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  • Differentiation Between Universities Grows as Online Education Goes Global

Differentiation Between Universities Grows as Online Education Goes Global

Yaroslav Kuzminov. Photo: Gaidar Forum

How universities develop across the world will be defined by changing technologies, the increase in consumer demand for education, and the creation of alternative systems for testing proficiency among other factors. HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov touched on these and other issues during the discussion on ‘Universities 3.0: Is the Future Near?’ at the Gaidar Forum on January 14. He identified 7 factors that will define how higher education develops over the coming 25 years.

Factor 1. The role human capital plays in the economy undergoes qualitative change.

Yaroslav Kuzminov said this would happen as creative activities become mainstream. Whereas 50-60 years ago, when Gagarin flew into space, only a very limited number of people were able to make a living exclusively from their creative endeavors. Now, in developed economies, ‘creatives’ account for up to 20% of the labor market, a figure expected to rise to 1/3 by 2040. This will boost demand for universities that do not only impart knowledge, but which teach creativity – the ability to create something new.

Factor 2. People start living significantly longer.

It is very likely that the human lifespan will increase by 15-25 years. This will lead to the need for a further expansion of continuing education. Demand for it in Russia is lagging behind – just 10% of people over 40, whereas in Germany this figure is 40% and in Sweden 60%.

Factor 3. Technologies will continue to change.

People will have to keep on improving their understanding of technologies and acquire new skills as they constantly adapt to the changing labor market. This is why we will no longer be able to rely on a narrow education, not only of the kind seen in the Soviet Union, but even like that we see today and know as University 2.0, when people learn concrete skills at university.

Factor 4. Consumer demand for education multiplies.

The commercialization of education does not depend on universities’ desire to sell their services, but on the presence of consumer demand. The urban population’s transition to post-middle class, when 50% of their income is not automatically spoken for by immediate requirements and people can choose how to spend it – and they will tend to choose educational services.

Factor 5. English will become the universal global professional and business language.

This is already happening today, national borders are eroding irrespective of what governments want.

Factor 6. Online education will develop.

Today, students at the world’s leading universities study as many online courses as traditional ones, even when this is not required by the university. This is linked with their disappointment in offline tutors, and their desire to push themselves. Online education platforms will squeeze out their traditional counterparts.

Factor 7. The labor market will accept other forms of professional proficiency, in addition to university diplomas.

‘Non-traditional’ indications about whether a specialist has a particular qualification are already starting to appear. They may include evidence that the individual meets professional standards, such as we see with people who work in finance, or corporate standards – as in Microsoft.

They’re recognized by the labor market, and in their sectors will replace higher education diplomas. This will lead to traditional universities becoming significantly limited, and the gradual erasing of national educational standards.

Some universities that continue to work offline will become more like clubs that generate projects that are crucial to certain regions

How will the structure of the HSE change in response to these factors? Yaroslav Kuzminov outlined 5 models for the university of the future.

Model 1. Global project research universities.

These universities will not only continue to exist, they will expand, swallowing autonomous research institutes. They will be more actively involved in technological developments, as this is a high-risk area in which private companies are wary of investing. Today in Russia we see research programmes involving the Russian Academy of Sciences and companies such as Airbus and General Electric developing in conjunction with universities.

Model 2. Universities that provide infrastructure for creative projects.

Some ‘offline’ universities will turn into clubs at which important regional projects will be developed. Universities not focused on research will largely teach online. They will be able to survive thanks to their existing infrastructure.

 Model 3. Universities — forums for online education.

The weakest universities in distant regions, where there is no demand for particularly active educational activity. They will attract their audience through online courses at short seminars, and transform into global online resource hubs. 

Model 4. Universities — centers for professional communities.

There are no universities like this yet. However, over time, as the professional community becomes a more influential player in this world of fast-changing technologies and standards, they will appear. It is very likely that the professional community will establish its own universities as they impose and use exams to ensure people adhere to their own professional standards, producing qualified e.g. financial analysts or public health standards inspectors.

Model 5. Corporate universities.

They are created by corporations to provide re-training opportunities and staff development to employees, as employers are unsatisfied with the extent to which universities prepare students for their careers. There are no indicators today that these universities will lose their relevance and close down. 

Higher education cannot become totally computer-based, some interaction, however minimal, is needed

Yaroslav Kuzminov believes that, given the growth in consumer demand for education and the related results of projects undertaken, universities across the world will remain in the public domain. Across the world, universities will be more active in generating income – due both to intense competition and the appearance of new models of flexible income generation. And here, Russian universities have long out-performed their international counterparts: universities in post-Soviet Russia in may ways became business projects.

In Russia over the next 5-7 years we will see university structures develop on a base that has already been created. At the top, around 50 universities that have the right to develop their own educational standards, and position themselves on the global market. They include the main project and research groupings.

The second level includes those that are successful training institutions for professionals, largely for the domestic labor market, i.e. project universities. As a minimum one university per region must be supported as a regional project center that is vital to the region’s economy and society. It should then develop business parks and other innovative structures that create an environment for interaction. Universities are, after all, much more free than business – they are able to draw people in to projects.

The third level is made up of those institutions that respond to the public’s needs for higher education. They are a social imperative, and that is a great opportunity for Russia. But these ‘socializing’ universities also need to provide quality education, teach students communications skills, ensure they have mastered the basics in the humanities, give them foreign language skills, and cover other areas not provided for in general schools.

The previous leadership at the Russian Ministry of Education had a ‘clean-up’ of the market – removing weak branches of universities, but this also meant that residents of some regions lost the only higher educational establishment and they were by no means all terrible.

The HSE Rector believes that the higher education system’s nationwide network of branches of strong universities needs to be developed where education can be largely based in online courses. Higher education cannot become totally computer-based, some interaction, however minimal, is needed. The university’s goal is to immerse people in a better social environment than they had access to at school, in their locality, or even in their family. That way, he concluded, scientific research, training professionals and broader socialization of the population will become core areas for Russia’s higher education institutions.



See also:

‘The Digital Revolution is the Key Trend in Education’

As part of the Gaidar Forum organized by RANEPA, an open discussion took place on the key trends in education. HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov spoke about what Russian education will look like in 5-7 years, how artificial intelligence will change the school, and what reforms are necessary right now.

How Can We Bring Universities and Businesses Together?

Closer cooperation between Russian universities and companies could lead to a technology breakthrough for the Russian economy. Yaroslav Kuzminov discussed possibilities for such collaboration, and the obstacles associated with it, at the Gaidar Forum at RANEPA.