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'At Least One Russian University Should Be in the Top-100 of Each Global Ranking Category'

On October 19, the rectors of 21 top Russian universities met to discuss Russia’s position in international university rankings. These 21 universities are all are members of the Global Universities Association, the main purpose of which is to create a network for and inspire collaboration among schools participating in the widely discussed Project 5-100. Slated to last eight years, this project was established under Russia’s Presidential Decree No. 599, which aims to improve the standing of Russian universities among the world’s top schools and research centres.

Now, three years after the project was first launched, the university rectors met with Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, Minister of Education and Science Olga Vasilyeva, and several representatives from the Russian Presidential Administration to discuss some of the preliminary results of the project.

The strategic goals of Project 5-100 include improving Russia’s global positioning in the new economy, an economy in which intellectual capital is becoming the primary productive force; promoting Russian education as an export; resisting attempts to isolate Russian education; and battling the ‘brain drain.’ These objectives, the overall purpose of which is to increase the ability of Russian colleges to compete at the international level, will be considered more or less met once at lease five Russian universities make it into the top-100 of the QS, THE, and AWRU ratings before 2020.

The format of Project 5-100 is not unique and is simply a continuation of an international practice. In China and South Korea, as well as in many countries of the European Union, similar projects to improve international competitiveness have existed since the 1990s with much success. Over the last six years, for example, China has increased the number of Chinese schools on the Times Higher Education top-100 subject rankings from five to 29.

Since the start of the project, the number of publications by Project 5-100 universities on Web of Science has grown 150%, while there was a 60% rise in the number of foreign students

The majority of 2016 international rankings have already been published, and the Russian universities participating in Project 5-100 deserve a lot of praise. For the first time ever, five Russian universities (the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, ITMO University, Novosibirsk State University, the Higher School of Economics, and National Research Nuclear University MEPhI) made it into the top 100 of various THE and QS subject rankings, while another five (Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Kazan Federal University, Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk State University, and Ural Federal University) were in the top 300. HSE made it into the top 300 of eight different subject rankings and the top 100 of one ranking. In addition, HSE was in the top 150 of three rankings and the top 200 of three others. The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology was included in six subject-specific rankings and Novosibirsk State University in three. ‘This is an indicator of the serious advancements our universities are making and the recognition they’re getting,’ commented Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets.

The rapid advancement in the ratings stems from the real increase in competitiveness that Russian science and academics have achieved. Since the start of the project, the number of publications by Project 5-100 universities on Web of Science has grown 150%, while there was a 60% rise in the number of foreign students. ‘These results demonstrate great achievement,’ Golodets adds.

Universities in Project 5-100 are also making great strides in open education, as more than a million people from 195 countries have taken online classes with these universities thanks to the international educational platform Coursera. In addition, 100,000 participants in the Russian lasses are from the U.S., while another 100,000 are from the European Union and 50,000 from Ukraine. ‘Nearly 20% of all students around the world are getting an education through different online technologies,’ notes Yaroslav Kuzminov, adding that this number is growing each year. ‘And it’s entirely possible that by 2020-2022, the number of university students will equal the number of people signed up for Coursera, EdX, and other national platforms. This is a colossal channel for competition, and we simply cannot ignore it.’

The performance metrics aren’t as important to us as the tools and mechanisms behind the changes

Each year, ratings agencies determine the increase in the number of rating participants and the growth in competition, which is why a key task for Project 5-100 members over the coming years will be maintaining the pace of development in order to keep or improve their position in the ratings. Schools from Asia and BRICS countries are developing rapidly and may take a lead over Russian universities. As we approach 2020, participants of the Global Universities Association are planning not only to maintain the positions they have achieved, but also to double the number of GUA schools on the top-100 and top-300 rankings in various subject areas. Minister of Education and Science Olga Vasilyeva stresses that the 5-100 programme will be continued in order to achieve these goals: ‘The performance metrics aren’t as important to us as the tools and mechanisms behind the changes.’

A key area of activity for Project 5-100 schools is the spread of best practices to other Russian universities. It is critical that the country’s top schools influence and transform the entire education system in Russia. To do this, programmes must be developed at Project 5-100 schools to help improve the qualifications of teachers, researchers, and school administrators at other Russian universities. In addition, schools must develop internship programmes and launch joint projects with other leading universities, while at the same time exchanging examples of successful educational programmes and offering their own online courses. The association’s website details the many achievements of GUA participants.

Rectors from GUA schools have suggested that a milestone for the next stage of the project be at least one Russian university making it into the ranking rankings for the top-100 best schools in each subject area by the year 2025. ‘This is a realistic goal,’ Yaroslav Kuzminov says. ‘Additional investments are required for fields such as biomedicine and transportation,’ he adds. Currently, Russia is in 14 of 42 QS top-100 subject rankings.


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