Recently Daria Kozlova returned from the QSAPPLE conference where ITMO University received a prize for the Best International Website page for international students. Earlier this year there was also the EAIE Conference and Exhibition held in Liverpool which brought together over 5,000 international experts in education from around the world. In summer in Denver, there was the international exhibition at NAFSA which showcased international educational institutions from 140 countries in the world including ITMO University.

In 2016, ITMO University participated in 18 international exhibitions and fairs. University staff presented at 39 different conferences, seminars, workshops and other international events, explained Elena Ivanchenko, the head of ITMO’s Events Office.

But at the same time, university representatives do not participate in all international educational events and forums that take place around the world. It’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of participating in these events. How, for example can we know how much more the university became well known on an international scale as a result of participating in this or that conference? So it’s important to follow some kind of criteria in order to choose an event worth participating in.

"We don’t go to an event unless our proposal or paper has been accepted, or unless our university has a stand at the conference. This is important for increasing the University’s reputation at a global scale. We also take into account the number of participants at the event: if there are less than 1,000 then we don’t go there. Using such a selection process, after each international event, more and more people get to know our university, they find out what "ITMO" stands for, what are the strengths of the university, and what it can offer international partners. For example, EAIE is an excellent opportunity to carry out hundreds of business meetings within the three days of the event, the effectiveness of participating is evident. At these events, the most important thing is networking, the same could be said about the QSAPPLE conference, which was held in Malaysia, and other similar events. There are other events where the most important thing is sharing experiences, for example the AIEA conference in Canada or GoingGlobal", explained Daria Kozlova.

Furthermore, after each event, ITMO University increased its number of "friends" who receive information on the development of the university through newsletters. At this time, nearly 3,000 international partners around the world receive this newsletter, explained Ekaterina Boglayeva, the head of the University’s Press Office. Thus, international colleagues can always be in the know about what is happening at our university, and what plans we have for future collaboration.

Every year a large number of international students come to ITMO University, around 13% of all students. By 2020, this number has to go up to 20%. They participate in short-term educational programs as well as semester exchanges, double degree Masters and PhD programs, and others. However, this area of international development still requires more work. According to Daria Kozlova, in order for international educational programs to become popular amongst international students, another 3−4 years is needed.

In 2016, 560 international students from leading universities around the world participated in short-term educational programs at ITMO university. There were 422 international students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, and 156 new students in the Russian language preparation courses, which teaches students the Russian language for enrollment in the University.

ITMO University students are also making their way abroad, by participating in international summer schools, internships at overseas universities, listening to lectures from the best professors around the world, and presenting papers at prestigious conferences. Moreover, students can participate in academic mobility programs and spend a semester at an international partner university. Next year, the plan is to send 250−300 students as part of the academic mobility program. This year, 130 students from ITMO University participated in short-term and international semester exchange programs.

Those who have completed their bachelors can enroll in the double-degree Masters programs at ITMO University. This means that for two semesters, students will study in another university abroad, in Germany, France, Finland, Holland or the U.S. As a result, the students get two degrees, one from each university, and a chance to find a job in any company in the world. ITMO University also participated in more than 39 international research laboratories, where some of the researchers are also students of the University.

A good example of how a conversation at a conference can turn into a full-blown collaboration is the work on the joint educational program Art&Science with the University of Arizona. Daria Kozlova met Professor Charles Falco from the university at the opening of the UNESCO’s Year of Light. First, ITMO University invited the professor to give a lecture and participate in the opening of the Year of Light in St. Petersburg, and then work started on the joint Master’s program, and the "Art&Science: Science, Art, Museums" open seminars, which are already taking place on the third Saturday of every month at the Hermitage until June 2017. In addition, there are now staff from ITMO University’s eScience Research Institute at the University of Arizona’s research institute.

ITMO is actively participating in the European Union Erasmus program for student and staff exchange, explained Maria Sigutina who works at the International Representative Office in Brussels. In 2016, as part of the Erasmus program, students studied in Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, in the Universitat Leipzig in Germany, and in the Paris Institute of Technology. During the Spring semester, students are going to study at Technical University of Darmstadt. Also, staff from the Institute of International Development and Partnership at ITMO University are working on applications for studies in other European universities in the UK, Portugal, Sweden, Hungary and Estonia.

At the end of 2016, ITMO University signed cooperation agreements for Erasmus+ Program with University of Liege in Belgium, through which 8 students from ITMO University will study already next year. Also, there will be a student and staff exchange in the next two years between ITMO University and Trinity College in Dublin as part of the Erasmus+ program.

In 2016, ITMO participated in and won the Erasmus+ competition for "Strategic partnerships in the field of education" in which altogether five European universities participated, requiring them to develop an online educational course for the Internet of Things. Also, ITMO participated in another competition for this program, and together with European universities will develop an innovative educational module to teach students to work with augmented reality technology.

Also as part of the Erasmus program, ITMO University faculty visited the Tallin University of Technology for meetings on the development of the Double Degree Master’s program "Modular technology in Biomechatronics". And in January 2017, staff from the Zittau University of Applied Sciences (Germany) will come to St. Petersburg to discuss cooperation with our University.

With each year, lecturers, professors, researchers and other staff of the University are increasingly travelling to various conferences where they exchange experience in teaching and conducting research with their international colleagues.

For example, the head of the Department of Financial Management and Audit, Irina Sergeeva traveled this year with the European Entrepreneurship Colloquium organized by the Harvard Business School, in order to make connections with university lecturers and business schools, leading in the field of entrepreneurship, from 25 countries in Europe, including Vlerick Business School (Belgium), Technische Universität Munchen (Germany) and SBA Bocconi School of Management (Italy). Irina Kim, the Head of the Center for Asian cooperation shared this information. Also, lectures and cases were prepared on entrepreneurship in English for the creation of practical interactive Entrepreunership & Innovation Master Program (working name) which will be launched in September 2017.

Irina Shmeleva, a staff from the Institute of Design and Urban Studies was invited by UNESCO to participate in "The Europe & North America Regional Workshop on the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Cities". The senior lecturer of the Foreign Languages Department, Inna Anokhina, participated in an international convention "TESOL 2016" and "International Visitor Leadership Program".

At ITMO University itself, there are many international events which attract colleagues from around the world, the "Lasers and Photonics" congress, the International Conference on Academic Excellence initiatives, ITMO International days, and others. Thanks to such events, international colleagues and partners can familiarize themselves with the university’s activities, speak face-to-face with staff and assess the potential for cooperation with ITMO University.

"We participate in a lot of events where we get information about the modern features of development of higher education in the world. International events allow the University’s staff to "be on top of things". It’s important to know what kind of trends there are in education, which state initiatives are being launched and what the global players in the educational field prioritize. Large educational conferences are an opportunity for any university to actively participate in international educational dialogue, identify relevant problems and issues, and find timely and effective solutions. Our team at ITMO University understands the importance of international communication for the development of a global university" - explained the Vice Rector for International Relations.

Next year, in 2017, ITMO University has even more ambitious and complex tasks of international relations ahead of it. Firstly, it’s important to double the number of students participating in academic mobility. Also, we plan to accept 200 students to the international programs in English. Thirdly, we must continue our work with creating new joint educational programs, including double degree programs for Master’s students. Moreover, work on increasing the position of the university in international educational rankings continues, in which the University’s international relations play an important role.