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5:14 PM  August 30, 2020

Higher league: how TSU IT school is moving towards global recognition

© РИА Томск. Павел СтефанскийHigher league: how TSU IT school is moving towards global recognition

TOMSK, Aug 30 – RIA Tomsk, Elena Taylasheva. Tomsk State University (TSU) graduate software engineers with real two-year work experience next year: the first graduation course of the pilot program begins. TSU has built a good professional school, now has ambitions to make it world famous. How will science help and why one can get a Nobel Prize in Computer Science – in the RIA Tomsk material.

 Completion of a professional 

Three years ago, launching the pilot program "Software Engineering" (and then creating the Higher IT School (HITs), Tomsk State University responded to the pain of business: graduates of the university need to be retrained and retrained so that they become at least junior developers.

Practice showed that if from the first year students start to enter the profession, by the third year they can start working on real projects in companies. Moreover, the number of companies looking at HITs as at a partner in solving staff shortages is increasing every year, because students have a really high level, for example, fourth-year HITs student Denis Sharapov recently became the best web developer in Russia. 

"One of the elements of the "Personnel for the Digital Economy" national project were centers for accelerated training of IT specialists. Now we can say that such a center at TSU is successfully operating and developing. But does a modern IT school end with only a different education?" – TSU Vice-Rector for Digital Transformation, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, head of the Higher IT School Oleg Zmeev said.

© РИА Томск. Таисия Воронцова
This year, despite everything, HITs managed to recruit a group of international students. They will start the academic year at a distance, as soon as the borders are opened - they will come to Tomsk. In general, every third student of the school – is a foreigner.
What kind of education to give after the bachelor's degree - is the next task that the "pilot" must solve. And the first step – is a master's degree. 

Why would a programmer go to master's degree program if he received all the necessary skills in four years of bachelor's degree? "Firstly, there are those who were unlucky with their bachelor's degree", – Zmeev smiles. Secondly, there is a fairly large group of people who have achieved certain success in their careers and who need "completion" in order for them to have a level-up (that is, an increase in their professional level). 

"Completion - is a complex process that concerns not only professional skills. It requires reflection on further movement in the profession. You can, of course, reflect in the kitchen with friends, but it is much better to do this, firstly, in the company of the same reflexing people, and secondly, in a specially created communicative space", – believes Zmeev. 

© из официальной группы программы во "ВКонтакте"
"Level-up is more like education for adults. There was even an idea to do a master's program on a weekend, when a person could study with us without stopping work. Because the task of professional growth can hardly be solved by completing one course, even a very cool one", - says Oleg Zmeev.
According to him, the discussion of specific models of master's degree is now underway at HITs.

 "Most likely, the master's program will be project-based and based on a case study format (method of cases). For different projects it will be possible to assemble teams with different levels of training – both those who were unlucky with the master's program and those who want professional growth. At the same time, we will puzzle them not with "toy" projects, but with such projects, which will solve real business tasks", – says Zmeev. 

Business will also help to set scientific tasks in order to make the research agenda of the school relevant, and given the fact that the partners of the school themselves play in international markets, it is also international. 

© с сайта ТГУ
HITs partners are well-known Tomsk IT companies such as KODE, Enbisys, Center of Financial Technologies, NTR Lab, Bitworks. They not only help to update the program and take students on paid internships, but also pay scholarships to school teachers.

Agenda on the frontier 

A world-class school – is not only world-class education, but also world-class research. This is an applied fundamental agenda that is on the frontier and interests the whole world.

"Applied research is also interesting for businesses that are striving for some next reality. For business, they are called "innovations", and innovation – is always a risky business. And sharing the risks – is a great scenario both for them and for us", – says the TSU Vice-Rector. 

Now the most relevant (and fashionable) areas of business (and, accordingly, scientific thought) - are machine learning and big data. "For research in the field of General AI (general artificial intelligence), I think, one can get a Nobel Prize. Or, for example, for biocomputers that will work like the human brain ..." – he notes.

 And he continues: "If it is really possible to solve the issue of building a world-class school, then we need to go into interdisciplinary areas, "putting" on one or two narrow topics. Well, for example, semantic models of natural language. Here Siri and Alice speak a natural language and at the same time are robots. How to teach them to speak better, understand more precisely? This is a task for which interdisciplinary teams are required, which include humanitarian ones".

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
"In fact, we need to educate a new generation of scientists, with different attitudes, different ethics, with a different research protocol, with different ambitions. The generation of scientists who want the Nobel Prize", – says Oleg Zmeev.
The first step towards this has already been taken: this academic year, a research track has been launched at HITs. The head of the school explains:

"Finally, we do not give part of the school's students to business, as it was in the previous third year, but leave them at the university to engage in research. Naturally, most of the students went to the professional track, but three people appeared who chose science (in total, there are 35 third-year students who chose tracks this year – that is, 10%, as it should be in the classics). And we are happy about it".

The second step is that we are beginning to have joint research seminars with companies from among our partners, which are engaged in relevant topics. The latter was held with the NTR Lab".

The seminar was attended by Professor of Physics at the University of Minnesota Vitaly Vanchurin, a well-known expert in the theory of neural networks learning. 

Good choice 

All steps towards the goal will be spelled out and included in the new program of academic excellence of TSU, which is now being developed at the university. "Any cool university is not built in five years. We are talking about a horizon of 15-20 years. We want to make a story in which a high-quality Russian education with an IT bias – is Tomsk. For the whole world", – emphasizes Zmeev. 

HITs are already successfully competing for the best graduates of the Tomsk region. The passing score this year is 268, despite the increase in the number of state-funded places. It is approximately the same for the nearest competitor – NSU. 

"This year we have practically disappeared people who choose between universities in Tomsk. The main contingent of school applicants choose between Moscow and St. Petersburg: Bauman Moscow State Technical University, HSE, MIPT, ITMO, First Pavlov State Medical University of St. Petersburg... And some of them stopped at HITs, although they could have entered anywhere. 

Talented schoolchildren in Tomsk already know us well, the next task is - to start working with graduates of Siberia as well. The problem is that nonresidents choose not a university, but a city. But the fact that we are starting to compete with big cities, by and large, lacking the advantages of their environment, shows that we are on the right path", – Zmeev summed up.

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