Academic mobility in the EAEU space: a view from Armenia

25 November 2021

The editorial staff of Eurasian  Media Studies Center had a talk with Zhan Baghiyan, the Deputy Executive Director for Academic Affairs of Lomonosov Moscow State University branch in Yerevan about the standardization of journalism faculty programs and the prospects for the cooperation development between universities in the EAEU.

– Among the strategic directions for the development of Eurasian Integration until 2025, spheres like education and science have for the first time been included since the establishment of the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union). How do you assess the prospects for economic integration in these areas?

This is the right step. In my opinion, science and education in the EAEU countries are underestimated. Meanwhile, these countries have huge potential, which was once successfully utilized within the framework of the Soviet education system. It is necessary to restore the lost scientific ties and establish new channels of cooperation.

– Some experts talk about the need to create a unified education system within the EAEU. How do you assess this perspective?

The EAEU is an established multidisciplinary structure: economists, lawyers, IT sphere, marketing, public relations: almost all specialties can be in demand here, even linguists-translators. For example, our colleagues have recently approached us with a request to provide translators, since it has become necessary to translate a lot of documents, acts, and resolutions into Armenian. The universities of the participating countries can only unite, synchronize the educational process, curricula,  course guides for the needs of the platform and release specialists, researchers, employees for the organization.

– What areas of international partnership in the field of education are the most relevant today and which of them can be applicable within the framework of organizing cooperation between universities in the EAEU?

In the world practice, successful projects in the field of education have been developed for decades, which are intensively implemented in the EAEU countries. All of them, as a rule, pursue the same goals: stimulating academic mobility programs, exchanging young specialists, improving the qualifications of the professional level of lecturers. The principle of operation of the most successful of them, such as the Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, can also be applicable to the model of the development of education and science in the EAEU, taking into account the specifics of local realities.

– Does it make sense to develop uniform educational standards in journalism or create networked universities for the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union? 

Absolutely. And the standards must be regulated at the state level. In Armenia, for example, there is a large number of foreign donor and professional organizations, whose programs and courses in journalism are not regulated by the state. As a result, services in journalism education can be provided by any organization with financial resources. As far as network universities are concerned, of course, academic mobility will only increase the opportunities for professional growth for journalists and improve the quality of their training.

– How do you assess the prospects for the implementation of joint master’s programs in journalism and training programs for highly qualified personnel in the EAEU?

This is an interesting and rather unexplored niche. I think that the faculty of journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University should become the flagship in this area. Taking into account the huge experience of Moscow State University, which has been successfully carrying out educational activities in the EAEU countries through its branches for several decades, the implementation of such programs can be more productive if the branches of Moscow State University are involved. Thus, the branches can become a link between the Parent University and local universities in the implementation of such programs.

– What factors are currently hindering the expansion of cooperation between universities and the development of academic mobility in the EAEU? For example, if we consider the experience of cooperation between journalism faculties in the post-soviet space.

The expansion of cooperation between universities of the EAEU countries is just a matter of time. There are no obstacles, there is a mutual decision of the participating countries on cooperation in the field of science and education, which means that the mechanism has already been launched, and in the near future we are going to see the first results. A striking example is the creation of the Center for Eurasian Media Research on the basis of the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University, which has brought together the specialists from EAEU universities. As for journalism education, we already have vivid experience of cooperation with the faculty of journalism of Moscow State University. Since 2015, more than 40 highly-qualified employees of the faculty, headed by Dean Elena Vartanova, have been seconded to the branch. During this period, MSU specialists have not only ensured the educational process, but also conducted open lectures, round tables, master classes for acting journalists of the republic, students and teachers from Armenian universities, and the wide academic community.

– What opportunities does your faculty offer to students of EAEU universities today?

Education in the branch is currently conducted in six areas for the bachelor’s degree. We are also implementing master’s programs in the field of economics, international relations and jurisprudence. Within the limits of this period, we have had graduates in bachelor’s and master’s programs. The graduates with MSU diplomas have joined the ranks of specialists both in Armenia and abroad. Most of our students are citizens of Russia and other EAEU member countries. The curricula necessarily contain components related to legal, economic, political or international integration in the EAEU. Various types of internship are conducted in the relevant structural divisions and local departments of the EAEU in the republic. It is important to emphasize that we provide an opportunity for all students to receive high-quality education of the main university of Russia in accordance with the standards and curricula of MSU from the best professors of Russia, and all this is on the territory of Armenia.