Central & Eastern Europe
Tertiary Focus
Eastern and Central European universities are making serious efforts to attract more international students, reports Jane Vernon Smith.

One institution that has been working hard to draw in international students is Russia's HSE University www.hse.ru, which has four campuses in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod and Perm. Seeking to recruit at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the St. Petersburg campus of HSE has completely redesigned its admissions process for international applicants from 2017 to make it more straightforward.


All applications are now accepted online, says Konstantin Platonov; graduate admission is now based on application review and a Skype interview; and undergraduate candidates can take the admission tests online. A further major contributor towards its ability to recruit more international students, is that, in 2016, HSE - St. Petersburg switched delivery of four full-time programmes from Russian to English. It now offers six full-time programmes in English (three undergraduate and three postgraduate). Its English-taught International Business and Political Science and World Politics programmes are the most popular internationally at undergraduate level, while, at graduate level it is the English-taught Master in Applied and Interdisciplinary History.


The success of the initiative can be measured by the growth it has seen in numbers applying from non-Russian-speaking countries. Overall, HSE -St. Petersburg has increased its proportion of international students from just 1.4 per cent in 2013 to six per cent in 2016, and has a target of 10 per cent for 2017.


The Czech Republic's Technical University of Liberec www.tul.cz has also been upping its international recruitment efforts. Recruiting at all levels from undergraduate to PhD, it established its International Office in 2014, and saw a noticeable upturn in numbers in 2015-16, reports spokesperson Ivana Pekarova. Here, like at HSE - St. Petersburg, demand is fuelled by the competitive tuition fees and low cost of living, as well as the availability of residential accommodation for all applicants. One restraining factor, however, is the length of the visa application process. According to Ivana, Czech universities are currently involved in intensive negotiations with the Interior Ministry on this subject. If successful, any subsequent changes could provide a further substantial boost to recruitment.


Liberec currently offers eight master's programmes in English, and nine PhD programmes, as well as a number at bachelor level. Fees are payable for these programmes, whereas its Czech-language courses are free of tuition fees, and the university works with a local institute where foreign students can study Czech prior to enrolment. Programmes attracting the highest number of foreign students are Mechanical Engineering and Textile Engineering, which Economics, Arts and Architecture are among the subjects where demand is growing.


Two universities which already attract high numbers of international students are Caucasus International University (CIU) www.ciu.edu.ge in Georgia and the University of Debrecen www.unideb.hu in Hungary. The University of Debrecen has been using agents for international recruitment for almost 30 years, and currently has more than 4,300 students registered on both postgraduate (including PhD) and undergraduate courses.


Of these, by far the most popular with internationals, according to Dr Abraham Varga of the university's Coordinating Centre for International Education, is Medicine, with almost 1,900 students. Dentistry is second, followed by Pharmacy, IT, Business and Engineering. The newly introduced MSc in Engineering Management has also been favourably received.


CIU, meanwhile, began international recruitment in earnest around three years ago. Today, internationals account for 17-to-18 per cent of total student numbers, while the aim is to raise the figure to 40 per cent. One way in which this will be achieved, says Tamar Chakhnashvili, head of the university's Department of International Relations, is through the construction of a multi-profile university clinic and the creation of a clinical skills centre and an anatomical theatre, all to support its provision in Medicine - again, the most popular programme for international students.


Its medical faculty attracts students from a wide range of countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, Tamar reports, and the number increases significantly each term, thanks, he says, to its competitiveness, highly qualified academic staff, low fees and vibrant student life. With demand for this and other subjects often significantly outstripping the number of places in students' home countries, and the cost and other benefits that central and Eastern Europe can offer, its universities look set to benefit from continued international growth. jvs@studytravel.network




Fazil Mammadov, StudyZONE International, Turkey

"We work with universities in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, sending around 60-to-70 students each year. The main motivation is the low living costs and tuition costs there. Also, in comparison with private universities in Turkey, those in Central and Eastern Europe are EU-accredited, and some have three-year bachelor degrees. Other advantages are that the students gain additional language skills while studying abroad, plus they find it much easier to get a job." www.studyzone.com.tr




Top student nationalities

Universities in Eastern Europe report a wide range of international student nationalities interested in their courses. Konstantin from HSE University in Russia says, "Forty-two nationalities are currently represented and the aim is for the non-Russian-speaking element to reach 40 per cent by 2018. Priority markets are the Baltic countries, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe."


At the University of Debrecen in Hungary, Abraham reveals, "Top source markets are currently Nigeria, Iran and Israel, while Pakistan has recently emerged as a major sender, along with Taiwan, Egypt and Jordan." He adds, "We would be happy to find new and  reliable agents in India, the Philippinnes and Central and South America."


Zan Dapcevic from Academia As Asistent www.academia.si in Slovenia says that their international student body is made up of 25 per cent of Indian students, followed by Russians (10 per cent) and Ukrainians (10 per cent). He adds, "Our future target regions are: Latin America - Brazil and Argentina; Eastern Europe - Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan; Russia; China; and Southeast Asia."



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