HSE: 20 Years
On November 27th, 2012, the HSE celebrates its 20th anniversary. Below, some of its distinguished friends share their memories about the School's history and wishes for the future.
The Higher School of Economics (HSE), Moscow, Russia, was established in 1992 as an initiative by renowned Russian economists (Evgeny Yasin, Yaroslav Kuzminov) and leading reformists from the Russian Government (Yegor Gaidar, Alexander Shokhin, and others) with the aim of promoting economic and social reforms in Russia through the education of a new generation of researchers and practitioners, the production and dissemination of modern economic knowledge amongst Russian business and government, as well as giving rise to new ideas for economic and social reforms and the formation of new corporate strategies.
On November 27th and 26th a conference entitled ‘The HSE’s role as a center of education, science and reform development in Russia’ took place at the Higher School of Economics. Some of the conference participants shared their thoughts about the HSE's past and future:
Richard Jackman, honourary professor at the HSE, professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Director of the HSE ICEF project from the London School of Economics and Political Science:
— You’ve seen the HSE develop almost from the beginning. What can you say about its achievements so far?
— I think the HSE’s achievements have been amazing, because what is essential for such a university are people with academic skills. And those skills are normally learnt over lifetime. And yet the HSE started in a completely new situation, when there were no people teaching in Russian universities who had the appropriate skills in economics. And in some senses, it was impossible because these people didn’t exist. And I think the way it’s been tackled has been very impressive. I believe that Russia has managed to extricate itself from the problems it faced during the times of transition perhaps more successfully than many East European countries partly because of the way in which these problems have been addressed by the Higher School of Economics. Of course we are not there yet, there’s still a long way to go. But, given the enormity of the task, what has been achieved has been quite remarkable.
— One of the speakers today called the HSE not an educational, but a political phenomenon. Do you agree with that?
— That’s a difficult question. I think the Russian government had an extraordinarily permissive approach to higher education for many years. I don’t think that the HSE was the only institution that achieved state recognition, however it was pursuing a new policy, different from other universities who were basically trapped by the academics they had and were not able or willing to adjust. Put simply, the Higher School of Economics had to cope with much the same people, but because of its commitment to change, it was able to move forward, albeit slowly. However, it is difficult for an outsider to judge why the Russian government allowed it to be so widely recognized as an institution which was moving in a different direction – not from the government, but from other universities.
— What are your wishes for the HSE on its 20th anniversary?
— I think the possibility of significant achievement is certainly still there. The HSE is doing its best, but the current environment is difficult. The image that Russia has in the world is beyond the HSE’s control. For example, people in the US have only heard one thing about Russia during the last year, and that has been Pussy Riot. We are engaged in the international market, which means we have lots of young academics who can choose whether to come to Moscow, or to return to Moscow, and obviously they take the international image of Russia and Moscow into account when they make their decision. My wish is for Russia to evolve prosperously and peacefully, and this would certainly be very helpful for the HSE. I think what HSE has already achieved is great achievement, and I hope for it to continue in the same way.
I first came to the HSE in 2000 and spent 5 years here as part of the economics department. We had a European Finance Association annual meeting here in 2005. I am very glad I’ve been able to witness the development of the HSE and I am very impressed.
Today is a time for review. There are problems, but when I look back and see how much has been achieved in this short period of time, I am optimistic that the remaining problems may be solved. I believe that PhD programmes are the key to developing research profiles.
— Please tell us about your relations with the Higher School of Economics.
— I first met Evgeniy Yasin 50 years ago, and he’s gone on to become a good friend of mine. When I heard about the project of the Higher School of Economics, I decided to support it, in order to promote liberal ideas. There were many reform projects back then, but their implementation was very poor. The concept of the HSE was based not on teaching some abstract ideas about reform, but on teaching the ideas of the market economy. And the market economy is the basis for promoting liberal reforms. I’ve come here often since the Soviet times and I’ve even read some lectures at the HSE. The HSE translated and published my book, ‘The Poor Power. The History of Russia since 1815’ – about Russian history from an economic and foreign policy perspective.
— So, it’s been 20 years. How can you evaluate the HSE’s achievements?
— I believe that the main thing is that all the previous reform projects of the last 30 years, were absolutely groundless, since they lacked the reform philosophy and were only suggested by individuals or teams. And a School is not a team. The Higher School of Economics is a place which teaches the new economics, and which creates thousands and possibly millions of graduates who will distribute this knowledge and implement it in practice.
— What do you wish for the HSE on its anniversary?
— We often have discussions about the role of the state. I believe that Russia needs not just a school of political science, but a school of statehood. Many problems, including corruption, spring from the fact that state officials do not feel a sense of statehood, they do not consider the state as something very important, competent or reputable, even if they earn a lot of money. My wish is that those HSE graduates who start a career in public service are proud to say ‘I serve the state’.
I remember well my conversations with Alexander Shokhin two decades ago about the idea of this school and the first contact with the London School of Economics. I am delighted and impressed to see now how this institution has developed. It is a huge step and places the HSE in a position where it can strengthen and consolidate its place as Russia's leading centre for the social sciences in the decades to come.
Maarten Janssen, Academic Supervisor at the HSE International Laboratory for Strategic Behaviour and Institutional Design:
— How long have you been working with the Higher School of Economics?
— I’ve been coming here since 1994, so I’ve had a relationship with the HSE for 18 years. I was the first foreign professor to teach at the Higher School of Economics, and now I head the HSE International Laboratory for Strategic Behaviour and Institutional Design.
— Has the HSE lived up to the expectations you had 18 years ago?
18 years ago Russia was a very different country, and no one expected the HSE to be so successful. It started as a relatively small institution, with maybe 30 professors and a small building, and now it has so many faculties, students and professors – it is not just exceeded my expectations, I could never have imagined this.
— How do you evaluate the HSE’s role in both the Russian and global educational and research community?
In Russia it is very clear that it is the leading institution for economic education. In terms of research, there is some competition with the New Economic School, but the NES and the HSE are the two leading institutions. It is important that the HSE is gradually getting an international reputation, but it still requires some time. I hope that by the next anniversary it will have a global reputation.
— What do you wish the HSE for the future?
I wish that all the success that you’ve had in the last 20 years and the development that has taken place over the last 20 years continues for the next 20 years.
It’s a phenomenal success in terms of growth. It’s had enormous success in bringing more and more students to the HSE. This mass is critical.
There are three reasons for the success of the HSE. The first is that it was very clear, right at the beginning, that the founders knew what they wanted.
The second is that the founders have developed a very formidable organization to implement exactly what they wanted.
The third is that the founders seized the opportunity twenty years ago.
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