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Regular version of the site

Higher Education Conference Draws to a Close

From October 20-22, 2016, the Russian Association of Higher Education Researchers held its 7th International Conference ‘University between Global Challenges and Local Commitments’ at HSE Moscow. This annual event brings together researchers and educators who are interested in higher education development to discuss challenges and goals facing universities and their stakeholders (students, faculty, administrators, graduates etc.).

HSE News Service has spoken to several conference guest speakers, who discussed their research, as well as the nature of their ongoing and future cooperation with HSE. 

Highly Productive Academics

Marek Kwiek Professor, Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in Institutional Research and Higher Education Policy at the University of Poznan, gave the first plenary session speech of the event, which was entitled ‘Highly Productive Academics Across Europe. Who They Are, What They Think?’. According to Professor Kwiek, research top performers are the upper 10% of academics in terms of their research productivity.

‘In research on top performers, or just highly productive academics, you can either use qualitative material, for instance, interviews with pre-selected academics who are found nationally or internationally based on citation numbers, individual, prestige, publication numbers in high quality journals, voting of colleagues, etc.’, said Professor Kwiek, ‘or you can use quantitative material, that is, surveys. Traditionally, there were only single-nation surveys until 1992 when a multi-nation Carnegie survey appeared – and the international CAP survey of 2007-2010 is its successful ancestor’.

While his research relies heavily on international data, Professor Kwiek notes that the increasing number of datasets that we are increasingly unable to analyze in detail serves as a major gap in higher education research.

‘We have more and more data (we are really “data-rich”) but we still do not have human resources to dig into them. We do not have enough time’, he says. ‘To give you an example, within the CAP project, there were about 600 papers and book chapters, including about a dozen of books in the Springer series. Within about a decade. This is just a single dataset. My feeling is we are only beginning to realize the power of such cross-national datasets for international comparative research. Hence CAP-2 emerges, a new global survey of the academic profession starting next year, again with both Poland and Russia. I am very happy about it, there will be 25 countries globally’.

Professor Kwiek’s research using CAP-2 starting in 2017 serves as his strongest cooperation with HSE, but he has also been involved in two research projects originating from HSE. One was a project conducted with Philip Altbach and Maria Yudkevich on global university rankings and their impact on national flagship universities; the other was a project on high participation systems with Simon Marginson and Anna Smolentseva that is nearing completion after three years. Two of his papers were recently published in Russian in HSE’s Educational Studies.

HSE helped my data gathering in Russia in my project on the public good role of universities

Simon Marginson
Professor of International Higher Education, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

The Public Good Created by Higher Education in Russia

Simon Marginson, Professor of International Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education (University College London), has been cooperating with the HSE since 2013 when he was invited to take part in certain HSE projects, including the annual summer school, and a scholarly book project.

‘HSE helped my data gathering in Russia in my project on the public good role of universities’, Professor Marginson says. ‘In addition, I have longstanding interest in Russia. This dates from before my time as a university professor. I learned basics of Russian language at school and since then I have read extensively about Russian history, politics, culture and read Russian literature in translation’. 

During the conference, Professor Marginson gave a presentation entitled ‘The public good created by higher education institutions in Russia', which he says was motivated by a concern that policymakers have focused unduly on the individual private economic benefits of higher education with insufficient space for individual goods/effects from higher education that are not valued in markets but that bring numerous collective benefits.

The essence of this paradox (in a somewhat simplified form) is that university leaders and managers are expected to become more executive and run universities like businesses, while they only have control in their university context, at least to some extent, over one of the two primary processes, that is, education. Research takes place in a disciplinary setting over which university leaders in principal have no control

Peter Maassen
Professor in Higher Education Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Oslo

The University’s Governance Paradox

Peter Maassen, Professor in Higher Education Studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of Oslo, gave a presentation entitled ‘The University’s Governance Paradox’, which he presented from an historical perspective, an institutional theory perspective, and a prestige economy perspective.

‘The essence of this paradox (in a somewhat simplified form) is that university leaders and managers are expected to become more executive and run universities like businesses, while they only have control in their university context, at least to some extent, over one of the two primary processes, that is, education’, Professor Maassen says. ‘Research takes place in a disciplinary setting over which university leaders in principal have no control’. 

According to Professor Maassen, the paradox is a consequence of the differences between the ideologies and expectations underlying university governance reform agendas and the basic institutional characteristics of universities. Reforms aim to make universities more effectively engaged with society, in other words more ‘useful’ for society, and it is assumed that this aim can only be achieved if universities become ‘integrated, strategic organizational actors’.

‘This should be realized through more professional institutional leadership and management, through enhanced institutional autonomy, through more competitive funding regimes, and through a number of other measures’, he says, but ‘in the institutional realities of universities these reforms are absorbed, but seldom lead to the intended outcomes of the governance reforms. The reason for this is that the productivity and outcomes of the primary activities of universities (teaching and research) cannot be forecasted.

‘In addition, there is a prestige economy dimension that links the status of a university to the prestige of its top researchers. This prestige is dependent on their success in the competition for external research funding, and on the productivity (research output, patents, doctoral graduates, etc.) related to this success. Since these top researchers in general have to be as autonomous as possible in order to be successful and productive, the “university as a strategic integrated actor” aim of reforms would be counterproductive when realized. So the paradox in practice is that reforms are promoted and implemented that everyone involved knows are decoupled from reality, and cannot be allowed to be successful. However, they are politically and ideologically fitting the “global reform agenda” for public sector governance, and therefore, are supported by governments’, Professor Maassen says.

Publications in international journals in English-speaking countries might be closely related to their societal development, while this is less the case in non-English speaking countries

Jung Cheol Shin
Professor, Department of Education, Seoul National University

Challenges for Research Universities in the Knowledge Society

Jung Cheol, Professor in the Department of Education at Seoul National University, gave a report entitled ‘Challenges for research universities in knowledge society: between global competitions and local demands’. One of the primary findings of Professor Cheol’s research is that global rankings that encourage international publications might not indicate whether highly ranked universities contribute to their own societies.

‘Publications in international journals in English-speaking countries might be closely related to their societal development, while this is less the case in non-English speaking countries’, he said.

Professor Cheol has been working with HSE since 2014 on a project called the Academic Profession in the Knowledge-based Society (APIKS), which is being carried out by the HSE Centre for Institutional Studies. APIKS is a large multinational project aimed at studying teaching and research staff of higher education institutions.

‘I am working with Maria Yudkevich on this international project where over 25 countries are participating’, said Professor Cheol. ‘We are planning to collect data from participating countries and will compare how academic professions are changing in the knowledge society’.

See also:

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