‘International Cooperation Is a Two-way Road That Leads to the Development of Society’
The annual meeting of the HSE International Advisory Committee will be held December 12-13 in Moscow. In the run-up to the event, HSE News Service has talked to two new members of the committee, Marcelo Knobel, Rector of University of Campinas (Brasil), and Francisco Marmolejo, the World Bank’s Lead Tertiary Education Specialist.
Professor Knobel holds a BA in Physics and PhD in Sciences from the University of Campinas (Unicamp). He did post-doctoral research in Madrid and Turin. During 10 years, Professor Knobel headed the Materials and Low Temperatures Laboratory. From 2009 to 2013 he was the Vice President for Undergraduate Programmes of Unicamp. In April 2017, Professor Knobel became the Rector of the University of Campinas and also Full Professor at the Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute. He is also a member of National Assessment of Higher Education Comission (Brasil).
In the early 1990s, Francisco Marmolejo was developing academic programmes at Mexican universities. He is the founder and the first Executive Director of CONAHEC, a network of more than 160 colleges and universities from Canada, the US, and Mexico. Marmolejo has consulted for universities and governments in different parts of the world, and has been part of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and World Bank international peer review teams of experts conducting evaluations of higher education in Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. He is currently the World Bank’s Lead Tertiary Education Specialist and Coordinator of its Network of Higher Education Specialists.
— What is the role of external consultants in the development of universities?
Marcelo Knobel: The role of external consultants is to help universities fulfill their missions in a more effective and efficient manner. They do so by making constructive criticisms about the universities' structure and functioning, as well as by advising them on the adoption of better practices and bringing in new ideas from the outside world. This external view is crucial for the development of universities, as it allows them to see their own processes, programs and projects from a different perspective.
Francisco Marmolejo: A good university is able to properly combine the talent of its faculty and administrators, with the perspectives provided by those who have developed specialized expertise in institutions abroad. External consultants can help the university to more comprehensively understand of issues, challenges and opportunities confronted by the institution, by providing a fresh and neutral point of view that can be valuable in the institutional decision-making processes.
— What are your reasons for joining the committee?
Marcelo Knobel: HSE is already a leading university in Russia, and I am honored that I've been offered the opportunity to contribute to its further development. I believe I can offer a new view to HSE based on my background in physics and in science popularization as well. At the same time, I am certain that I will be able to offer new ideas to my own university based on what I will learn from HSE. This is how international collaborations work. It is two-way road that always leads to the development of society.
Francisco Marmolejo: My connection with HSE is not new. I have been privileged to learn for a while about the unique mission, dedicated leadership and important role that HSE has in the landscape of higher education in Russia. In recent years I have participated in the meetings of the International Advisory Committee as guest observer on behalf of the World Bank. This participation has helped me to gain deeper knowledge about the institution, and, consequently, to gain greater appreciation for its work. At the same time, participating at IAC-HSE is a very stimulating intellectual exercise because it provides a great opportunity to interact with renowned scholars which are members of IAC. Due to this reason, when I was invited to serve as member of IAC, I didn’t hesitate to accept.
— How do you evaluate HSE's academic reputation and the challenges the university faces?
Marcelo Knobel: HSE has a very good reputation, most notably in some specific areas. As far as I know, the university is undergoing important transformation and growth. The main challenge during this process is to maintain quality and innovation in all areas of knowledge, making it possible for HSE to keep competing on a global scale.
Francisco Marmolejo: There is no doubt that in the international scene, HSE has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the most important higher education institutions in Russia, and indeed nowadays it is an obliged Russian reference at the global scale on a variety of academic fields and topics. This is a significant achievement that it has taken years, strategy, patience, dedication and resources to be gained. A significant challenge ahead is how to sustain and accelerate such pace of planned change, and how to make sure that it is beneficial to all students by making sure that they receive a relevant and cutting-edge education.
— Could you, please, share your experience of working with students and their involvement in university management? What kind of cooperation with student councils seems to be the most productive to you?
Marcelo Knobel: The relationship between universities and students is probably very different from one region of the world to another. Nevertheless, that doesn't change the fact that students are always the ones who bring new oxygen to universities. We must support their personal, academic and professional development as much as possible. At Unicamp, we do that by encouraging our students to participate in the political life of the university, get involved in major research projects, join junior companies, engage in outreach activities, present their artistic talents to the academic community, etc. We also offer several types of financial aid to those who come from lower social economic groups, even though Unicamp is a public university that doesn't charge any tuition. Our goal is not only to guarantee that every student will have the necessary conditions to complete his/her studies up to graduation, but also to offer all of them numerous and diverse opportunities to leave Unicamp as both well-educated professionals and engaged citizens.
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