Academic Inbreeding Is Particularly Widespread in Russia and Spain
In early 2015 Palgrave Macmillan will publish Academic Inbreeding and Mobility in Higher Education based on the results of a joint project by the HSE Centre for Institutional Studies and the Centre for International Higher Education, Boston College. Their conclusions were published in brief in an article on the Times Higher Education website.
Academic inbreeding is a term used to describe the practice by universities of employing their own graduates. One of the authors of the book, Maria Yudkevich, says it is an issue on which the academic community has mixed opinions and they vary from country to country. In the US and Britain for example inbreeding is uncommon and frowned upon. In other countries, on the contrary, it is a basis for employment policy. But most academics associate inbreeding with negative rather than positive consequences.
The project was an attempt to discover the causes and effects of inbreeding by comparing different case studies. We looked at eight countries, (Argentina, China, Japan, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa and Ukraine) each with a relatively high incidence of inbreeding.
Maria Yudkevich believes this is an important area to investigate because many universities, having set themselves the ambitious goal to grow and transform into world class institutions, are rethinking their strategies, including recruitment policy. And in their considerations it is essential that they understand how deep-rooted these practices are in the culture to be realistic about the possibilities and limits to change them.
The research showed that inbreeding is particularly common in Russia and Spain. In Argentina, Spain and Ukraine, experts in the survey confirmed that open competition for vacancies is often illusory. In China and South Africa people trust the recruitment process more although in China there is a high level of academic inbreeding particularly in the top universities.
The HSE researchers believe that inbreeding in Russia is due firstly, to the underdeveloped academic job market and insufficient academic mobility, secondly, to the financial limitations of Russian universities and thirdly to the fact that the main mission of our universities is teaching. Appointing teachers is more logical when you already know them and can assess their teaching ability.
Another issue raised in the book is to what extent does postgraduate teaching influence the level of inbreeding in different countries. In Russia for example, someone writing their PhD will be drawn into teaching through their department and supervisor and by the time they qualify they have already put down deep roots in the university’s hierarchy and don’t see an alternative. The university in turn, wants to keep on people who have teaching experience and are already a part of the social environment and show loyalty to it.
The 18th issue of Higher Education in Russia and Beyond (HERB) journal is available online. HERB is a quarterly informational journal published by HSE University since 2014 in cooperation with Boston College Center of International Higher Education. The current issue explores the issue of academic inbreeding.
Martin Gilman, the Director of Centre for Advanced Studies of the HSE has been the Head of CAS in Moscow since 2006. Today we asked Dr. Gilman about the current situation in the international recruitment of academic staff.