Russia Special: Part Two (Education Focus)

Russia GlobeContinuing the journey

With the Fifa World Cup, Winter Olympics, World Aquatics Championships, World University Games, Athletics World Championships, Ice Hockey World Championships and more coming to Russia before the end of the decade, the country is bracing itself for an unprecedented period of activity in sport. However, if Russia’s time in the global sporting spotlight is to be a catalyst for a long-term transformation of the sports sector, professionals with the required skills to initiate the next step of the journey are a necessity. It is for that very reason that Russia has established an educational institution that, it is hoped, will provide the cement that will allow the country to add to the building blocks of the major events over the coming years.

Russian International Olympic University (RIOU)

The Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) is at the heart of the country’s holistic approach to its sporting future. The University was formed in 2009 following a Memorandum of Understanding between the International Olympic Committee, the Organising Committee of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the Russian Olympic Committee, under the decree of the Russian Government. The co-founders of RIOU are the Russian Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy, the Russian Olympic Committee, the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee and the holding company Interros, while the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, provides heavyweight support as a chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. 
Professor Nikolay Peshin, as the Head of the Research and Development department at the University, is central to the RIOU’s strategy of ensuring that the impact of the Sochi Games on the Russian sports industry – and the country’s other major international events – is not just fleeting. “The RIOU is the institution created with a view towards the pending Games in Sochi – to provide their successful staging and to keep its legacy,” Peshin told GlobalSportsJobs. “The RIOU is not going to be a huge academic structure. According to our estimation we will invite up to 200 students per year. The infrastructure that is being constructing now is based on the assumption that there will be up to 1,500 students [within the University] every year.”

Masters of Sport Administration (MSA)

In late July, as the 2012 Olympics got underway, the University launched its Master of Sport Administration (MSA) course at the temporary Russia.Sochi.Park in Kensington Gardens, London. The timing and destination of the high-profile launch was no coincidence, as the University attempts to attract the right calibre of students from across the globe. “The RIOU has its campus in Sochi,” Peshin said. “The MSA is a unique Russian course specialised in training managers for big events in sport. The MSA is truly international, and is open to Russian and overseas students. It is delivered by world-leading experts from all continents. It offers students a hands on approach to learning by providing access to the organisation of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. It will continue to engage students with other major sporting events to be hosted in Russia.”

Standing out from other courses

There has been a steady proliferation of sports management courses worldwide in recent years. With that in mind, how will the RIOU’s MSA course differ from some of the others available? “The majority of Masters courses in sport have narrow specialism linked primarily with management and in a lot of cases they are designed just for employees of sports organisations, but the MSA was designed for a very wide audience,” Peshin added. “Secondly, the MSA was developed in line with the principles of Olympism, based on the requirements set forth by the IOC. Thirdly, we have included a strong research component within the MSA. The typical Russian educational model represents principles of learning and recalling, while the MSA is constructed on the principle of ‘learning by doing’. In fact, a student’s research proposal will be one of the MSA admission criteria. Our education will be delivered in a great teaching and learning environment and will have the full support of the IOC, international sports federations and the Russian Government.”
The University is looking to attract applicants with experience in “economics, management or financial management or marketing”. The split of students is expected to be 50% from Russia and 50% from abroad. “The MSA has been developed on the basis of a comprehensive review of the world best practice,” Peshin added. “We have carefully studied the provision available in the field and have drawn valuable lessons. This has allowed us to develop a unique program underpinned by a sound philosophy and pedagogical principles. Our education, including the MSA, will be delivered in a great teaching and learning environment. The RIOU offers state-of-the-art facilities designed to provide a stimulating teaching and learning environment as well as high-tech equipped lecture rooms, libraries and facilities. We have online teaching and communicating platforms and a huge stock of the key texts in the field and online subscriptions to all major academic journals is available at the library.”

A new benchmark in industry education

With such levels of preparation, focus and support, the RIOU is aiming to set a new benchmark in sports industry education through its MSA course. However, as is the case with many such initiatives, the real benefits are only likely to be truly realised in years to come, within the context of a broader national sports development strategy. “MSA students will be able to enjoy advanced technology and modern theories in the field of sports management,” Peshin said. “They will be able to construct concepts as well as carry out analytical work – so they can thrive and achieve their full potential.”
He continued: “The concept of long-term socio-economic development of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2020 is to determine the important role of physical culture and sports in the development of human potential. Sport has become a central objective of government policy in Russia. Training of professionals for the national sports industry was declared a top priority of the state policy in the field of sport for the next decade. Creation of highly qualified managers is required and will be significant for the development of the domestic sports industry and the integration of Russia into the international sporting community.” 

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