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‘We’ve Started the Procedure of Staff Renewal’

On July 10, 2013, HSE Rector, Yaroslav Kuzminov, took part in a press conference on the results of the competition for government support for leading Russian HEIs to enter the world’s top 100 universities.

15 Russian universities won the competition, HSE among them. They were selected by a special international council.

According to a decree signed by Vladimir Putin in May 2012, at least five Russian universities should enter the Top 100 of the world's leading universities by 2020. Candidates were selected through a competition and will be provided with state funding to achieve this goal. All universities, except for the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), and the Saint Petersburg State University (SPbSU), which are already getting the necessary support due to their special status, were entitled to take part in the competition.

‘Come to us!’

Unusually for international practice, where selection is commonly based on objective indicators, this was a case of subjective evaluation. Rectors defended their universities’ development programmes before the council.  Mikhail Strikhanov, Rector of the National Research Nuclear University ‘MEPhI’, said he was reminded of his student years: ‘having sleepless nights, standing in front of the mirror, rehearsing gestures and trying to smile’. One would have expected to find the more famous universities from Moscow and St. Petersburg among the winners, but the fact that most are regional universities, can be considered a sign that council members voted independently.

‘We have been slow to get into this race’, said Alexander Povalko, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of RF, ‘The first such initiatives appeared in 1990s in China and Korea, then in 2000s in France, and recently Japan has declared that its ten universities should join the list of the world’s top  universities. At the same time, everyone understands that  a leading position is not an end in itself, but an indicator which shows where you stand vis a vis competitors, a sign of the environment: we have strong researchers, good educational programmes, we train excellent experts, come to us!’

Professional Requirements: publications and popularity among students

Yaroslav Kuzminov
Yaroslav Kuzminov
Yaroslav Kuzminov spoke about the programme that is underway to develop the HSE’s competitiveness internationally by 2020 and emphasized that it is largely similar to other universities’ programmes.

We can reach international competitiveness primarily through staff development. Every year the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), and Russian universities, including the leading ones, fall further behind in terms of acknowledgment of their academic results, which are the first indicator in rankings. To get results acknowledged, it is not enough to translate research papers into English. We need to to renew the staff of universities: to attract leading researchers, restructure teams and get them working on research that matters.

Staff development is impossible without entering the global academic labour market. When you hire an academic on this market, you have to pay him or her $10,000-15,000 a month (from $5,000 for a young researcher) – a standard salary for someone in the global academic network. The HSE has been participating in international recruiting programmes for five years, and today over 80 staff members at the university are foreign professors; some Russian colleagues have also been recruited through international procedures. Unlike in common practice, when a department decides on everything and there is no competition, they go through real competition and are evaluated by leading academics.

‘We’ve started a tough process of staff renewal with a clear criteria – you need to have publications and be popular with the students’, Yaroslav Kuzminov said, ‘And this stage will take at least five years’.

Live on campus – study better!

As part of the programme, the number of HSE international laboratories, headed by leading scientists, will double.  There are currently 15; six are supported by the Ministry of Education and Science programmes, and nine from university funds. Young assistants and the best master’s students work in the laboratories, so they are platforms for research, and for teaching how to research.

A university should attract international students, as one of the key indicators of its global character. That’s why the HSE will create conditions for a growing share of students from developed countries on mutual exchange programmes, and to attract them for full-term education. To this purpose, we will further develop English-taught programmes. .

The share of graduates who continue their study in master’s and doctoral programmes at leading Western universities will grow. Today it is about 10% at the HSE, and a little higher at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, but these are single examples. Each of the 15 universities should have at least 10% of international students, and at least 10% of its graduates should proceed to programmes at international universities.

The next important element is the quality of the university environment. Russian universities, with few exceptions (Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow Aviation Institute, the Far Eastern Federal University) have no campuses, and it’s necessary to create them. If a student lives on campus, he doesn’t spend two hours every day travelling to university and back. 20% of  working time is a ‘huge indicator of effectiveness’. In addition to that, in a campus choosing courses at different departments is not a problem.

Do we have the will to do it?

Yaroslav Kuzminov believes that these tasks won’t be achieved quickly or easily. The teams of universities in the programme should understand that the standards of requirements for each lecturer will be raised every year. First, you must publish papers in Russian journals, then in peer-reviewed journals, in international working papers (like SSRN), in ranking journals, then you will be evaluated by the h-index, quotation index. Then there is the problem of readiness to achieve success through change, through growing demands on yourself. And it will only be possible to achieve the level of success that   the teams are prepared to work for.

Boris Startsev, specially for the HSE News Service

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