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Vladimir Putin congratulates Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov on the 20th anniversary of the HSE

Meeting in the Kremlin on 27th November, they talked about the achievements of the University and its future.

V. Putin: I’d like to congratulate you, Yaroslav Ivanovich, and all of your colleagues on the 20th anniversary of the Higher School of Economics, and to thank you for the help and support you have given in training personnel and preparing various government programmes.

We worked with your colleagues quite a lot last year; I remember our meeting when I came to the HSE. I’m counting on our continued collaboration and would like to wish you success.

Y. Kuzminov: Thank you very much, that’s very touching, Vladimir Vladimirovich. HSE (or “Vyshka” as we call it) is actually a very young university. At one of our conferences recently, we had invited heads of leading young universities from 14 different countries and we turned out to be the youngest. Youth, for a university lasts until about 50, it seems.

However, we feel that we have already achieved something; in 20 years we’ve become one of the largest HEIs in Russia – our intake is on a par with Moscow State University and the University of St Petersburg.    

I would like to remind you that we have a 4th anniversary as well – four years ago, when you were prime minister and brought us in to the government, you set us a number of tasks. The first was to reach a level of competitiveness by 2020 along the lines of leading international centres in socio-economics. I’d like to tell you briefly about what we have managed to do.

The first thing is the quality of the students. Our new undergraduates are coming with an average number of marks in the Unified State Examination (USE - school –leavers/ university entrance exams) of 87.5 out of 100 which puts us in third place among Russian universities. And we have the highest SSE results (79 out of 100) for fee-paying students. It means that we are limiting our intake quite severely, and sacrificing some funding but we want to take only the strongest applicants.

V. Putin: In the interests of quality?

Y. Kuzminov: It’s the only way we have of measuring what they know – the Olympiads and the USE. “Vyshka” was the first place to take part in the SSE experiment. Since 2003 we’ve been taking students on the basis of their USE results. Now half of our students are not from Moscow. Our ratio of non-local students is one of the highest in Russia, and at “Vyshka” in St Petersburg, 70% of students are from out of town.

So we are bringing the best and most talented from the regions and trying to help them, even if they are not from the richest and most educated families, because we are convinced that talent is spread evenly across society and the job of a university is to bring that talent together.

Our second task is to build up an information resource. Today our information resource in the form of electronic libraries (paper ones are a thing of the past) is on a par with those at Harvard and Stanford. Every student at “Vyshka” in 2011 (I’ve got the statistics) read 20 articles in foreign academic journals. That’s already more than our colleagues in the West with whom we are competing, I hasten to add.

“I’d like to congratulate you on the 20th anniversary of the Higher School of Economics, and to thank you for the help and support you have given in training personnel and preparing various government programmes”.

We’ve learnt to work in the market. “Vyshka” earns 74% of its budget – that’s more than 4 billion roubles – in equal measure on the academic market, in the market of additional education, through fee-paying students, and we regularly go beyond government requirements in how much we teach our students.

Our income has allowed us to probably be the first in Russia to move to effective contracts with our teachers – in the way that you set out the task in your articles. I can say that the average pay of teachers at the HSE is roughly twice the average in the region. And the results of this are clear for all to see – people have stopped running around to other jobs to supplement their incomes -  in four years the number of academic articles published has more than doubled and teachers are able to spend much more time working with their students.

We want to move into the global market in research which is a very serious and difficult task. You know that among the rectors there is a lot of talk about how we are squeezed in the ratings (probably no one is actually trying to squeeze us they are simply taking into account something that is acknowledged in the Anglo-Saxon world). 

The task does exist though and has done since the time of Peter the Great – to make the Europeans treat us as their own and not like we are second-rate people. We want to be part of the international academic community, but we don’t want to always be the junior partner. We may well want to learn, but to be the eternal student or even the eternal apprentice, to be honest, we never agreed to that.

So one of the main things we do is to hire western academics. At the moment we have 14 international laboratories with leading western academics, and about 100 foreign teachers – that’s more than anywhere else in Russia. The idea isn’t that they should publish and show results on our behalf (although there are such rumours) but that they should teach and lead 4 or 5 of our young academics into the global academic world.

And if that doesn’t happen with one or other of our colleagues, we end the contract. We are discussing cutting short a contract at the moment with one such very productive academic who didn’t manage to do what we brought him over for, unfortunately.

And we already have some results to show. You wanted Russian universities to be ranked in the top 100 in the world, well, I can tell you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, that in the rating done by the Social Science Research Network – an international network of 210,000 researchers in social sciences – we have moved up from 15th to 2nd place in the world in the quantity of articles published in English.

V. Putin: Very good.

Y. Kuzminov: And at the moment, I think, we are 136th in the world for the number of times our published articles are quoted and read. So for the ratings in our field, we are already getting close to being seen as partners on an equal footing.

We are very grateful to you and your colleagues in the government for the support they gave to HSE’s Fundamental Research Programme. I think that we are worth the money the government gives us. Over the last year we have held dozens of international conferences, which thousands, yes, thousands of foreign academics have paid to come to. I think that shows that people are taking us seriously.

“Vyshka” is more than a research university, it’s a project. We don’t study, or at least, we don’t just do purely scientific work, although we do have some colleagues who do. And of course, the job you asked us to do when you visited us at the end of 2010 has inspired us. I think that we have managed to put together an impressive team of researchers, who haven’t gone their separate ways although the work on our part is done. We have given it to the government and, of course, would like to see this work to continue.

V. Putin: Once more I’d like to offer you my congratulations for your anniversary, and for those results you’ve been telling me about. I’d also like to look back on the work which we have done together over the last two years. I want to say that even if not every aspect of it was put into the general programme, still, a significant part of what you presented, was (and I think you can see that) used by me as well in preparing the programme for the near future and will be used now by the government for work in the short term. So I’d like to finish as I began, by saying that I hope that we will continue to work together in the future.

See also:

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