‘The future is more than just tomorrow’
Geoffrey Crossick, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, took part in the HSE International College of Economics and Finance graduation ceremony on September 16th. What else was in the programme of his visit to Moscow? What does he think about the problems and prospects for higher education development in Great Britain? And what about cooperation with the HSE?
— Professor Crossick, as far as I know, you have recently become Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, and apart from administrative work you have been carrying out research and reading lectures for many years . Please tell us something about your professional interests.
— Yes, I took responsibility of Vice-Chancellor of the University of London just two weeks ago. I am a historian, and for most of my life I have been reading lectures to students at various universities in Great Britain. Early in my career, the main theme of my research was the history of the working class in 19th-century Great Britain, then eventually the sphere of my research interests broadened, and I started studying the history of the British bourgeoisie. My profession is social and cultural history, and I also approach my administrative functions as a historian. In 2002 I headed the Arts and Humanities Research Council, thus my academic activities were expanded with a number of responsibilities in research management. Now I am mastering the field of university management.
— Are you a University of London graduate?
— Not exactly. I got my bachelor’s degree in Cambridge, and received my doctoral degree from the University of London.
— Is this your first visit to the Higher School of Economics?
— Yes, and my first visit to Moscow. That’s why I don’t really have as clear view of your university as a whole as I have about ICEF – the International College of Economics and Finance, which I got when preparing for the visit to Russia. Initially, I read my colleagues’ reports on the results of the successful cooperation between the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) at our University with ICEF, and here in Moscow I had many interesting meetings and negotiations with the administration and staff of the College. I have got a very positive impression about the structure and educational strategy at ICEF, about its professors and graduates.
— As an experienced teacher, you well know the system of British education. Probably, you already have a wish-list? Are you preparing any changes in the educational policy of the University of London?
— The University of London’s structure is very different from that of the HSE. The University consists of 19 colleges, which independently define the contents and curricula of each programme. And our international programmes involve over 50 thousand students from many different countries. That’s why I have to split the answer to your question into two parts – about the changes to the educational policy of the University of London and about the reformation of international programmes.
Currently I can speak only about the changes being prepared in our international programmes system, which has been in existence for over 150 years and periodically needs modernization. This department develops educational programmes and curricula for foreign students and organizes examinations for them. At the same time the education itself is carried out by independent educational institutions all over the world. We are planning to acknowledge these institutions as regional offices of the University of London, to give them the appropriate official status and recommend them to our prospective students overseas. For example, ICEF has been such an institution in the structure of the University of London international programme for several years . Now we are facing the task of broadening the network of partner universities and organizing close and effective interaction between all our international offices. This way we shall be able to provide high quality education for our international students. In addition to that, we consider it essential to implement the same system of offices in Great Britain, since our government is seeking flexible and low-cost ways to deliver quality education for students within the country.
— Recently your article entitled ‘The future is more than just tomorrow’ was published in Great Britain and provoked a wide response from many experts in education. Could you give us a brief overview of this publication?
— The essay is devoted to the evaluation of the long-term impact of the global financial crisis on education in our country. Unfortunately, in Great Britain public funding of education was cut dramatically during the recession and is continuing to decrease. Of course, the universities are trying to stop this process and convince the government that financial cuts in education will have a very negative result on the future of the country. Great Britain does not possess rich natural resources, and labour costs in the country are very high; What can become the main competitive advantage of Great Britain’s economy? Qualification, talent and creativity of the employable population. And while talent and imagination are innate, they can only be developed by quality education and research work, let alone professional qualifications. Traditionally, the key feature of our national system of education is that we teach our students to approach knowledge creatively and think independently: to rationally argue with opponents, openly ask questions, skillfully hold a discussion, defend their positions, boldly respond to challenges. These qualities will particularly be in demand in the future. Not narrow specialized knowledge, but the ability to change and quickly adjust to new circumstances of a constantly and dynamically changing world. We are training our students to work in positions which have not yet appeared in the labour market.
The majority of the leading countries in the world have increased the funding of their universities during the crisis, and our government, along with the authorities of Czech Republic and Ecuador, is acting against common sense and decreasing spending on education and science. Over the last 10-15 years the educational strategy of British universities has changed considerably: we now offer equal opportunities for education to prospective students with different levels of basic education, we involve people with disabilities in education , we actively promote distance education. All those transformations can be reduced to nothing by short-sighted budget decisions by the government. And precisiely because state educational policy cannot just be aimed at the next 5 or 10 years, I called my essay ‘The future is more than just tomorrow’.
— What did you discuss during your meeting with Isak Froumin, acting Vice Rector of the HSE?
— We had time to discuss many things. In particular, university autonomy and ways for its introduction and development in Russia; attracting foreign students to the Higher School of Economics, which is one of the key elements of your university’s strategy; development of cooperation and effective interaction between HSE ICEF and the University of London and intensification of the HSE’s international programmes. We outlined some new and important areas for joint work which are in line with the interests of both universities and which I am going to discuss with my colleagues in London. Generally, our meeting was very constructive, and I hope that the ideas we exchanged will grow into new projects and programmes of mutually beneficial collaboration.
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service
Photo by Nikita Benzoruk