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The Time of ‘Loner Universities’ Has Passed

Today St Petersburg saw the launch of the international conference Education and Global Cities: BRICS perspectives. About 400 representatives of higher education and high-schools, authorities, and businesses from across the world discuss the latest trends in education development, the current role of universities in cities and new paths to resolving currentproblems in education.

The event is part of the official agenda under Russia’s chairmanship of BRICS, and takes place under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. It is organized by HSE St Petersburg, MGIMO, 5/100 Programme, and the Boris Yeltsin Urals Federal University.

In his welcome address to participants, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Education and Science Alexander Klimov said that this conference is the first of a series of major international events dedicated to issues in education planned under Russia’s chairmanship of BRICS. In June, education working groups will meet in Moscow, and in September there will be a major event to launch the BRICS University Network. The Deputy Minister noted the importance of discussing the link between universities and cities ‘How do universities form part of the city, and how cities form part of universities, that is a key question about how we will proceed in developing our universities, our cooperation with international partners,’ he said.

The Director of HSE St Petersburg Sergey Kadochnikov stressed that today’s knowledge-based economy demands development of new areas of cooperation between the HSE, businesses and the community. The Rector of ITMO University St Petersburg Vladimir Vasiliev also indicated that universities cannot exist at a distance from the urban environment, ‘if the university’s strategic mission and goal is not agreed and synchronized with urban development plans, then it is not the city that will vanish, but the university that will collapse. If a university wants to be global, then the metropolis of which it forms a part must position itself as a global city. In that sense, St Petersburg is an open laboratory for higher education. Cities in Russia can develop spontaneously, without goals set, without forecasts of the future. We are confident that it is vital to look to a horizon of at least 20-25 years, because then we will be able to continue to carry out systemic research that will help our cities going forward,’ he said.

Universities’ status helps to legitimate that status of ‘capital city.’ A clear example of this can be found not only in St. Petersburg, but in Yekaterinburg, recognized as the capital of the Urals – in part due to the cultural impact the universities have. HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov.

Yaroslav Kuzminov
HSE Rector

HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov noted that the strongest universities have a significant impact on a city’s status. ‘In a major city the university ensures a personnel market, creates jobs, socializes young people, which is vital especially when in the capital it is already beginning to meet the national labor market. The university’s high status legitimates this capital city status, and is one of the most important factors in a city being recognized as a capital or like a capital. A clear example of this can be found not only in St. Petersburg, but in Yekaterinburg, recognized as the capital of the Urals – including due to the cultural impact of its universities.’

During the conference partner agreements were signed between the Association of Higher Education Educational Organizations Global Universities, and three major groups of educational managers from various different countries: The Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities, the Brazilian International Education Association - FAUBAI and the Korean Association of Foreign Student Administrators.

The agreement covers cooperation on student mobility at all levels of the educational process, and that of teachers, and administrators between university associations, carrying out joint research in a variety of formats, developing joint research projects, joint laboratories, joint research groups and centers of excellence.

Yaroslav Kuzminov, chairman of the board of the Global University Association noted that the agreements signed are highly practical. ‘We are, first and foremost, establishing mutual obligations in collaboration over international recruitment and student exchange. We will tackle the concrete tasks that the President and Government have set us, of taking worthy positions in global ratings. The main indicators vital for this include academic reputation, number of international students, and number of international teachers – and it is in these areas that the agreement today was signed,’ Kuzminov said.

 ‘The time of university loners has passed,’ Rector of Turin University Gianmaria Ajani said. ‘It is vital to develop networks of cooperation, join associations, and coordinate the resolution of common tasks, supporting development. I believe that the agreement we signed today is the first step to building effective communication betweens the Italian university system, which includes over 90 educational institutions across Italy, and Russia’s leading universities that have come together in the Global University Association’.

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