“You. University. Future”: Navigating higher education in the times of uncertainty

On March 18-20, the “You. University. Future” Intensive was organized at SAS. The goal of the event was to provide high school students with the opportunity to experience higher education “from within” and understand its features in practice through immersing into the university environment.  

In the times of increasing uncertainty, it is a particularly difficult task to figure out what modern higher education is. One the one hand, one’s field of studies no longer necessarily determines one’s future career. On the other hand, it is also unclear what skills and competencies one should put extra emphasis on when studying. The Intensive helps young people get a better idea of how higher education is evolving. It also provides tools to adequately react to trend shifts in higher education and form an up-to-date learning trajectory. 

The Intensive challenges the participants’ comfort zones. The event format implies a communication model that contrasts with what the students are used to in class. Similarly to the real professional world, the participants are put in an environment where they need to apply critical thinking and analyze different situations. They have to learn to prove their viewpoint and communicate with a diverse set of people in an unknown setting.   

Andrey Shcherbenok, Director, SAS: “We came up with the Intensive format a year ago in order to give high school students the opportunity to get a test-drive of a modern undergrad and analyze what each of them would like to see at university. Hence the Intensive projects used to be aimed at designing the perfect educational program. However, starting with the SAS Intensive at the SKOLKOVO School of Management in January, we decided to add practice-oriented interdisciplinary case studies to the project work. The hurdles each team inevitably  encounters while working on these case studies encourage the participants to assess what they lack to efficiently function in the real world. These difficulties also help the participants understand what they should learn at university.” 

During the three days of the Intensive high school students from all around Russia (from Saint Petersburg and Kazan to Omsk and Nizhnevartovsk) cooperated with international faculty and had over four hours of group work with their SAS moderators. As always, the event was held in English. During the first day of the Intensive the participants could freely attend lectures and seminars alongside the SAS students. Days Two and Three were devoted to more than 10 lectures, discussions and disciplinary seminars. The SAS professors also conducted introductory Major presentations.    

Eva Burbo, Associate Director for Education, SAS: “The lntensive “You. University. Future” is an opportunity for us to meet high school students and to learn more about them. At the same time, this is a chance for prospective students to get to know the University better and to make a conscious choice of the degree. It is fascinating to observe how participants try to communicate to professors in seminar discussions and individually. They start breaking the ice and getting less shy in communication and learning processes.” 

Within the final plenary session, participant teams presented their solutions to various case studies stretching from the topics of social inequality and ethics in tech to professional development and new educational programs. As a result of the Intensive, the best participants will receive scholarships fully covering their undergrad at SAS. 

Ahmed Elghandour, Coordinator, SAS Academic Writing Center: “During the three days of the Intensive, we immerse high school students into how and what a university offers — into an experiential environment. We help them experience different approaches to teaching with an emphasis on a critical examination of their own assumptions about their educational trajectories. All seminars, lectures, and discussions nudge students towards being cognizant of their choices.”

“You. University. Future” is one of SAS’ flagship projects. The unique format of the event initially launched in March 2021 has proved its relevance among high school students all around Russia. The Intensive was previously held in January 2022 at the SKOLKOVO School of Management with the support of SKOLKOVO and MIPT. The event witnessed nearly 200 participants from 37 regions of Russia solving interdisciplinary case studies devoted to a wide range of topics including genetic engineering, migration, ecology, and AI. SAS has also collaborated with the Russian Society Znanie around organizing the Intensive in Nizhny Novgorod. 

While choosing the right educational trajectory is becoming more problematic given constant changes in the field, the role of such events is currently particularly crucial. We are confident the Intensive will continue resonating with wide audiences in the future.

Learn more about the Intensive and how it went via our Telegram channel and VK group.