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Regular version of the site

Researching Higher Education in Russia Attracts Growing Number of Foreign Specialists

On October 16-18, the 5th International Conference of the Russian Association of Higher Education Researchers took place at the Higher School of Economics. The theme of this year's conference was 'Managing Differentiation in Rapidly Changing Higher Education Systems: Challenges and Opportunities.'

Among the special guests present were Ulrich Teichler, Director at the International Centre for Higher Education Research (Kassel, Germany); Cristopher Morphew, Professor and Department Chair in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies in the College of Education at the University of Iowa; and Ellen Hazelkorn, Director of Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU) at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

On the role of universities in global development

The overwhelming majority of research discussed at the conference was comparative in nature, emphasized Yaroslav Kuzminov, Rector of the HSE. This research is conducted in different countries on the basis of materials from universities in different countries, which offers researchers an opportunity to participate in a global academic division of labour. Represented by its leading universities, Russia has long been a participant in this research. Its students study at the Master’s and advanced postgraduate levels in leading universities around the world, and Russia hosts students, young teachers and scholars from other countries.

The organizers of the Russian Association of Higher Education Researchers – the HSE’s Institute of Education and Centre for Institutional Studies – have always been open to global cooperation, inviting foreign colleagues to take part in their conferences. Their number has grown each year. Approximately 30% of the more than 200 participants who registered for the conference were foreign scholars from a variety of countries.

Scholars’ findings as the basis for the actions of politicians

The first crosscutting theme of the conference was the transformation of national higher education systems, with a focus on post-Soviet systems. Higher education in post-Soviet countries has its own specific features, said Kuzminov. The traditions of organizations working in higher education are based on an industry-specific and narrow professional approach, i.e., when a university trains students for specific industries that use certain technologies.

Usually, we are talking about the quality of research, university infrastructure, and ratings. The topic of students often comes in last, so this time several sessions are devoted to student-related themes.

Maria Markovna Yudkevich
Vice Rector of the HSE

In many post-Soviet countries, including Russia, the number of people receiving higher education is growing, and this growth is taking place against the backdrop of a significant backlog in the supply of resources and a rupture with labour markets. In almost all post-Soviet countries, this has led to a phenomenon that is now called pseudo-education, or general higher education masquerading as professional education. Either way, resources are being spent without achieving certain goals both for both students and for the state and society.

According to Kuzminov, a way out of this situation must be found. These problems ‘colour’ research studies and give their authors considerable enthusiasm because there is more at stake here than academic interest. In general, researching higher education is very close to educational policy, as the findings of scholars are often the basis for the actions of managers and politicians.

50 reports in 18 sessions

Opening the plenary session was a report by Ulrich Teichler called ‘Diversification Trends in Higher Education Systems, National Structural Policies and Institutional Profiling Strategies.’ Teichler is Director of the International Centre for Higher Education Research (Kassel, Germany). In addition to the plenary presentations, the conference on October 17-18 featured 18 sessions where 50 reports were made on a variety of topics, including the academic profession, the role of the university in modern society, research of the student community, among others. ‘Usually, we are talking about the quality of research, university infrastructure, and ratings,’ noted Maria Yudkevich, Vice Rector of the HSE. ‘The topic of students often comes in last, so this time several sessions are devoted to student-related themes.’

Theoretical reports were interspersed with reports by education practitioners at the conference, a combination that provided a good basis for discussion. According to Isak Froumin, Academic Supervisor at the HSE’s Institute of Education, the quality of reports at the Russian Association of Higher Education Researchers conference are capable of competing with the best international conferences of this type.

Boris Startsev, specially for the HSE news service 

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