The Pursuit of Science
Is a modern university able to face the challenges of a changing society? What do governments, sponsors and students expect from the higher school? Can an ‘amateur’manage a university? Giliberto Capano, professor of Bologna University, gave a lecture on these and other topics at the HSE on November 5th .
University management has dramatically changed over recent decades, believes Giliberto Capano. Processes move quickly, there are lots of things to do, and interests of the scientific community are extremely differentiated. The speed and the volume of the academic work, according to G. Capano, leads to:1. Motivational uncertainty. (The scientific community is divided into ‘tribes', each of them having its own territory). 2. Fragmentation of a university's external relations. 3. Fragmentation of administrative and academic relations inside the university (when most of the staff members are focused on very specific tasks and only few of them are concerned about the systematic activity of the institution).
The professor told the audience how these management issues were organised in the past within the continental, British and American university traditions. For the continental higher school it was typical that activity of a university was systematically coordinated by government and there was no university independence. On the other hand, in the continental educational system, the voice of the academic community has always had a high level of influence (faculties and schools have been traditionally viewed as the fiefdoms of professors). In the British higher school, independence and collective university management has been typical,l with the government acting as a moderator. The key characteristics of an American university are strong autonomy, serious role of external stakeholders and a rather weak participation of academic community in management procedures.
Today, in Giliberto Capano's view, the traditions of university management are mutating, as a response to the ‘enormous pressure from the knowledge economy'which has resulted in the change of public administration mechanisms, the global spread of the Internet and other new technologies, as well as globalization, a faster pace of change and a focus on results now present in most processes. Education has become more democratic;educational processes now include social strata that had not previously cared about their intellectual status:higher school changes from elite to public. Education is diversified, new academic and educational formats arise (life-long education, distance learning and the like). Relations in the academic community become more competitive. The cost of education is growing, while the amount of money assigned by NGOs and education development foundations is decreasing.
A modern university is also facing increased pressure in the area of accountability. All the main social structures and powers connected to a university - i.e. government, student community and society - expecting a modern university to provide a transparent report on the distribution of financial resources and physical assets, the quality of educational innovations and their criteria, procedures of student recruitment and selection;, the reasons for any interfaculty appointments and research resources and their effectiveness.
All these challenges, Giliberto Capano believes, have led to an intensive wave of higher school reforms dealing with the problems of university autonomy, mechanisms of distribution of income, tax policies in higher education, the role of government in a university's life and issues of interuniversity administration.
In Europe. the government has given up direct control of the university life to ‘advice from afar', resulting in an increase in universities'autonomy. In the Anglo-Saxon educational system it is just the opposite:government intrusion is increasing and state control of the higher school life is strengthening.
The results of those system shifts are a redistribution of the balance of powers and authorities between universities (thanks to the differentiation of higher school into many subdivisions:research/educational;local/international);the strengthening of the leader's role (president, rector), and directorate boards in the life of an academic institution as well as centralization of the university administration. And most often, according to Capano, the main problem of a higher school management is its ‘amateur'nature. And accordingly increases the necessity of additional training for university leaders in the area of management.
Since the Higher School of Economics has recently won the competition for the status of a National Research University, there were appropriate questions from the audience. In his answers, Professor Capano explained how our European colleagues understand the idea of a ‘research university'. This concept, he said, has been borrowed from the American educational system. In the USA a university is referred to as a research establishment if it has PhD programmes in each key scientific area. ‘A research university is not a university where teaching is replaced by research, professor said. It is a place where they teach people to pursue science, to conduct research'.
Sergey Stepanishev, HSE News Service
Photos by Ivan Moryakov