External Expert Evaluation
On November 25th and 26th the first meeting of the HSE International Expert Council on the priority area of development Economics took place at the HSE. Vladimir Avtonomov, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Economics, Franz Hubert, Professor at the Humboldt University Berlin, Andrey Yakovlev, Vice Rector of the HSE, and Richard Jackman, Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told us about the results of the meeting.
The themes of discussion at the meeting were the opportunities for the implementation of the HSE Programme of Development generally and of those university departments working in the priority area of development (PAD) Economics, such as the Faculty of Economics, the International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF) and the Institute for Industrial and Market Studies.
Vladimir Avtonomov: The main result of the meeting is that the HSE has managed to create the IEC – International Expert Council on the priority area of development Economics. The participants of the discussion were economists, authoritative scientists, most of whom are very familiar with our university. Many of the Council members have taught at the HSE, know our structure, understand the strong and weak aspects of our research strategy and that’s why their opinions and arguments are so important.
On the first day of the meeting we analyzed the programmes of development of the Faculty of Economics, ICEF and the Institute for Industrial and Market Studies, headed by Vice Rector Andrey Yakovlev. We prepared presentations and our colleagues asked questions, clarified programmes and projects and expressed their opinions and criticism. What is good about external evaluation is that it allows us to see something that is not obvious from inside. For example, the authors of any project where the material has been reprocessed many times, understands very clearly how their ‘sight grows dim’, they stop noticing weaknesses, as well as incompatible or conflicting tasks of their own work.
The second day of the IEC work was dedicated to a discussion about how exactly the Council will be able to help the HSE. We came to the conclusion that the most valuable and productive support will be the help of experts in scientific research and postgraduate programmes. It makes little sense to use the rich experience and time of these prominent scientists for the more routine aspects of our work. We came to an agreement that three members of the IEC will come here for research seminars for academic postgraduate students and help young HSE researchers to publish their findings in international journals. Our colleagues are very busy and in-demand people, and if they are able to participate in such meetings twice a year, it will be much easier for us to manage the development of the university and objectively evaluate our trajectory.
One of the IEC recommendations was to create a new structure within the HSE responsible for attracting prominent researchers to the university to head our laboratories, prepare new teachers and hold classes with postgraduate students. This work should be carried out not by individual deans, but by a department responsible for the academic postgraduate programme and which could coordinate international cooperation in future research.
Franz Hubert: The members of our expert group are very different, some of them know the university’s structure and specifics very well, while others came to the HSE for the first time, and this brings certain difficulties to the council’s work. Apart from that, the discussion showed that our understanding of what recommendations the university needs is different. I would emphasize the considerable differences of strategies in the universities of Great Britain and other European countries. Anyway, the key task of the Higher School of Economics - to become a first-class international research university – is clear to all experts and will demands tough long-term work.
Today the level of university staff members’ participation in international conferences is too low, and the quantity and quality of publications in international journals are not enough to provide the European academic community with a definite opinion about the university. This situation requires far reaching changes: a rethinking of HSE staff policies, development of new potential PhD programmes, intensification of international contacts, active participation in inter-university projects and academic exchange. The Faculty of Economics and ICEF have so far been primarily educational, not research departments of the University. To create the international reputation of a research university the HSE will need to make some radical changes.
Andrey Yakovlev: Most of the international council members have been working with the HSE for many years. This became one of the most important factors of the constructive and rather useful discussion of the tasks facing all departments of the university working in the Economics area. During the discussion our colleagues expressed specific comments and suggestions on the strategy for the university’s development. In addition to this, we had a video conference with Professor Nye from George Mason University (USA) who shared some interesting thoughts on the organization of international conferences at the HSE. Such forums can become a perfect tool for integrating staff members in the global academic space.
During the two-day meeting some informal discussions took place about opportunities for direct cooperation, immediate interaction between the HSE and the universities presented by the members of the expert council. I would like to particularly mention that members do not come only from English-speaking countries, such as the USA and Great Britain, but also from a number of other countries, including The Netherlands, Germany, France and Greece, while Professor Kanaklata Patel of Oxford University is from India. Thus the Council has brought together representatives from various educational systems, and accordingly, there is an opportunity to take into account various experiences of transformation in the general process of globalization.
Expert evaluation and recommendations from colleagues representing non-English-speaking countries are clearly important, since they have been working in a situation very similar to ours, when, in the face of very tough competition to integrate their researchers into global research networks, they need to write scientific works in English and publish the articles in international journals. The mechanism of the Council’s work is a kind of transferring the experience and successful practices in the strategy of the Higher School of Economics. Our task is not to reinvent the wheel, but to use the tools which have also proven their effectiveness in countries which faced the problems we need to solve today.
Richard Jackman: The discussion was very detailed and intensive, and recommendations covered some specific aspects of the university’s development and formation of its international status. We talked about the opportunities and potential for recruiting leading Russian and international scientists, about the development of joint projects with European universities, and about the coordination of individual and collective research.
Such meetings should be held regularly upon the condition that the questions for the next discussion are thoroughly worked out in advanced, before any important decisions are made by the university administration. For productive follow-up of the work a more detailed information of the budget opportunities and limitations of the university is needed, on the plans and the problems, and on resources. Of course, currently neither I nor my colleagues have a clear view of the specific immediate measures which the university needs to take. Nevertheless, we have an understanding of the key directions and we have information to consider. So, the work has already started and will continue.
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service