PriorityFest: Discussion Session on World Agricultural Markets at MGIMO

On October 13–14, MGIMO hosted PriorityFest, a festival-forum of best practices of universities participating in the Priority 2030 state program to support Russian universities. The event brought together for the first time more than 2,000 representatives of Moscow, regional and international educational and research communities to talk about the implementation of their initiatives and exchange their experiences with each other. The festival program consisted of dozen thematic tracks. One of them was devoted to world agricultural markets and the formation of competence centers in the field of agricultural trade.

As noted by Dmitry Shestakov, Deputy Director of the Agroexport Federal Center and professor of the department “World agricultural markets and foreign economic activity in the agro-industrial complex” at MGIMO, today universities face the task to gradually turn into competence centers. He pointed out that the Agroexport had conducted a study to identify such centers in the field of world agricultural trade and determine their key characteristics: “We came to the conclusion that to become competence centers, universities need to form new educational programs, maintain its teachers and researchers corps, foster scientific networks, strengthen horizontal ties with other institutions, including international ones, as well as enhance cooperation with enterprises of the real economic sector”.

According to Georgy Semenov, Head of the Project Management Sector at the Agroexport and Lecturer at MGIMO, the strategic project “Institute of World Agricultural Markets” should become such a competence center in the field of training specialists for international activities in the agro-industrial complex. He enumerated the challenges of ensuring progress and suggested several options how to overcome them. The expert then provided an overview of the work undertaken within the framework of the Institute by highlighting the results in the field of educational and methodological base and researching international agricultural trade. “In the near future, we see IWAM as an independent analytical center, a platform for business education and, of course, as a networking center uniting people of different spheres of activity, be it representatives of the academic community, business circles or practical specialists,” he summed up.

MGIMO already has experience in training specialists in the agricultural industry. Since 2019, the institute has been implementing the master’s program “World Agricultural Markets” with the support of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture. During the discussion, Natalya Cherner, Head of the department “World agricultural markets and foreign economic activity in the agro-industrial complex”, spoke about the peculiarities and tasks of the program. In her opinion, the course knows no equals at the current Russian universities and is aimed at training world-class specialists in the field of agriculture with knowledge of rare languages. She described the academic staff, and also dwelled in more detail on the curriculum of the program.

At discussion sessions, other universities also presented their educational programs. For instance, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of the Kuban State Agrarian University Aleksey Petukh singled out several strategic directions for the development of KubSAU and analyzed the results of projects already implemented at the university. “In recent years, the agricultural industry has been evolving rapidly, but it is necessary to form competence centers and develop new approaches to training of new specialists for further movement forward”, he said.

Representatives of the Moscow State University of Food Production shared their experience. Lyudmila Khutoretskaya, Director of the Innovation Valley Institute, introduced the university’s joint projects with the business community. In 2020, MSUFP launched the program “Education and Business. Internship of university’s lecturers”, which provides for training in six priority directions. It’s Cherkizovo PJSC that participated actively in the project. In turn, Nikita Makarov, Head of the International Cooperation Department, focused on possibilities of the university to develop and maintain external relations. This is particularly the case as regards ties with alumni who returned to work in their home countries after graduation.

Nadezhda Orlova, Head of the Department for Economics of Innovation in Agriculture at the HSE Institute for Agrarian Studies, who coordinates all agricultural programs under Priority 2030, concluded the discussion by naming the main challenges facing the Russian agricultural industry nowadays. One of the most pressing problems is the lack of specialists. “Agricultural universities should unite and initiate consortiums with other universities: from institutes like MGIMO to classical technical universities. It is crucial to prepare specialists with the right skills and expertise in the shortest possible time. If we do not do this, then our agricultural industry will not be able to withstand international competition”, emphasized the expert.