Maths on Top: HSE Enters the Top 100 in the ARWU Ranking
HSE University is the only Russian university to rank among the top 100 universities worldwide in the Shanghai Global Ranking of Academic Subjects in Mathematics. This is an impressive feat, considering that the Faculty of Mathematics has only been around since 2007. Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government Dmitry Chernyshenko stressed that this success testifies to the correct choice of strategy and the achievements of the University team. Read on to learn what helped HSE strengthen its position in the ranking.
On May 26, 2021, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) subject ranking was released, and 19 Russian universities made the lists in 29 out of 54 subject areas. Russian universities were most strongly represented in the subject areas of Mathematics, Physics (6 universities) and Metallurgy (5 universities). Some universities made several subject areas at once; in total, Russian universities occupy 61 positions in this rating.
Six Russian universities ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide in several rankings: Moscow State University (Physics), MISiS and Belgorod State University (Metallurgy), St. Petersburg State University and ITMO (Automation and Control), and HSE University (Mathematics).
‘This is a great achievement, since this rating is known for its strict criteria and is practically independent of data from the universities themselves,’ said Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. He noted that HSE is traditionally strong in the social sciences and humanities but that in recent years it has been actively expanding into the natural sciences and technology. ‘These efforts have borne the expected results, and now we see HSE in the top 100 in mathematics, which indicates the correct choice of this strategy and the achievements of the University team,’ said the Deputy Prime Minister.
However, HSE didn’t stop there. The University leads in its total number of ranked subject areas: in total, it is included in 8 subjects of the Shanghai ranking, while in 5 of them HSE is the only Russian university.
The breakthrough top-100 ranking of the Faculty of Mathematicians in the ARWU subject ranking is all the more impressive considering that it was only established in 2007. Professor Vladlen Timorin, who served as the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics from 2015 to 2020, notes that the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai Ranking, differs from other common global rankings in that it is not based on reputation indicators determined by the opinion of interviewed experts, but only on objective indicators.
‘Some of these indicators (such as the number of Fields medalists among alumni) are still unattainable for us due to how young the Faculty of Mathematics is as well as HSE in general. The advancement of our university in the ARWU ranking is mainly related to the indicators of publication activity. Namely, HSE is the leader among Russian universities in terms of the number and share of publications in Q1 WoS journals in mathematics, as well as in the number and share of publications in top lists, such as the top 10% or even narrower list formed by ARWU experts,’ said the professor.
It was not only the Faculty of Mathematics that contributed to this indicator, but also the wonderful mathematicians who work at the Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg campuses, as well as at least five other faculties of the Moscow campus
Another important parameter of the ranking is a university’s level of international cooperation, which is assessed based on publications with foreign co-authors. A similar parameter is used in the methodology for calculating the US News rating, in which HSE has been in the top 100 for several years, says Vladlen Timorin. In the US News 2021 ranking, HSE ranks 82nd in mathematics, 26th in terms of mathematical publications, and 9th in terms of international cooperation in mathematics.
The relatively favorable picture with publications in ranked journals and involvement in global research networks comes from one source — the University's purposeful policy of becoming more engaged in the international agenda. In mathematics, this is easy to do if you do not create artificial barriers, since science itself is essentially global, has no regional specifics. The main thing is to attract the best researchers in the global market, without geographical restrictions (to not hire only Russians or only foreigners, but simply the best), and to create good work conditions for them. The latter mostly means a comfortable teaching load. Our teaching load is comfortable by the standards of Russian universities, but if we compare them to Western models, then we see that we have more to strive for in that regard. The increasing competition from Russian sites that have received targeted funding (world-class international centres, regional mathematical centeres, etc.) complicates life, but cannot be regarded as a negative factor, since this is a positive phenomenon for our country, and indeed competition spurs development.
The Dean of the HSE Faculty of Mathematics, Alexandra Skripchenko, emphasized that the tasks facing the Faculty remain the same. ‘We plan to continue to successfully engage in fundamental mathematics and teach mathematics to interested students in all our academic programmes (both undergraduate and graduate).’
In terms of research, the Faculty is now preparing for the International Mathematical Congress, which will be held in the summer of 2022 in St. Petersburg, said the dean. The Congress is the main event in the field for four years, a meeting place for leading scientists, which will largely determine the direction of mathematics in the near future. Employees of the Faculty of Mathematics at HSE will play different roles - members of the organizing committee, organizers of satellite events and, of course, speakers, and many HSE students have signed up to volunteer for the Congress.
Our priority is to further develop the Faculty by attracting new bright colleagues, motivated students, and graduate students from Russia and other countries, as well as to retain the already created strong team. Progress in this direction requires a whole range of substantive measures, which we are now actively working on. We hope that the results of our current work will be positively reflected in the ratings in the near future.
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