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On the way to the world standards of education and research

The Centre for Advanced Studies of Science, Technology and Innovation created last year and based at ISSEK is one of the elements of Higher School of Economics’ new architecture that is relevant to the implementation of its competitiveness program. At an event in the Government, Yaroslav Kuzminov talked about how HSE structure and staff are improving.

The rector of HSE presented the keynote address at a meeting on improving the competitiveness of Russian universities participating in the "5–100" programme. It was held on October 19 and let by the Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets. In opening the meeting, Golodets noted that many Russian universities have succeeded in advancing on global rankings. The government will continue to support universities given the progress they have already demonstrated. Russian Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov added that the main objective was to improve the work of Russian universities and increase their ability to compete with the world’s leading universities. Yaroslav Kuzminov said what steps in that direction was HSE taking.

Structural Renewal

So-called megafaculties were created at HSE to bring together sciences that are most closely connected to one another. This new structure makes it easier to search for areas of rapid progress at the interface of sciences, and this is exactly how the world’s leading universities are developing as well, Kuzminov emphasized. The former faculties have been turned into schools, departments have been done away with, and ‘educational programmes’ now form the structural basis.

The creation of the new and larger faculties with no departments began with the Faculty of Economic Sciences, which served as an example for others. Only two departments – law and mathematics – maintained their ‘independence,’ the latter of which has close ties to a number of other faculties. The remaining departments have been combined.

Larger, market-oriented academic institutes have largely kept their autonomy, but the government’s presence in the structure of applied research developments has fallen considerably. The institutes have entered the market, and they now receive a high percentage of orders from Russian companies themselves.

Over the last five years, HSE has been turning its research endeavours into international laboratories, and research divisions that are managed by a leading foreign researcher along with a representative of HSE’s academic community. This sets a higher level of research, so that the results could be published in leading scientific journals. Four laboratories have been opened by the Government of the Russian Federation according to the ordinance 220, 18 more laboratories – with HSE funds, of which two laboratories were created within the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (ISSEK): Laboratory for Economics of Innovation led by the University of Manchester (UK) professor Ian Miles, and Research Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies headed by the University of Ottawa (Canada) professor Jonathan Linton.

Centres for advanced studies

To provide leadership on important areas of science, HSE launched the creation of centers for advanced studies. Last year, two such structures were established: the Centre for Cognition and Decision Making, and the Center for Advanced Studies in Science, Technology and Innovation based at HSE ISSEK.

The task of these centres is to focus on breakthrough scientific areas, improving the quality and effectiveness of research, developing educational activities, supporting international mobility, strengthening and developing human resources. 

ISSEK has been active in these areas. For example, the institute invites foreign scientists to lecture and conduct research. It supports talented youth from Russian scientific and educational organizations through public competitions in individual research projects. (Until October 25, ISSEK accepts applications under the next wave of the contest.)

In 2014, the international Master's program "Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation" was launched. The "Foresight and STI Governance" journal is developing: in the long term, it should become one of the leading publications in its field and now promotes the growth of the staff’s publication activity. Together with the Springer publishing house, the Centre began preparing a series of monographs – “Science, Technology and Innovation Studies” (in English). The first monograph – “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy for the Future. Potentials and Limits of Foresight Studies” (can be downloaded here) is close to the record number of paid downloads from the website of the publishing house – more than 12 thousand.

It is planned that by 2020, there will be eight centres for advanced studies at HSE.

Single contract

According to Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE now has a single contract that has long been standard practice in foreign universities. Any HSE employee who holds a research or teaching position has to conduct research, teach, and take part in organizational work to develop services for the university. This makes up around 10 percent of the employee’s time.

This approach extends the capabilities of students, as all research staff involve them in their work. At the Centre for Cognition and Decision Making, students from many different HSE departments are involved. Students and postgraduate students from all departments can join the projects of Centre for Advanced Studies in Science, Technology and Innovation. It's not just integration of science and education but involvement of students in research, mixing representatives of different research fields and holders of different competencies.

The Higher School of Economics recruits at the international level, signing three-year contracts with 20–30 individuals each year. After this – depending on the employee's performance – the contract is either prolonged or terminated. Out of roughly 100 instructors hired from the international PhD market, around half do not speak Russian, which is why each faculty requires that every student, beginning their junior year, take subjects taught in English.

HSE has opened a competition for external teachers. A three-stage system for assessing the quality of work was established – at the department, at the faculty, and at the general university personnel commission. In the first year, the staff renewal was 12%, and the competition amounted to 10 people for one place. 

The HSE earns about 5 billion rubles a year, and this money is invested primarily in science and personnel, HSE rector said. The basic salary at the university is low, but anyone can increase their income due to academic teacher allowances and based on the results of student voting for the best teachers. Academic allowance is in fact payment for articles published in reputable journals. As a result, in 2012, the increase in the number of HSE publications in Scopus and Web of Science journals raised more than 2-fold.

Coursera, postgraduate studies, and journals

Kuzminov believes that, excluding Moscow State University, the chances are low that Russian universities will make it to the list of the world’s top 100 schools by 2020; more time is needed. Nevertheless, Russian universities are advancing on such lists very rapidly. HSE, for example, has improved on the QS Subject and Faculty rankings, and among the 1500 universities and research centres on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), HSE is ranked 108th by overall number of citations.

In order to achieve international excellence in the future, Kuzminov adds, Russian universities first need to participate in the implementation of international open-course platforms. HSE currently has 22 courses on Coursera, and of the 500 000 students participating, nearly 100 000 are US residents.

Second, it is necessary to create a system of our own academic degrees and international graduate schools. On behalf of the Association of Global Universities, Kuzminov asked the government to allow the country’s leading universities to award their own academic degrees.

Lastly, Russian universities must resolve the problems associated with Russian academic journals. Publications and citations have a strong impact on how universities advance in global rankings, and unlike expert voting, this is an objective procedure. Kuzminov also proposed earmarking funds to promote Russian academic journals on Scopus and Web of Science. He emphasized that this work is beyond the capabilities of a single university and must be carried out collectively.

Prepared based on the HSE news portal piece