Fall 2011

Moscow in Ra'anana

The Open University's senior staff met with their counterparts from Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics (MESI)

For three days, the Open University's senior staff met with their counterparts from Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics (MESI). The five senior staff members of MESI arrived at the Open University's Ra'anana campus to discuss ways of enhancing cooperation between the two institutions. The Open University, according to Prof. Vitaly Minashkin, MESI's Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, "surpassed all of our expectations."

Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics (MESI) is no stranger to Open University. Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron, President of the Open University and Prof. Sarah Guri-Rosenblit, Director of International Academic Outreach met MESI colleagues at a meeting of SCOP (Standing Conference of Presidents) of distance teaching institutions of the ICDE (International Council for Distance Education) that took place in Barcelona in November 2009. Afterwards, an initial collaboration agreement was signed and Prof. Guri-Rosenblit gave a series of four guest lectures in Moscow.

The most recent visit to Ra'anana was designed as a working visit with meetings taking place with senior administrative staff and faculty.

MESI, established in 1932, is "a traditional university that has been trying for the past two decades to supplement its traditional services with an infrastructure of technology for distance learning, always outside of its regular budget" Prof. Minashkin explained.

Today, MESI is the largest distance educator in Russia with 10,000 students on its main campus, 140,000 regional students, of which 25,000 study outside Russia's boundaries, all networked to MESI's Open and Distance Education System. While MESI's numbers are dramatically larger than the Open University of Israel's student clientele, the Russian delegation was impressed with this first visit to the Open University. "We had heard alot about the Open University," Prof. Vitaly Minashkin, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs commented, "but this has surpassed all our expectations."

Five Potential Areas of Cooperation

In addition to Prof. Minashkin, MESI was represented by Dr. Irina Smirnova, Chief of the Department for International Projects, Prof. Natalia Tikhomirova, Rector, Prof. Larisa Danchenok, Director of MESI Institute of Management, Dr. Pavel Fedorov, Director of MESI Institute of Law and Humanities, and Vladimir Tyurin, MESI Vice-Rector for Security and Student Affairs.

As head of the Open University's international academic outreach working committee for enhancing joint collaboration with MESI, Prof. Sarah Guri-Rosenblit outlined five major areas of potential collaboration, including:

  1. Offering courses in Russian for both MESI students and Russian-speaking Israeli students
  2. Offering courses in English as a second language
  3. Working together on technological infrastructures
  4. Cooperation on research projects
  5. Serving as mutual examination sites

There are issues which must be resolved, such as overcoming cultural and language obstacles, establishing efficient national and international quality assurance mechanisms and finding, as Prof. Guri-Rosenblit explained, "the golden triangle of utilizing technologies and balancing costs, accessibility and quality."

Mr. Amit Streit, Director General, summed up the next step. "We have a committee in place to initiate a few pilot courses. We have two problems to work out, first are the academic issues, and then the administrative issues. But, I believe that if we solve the academic issues, then the administrative issues will be easily solved."