On the Basis of Meritocratic Principles
Recently at the decision of the HSE Academic Council Andrey Melville was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Politics, and Professor Mark Urnov became Academic Supervisor of the Faculty. The new dean Andrey Melville told us about the prospects for the Faculty's development, about research activities and undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
—Andrey, first of all I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to the position of Dean of the Faculty of Politics at the Higher School of Economics.
—Thank you very much. I should confess that this appointment was quite unexpected for me. When Mark Urnov invited me to join the Faculty a year ago, quite honestly, I planned a quiet academic life for myself. I wanted to read what I hadn't had time to read and to write what I hadn't had time to write. Nevertheless, I am very enthusiastic about the new position, new responsibilities and new opportunities.
—What changes should we expect at the Faculty of Politics? Please share your plans with us.
—Changes are necessary and inevitable, otherwise any organization starts to stagnate. We started thinking about the strategy and tactics this winter when, aong with Mark Urnov and other colleagues, we worked on the project for the programme of the Faculty's development for 2010-2020 as part of the implementation of the HSE Programme of Development. We conducted a detailed audit of the Faculty's work, evaluated our strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and defined the task and the planned events.
One of our key tasks is the modernization of the educational process at the Faculty. Starting from this year we shall introduce two specialized courses on Political Research and Political Expertise and Management into the undergraduate programme on Political Science. Both of them give basic fundamental training, but the first will be focused on research and involves more classes on maths and economics, while the second aims to give broad expert and managerial competencies. The course in Advertising and PR will include a stronger basic education. Innovative changes will also be made to the master's and aspirantura programmes. It is important to emphasize that we, as well as the other HSE faculties, are starting the new academic year with our own original standards which reflect the specifics of our educational strategies.
—How would you evaluate the competitive ability of the Faculty in the market of political science education?
—Our Faculty has good potential, and if we strengthen it now, we'll have a real opportunity to make a breakthrough. Our competitors include the faculties of political sciences of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Moscow State University. Although in the past this was the best in the country, it now it seems to be drifting towards the international and world politics area. The latter has considerable resources, including its staff, and an active diversified strategy. The Faculty of Political Sciences at the Saint Petersburg State University is very young, and still has to define its image. Some Russian state and commercial universities have very high quality master's programmes in political sciences. But neither we nor our colleagues have yet become competitive in the international educational market. We are very self-critical when discussing faculty development, and we clearly see the ‘virgin lands'which have to be cultivated. We shall start step by step:by inviting leading international professors, establishing advanced institutional partnerships with European and American universities, building English-language semester and half-semester modules for foreign students and moving towards double-degree programmes. We are also planning to conduct an external audit of our courses and introduce a new system of incentives for our professors and teachers and so on. By the way, our Norwegian colleague Stein Larsen from the University of Bergen is coming in October to read an intensive course on the theories and methods of social sciences.
—How is the research work at the Faculty going?
—This is a difficult question. We have separate good works, but we do not have any stubs of our own research school. The things are not good with Russian publications, and they are really bad with international ones. To cut a long story short, we lack a united research environment at the Faculty. I could continue to list the existing problems, but it seems to me more effective to search for solutions. Our key problem is in the people, their motivation and capabilities. The courses they read cannot be just a retelling of well-known ideas, they should be based on the results of cutting-edge research, and preferably, their own research. A teacher who is not a researcher can hardly be part of a research university, even though he might well be a good lecturer. Our staff policies should also be adjusted to these requirements. We have to define the most promising areas of the Faculty's scientific growth and support and motivate them. I believe that we shall also need a focused policy of attracting the most advanced Russian and international researchers to the Faculty. The Faculty needs to more actively, if not aggressively, make a name for itself in the world professional community
—Are you planning organizational and staff changes at the Faculty?
—Yes, such measures are normal for a developing research body. These changes are part of the evolution of the Faculty. We shall form a real competitive environment at the Faculty, with incentives and rewards, distributed on transparent and meritocratic principles.
—Are you feeling team support at the Faculty?
—Yes, and it is very important. Myself, Mark Urnov, and other colleagues from the ‘coalition for changes', are one team, we think the same way and work together. Of course, our team needs new people, who are already working with us de facto. The basis of our team spirit is to keep the best traditions of the Faculty and strive for the new. We have a big goal - to become the best faculty of political sciences in the country. And for this we need the best students.
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service