Students to present their start-up instead of a thesis

Students at all Russian universities are to be allowed the option of presenting a start-up that they have launched instead of submitting a traditional masters thesis, the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education has announced. 

While some students can already exercise this option, steps will be taken to roll the option out across Russia in 2019 to make it universally available. However, experts warn that this idea may turn out to be too novel for the Russian education system, which may struggle to implement it, according to a report disseminated by Project 5-100.

A ministry spokesperson told Izvestia that university students will be taught how to present start-ups as their final projects, with faculty receiving guidance on how to supervise these activities. Work on setting up such training courses, as envisaged by the national Digital Economy Program, will begin this year.

The report suggests that no legislative changes are required because existing procedures for awarding academic degrees make it possible for a start-up to be treated as equivalent to an ordinary final project.

Currently, more than 1,000 higher education institutions in Russia accept only traditional theses but as many as 71 have already embraced the start-up option, ministry data shows.

For example, the Russian Venture Company, which provides facilities for the Technology Project Management Department of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, reports that completing a tech start-up project is an integral part of a masters thesis for technology project management students, who train as venture fund analysts, innovation experts and technology entrepreneurs.

Other higher learning institutions that have taken up the initiative are ITMO University, Far Eastern Federal University and Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University.

Far Eastern Federal University first accepted a student's start-up as a final project in 2017. This venture is now a tenant at the Skolkovo Technopark in Moscow and has raised RUB10 million (US$152,000) in investment, according to the Project 5-100 report.

The Plekhanov Russian University of Economics also allows students in some fields to present their start-ups instead of defending a thesis. Successful start-up projects implemented by its students include a children's robotics university, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, a fantasy camp for kids and a pay-per-minute café dubbed an ‘anti-café’.

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