Motivation for Natural Selection
On May 22nd the first meeting of the International Advisory Committee of the Higher School of Economics took place. The Committee involves leading world experts in economics, sociology and education.
It is important to remember that the tasks of the recently created HSE International Advisory Committee (IAC) include supporting the HSE's strategic development as an internationally recognized university. The IAC is an organ which will have a consultative function and help in the international positioning of the university. The vast majority of leading international universites have a similar external advisory body.
The first meeting of the International Advisory Committee members was dedicated to the discussion of four key issues:educational policy, policy in scientific and applied research and the problem of the quality of scientific publications, problems of internationalization of education and the human resources development of the university. These topics are seen as kwey areas in which the HSE needs to develop in order to be in line with international standards of higher education.
The meeting participants admitted that despite the HSE's strong position in the Russian market (the university attracts the best researchers, professors and ‘quality students'), The HSE's international opportunities are limited by a number of factors. Among them are both financial factors (HSE budgets as well as those of other large Russian universities, including budgets for research, are nowhere near the budgets of leading international universities) and problems of infrastructure:the HSE, being a rather young university, hasn't got a campus which can create an environment to encourage development of interdisciplinary connections and networks.
IAC members pointed out one more problem:too much regulation from the government regarding budgets, which is proving an obstacle to providing decent salaries for professors and inviting foreign experts.
It is true that recently universities'freedoms have been extended, but it will take a long time to overcome the consequences of the previous limitations:under-financing of science led to a reduction in the prestige of research work. Also, IAC members mentioned that the Russian scientific community lacks the motivation necessary for carrying out research which will have significance at a world level. But the problem is not even in creation of such motivation, but in the fact that the motivation will work only up to a certain point. In other words, those professors and even Academy members who currently virtually absent from citation indexes are not likely to instantly increase the productivity of their scientific work. It means that the human resources policy in science has to be changed, however difficult this might appear.
The HSE is planning to start such ‘natural selection'. The researchers whose works and publications are in line with world scientific standards will receive considerable rewards. They will get additional opportunities for scholarships in leading international research centers. IAC members hope that such motivation will allow an academic career at the HSE to be a decent alternative to a career in business. And with those professors and researchers who will pull the HSE backwards, the university will have to part, including using the now rarely used practice of non-extension of contracts.
The key task which the Higher School of Economics needs to address is the positioning of the university in the international academic society. On one hand, the HSE, being a leading analytic center for Russian governmental bodies, can accordingly choose key areas of research. One such research sphere can be the study of transitional economies. At the same time, the HSE can get competitive advantages if it focuses its efforts, for example, in those areas of business processes where the university has specific research results.
However, the main thing that IAC members urged the Russian colleagues to do is to position the HSE not as the best university in Russia, but as an international educational and research center. This can be achieved only through the attraction and development of researchers with high international reputation. As an example which could be followed by the HSE, IAC members named the Institute for Advanced Studies which was founded 80 years ago in Princeton:It attracted Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, John Wheeler and other outstanding researchers in various areas of science:from physics and maths to history and political science. And as a first step, according to International Advisory Committee members, the HSE should increase the number of courses taught in English.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service