On 24 May a joint session with representatives of French-Russian University called ‘Digital Economy and Education. Changing the Paradigm’ took place in the field of SPIEF, with Vladimir Mau, President of FRU and Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), being the moderator.

The key topic of the discussion was interinfluence of technologies and education. The participants repeatedly emphasized the fact that in the modern world network interaction becomes crucially important allowing under conditions of trust to build up competitiveness of all members through partnership and information exchange. As a response to contemporary challenges, universities are becoming more globalized and internationalized. And in this context FRU is just another example of an international consortium of educational institutions, consolidating competitive advantages of its partners to maximize its efficiency as a whole and the efficiency of each single partner. Seeking for development of interaction with businesses FRU implements more than 20 educational programs (this number will double in the nearest future) to train highly skilled staff for international companies. Special attention is paid to increasing specialists’ qualification, and, in particular, pedagogical employees’ qualification. All this takes place with an active use of digital technologies and various forms of distance learning.

The fundamental issue of education development remains unsolved: should education exist independently of the social and economic environment or does it exist to satisfy the needs of the economy and shall be oriented at its topical demands?

Konstantin Noskov, Russian Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, noted in his speech that the realities of the current labor market replace traditional occupations, and this means that a modern specialist has to work under conditions of permanent training and retraining. In this context, Patrice Houdayer, Deputy Dean of SKEMA Business School, reminded that today 85% professions of the future decades do not exist yet.

This approach actually changes the educational market. Now universities compete not only with each other, but also with business companies that provide educational services, as Vladimir Mau said.

His words were confirmed by Elena Bunina, Yandex’ Director General in Russia. She told about the company’s experience of working with schools and launching a mathematics training system for schoolchildren.

Andrey Komarov, a representative of the Board of Directors of Chelyabinsk Pipe-Rolling Plant PJSC, also shared his company’s experience of cooperation with the educational sector. According to Mr Komarov, it is necessary to continue the work on popularization of secondary vocational education: ‘We have understood that secondary vocational education is a key to success and contribution to the fundamental value of our company. We invested funds in an old metallurgy secondary vocational institution, which almost did not train specialists in the field we needed. Since then, in the course of seven years it has become one of the best metallurgical professional training centers.’ In this regard it is worth noting that in 2017 59% of pupils, the 9th grade graduates who passed the state final attestation, continued to study in secondary vocational institutions. Within the priority project ‘Working Staff for High-End Technologies’ in 2017 44 federal state educational standards (hereinafter referred to as FSES) were approved in relation to the most relevant, new and promising professions and specialties. More than 1,000 secondary vocational institutions and 58 higher educational institutions have started to work in accordance with the new FSES (editor’s note).

Oleg Novikov, President of Eksmo-AST Publishing Group and President of Russian Textbook Corporation, called in his speech to pay heed to the needs of modern pupils, who under conditions of digitalization perceive and assimilate digital information better.

However, Mr Novikov was opposed by Marina Rakova, Director General of the federal state autonomous institution Fund of New Forms of Education Development, by reminding that the ‘digital form’ is nothing more than a tool used in education but not replacing the education itself. She noted: ‘There is a large risk that our children’ consciousness is being manipulated. This problem should be discussed at the highest state level.’

Annette Thomas, CEO of Clarivate Analytics' Scientific and Academic Research Division, countered to this: ‘Digital education is not something new, we have always had various difficulties with it, but now we have tools to solve them.’ Ms Thomas also emphasized that during the last 10 years in Russia one can see a reduction in the number of research.

But it is higher education that is a medium of innovative development, as Emmanuel Tric, President of Sophia Antipolis University of Nice, noted in his speech. Mr Tric noted: ‘When teaching, one has to take into account the social and economic needs on the part of enterprises and territories. The University is becoming truly internationalized. A wonderful example of such network interaction is French-Russian University.’

Celine Davesne, Deputy Director General for Programs of NEOMA Business School, confirmed: ‘In French-Russian University our task is to strengthen ties between businesses in France and Russia. We can feel the evolution of basic skills that are in demand by business circles.’

In conclusion to the session, Vladimir Mau said: ‘As I see it, the objective of the University is to form not a narrowly specialized professional, but a person who is always able to adapt to changes and new challenges.’