The news about the forthcoming opening of the branch of MGIMO, the main alma mater of Soviet and Russian Diplomacy, in Baku, appeared a few months ago. Mikhail Bocharnikov, the Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has recently confirmed that the branch of MGIMO will soon open its doors in the capital of Azerbaijan. The correspondent of 'Moscow-Baku' had a talk with MGIMO rector, Anatoly Torkunov and got the details of the forthcoming opening of the branch of one of top Russian universities.
-Anatoly Vassilevich, there are a lot of statements from officials about the approaching opening of the branch, but we still do not any specific information. When will the branch of MGIMO open in Baku?
-We expect the branch to open next year, in September or October. Now we are working on the program content. This year, in December, we will make changes in the MGIMO Charter, record the branches in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, according to law. It is important to make up our mind with work premises because the branch can be only licensed if such premises exist. This matter depends on the Azerbaijan side.
Our plans are not too ambitious so far – we are planning to open two Master's programs in Baku which are necessary for Azerbaijan. They were defined by Azerbaijan colleagues themselves. These are 'Problems of Civil and Commercial Law' and 'Artificial Intelligence and Information Technologies'. The Azerbaijan side is interested in these areas because, if we talk about diplomatic training, Azerbaijan has excellent Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA) we cooperate with. It means that Baku has no problems with diplomatic staff training. And in this case we offer the study areas that are not as actively developed in Azerbaijan. We are planning to develop these areas with colleagues from Azerbaijan.
I would say that it will be such 'one-of-a-kind' training until the big branch, like that of Lomonosov Moscow State University, is established. Each of the two Master's programs will enroll 12-15 students.
An idea of the MGIMO branch opening in Azerbaijan is long-standing. We had been approaching it for many years but until now we had not been able to bring it to life. We hope there will be no problems, we have made a significant shift to achieve this. I have recently had a talk with Ilham Aliyevich in Baku, and the Azerbaijan side is still interested in the opening of the MGIMO branch. So we think that everything will be ok.
-It appears that Azerbaijan is interested in Russian education in the country and wants MGIMO to train specialists in those areas that are not as actively developed in Azerbaijan… Besides, President of Azerbaijan is also a MGIMO graduate, as we know…
-Certainly, we open the MGIMO branch in Baku not only because Ilham Aliyev is a graduate of our university, although this fact is also important. It seems to me, in the first place, that it should be taken into account that, on the one hand, Azerbaijan has a great number of foreign universities that implement their programs.
On the other hand, the following two factors are important: 1) our countries have a common educational tradition related to the common Soviet paradigm of basic education pursued by many generations; 2) many areas in Russian education demonstrate progress. Our education is one of the best in the world according to all international rankings including subject rankings. We are not lagging behind, moreover, we are often ahead of many universities.
Now, in case with the Azerbaijani branch of MGIMO, we are planning to use not only resources of our university but also resources of our partners, in particular, of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology we closely cooperate with. In principle, we stand for creating the network programs based on new breakthrough study areas where the best specialists of various universities would participate, on an institutional rather than individual basis. For example, this can be HEIs of various countries that agree upon implementation of joint network programs. Graduates of these programs receive diplomas of several universities implementing the joint program. Today MGIMO implements joint educational programs in Business and Commerce with France and Italy. Students pursue their studies at our university, in France and Italy and receive diplomas after completing their degree. It can provide additional opportunities for students to look at education abroad, get a lot of new information from foreign professors and also enjoy a unique employment opportunity as our graduates can speak several languages. During their studies students undertake their internship in the companies of these countries, often at joint enterprises. We train business specialists who will promote Russia's cooperation with its foreign partners. Business today is international everywhere, and in Azerbaijan as well. I am convinced of it again every time I visit Azerbaijan. So it is important to train such all-around specialists who will stand up for the national interest in a professional way being citizens of their country, and, on the other hand, will cooperate with their foreign partners. It is important for people to have the same education and to work in the same team.
-You were a member of the Russian President's delegation that has recently paid an official visit to Uzbekistan, and the opening of the MGIMO branch was announced in Tashkent. Why did Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan become the first countries to open the university branches?
-As I said before, an idea to open the branch in Azerbaijan occurred to us long ago. It was an initiative of Heydar Aliyevich and Ilham Heydarovich. And until now we had been cooperating with Azerbaijan, exchanging our students, implementing joint projects but the branch is being established just now.
As to Uzbekistan, our Uzbekistan colleagues are also interested in our cooperation. There is the remarkable University of world economy and diplomacy in Uzbekistan. It is a long-established university and works under the patronage of the President. The university rector is Deputy Minister. Tashkent is interested in significant expansion of cooperation with foreign universities and, first of all, with MGIMO which is traditionally considered one of the most famous universities that train international relations experts. But at the same time opening of branches in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan is a strategic interest of Russia itself in the field of education, interest in staff training abroad, and strengthening of humanitarian cooperation.
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