The comparative nature of the project has three dimensions:
- Comparison of “strong” and “weak” higher education institutions, universities in the capitals and regions;
- Comparison of stakeholders’ positions: of university administration, students, alumni, employers;
- Cross-country comparisons - with the BRIC countries (analysis of the results of field research in Russia, China and India).
The purpose of the Russian part of the project is to diagnose changes in the system of professional higher education in technical universities (engineering) in the light of Russia's participation in the global economy of knowledge.
We managed to solve the following research tasks:
a) Based on empirical data, we made regional generalizations and comparisons (the Russian component), formulated additional grounds (in addition to the existing ones) for differentiating higher education institutions;
b) We performed initial cross-country comparisons on the basis of empirical data obtained in Russia, India and China.
The analysis of the findings attained by the field study part of the Russian education research confirmed the main provision of the hypothesis regarding the study of the Russian engineering education: first, the majority of Russian universities have no real incentive to change; secondly, the ongoing (externally initiated) changes are not deeply affecting the education system; thirdly, Russian universities haven’t generated internal incentives for upgrading their quality in accordance with the requirements of the innovation economy; fourthly, the main stakeholders of universities do not have coordinated interests; and fifthly, preserving the status quo may make Russian engineering education obsolete (in terms of the adequacy to the globalizing economy) compared with the technical education of rapidly growing India and China (today we can already talk about different dynamics and the development vector of technical education in our countries, and it is not in Russia’s favor).
The study showed that India’s higher technical education demonstrates an obvious determination to achieve maximum compliance of its design with the requirements of the globalized labor market and the development of students’ innovative competencies. Collective projects, actual production orders and insight into specifics of the profession, especially together with existing English language skills, promote students’ self-confidence in the ability of their future work to be successful abroad (63.1%). Maybe not everything is right yet (at least, the level of students’ satisfaction with their education is not very high), but students feel ready and prepared for future work.
We were unable to obtain this kind of descriptive data about Chinese technical education. However, we note some structural similarities with the Russian organization of the educational process (possibly due to the fact that China originally used Soviet Union practices). However in terms of student satisfaction, China’s results are close to India’s findings. A distinctive feature that we identified is an obvious commitment to learn foreign languages (the share of Chinese students who study foreign languages is much higher than in Russia).
Against the background of technical education in India which seems to be on an upward trend, Russian technical education is perceived as being on a downward trajectory. Maybe it is because, in this situation, standing still means falling behind. Qualitative changes in the education system in terms of students' educational experience are very slow - as opposed to India’s education system, which forms new types of educational experience and develops those competences that are required in the changing economy. One of the main conclusions concerning Russia’s technical education is that the implementation of a new understanding of students’ tasks (a pro-active approach to learning) and instructors’ tasks (creating an environment for students’ intensive and independent study) is impossible without the active involvement of all stakeholders, both at the individual and institutional levels. However in Russia, it looks as if the key stakeholder groups signed a “non-involvement” and status quo agreement.