Russian Universities Await Bangladeshi Students for Nuclear Studies: Rosatom

Valery Karezin, Director of Educational Projects and the HR Service, ROSATOM, State Atomic Energy Corporation
Valery Karezin, Director of Educational Projects and the HR Service, ROSATOM, State Atomic Energy Corporation

Russia and Bangladesh have joined hands to implement Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. Now, Russian Universities are awaiting Bangladeshi students who will be studying various subjects related to nuclear energy. Nuclear engineering continues to be the most sought after course in Russian Universities. Valery Karezin, Director of Educational Projects and the HR Service, ROSATOM, State Atomic Energy Corporation, spoke about the scope of taking up nuclear education in Russia and scholarships that Bangladeshi students could avail.

Where Russian nuclear universities stand in international rankings in 2016?

National Research Nuclear University (MEPhI) and two other Russian universities are in the list of top 100 of the World University Ranking in Physical Sciences. Moreover, MEPhI improved its ranking among the world’s universities, rising by 58 positions from 860th to 802nd place in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, which measures the presence of universities in the global online space. The Webometrics ranking is published twice a year, at the end of January and at the end of July. Overall, it studies about 25,000 universities of the world.

Could you please tell us about the plans for training of foreign students for various projects of Rosatom?

Nuclear industry staff training involves two educational systems: higher education and further vocational education. When preparing for work in the nuclear industry, a candidate first receives higher professional education, for instance, at one of the universities, supported by Rosatom. Training can take from five to seven years and includes studying the Russian language and getting a Specialist (five years) or Bachelor (four years) degree and a Master’s (two years) degree. Having graduated from the university, the candidate continues studies at one of specialized vocational education institutions, where he or she receives training for a position, and after this he or she may start working at a nuclear facility. Afterwards, they undergo additional on-the-job training or develop competence in these organizations.

The system of higher education for the nuclear industry is based on the Consortium of Higher-Education Institutions with a Special Relationship to Rosatom that includes 13 leading Russian technical universities and the Far Eastern Federal University. These universities provide training in a wide range of specialties in all spheres of the nuclear industry, including the eight key nuclear specialties. Every year 300,000 students study at these universities, and 1,500 students come to work for Rosatom every year, which covers up to 60% of annual recruitment of young specialists in the industry.

As for foreign students, many of them now are undergoing training at Rosatom’s projects in construction of nuclear power plants. But the nuclear industry is not confined to NPP operating staff; therefore, students are also prepared for various other spheres, including research projects in the nuclear industry such as research reactors — this sphere is actively developing in the world now. We are currently providing education for about 1,400 students from 37 countries.

Of course, this number will increase as our cooperation expands. But there is no need for all students to study in Russia. The transfer of nuclear education to our partner countries is also an important part of our work. To accomplish this, we are developing cooperation between universities in order to create joint educational programs, ensure academic exchange and development of teaching materials, joint research, etc. We are developing joint programs with the universities of Turkey, Egypt and other countries at the moment.

What programs can Rosatom supported universities offer to their partners?

We are ready to provide the widest possible range of educational programs. We have a specialists’ course for representatives of the countries where Rosatom will build NPPs with documentation in the Russian language. I mean a degree in “Nuclear Power Plants: Design, Operation and Engineering”. Immersion in the Russian-speaking environment is very important for future NPP workers to be able to work with the documentation. However, some of our educational projects may be implemented in English. The documentation for several new NPPs, for example, in Jordan and Finland, will be written in English. Therefore, universities have developed Master’s degree programs in English. For example, the “Nuclear Physics and Technologies” Master’s degree programs in English have been developed at MEPhI and Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). The first group of students from Egypt, India and other countries has already graduated from TPU as part of this program.

All processes are planned in advance. To begin studies in September 2018, Bangladeshi students should submit applications in March or in April.

How Master’s degree students are recruited?

All students receive education in accordance with quotas for foreign students, determined by the Russian government. Starting from 2010,Rosatom receives quotas specially for recruiting students from partner countries for training in nuclear specialties. Russian centres of science and culture or Russian Embassies in the countries do the student recruitment job. Rosatom also supports partners in attracting and selecting talented candidates for training. For this purpose, we organize Physics and Mathematics Olympiads that help choose the best students, as well as public lectures by industry experts and professors who tell students and schoolchildren about nuclear science and technologies in an easy manner. In 2016, there were 20 lectures in 12 countries.

Such lectures will take place in Bangladesh in the fourth quarter of 2017. We also expect 20 candidates to come from Bangladesh to study at MEPhI this year.

Do Bangladeshi students study in Russia? What can be said about their level of competence?

At present, around 50 students from Bangladesh study in Russia. This year, the first group of these students is to graduate and go home. We plan to prepare about 100 students specializing in the nuclear industry by the time the Rooppur NPP is commissioned. Overall, the NPP with two power units requires at least 500 specialists with higher education.

We are happy to cooperate with Bangladesh in the field of education. Many graduates of Soviet universities who left Russia about 30 years back speak Russian very well. We hope that contemporary students will be as proficient as their predecessors.

Is it possible to study nuclear physics in English?

We have arranged the practice for foreign students, who are future staff of nuclear research centers, in English. The agreement was signed by Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (PNPI, part of NRC “Kurchatov Institute”) and Saint Petersburg State University (SPBU). This is the first agreement of this kind. Rosatom has never provided foreign students’ education in English before.

Which universities do have reactors and a practical base for students?

Each supporting university of Rosatom has its own laboratory that allows training of specialists for the nuclear industry. For instance, MEPhI and TPU have their own research reactors.

Could you please tell us about the foreign students at NRNU MEPhI?

In 2010, there were no foreign students, researchers or scientists at MEPhI. But in recent years we have significantly increased the number of events with active participation of well-known foreign scientists.

The number of foreign teachers and students has also increased considerably. For example, in 2014, there were less than 2% of foreign employees and only 6.6% of foreign students at the university; but last year, almost 14% of teachers and 12% of students came from abroad.

We expect that by 2020 one in five professors or students will be from abroad.

As I have already mentioned, Bangladeshi students began to study here in 2014, and now about 50 students are studying at MEPhI. We expect another 20 students to come this year.

What are the other prospects of cooperation between Russia and Bangladesh in the sphere of education?

This year, we held meetings with the leading technical universities of Bangladesh – Dhaka University, Military Institute of Science and Technology and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, organized the exchange of teachers. This is related primarily to the possibility of organizing lectures by Russian professors at the universities of Bangladesh.

Besides, modern technologies allow achieving a new level of cooperation in the sphere of education. For example, Buet can deliver live video lectures from any part of the world. We hope to be able to organize such lectures.

Overall, we expect to hold about five lectures of Russian professors in Bangladesh per year.