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'The Government and Universities Should Complement One Another in Social Policy'

An important area being researched today is the relationship between universities and the government in the formation of socioeconomic policy, and this discussion was raised at the international seminar ‘Universities, Inclusive Development, and Social Innovation’ that took place as part of HSE’s XVIII April International Academic Conference.

From Deprivation to Welfare Pluralism

The first speaker at the seminar was Claes Brundenius, who talked about the results of an international research group from Lund University (Sweden) that studies the role of universities in economic and social development. Participants of the group work in South America, Europe, South Africa, Russia, China, and Vietnam.

Professor Brundenius noted that the group was particularly worried about the worsening state of the environment, climate change, and growing inequality in terms of income and wealth. According to the group’s study, in 2016 the richest 1% of the population amassed more wealth than all other population groups in the world. What is more, Russia is number one on the list in terms of overall wealth concentration with 70% of wealth belonging to just 1% of the population. In the U.S., Brazil, South Africa, and Sweden, this gap between the wealthiest part of society and other income groups is also growing.

According to Claes Brundenius, there is now a new social class – the deprived. This includes working individuals who are unsure of what tomorrow will bring and who do not feel protected. In addition, the governments of the world currently face the serious problem of choosing between economic growth and equality. This problem has not been resolved, but several studies show that equality promotes growth. And economic growth, Mr Brundenius said, must be based on social innovation and have an impact on the unprotected, inclusive strata of the population. Additionally, a social entrepreneur has to become the new ‘hero of our times,’ the researcher added.

Professor Brundenius also talked about two possible scenarios for the development of society. The first assumes a drop in the government’s role and an increase in the number of private companies (which is currently taking place in the United States). Under this scenario, a third social sector exists, but it is insignificant in the first scenario. Conversely, the second scenario, called welfare pluralism, sees the important role of government and private capital, though it is the third sector that dominates. This is the preferred variant for a country’s economic growth.

The Role of Universities in Inclusive Development

In his paper, ‘Russian Universities as Inclusive Development Participants,’ Senior Research Fellow at the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, Stanislav Zaichenko, discussed the key role universities play in forming a social ladder that breaks the social inequality barrier. The vulnerable (inclusive) groups of society include (1) people with disabilities who live in remote regions and have trouble gaining access to common infrastructure, (2) people who find themselves in difficult life situations, (3) victims of natural disasters, and (4) people with low incomes. This inclusive group of society often feels inferior compared to wealthy members of society. What should the government do about this and how can universities help?

First, more opportunities should be created to give people access to technological innovations, particularly internet access and free centres that teach people how to use the internet. Second, a barrier-free environment must be created for the disabled and those with limited mobility. Finally, it is important that the public be provided with individualised and targeted aid. According to the researcher, this is where programmes can be approved at the government level to give people quick access to government services, help them adapt to the urban environment, and more.

The main task of social policy today is to ensure equal opportunity for everyone who wants to get an education. Mr Zaichenko noted, however, that this is easier said than done. The government is currently developing a single set of standards for the individualized instruction of different groups of society. In addition, the government is creating an adapted infrastructure on university campuses, as well as preparing teachers to work with certain groups of society and forming an institution of mentors who will help people adapt to their new environment in the future.

‘In carrying out social policies, the government and universities have to complement one another, and their initiatives should not contradict each other. The competitiveness of universities is currently determined not only by supply and demand on the labour market, but also by having an accessible and comfortable learning environment,’ Zaichenko concluded.

Universities and Business

Nicholas Vonortas from George Washington University, in a joint paper called ‘Cooperation Between Universities and Industry: the Results of Research in Brazil,’ discussed the historic role of U.S. universities in helping local society develop the region. This is why American universities have an excellent understanding of the social problems that exist in society, unlike older European universities that have educated an elite that is separate from most of the population.

In a study on several Brazilian universities, in particular the University of São Paulo, researchers looked at the level of the universities’ involvement in the country’s industry. The main idea behind the project is that universities should not only teach, but also help society and business to develop the region in which they are located.

According to Professor Vonortas, the research group had two hypotheses. The first states that if a university cooperates with the private sector (if students and faculty work with businesses), then it is more likely that the university ‘generates’ a new company. This kind of interaction between universities and business creates a type of social capital, Nicholas Vonortas added. But unfortunately at many universities around the world, he noted, there is no culture in terms of universities and business interacting. This hypothesis was also not confirmed at Brazilian universities.

The second hypothesis states that the quality of interaction with businesses is more important than the quantity or intensity of such interaction. This mostly concerns consulting-related interactions where instructors, graduate students, and top undergraduate students advise businesses. This hypothesis also touches upon interactions that take place with business in the form of student internships, as well as student contracts to carry out general research in the private sector. This sort of interaction is more fruitful since it creates a culture that allows for new companies to be founded. This hypothesis was confirmed. The four Brazilian universities involved in the study accounted for 75% of overall business-university interaction in the country.

The last paper presented at the seminar was ‘Social Innovation and Social Inclusion at Latvian Universities’ by Anda Adamsone-Fiskovica of the Baltic Studies Centre. She discussed the social prospects of inclusivity at Latvian universities amid the considerable social inequality of the population. Despite the ‘inadequacy’ of higher education financing to meet the objectives that have been set, Latvian universities are successfully carrying out social projects such as the Centre for Legal Practices for unprotected strata of the population, the Distance Learning Centre for individuals serving time in prison, ‘Express Health’ to provide medical care and consultations, and more.

See also:

Russia’s Middle Class: Who Are Its Members and How Do They Spend Their Money?

The HSE Centre for Studies of Income and Living Standards studied the dynamics of the middle class and its behaviour with regard to paid services. The study was based on data drawn from the HSE Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE) for the years 2000 to 2017, and the results were presented at the 20th April International Academic Conference hosted by HSE.

Reproductive Evolution: How Birth Rates Are Changing in Post-Soviet Countries

Reproductive behavior is modernizing at different rates in post-Soviet countries. Things are changing faster in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, where, over the last fifteen years, the average maternity age has increased and the contribution of women in their thirties to their countries’ birthrates has grown. Meanwhile, old reproductive patterns persist in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where firstborns are usually born to parents under 30, demographers Vladimir Kozlov and Konstantin Kazenin note in a paper delivered at HSE’s XX April International Academic Conference.

Live Long There and Prosper: How Internal Migration from Small Towns Works

More than half of school graduates in medium-sized Russian cities will change their place of residence either forever or at least for a long time. According a report on internal migration presented by HSE demographers at the XX April International Academic Conference, these people are lost to their cities.

What Drives Innovation in Russian Companies

As part of the Management session of the XX April International Conference, Carl F. Fey from Aalto University School of Business, Finland, presented his paper on Facilitating Innovation in Companies in Russia: The Role of Organizational Culture. In his talk, Professor Fey spoke about the results of three studies he has been conducting with his team.

‘In a Digital Environment, the Role of Human Teachers Only Becomes More Important’

How does digital technology affect the behavior and health of schoolchildren? What opportunities does it proved teachers and school administrators? These and other issues were discussed by participants in the plenary session ‘Children’s Wellbeing in the Digital Age’ at the XX April International Scientific Conference of HSE.

‘Statistics Should Be Available and Comprehensible to Everyone’

Implementing a digital analytical platform, opportunities for Big Data, and other prospects for the development of Russian statistics were discussed by participants at a plenary session of the XX April International Academic Conference.

Can Youth Bullying Ever Be Eradicated?

Dr. Dorothy Espelage (University of Florida) presented a comprehensive account of her research into youth bullying spanning more than two decades in an invited paper ‘Prevention & Intervention of Youth Bullying and other Forms of Youth Aggression: Research Informed Strategies’ at the XX April International Academic Conference.

‘To Achieve Our Goals, We Need to Involve a Wide Range of Universities in National Projects’

The role of regional and industrial institutions of higher education in achieving national development goals must increase, and leading universities will help them. This was the conclusion reached by participants of the plenary session on Russian higher education that took place as part of the XX April International Academic Conference.

How to Boost Russian Food Exports

The plenary session ‘Strategy of Russian Presence at Global Food Markets’ took place as part of HSE University’s XX April International Academic Conference, where participants discussed the prospects for Russian agricultural exports to Asia, as well as the use of nonconventional investment models, such as Islamic financial tools.

‘The President is Focused on Increasing the Birth Rate and Reducing Poverty by Half’

National objectives for social development, as well as existing risks and opportunities in implementing these objectives were discussed by participants of HSE International April Conference.