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National Research University Higher School of EconomicsNewsEducationRUSSIA: Government seeks academic staff skills boost

RUSSIA: Government seeks academic staff skills boost

UniversityWorldNews. 15 августа 2010

The Russian government, unhappy with the current skill levels of university professors and teachers, is planning to improve the proficiency of academics by encouraging their more active engagement in scientific work and research.

According to government sources, the number of national research universities in Russia - there are currently 29 - might be increased and special scientific departments created in universities.

Analysts believe that conditions for forming a new teaching staff in Russian universities by 2020, more involved in research and innovation, should be created.

But local officials said that to achieve such goals the annual higher education budget would need to be doubled, from the current 400 billion rubles (US$12 billion) to at least up to 800 billion rubles. This would bring the higher education funding level in Russia up to that in developed countries, which is estimated at 1.2% to 1.8% of gross domestic product.

Despite ongoing development of the system of research universities, the level of scientific and research activities in Russian universities remains low.

Yaroslav Kuzminov, head of the Higher School of Economics - one of Russia's leading universities specialising in social sciences - said the mobilisation of more scientific and research work in Russian universities should become one of the government's higher education priorities.

According to him, only one in six university academics in Russia is involved in research - an "absolutely fantastic figure, observed nowhere else in the world".

Poor teaching and insufficient research is one of the main reasons for Russian universities' weak performance in international rankings.

Currently even Moscow State University and the Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs, Russia's most prestigious universities, fall far below the top 100 of the world's best universities, partly due to their low level of scientific activity and their inability to compete with Western rivals or emerging Asian universities.

Victor Sadovnichy, rector of Moscow State University, said: "It is very hard to compete with US universities in terms of funding and scientific technologies. This is understandable, due to the fact that Russia has a very strong Academy of Sciences, where the country's scientific potential has been concentrated.

"If there was no academy, Russia would have up to 200 leading scientific institutions. However, because of academy activities, local universities have to find another niche."

Another result is that Russia attracts less than 3% of the world's international students - far lower than the US (20% in 2007), the UK (13%), France and Germany (8% each) or Australia (7%), according to Unesco figures.

Alexei Chaplygin, one of the heads of the ReytOR ranking agency, said most of the international scientific databases, such as Scopus, had no information on the inventions and patents of Russian universities and their professors. He suggested that Russia's universities do not receive international patents and are not able to work with the largest repositories.

In addition, Russian higher education institutions have fallen behind their Western rivals in terms of citation indices and the level of English skills among professors and teachers.

Andrei Volkov, dean of Moscow School of Management, Russia's leading graduate business school, commented: "We must recognise that Russian higher education is really lagging behind the leading Western universities on several criteria, in particular the level of research activities.

"The entire scientific world speaks English, yet our scientists demonstrate a lack of knowledge of English and are therefore unable to publish their work for English-speaking readers. In addition, Russia's universities still use the old organisational model of education, which resulted in low academic mobility of teachers.

"These and several other factors prevent Russian universities from taking their place in the global rankings."