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How Research Universities Affect Student Experience in China, Russia and the USA

Priority areas of development: sociology
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The object of research includes undergraduate students from US and Chinese universities – members of the International Consortium “Student Experience in the Research University” and undergraduate students from leading Russian universities. 

Data sources:

  • Data of the International Consortium “Student Engagement in Research University” collected in 2014 on undergraduate students at twenty American, three Chinese and one Russian research universities;
  • Data of the project “Trajectories and Experience of Students at Russian Universities” collected in 2015 on undergraduate students at eleven Russian universities;
  • Semi-structured interviews with students at two Russian research universities carried out in 2015.

The The object of research includes undergraduate students from US and Chinese universities – members of the International Consortium “Student Experience in the Research University” and undergraduate students from leading Russian universities. following methods were used in this study:

  • quantitative analysis: descriptive analysis including analysis of descriptive statistics, estimation of contingency tables using Chi-square criterion, correlation analysis;
  • qualitative analysis of interviews.

The obtained results are as follows:

  • Most students at Russian universities are not generally exposed to high-impact practices. They also spend less time and effort on independent self-directed learning, compared to students in the US. The learning experience of Russian students is similar to the experience of their Chinese counterparts. At the same time, most students in all three countries demonstrate high level of satisfaction with the quality of teaching.
  • Differences in the level of engagement in learning process seem to be more substantial across academic disciplines rather than across countries. Students majoring in humanities and social sciences demonstrate higher levels of engagement.
  • Female students and students planning to study or work abroad, or to continue their studies in graduate/postgraduate school, appear to be more engaged learners. While in the US student engagement is higher among juniors and seniors, in Russia and China, on the contrary, seniors often appear to be relatively less involved, compared with freshman and sophomore students.
  • The rate of student-faculty interaction is lower in Russian universities, compared to their counterparts abroad. Moreover, while in Russia this rate is relatively low especially among students majoring in engineering and natural sciences, in China and the USA cross-major differences are less prominent. Frequency of student-faculty interactions is increasing by the end of the training, and it is not influenced by gender of students.
  • A significant gain in skill improvement while studying in university is more typical for students in China and the USA. Learning gains are positively related to engagement in learning activities in all three countries.
  • Student time use differ greatly across Russia, China and the USA. Russian students spend significantly more time on learning activities inside of class than their American counterparts, but slightly less than Chinese students. Russian students also spend relatively less time on paid work, compared to students from other universities.
  • Russian students demonstrate relatively lower degree of participation in extracurricular activities as a result of weak support from universities.


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