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Regular version of the site

Virtual THE Young Universities Summit Opens on June 22

Virtual THE Young Universities Summit Opens on June 22

© Daniil Prokofyev/ HSE University

Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer of Times Higher Education, and Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE University Rector, delivered opening remarks.

Phil Baty spoke about the great advantages young universities have compared to older ones, stressing that younger universities are unencumbered by history and can take the best of universities’ tradition of scholarly enquiry and jettison the worst. He noted that younger institutions are in many cases still forging their identities, which tends to make them more adventurous, more risk-taking, more agile, more innovative.

However, he emphasized that the global university sector response to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that it was not just younger universities that showed great agility and great innovation in this crisis.

Phil Baty

All types of universities did – young or old, public, private, from the global North and the global South, and the East and the West. The reaction to COVID finally laid to rest the idea that older traditional universities can’t move quickly, can’t be agile. I’m in awe of the effort and energy and drive demonstrated all across the world. There is no doubt that great lasting innovation will emerge to the benefit of the whole global sector from these extraordinary efforts, from this forced real-time experiment, from this powerful response to adversity.

Phil Baty expressed his hope that the crisis in spite of many horrors and personal tragedies has opened up new opportunities for the future of teaching and learning, new ways of collaborating to share knowledge and has helped reposition universities in the public consciousness as heroic bastions of public good.

Talking about the summit, Phil Baty noted that the event comes at a pivotal moment for the younger generation of universities.  He enumerated a number of questions that universities around the world should be asking themselves in preparing for the post-pandemic world:

  • Can you continue to lead the way in establishing the new ways of doing things amid extraordinary sector-wide innovation?
  • Are you better prepared for the dramatic disruption promised by the great acceleration of digital teaching and learning compared to your older peers.
  • Are you less likely to revert back to the old normal, to the traditional ways of doing things. Can you truly embrace the positive lessons from the crisis to make permanent changes?
  • How can you harness extraordinary social impact we’ve seen universities demonstrate through the pandemic?
  • How can you forge your individual reputation and brands in a crowded competitive global sector?
  • Is this a true moment to permanently disrupt enduring sector hierarchies as seen in traditional rankings when old established university brands count for less in our brave new post-pandemic world?

HSE University Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov then welcomed the participants to the Times Higher Education Young Universities Summit, saying that the summit was initially planned to be held in Russia in 2020, but the pandemic has made its adjustments.

Yaroslav Kuzminov

Together with Times Higher Education, we have decided to hold virtual summit of world’s leading young universities in 2021. We believe that this is the very moment when the discussion on the role of young universities in the development of higher education is extremely important.

The education system has been living in a new reality for more than a year. We have learned not only how to reproduce traditional forms of university activity online, but we have gained invaluable experience. I'm talking about expanding the field of choice for each student, expanding the range of participants in scientific seminars beyond one campus, one country. During this time, HSE University has invited more than a hundred new professors from the world's leading universities.

They work with our students without leaving their campus, without leaving their home. We have in turn engaged more than 3 million people in our online courses at Coursera. We have opened the first in Russia international master's programme implemented entirely online and we enrolled more than 300 international students in this programme.

It is young universities, such as HSE University, not burdened by the weight of traditions, that demonstrate today the greatest ability to change, find in new circumstances not threats, but opportunities.

We hope that the upcoming summit will contribute to the improvement of education, the introduction of new technologies, and increased accessibility of higher education to everyone around the world.

Is Pandemic a Watershed Moment for Young Universities?

In the first session dedicated to the impact of the pandemic on young universities the panelists discussed the opportunities that emerged for universities and the existential issues universities grapple with. The session was moderated by Phil Baty.

Jamil Salmi, Emeritus professor of higher education policy, Diego Portales University, spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on universities, citing both negative and positive effects. He said that COVID – 19 has led to the exacerbation of disparities, mainly due to problems with internet access, but has also given rise to the acceleration of innovations and wider recognition of scientific role of universities.

The pandemic has also brought about educational innovations that include active and interactive learning (peer education, self education, flipped classroom), experiential learning (multi-disciplinary approach, problem-based, competence based, simulations) and alignment of assessment as adjustments had to be made on account of online format. There has also been positive contribution through research – epidemiology & modelling, genome sequencing, tests, treatment, vaccines; production of medical products & equipment; medical and nursing students in the frontline; and scientific advice to government

In Professor Samli’s view, when preparing for the post-pandemic order, universities need to focus on a new education model that would be more student-centered and competence-built and a new economic model with stronger financial commitment of governments and diversified funding. Universities should also think about their social commitments.

Jamil Salmi

In the new era of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity universities should focus on the following priorities: keeping the university community safe, reimagining the university, rethinking the economic model, and deepening your social commitment on behalf of equity, truth, ethics, and social transformation.

Simon Marginson, Professor of higher education, University of Oxford, spoke about the key qualities of effective universities – agility, responsiveness, the capacity to seize opportunities and take initiatives.

Simon Marginson

In an effective university these qualities are part of faculty and student cultures, not just executive and institutional. Things are continuously changing and are going to change. Most predictions are proven wrong are changes are unforeseen and unforeseeable, so being able to anticipate and take initiative to respond is key.

He noted that young universities have one advantage – they are unencumbered by the past and have the opportunity to create an agile culture but older units can form themselves to behave like this. However, accumulated capacity and reputation still matter, more so in times of uncertainty.

One big change that Professor Marginson singled out is the students themselves. ‘They are under such pressure with induvial mental problems, collective problems of access to classrooms but they are also much more collectively conscious. Student organizations and student organization in generic sense have become much more important than before. This goes alongside remarkable growth of main stream commitment to anti-racism and decolonization, which has been coming for a long time and has become a collective thing. Students can make a difference. The pandemic has helped with that not hindered that because it encouraged students to work together.’

THE Young Universities Summit will be the seventh event in the series. Over this time, it has become a global forum for university leaders, education executives and experts who discuss the future of world-class universities. It is organized annually by Times Higher Education, a leading international education ranking agency. This seventh summit is jointly organized with HSE University.

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