EDUneighbours Found Changes in Double Degree Activities (Follow-up Survey 2020)

More double degree programmes in 2020 than 2017, but not all the old ones survived. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has not terminated double degree cooperation.


In spring 2020 the EDUneighbours Team decided to continue ”Towards Good Neighbourliness with Higher Education Cooperation: Finnish-Russian Research and Action Project” until the end of 2021, because it was impossible to carry out planned activities by the end of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We also felt that it was time to update the data gathered in our interviews in 2017, when our team interviewed representatives of Finnish-Russian double degree programmes (DD) in Finland and Russia. The representatives were internal stakeholders of double degree programmes such as their administrative coordinators, academic heads and teachers. Back then we visited five universities in Finland and ten of their partner universities in Russia and interviewed 15 double degree representatives in Finnish universities and 20 of their colleagues in Russian universities. In addition, we organised an alumni meeting in St. Petersburg for graduates of Finnish-Russian double degree programmes, and organised group interviews during that event.

The EDUneighbours researchers have presented the findings of the research project in international conferences and workshops in Finland, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, UK, and USA. Some of these findings have also already been published in peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

Follow-Up Survey 2020
In May-July 2020 the EDUneighbours Team conducted a Follow-Up Survey and invited the representatives of Finnish-Russian DDs interviewed in 2017 to take part in the survey by filling in an online questionnaire (excluding two Russian interviewees whom had retired, and two Finnish interviewees – representatives of a DD which had no intake since 2016). In addition, the 2017 interviewees were asked to provide the names of their successors if they no longer were involved in DD activities. The successors were invited to take part in the survey in September-October 2020. Thus, our respondents in 2020 included both those whom we had interviewed in 2017 regardless of their current position and university, and their successors appointed after the time of the interviews in 2017. In total the number of respondents made up 25, six of whom represented Finnish universities and 19 Russian universities. The EDUneighbours team guarantees the anonymity of the respondents.

Changes in roles on the Russian side, but still no clear division of responsibilities
The roles of some Russian DD representatives had changed between 2017 and 2020. Some of them were no longer involved in Finnish-Russian DD activities. However, according to their responses, they participated in other forms of Finnish-Russian cooperation. Russian partners had appointed some successors with the predominance of the duties for administrative heads. The number of Russian representatives combining administrative and academic roles in the double degrees had decreased in comparison with 2017. As for Finnish universities, there were no such changes in roles among our respondents. In general, it must be emphasised that the EDUneighbours Follow-Up Survey 2020 confirmed the findings of our previous studies (Shenderova, 2020): Finnish and Russian universities organise DD responsibilities of academics and administrators in a different manner. While Finnish universities have clearly divided administrative and academic responsibilities and functions, Russian universities continue to divide these issues in a vague manner. In addition, some of our interviewees (2017) and respondents (2020) in Russian universities were not always able to explain the spectrum and details of double degree related duties, and it seemed that they did not always understand what they included.

Finnish-Russian double degree partnerships in 2020: Alive and kicking
The vast majority of the respondents both in Finland and in Russia confirmed that their university continues double degree cooperation in 2020. However, their answers described double degree cooperation at the university level in general rather than the given double degrees studied by the EDUneighbours in 2017. Some Russian respondents pointed out that new cooperation activities had been developed with their Finnish partners after the interviews had been conducted in 2017. Meanwhile no Finnish respondents informed us about any new partnerships with Russian universities.

The total number of double degree programmes had increased when comparing 2017 and 2020. However, only two thirds of the partnerships implemented in 2014-2017 had survived until 2020. The most successful partnerships were recognised the respondents both by Finnish and Russian partners, and the given partner universitities also provided detailed double degree information on their websites.
The most popular model of Finnish-Russian double degree partnership is the same as in 2017: one year at the home university combined with the next year abroad (1+1).

Just as it was in 2017, mobility remained asymmetrical in 2020: students of Russian universities were more interested in the study abroad period in Finland, than students of Finnish universities in that in Russia. Furthermore, the COVID-19 had cancelled or postponed planned mobilities, but it had not led to the termination of double degree cooperation as a whole.

We will present more findings of our research, including the follow-up survey, in forthcoming conference presentations such as those at Fifth Annual Conference on Russian and East European Studies in which we will have a panel with the title Challenges in Internationalization of Higher Education in Postsocialist Russia and Cooperation with the EU.

Eager to learn more about our research? Follow the EDUneighbours BLOG to find out about our latest publications!

We would like to express our gratitude to all respondents who found time to communicate with us and take part in the survey during these exceptional times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Svetlana and Sirke

Мы хотели бы выразить нашу глубочайшую признательность всем респондентам, которые нашли время для того, чтобы связаться с нами и ответить на наши вопросы в чрезвычайных обстоятельствах пандемии коронавирусной инфекции.
Светлана и Сирке