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Regular version of the site

Getting Recognition for the Work that has been done

From May 25-26, 2013, the most recent in the series of regular meetings of the HSE International Advisory Committee took place at the HSE.

The International Advisory Committee (IAC) was created three years ago and is an advisory body which assists the HSE administration in problems related to the University’s Programme of Development. There are nine members in IAC, including leading researchers, as well as experts in educational policy. The Committee traditionally meets at the HSE at the end of May.

Key issues were discussed relating to the HSE’s development as a research university and the new approaches to relationships with the teaching staff and the evaluation of the work carried out by researchers. One of the most pressing tasks is to increase publication activity, primarily in international peer-reviewed journals, as well attracting new staff to the university.

Another aspect of improving the HSE’s international competitive ability will be reflected in creating ‘cutting-edge educational programmes’ which will be of interest both for Russian and international students.

Special attention was paid to a new problem for the IAC:  how should the HSE position itself, not just inside Russia, but on the global education and academic market? What problems will it face in doing this, and what are the possible solutions?

IAC members Peter N. Stearns and Daniel Treisman  spoke about the prospects for the HSE’s development and international integration in an interview for the HSE News Service.

Peter N. Stearns, Provost and History Professor, George Mason University (USA):

— We’ve had a fairly extensive relationship with the Higher School of Economics for several years now. We have the dual degree in economics, masters’s degree, which has seen several students now participating. We’ve had extensive involvement in economics: one of our economics professors has spent a good bit of time at the HSE, and there has been at least one joint research project. So, the economics relationship is quite solid. We’ve also had discussions in sociology and philosophy about other kinds of relationships. Technically we also have a dual degree in philosophy although I don’t think it has been widely explored. We’ve done a number of joint courses where, using telecommunications, courses are offered both at Mason and here in Moscow in sociology, for example, and those have been extremely successful, and we hope to expand them.

Several members of the HSE faculty have visited and participated in courses at George Mason. We have worked jointly on this global problems consortium, where we had a conference at Mason about a year ago with participation from the HSE.

Fuad Aleskerov, Peter Stearns and Daniel Treisman
Fuad Aleskerov, Peter Stearns and Daniel Treisman
In terms of how my work on the advisory committee affects this, it certainly renews my deep admiration for the HSE, both in terms of what it has accomplished in a very short period and in terms of its ambitious plans.

There are suggestions about how we can use some of the current emphases of the HSE, for example, in hoping to attract more international students. There are some opportunities, for example, for summer programmes here, where I could encourage more Mason students to come. The interest in joint research, to take advantage of the strength of the HSE, but also boost its international reputation – this is another area where I’ve learnt more and maybe I could try to be helpful. So, in general, learning more about the school and some of its current priorities will  hopefully help me add to the relationship with George Mason University in ways that are helpful to the Higher School of Economics.

Attracting international students to the HSE requires some work. Actually, I have some specific suggestions there. The most obvious target would be expanding some summer programmes that would attract American students who are interested simply in learning more about contemporary Russia, Russia’s position in the world – I think that could draw an interesting number of students - and from that experience, possibly attract some students who are interested in coming here for longer periods of time. That’s one area of strength. The other area that was mentioned at this meeting is, obviously, that the HSE has some internationally strong fields of study, for example, in mathematics, and trying to build on those strengths to attract international students is also quite feasible. So, two approaches: 1) trying to make  the strengths that the HSE has more internationally visible, but 2) also build on the HSE as, if you will, an interpreter of contemporary Russia to a wider audience. I think both of those could be fruitful for the future.

There’s a real sense that several suggestions made by the International Advisory Committee last year were taken very seriously and we’ve had a report on progress. You have a very responsible leadership team, and they do listen, and we do feel that what we talk about has impact.

Speaking about the challenges facing the HSE today, one of them, certainly, is that much more attention is being paid to the evaluation of the faculty, to try to bring the faculty up to some higher standards of teaching and, particularly, research. This was an area that was discussed last year, the IAC had some suggestions, and there’s been a great deal of progress on this. It’s a very difficult undertaking, because you have a lot of faculty and evaluating them properly is still something that needs to be worked out. But there’s definitely been a significant shift in attention towards this issue. All of this has happened alongside continuing to develop an appropriate reward structure that would encourage the faculty who already do good things, for example, in research and publication.

Daniel Treisman, Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles:

— We’ve been talking about the HSE’s challenges for the last couple of days, and a lot of important ideas have come out. First of all, getting recognition for the exciting work that has been done by the HSE. Partly it’s a matter of the natural process of development of interesting research projects. More and more of these are developing, and that will continue. The HSE actually is already having considerable success, maybe more than people realize. And one aspect of this is a big increase in the number of scholars from the HSE who appear at international conferences. I was very impressed at a conference about a year ago in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California when it turned out that about a quarter of the presenters at the conference were Russian, and they came from two institutions: a lot from the Higher School of Economics, and some from the New Economic School. The research faculty of the HSE are becoming better known for presenting their work at international venues, and are starting to publish more and more in international journals, so I think it’s just a matter of continuing that process, of overcoming many obstacles along the way, and I expect every year there will be some further progress in this.

Suggestions and opinions from the International Advisory Committee are recognized to a great degree and we are quite impressed looking at the agenda, looking at the reports of what’s been accomplished in the last years, at how many of the things that we did suggest in previous years are now being implemented. I think it’s partly because the administration has very similar values and goals and they see the logic in what we do. We’ve seen real efforts to motivate the faculty. There has been a major initiative in assessing faculty performance and trying to raise the quality as far as possible, both through international recruitment, and through increasing incentives for publication in good international journals. The administration is very attentive to the suggestions of the IAC, and there’s a lot of agreement about the main directions and the main challenges. I think that what we can do is to come up with concrete small ideas on how to achieve those agreed goals.

Alexey Novoseltsev, Eric Maskin, Yaroslav Kuzminov and Vadim Radaev
Алексей Новосельцев, Эрик Маскин, Ярослав Кузьминов и Вадим Радаев
The big focus for the administration at the moment is this issue of evaluating the faculty, of moving to different kinds of contracts. And in any country and any institution changing the policies on personnel is very painful at times, controversial, always upsetting to some, and of course, some people disagree. Despite the difficulty of the process, the administration has moved forward in a way that’s rational, determined, but also, as far as I can tell, quite sensitive. They have provided different options, they offer a variety of contracts, so that there are ways for people with different interests and skills to find their place in the new scheme. So, that’s been the major focus of the HSE this year and also in our meetings, this was perhaps the area where there was most thought given on how to continue this.

We are very delighted and we feel very lucky that we’ll have a great team of new graduate students who are planning to study Russia at UCLA next year. There’s a total of four who are coming with that particular interest, three of them from Russia, one from the US, and among the three from Russia are two young scholars who have connections with the HSE: Anton Sobolev and Evgenia Nazrullaeva who have both taught here. They are very well prepared, trained in economic techniques, but also fascinated by politics, and we are really excited to have them joining our group and anticipate various kinds of interesting research on Russia in the future as they move through the programme.

Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service

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