Teaching Abroad

In the period of May 22 through 28, 2016 the head of the NMSTU Department of Automated Electric Drive and Mechatronics Aleksander Nikolaev gave lectures at the Institute of Technology of Jean Monnet University in Saint-Etienne, France as part of the Erasmus+ Staff Mobility for Teaching and Training from Partner Countries. This is the first launch of the EU Erasmus+ Staff Mobility programme at NMSTU.

– The programme includes week-long trips to European universities for lecturing or training at the research labs,” tells Mr. Nikolaev. “The main purpose of my trip was to give lectures to the students of the department of electrical engineering and industrial informatics, which is a part of the Institute of Technology of Jean Monnet University, or IUT. I also looked around the department’s laboratory facilities and participated in the kick-off meeting on the electrical students exchange programme.”

– How long have you been in collaboration with the Department?

– NMSTU has been cooperating with Jean Monnet University for a few years now. And we have been long thinking about expanding the scope of our exchange programme. Last year we had a visit by the professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Industrial Informatics Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who came to see the laboratory infrastructure of the NMSTU Institute of Power Engineering and Automated Systems. Mr. Rousseau took part in the preparation of draft curricula for the French electrical students, which use the capabilities of the Department of Automated Electric Drive and Mechatronics and the Department of Industrial Power Supply. At the moment the discussions are seeing their final stage.

When I arrived at IUT, I met the head of the International Affairs Office Laurent Vierme and the team of the Department of Electrical Engineering. We discussed some aspects related to the new student exchange agreement that would include a wider range of areas covered by the credit mobility programme. One of the aspects discussed was the introduction of a flexible academic system, which would allow the NMSTU and IUT students to participate in the credit mobility programme more than once enabling them to acquire two diplomas – a Russian and a French one.

– What was your mission under the staff mobility programme?

– As part of the programme, I gave a series of lectures in English. The first lecture was an overview for the 1st year electrical students where I told them about NMSTU and the Institute of Power Engineering and Automated Systems. I also mentioned the opportunity to take trips around the MMK site where students can see high-power and super high-power installations. It is quite important and exciting for them as there are no metallurgical sites around the university in Saint-Etienne. Apart from the students, members of the department and the International Affairs Office were also present at my lecture. Our discussions touched on the issue of a greater integration of French students while in Russia. Thus we talked about the French students possibly sharing the same accommodation with the Russian students or attending lectures and lab classes in Russian, unlike how it is now when the French students are basically isolated. Our French colleagues believe that this will not only help the students to learn more of the Russian language, traditions and culture, but it will also be beneficial for their career prospects. Four 1st year students got interested in going to study in Russia.

The rest of the lectures were for target groups. The lectures covered the basics of electrical engineering for electric arc furnaces. The subjects had been agreed with the IUT electrical engineering department beforehand. The French students found them very exciting as they could get some information about the most powerful equipment used in industrial applications.

I should also note here that it was the department’s initiative for me to participate in four laboratory and practical classes as a second tutor. During the classes I got to see the mechatronic lab, converters and electrical machines, as well as the EMC lab equipped with unique instruments and testing equipment. It gave me an insight into the student teaching techniques applied abroad. 

– Is the French education different from the Russian one?

– France offers a quite extensive higher education. Apart from the traditional three levels of education, i.e. Bachelor, Master and PhD, there are different higher engineer’s education systems. Transfers between the systems can be quite complicated though. That’s why one faces a difficult choice when deciding to enter a university. In some cases, if a student decides to change the system of education, he or she might have to start from scratch. It would be worth mentioning that the engineer’s degree in France is viewed as prestigious. Only applicants with the best profiles can enter technical universities. If we talk about the Bachelor’s degree programmes in the field of electrical engineering, they include a great amount of lab hours which gives students necessary skills when they start working in industry.

Besides, there is a strict distinction at the faculties between the actual teaching staff, i.e. academic staff who do their PhD study and are exclusively engaged in teaching, and researchers, i.e. the faculty members who are engaged in research and are not required to do teaching. However, there is a limited number of researchers who also do lectures and practical training. There is a significant difference in requirements set for the two categories. The researchers are required to submit at least 1 or 2 articles with scientific journals and take part in one international conference a year. This is not required from the teachers.

– What would be the bottom line of your trip?

– We have agreed on students exchange for electrical engineering students. We have participated in the staff mobility programmes. And we have established connections with the counterpart department.

Irina Portnova

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