Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ch.Altannar: We will introduce international standards in Mongolia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Ts.Elbegdorj initiated the German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology (GMIT) in 2011. GMIT contributes in fulfilling the demand for specialists in the mineral resource sector, improving value adding processes and demonstrating international standards of education in Mongolia. The following is an interview with the managing director of GMIT and State Honored Ph.D. Ch.Altannar, highlighting important aspects about GMIT.

GMIT is now ready for admission. Can you elaborate on the institute and why it was established?

During Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Mongolia in 2011, President Ts.Elbegdorj initiated to establish a collaborative institute with Germany’s support. With the chancellor’s support, GMIT was established. In accordance to this agreement, the Mongolian Ministry of Education and Science (MES) and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012. During the visit of L.Gantumur, Minister of Education, to Germany in early 2013, the establishment of the institute and its sustainable development were discussed. In September 2013, the institute officially began its operation with an engineer training program.

Highly skilled engineering specialists are urgently in demand in Mongolia. We also needed to prepare engineers who meet international criterions as many large corporations have settled in Mongolia. GMIT was established to prepare specialists of modern engineering technology and conduct international-level training and research. Capabilities of German engineers are recognized throughout the world. Our objective is to become a benchmark institute for not only in Mongolia but also in other countries.

GMIT is a collaborative institute. What sorts of schools are you working with?

We established a partnership with a consortium of prestigious German universities. Currently in the consortium, we’ve joined with Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, the biggest mining university in the world, and RWTH Aachen University, one of Germany’s reputable universities. Many other famous schools have expressed their interest in joining this consortium. Although Darmstadt University of Technology and Bochum University aren’t partner schools, they’ve been cooperating with us in many areas.

The first admission will be in autumn. How high is the criterion?

We’ll take entrance exams on July 8 and 9. We started preparing students for the engineer training program since last autumn. Students who’ve successfully finished the training program will be accepted to our bachelor class. Engineering students mainly focus on studying mathematics, physics and chemistry.

We set high and strict criterions since we’re aiming to prepare highly skilled engineers. All bachelor classes will be taught in English; therefore, new entrants must pass high criterions to enter the institute. Examinees must have scored higher than 500 point in at least two subjects from English, mathematics, physics and chemistry in the EYESH examination (general education exam) to apply for GMIT. Our institute will take tests on natural science and English. 50 percent of the natural science test will consist of mathematics, 30 percent of physics and 20 percent of chemistry questions. There’s a higher and lower threshold mark for the examination. Students who pass the higher threshold mark will be accepted to the bachelor class straightaway and those who pass the lower threshold mark will be enlisted to a one-year training class.

For what majors will students be enrolled in the bachelor class?

We’ll take admission for mining process engineering, mechanical engineering and environmental engineering. We didn’t choose these majors randomly. We did a detailed research in many areas before we established the collaborative institute of Mongolia and Germany. We did a survey in over 80 active factories and concluded that specialists for these three majors are crucial. We’re planning on preparing specialists for renewable energy and other engineering sectors in the future. This year, we’re planning to admit 125 students for both bachelor and training classes. We’ll prioritize on training skilled students instead of its number.

We’re assuming that we’ll get around 400 students in the academic year of 2016 to 2017 and 500 students in the academic year of 2017 to 2018. In the future, we’ll begin masters and doctorate programs. We planned to establish a masters training class in 2016 but it’s possible to begin earlier.

GMIT is aiming to become an institute that meets international standards. Does that mean graduate diplomas provide international accreditation?

Our objective is to be able to meet standards of accreditation bodies of world prestige schools. We share the same objective with our collaborating partner schools. Starting from training preparation, including the development of curriculum, training environment and teacher selection, we have been working towards providing international accreditation standards. The German Academic Exchange Service is responsible for this and the MES is working to implement reform program for the quality of higher education and transform public universities to research institutes that meet international standards. Within this framework, the ministry is seeing GMIT as a part of the reform and are working and supporting us very closely.

How did you develop the institute’s curriculum? It was said to have been developed after concrete research. Is it true that you surveyed factories and company representatives?

Germany-Mongolia joint team of professors worked on the training program. This team worked on developing the program in Berlin in February and in Mongolia in March. During the second meeting, they invited representatives of companies to enquire about their opinions. International standards require universities and companies to have a very deep relationship. We’re planning to work with companies in accordance to this standard.

How did companies receive this initiative?

This sort of standard has been lost for over thirty years in Mongolia. It’s true we had some difficulties in making the other party understand this initiative. They knew and understood that it was necessary but didn’t know how to implement it. Regarding this, GMIT invited representatives of active companies and universities for a discussion session about whether University-Factory Association is necessary in Mongolia, which was organized by the MES, the Office of the Governor and Liberal Houses for Research. Both sides agreed that this cooperation should operate in a broader scale.

For the training, practical work is very important to engineering students. During the four years in GMIT, students will spend 120 days working and doing practical work in factories. This is a form of university-factory cooperation. In Mongolia, factories spend additional expense on training their specialists. If students are able to do practical work while studying, we’ll be able to train specialists capable of working while studying. During our meeting, companies expressed their interest in re-training their specialists at GMIT.

Does that mean that companies will be able to invest in their future personnel?

Exactly. We’ve have a tradition of training personnel with scholarships. Several companies wanted to give scholarships to promising students in GMIT.

Since GMIT is a collaborative school, will both sides provide investments? Can you elaborate on this matter?

In the first stage to establish the institute, a joint investment from the two countries’ government is being established. With investments from Oyu Tolgoi from the Mongolian side, a campus with 160 student dormitories and school building for 600 students was built in Nalaikh and is now ready for commissioning. Investment from the German side includes travel expenses and salary for German teachers. We’re planning to gather investments for building another dormitory, student service center and a basketball court.

Many will want to have their children study in GMIT instead of making them study abroad. What is GMIT’s tuition fee?

Similar to standards of Germany, 240 credits are required during four years in the bachelor class. It costs 116 thousand MNT for one credit. Around seven million MNT is estimated for bachelor class and 3.5 million MNT for the training program. We’ll provide promising students the opportunity to study by giving scholarships. Depending on their rank from the entrance examination, the first 10 students will get 100 percent discount from tuition and 50 percent to the next 10 students. They can continue to recieve scholarships in this manner with their academic results. All discounts provided by the state budget for grants and loans to children of vulnerable groups will be effective in GMIT. As previously mentioned, students will have opportunities to receive scholarships from companies as well as do practical work in German factories. Students with good grades can also study in foreign schools as exchange students for one to two semesters. The GMIT curriculum is the same as German schools; therefore, as soon as students graduate, they can study in German universities for their master’s degree. Studying in German universities is very desirable as there isn’t any tuition fee.

Most people know you as a young Mongolian mathematician who received state honors through his internationally recognized work. When were you appointed as director of GMIT?

Since January, I worked as the managing director of GMIT. In regards concerning the structure of GMIT, a whole Mongolian and German joint team has been working together. The system for institutional structure and recruitment for teachers and administrative staff was done according to international university principles. You can interpret it as creating an international university environment as well as giving Mongolian students the opportunity to get the same education as world recognized German engineers in Mongolia. All of this is more than enough reason for me to work here.

Can you tell us about your education background and work experience?

I graduated from the Mathematics School of the National University of Mongolia in 2002, got my master’s degree in applied mathematics in Florida University in the USA in 2005, got my master’s degree in 2007, and from 2007 to 2009, I worked in the school I graduated from. From 2009 to 2011, I worked at the Imperial College of Great Britain and came back to Mongolia. After coming to Mongolia, I worked at the Mongolian Institute of Mathematics and the Economics School of the National University of Mongolia, now known as Business School, before joining GMIT.

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