higher School of Business MIRBIS (Institute).