Sunday, July 10, 2016

Certificate Nightmare

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) -- "Welcome! You are now a student . You have entered one of the most famous universities in Russia. And now you can expect an attractive journey. This guide prepares you to befriend our university for real", reads the brochure handed to incoming students at Moscow Pedagogic
State University. However, whether the endless quest to attain a Masters Certificate in Philology which students such as Oksana Chebotareva and Mairi Koroleva underwent represented an alluring journey is an open question.

               The two students recently  accomplished a two year stint to acquire a master's degree. They had already passed  their final exams. They had gone to the institute to try and attain their certificates. Whereas most universities in the West just hand over your certificate at an award ceremony or post them, at this institute, this is not so straightforward. Instead, the students are expected to obtain about 6 or more  signatures from supervisors or academics who work at different faculties which are sprawled out all over Moscow. But how do you find those academics? Students are asked to 'track down' those often elusive academics. But often those
academics are abroad, at their dachas or never present ... What is worse is that many of them don't feel obliged to meet the students at a particular time. Students often seem an irritating distraction to  more profound research.

             "We would go to one university to wait for some academic to turn up. We found a whole queue of students waiting in a long queue only to find that the academic did not turn up. It is as if they don't want or are not interested in awarding us with certificates. They are just indifferent," claimed a student who declined to be named. Other students in one post graduate course have already given up and are going to wait for their awarded certificates next autumn.

               When Oksana Chebotareva, after three days of going around Moscow managed to collect all the required signatures, she was told: "We don't have a special order which allows us to grant you a certificate. You will have to wait ". But how long have you got to wait? What could be done in a day takes an endless and enormous expenditure
of energy. There is alot of entrenched red tape surrounding
institutes. More suspicious people speculate that this reluctance to grant certificates is really a hint to obtain bribes. However, it might simply be a combination of bad
organisation, laziness and indifference. Perhaps people just resent the fact that some students are getting diplomas after doing a special course for free! Further education in Russia has declined into a lucrative form of business where every student is viewed as a mere source of income. And students who don't pay are resented by some officials. In other words, education is a continuation of commerce by other means.

              "There seems to be a loss of balance where lecturers put all their efforts into doing research but wholly ignoring their obligations to students and educating them", a student told me.

               Of course, often those fears can be  based on rumours, hearsay and accusations.

               However, this is the impression left on a few students Second City Teachers have spoke to over the years.

               While Mairi obtained her certificate, Oksana appears to have lost one, rather than gained one that should be rightfully hers. The office which received her application for the post -graduate course lost her degree certificate. This was not a photocopy but the authentic certificate. For some odd reason the secretary insisted on taking a real certificate rather than a photocopy! To make things worse, the faculty where her documents are 'held' or rather 'lost', is moving to another part of Moscow!  This university reminds you of Kafka's Castle. Only it is not a case of a land surveyor who can't obtain a position but students who can't acquire their diplomas and can't obtain the right signature from the right academic who always appears to be elusive or do a 'disappearing act. '

               The university has been around for 142 years and boasts of famous students such as journalist Aleksi Venediktov, who works for Ekho Moscow Radio, the playwright Yuri Vizbor  and the late Peter Fomenko who ran his own theatre. It can boast of many solid achievements in research. It ought to be the ideal dream university for students. That is, if you don't mind going on a special quest to get a diploma. Mairi Koroleva doesn't seem to mind. Seeing a redeeming aspect in every situation she stated: "This is like a game of Quest.Trying to find some elusive treasure. People pay to participate in this game but we are doing it for free". That may be! But that is not how many frustrated and exasperated students see things.

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