Sustainable development principles as a basis for bachelor’s and master’s degree education programmes at the Department of International Relations, the Ural Federal University.
“Education presents one of the prerequisites for achieving sustainable development and one of the most important tools for effective management and democracy development” in contemporary society. Education for sustainable development (ESD) is aimed at training of a new type of specialists that are able to respond to challenges and ready to live in the world of ongoing changes. At the Department of International Relations, at the Ural State University named after the first President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin, the emphasis in training of students is put on the development of analytical skills, self-sufficiency, critical thinking and creativity.
Modern labour market is focused on bestowing individual working places. According to the Dean of the Department of International Relations, Professor V.I. Mikhailenko, there is no so-called “mass «journey» into profession” any more. That means the graduates, having acquired appropriate professional competences, should be mobile and competitive at labour market. Devising the curriculum and a set of disciplines, the Department tries to create specific “points of potential growth”, which may be (or will be in future) in great demand and thus can be activated by the graduates in various situations. The primary task of the Department of International Relations is to organize conditions that help students not only to find job, but also to become prepared to occupational mobility and to continuously develop their professional skills.
The training programme in “International Relations” is realized by two chairs of the Department - Sub-department of Theory and History of International Relations and Sub-department of UNESCO for human rights, peace, democracy, tolerance and international understanding. Wide range of professional tasks is resolved within baccalaureate and broad education is the main purpose, realized within the framework of two specializations – “World politics and international business” and “International relations and foreign policy”.
Curricula consist of several professional educational modules (units of disciplines):
“Foreign Languages” (including English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Chinese);
“Diplomacy, world politics and international relations”;
“Economics and world economy”;
“State regulation of international processes and foreign trade”;
“Global and regional security and conflict settlement”.
Master’s degree can be obtained by accomplishing one of programmes, including “Global and regional security and conflict settlement” and “Legal regulation of international processes”. These programmes concentrate on using collaborative, interactive educational methods, a lot of time is devoted to independent research and practice.
Education for sustainable development requires not only “providing students with knowledge”, but also teaching them “to work out a problem and to search for a possible solution”. Therefore the staff of the Department, while maintaining the traditional aspect of communication, gives opportunities for multisided and interdisciplinary analysis of situations and cases, occurring in real life. That leads, firstly, to alterations in curriculum structure, secondly, to introduction of new teaching methods that allow students to become recipients of information as well as active participants of the educational process.
All of the mentioned tasks are accomplished due to the following factors. First of all, the Department of International Relations has joined high-qualified, knowledgeable specialists in different subject areas, who have a proper experience of field work. Taking into account the interdisciplinary aspect of educational programmes within “International Relations” specialization the staff includes not only international relations specialists, but also historians, jurisprudents, economists, linguists, political scientists, philosophers. Moreover the cooperation with practitioners has a great significance in the work of the Department. The representatives of Management department of the Ministry of industry and trade in the Ural federal region and the Representative office of the Ministry for foreign affairs are associate professors of the faculty. Some of the department workers have many years’ experience of the UNO peacekeeping missions and government service in the Ministry of international and foreign economic relations of Sverdlovsk region.
Interdisciplinary education, underpinning the content of sustainable development, is implemented with the help of partners of the Department – foreign universities and research centers, governmental and public bodies and local authorities. Cooperating organizations are presented by the Representative office of the Ministry for foreign affairs; the Office of Ombudsman of Sverdlovsk oblast; the Office of Ombudsman for children of Sverdlovsk oblast; Association of history, law and social sciences teachers; Associated network of UNESCO schools in Sverdlovsk oblast; Russian international affairs council; the Research center for political aspects of security; European Community Information Center; United Nations Association of Russia; Swedish Radiation Safety Authority; James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies (the USA); Preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (headquartered in Vienna, Austria), the universities of Italy, China, Spain, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Germany, France etc. Besides this, the Department is an active participant of the EU TEMPUS programme together with the universities of Spain, Latvia, Italy and Sweden.
The Department of International Relations managed to create a broad cooperation network with Russian and foreign partners. Its work has involved not only the members of staff, but also students, undergraduates, postgraduates and future entrants. Thus, training of future specialists comprises partnership and cooperation of various institutions.
Considering module “Global and regional security and conflict settlement”, it is easy to follow the implementation of interdisciplinary approach and convergence ideas into as well as cooperation process among professors, students, undergraduates and practitioners. The Research and Education Center for security problems and non-proliferation was created at the Sub-department of theory and history of international relations, uniting professors and interested students. Open lectures devoted to the grounds of nuclear physics and the perspectives of contemporary nuclear industry at the Department of Applied Physics (at the URFU) are an inalienable part of the course “Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and disarmament problems” for the students of third grade. Moreover, within the framework of this course every year the students of the Department of IR visit the Ural Electrochemical Plant in Novouralsk, participate in traditional Regional theoretical and practical conference “April reading” for the schools of towns, having closed autonomous status (ZATO).
The teaching process within this module involves using of World Wide Web advantages and opportunities. The Ural Federal University is the only institution, working with distance learning programme of the education portal of the Preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, widely using the sources of the CTBT Organisation. 49 students and undergraduates, studying “International Relations”, are the participants of intensive distance learning course in the English language called “Multilateral Verification, Collective Security: Contribution of the CTBT”, organised together with CTBTO Preparatory Commission.
The Sub-department of theory and history of international relations works in close cooperation with the Sub-department of UNESCO for human rights, peace, democracy, tolerance and international understanding. The UNESCO sub-department is a degree-granting chair, realizing the programme “Legal regulation of international processes”. Major tasks of this sub-department include: enhancing the preparation level of future specialists in international relations and assistance in improving communicative competences and tolerance. These problems are solved not only due to the carefully thought-out curriculum and programmes. The sub-department pays great attention to involving students and undergraduates into wide-scale discussion of social, legal, cultural, ecological aspects of the contemporary society development taking into account their interdependency. The UNESCO sub-department has stable cooperative relations with the Ombudsman of Sverdlovsk oblast, T.G. Merzlyakova, and the Ombudsman for children of Sverdlovsk oblast, I.R. Morokov. Traditionally on the eve of international Human Rights Day the Sub-department of UNESCO organizes December Conference on human rights – “Person, society and the world”. The students of different faculties, departments and specializations, interested in various aspects of human rights and tolerance, take part in the Conference. The most attractive point is the specificity and multisided problematic of human rights question. Sub-department of UNESCO for human rights, peace, democracy, tolerance and international understanding works in close cooperation with the Public council for migration problems under the Office of Ombudsman. The sub-department gives consultations in various migration problems, relying on international experience of migrants’ integration in the society of receiving country. Common research results of professors, students and undergraduates comprise the basis for provided materials, reports and information.
It is significant to mention that the Department of International Relations tries to build firm cooperation with school-leavers. The School of young international affairs expert (for pupils of 8-11 grades) exists within the structure of the Department. There are three directions of work: lectures of academic staff, discussions and business games; research work carried out by high school students; participation in scientific and cultural activities of the Department. The faculty helps to get together talented young people, having concern in policy, diplomacy and image of the Russian Federation in the world as well as in the future of the country. Within the framework of the second December Conference (December 2012) pupils of 9-11 grades presented their research papers, devoted to acute and debatable questions, complicated even for experts: “Multiculturalism: for and against”, “Youth subculture: tolerance aspect”, “The problem of tolerance in the modern international relations”. The presented reports embraced a wide range of questions, regarding human rights protection, building democracy and self-government, tolerance in relations, ecologic culture formation. The major interest was evoked by presentation of students of Pervouralsk Metallurgic College, focused on “white” metallurgy, the right of citizens to clean environment and student self-government system at the college dormitory.
Education process is concentrated on inculcating and developing such competences as systematic thinking, analyzing, independence, ability to speak foreign languages and culture knowledge of international communication. Creativity, self-sufficiency and high self-esteem can be named among distinguishing features of students of the Department of IR. One of the students, Denis Gulyar, together with other representatives of the faculty, introduced and due to the help of Yekaterinburg city Administration implemented a social project “Global mind”, which became a part of a campaign, supporting the candidacy of Yekaterinburg to be the host of “EXPO-2020”. Students of Yekaterinburg universities organised a good will mission to the remote regions of several states in Africa, Asia and Latin America in order to provide them with communication technologies and share knowledge. Denis and some of the participants visited Namibia, where they worked with children, who were not (from the point of citizens of developed countries) familiar with elementary benefits of civilization. The motive force behind was not only based on striving to help the native city to acquire the host title, but also decent humanitarian purposes of struggle against poverty, helping children of developing countries, the urge to show them the world and give hope.
In conclusion, it is important to notice that it would not be correct to speak only about positive aspects. Some of the modern problems, having impact on the whole Russian society, influence the work of the Department of International Relations. These include legal nihilism and the lack of resources, connected with continual underfunding of the universities, the lack and absence of budget places in master’s and bachelor’s programmes, increase of bureaucracy in management, organization and control over university activities as well as gradual vanishing of the specific democratic university atmosphere. Inequality of Russian regions is revealed during the admission procedures and uncovers different preparation levels of the entrants. The last factor significantly impedes students’ adaptation to the requirements and study conditions at the federal university. The achievements and success in studies are decreased owing to low level of school training, narrow mental outlook and inability of some students to perceive new methods of receiving and processing information. Thus, the paradox is witnessed – while the community is transforming into information society in the era of knowledge and information, the school leavers tend to be losing particular knowledge, abilities and skills.
 Стратегия ЕЭК ООН для образования в интересах устойчивого развития (2005) // Образование в интересах устойчивого развития в международных документах и соглашениях. М., 2005. С. 93.