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Russian academic profession in a comparative perspective

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

Goal of research

The analysis of the structure of the academic profession and an assessment of the impact of the a of set of public policy measures on universities and academic productivity. In addition, the purpose of the study is to analyze the impact of various characteristics of students (school, family factors, including cultural capital) on educational pathways, educational and career choices, as well as on the formation of networks.

The object of the study are economic agents in the higher education market.

Research objectives:

  • Assessment of the characteristics of the Russian academic profession in the context of current reforms;

  • Studying higher education as a field of knowledge;

  • Analysis of scientific collaborations in higher education;

  • Comparative analysis of graduate schools in various countries;

  • Assessment of the impact of parental involvement on educational trajectories and student outcomes;

  • Analysis of the relationship between cultural capital and the network characteristics of students (centrality, popularity, prestige, reciprocity, etc.);

  • Assessment of the determinants of the career choices of the Russian university students.


This study employs the assumptions and methods of new institutional economics, statistical methods, econometric modeling (including models with mixed effects for longitudinal data), and network analysis. In addition, bibliometric analysis is used based on the metadata of publications and journals obtained from the Scopus and Web of Science databases and from the websites of peer-reviewed journals. Studies of educational strategies and preferences of students are based on sociological theories of cultural capital, human capital theory, as well as on the interpretation of school and family as formal and informal educational institutions.

Empirical base of research

This project uses statistical data on Russian universities, bibliometric data and metrics from Scopus and Web of Science citation databases. To study the educational strategies of students, the data from the longitudinal study “Trajectories in Education and the Profession” (national panel), and the results of a longitudinal survey of students at the Higher School of Economics – Perm are used.

Results of research

This report presents the results of a study of the external effects of the ‘5-100’ project on the Russian educational system. In particular, the effectiveness of universities that were not part of this program and were not directly affected by such a treatment are considered in the 5-years perspective. The study compares the effectiveness of universities in the regions where participating universities are presented to the universities in regions with no participating higher education institutions. Thus, an assessment of the external effects of the program at the regional level is made. It is shown that proximity to universities participating in the ‘5-100’ project has a significant positive effect on the quality of freshmen in neighboring universities.

In addition, the results of several bibliometric studies are presented. In the context of large-scale reforms in Russian higher education, we study the dynamics of co-authorship networks in Russian universities in the period before and after the introduction of the ‘5-100’ project. The interaction between universities was investigated by analyzing the affiliations and co-authoring networks. It was found that after joining the Project, participating universities expanded their cooperation both with each other, with universities abroad, and with institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, especially in the high-quality segment (Q1). At the same time, the structure of scientific cooperation of universities, which are not participating in the Project, has barely changed. With the growth of interaction, the position of the universities of the ‘5-100’ program in the co-authorship network has also changed: these HEIs have become more central to other network participants. This reflects narrowing of the historical gap between the university and academic sectors, and the widening role of universities in knowledge production.

Next, the dynamics of the interaction of scientists from leading Russian universities in the period from 2010 to 2017 is investigated. Based on bibliometric data, we analyze how scientific cooperation with other organizations at the individual level has been changed. There is an increase in scientific cooperation, but individual cooperation is growing to a lesser extent than collaboration between organizations. Interaction with Russian organizations is higher than with RAS and international institutions, but the share of such collaborations is rapidly declining. Universities interact more often in the high-quality segment (Q1) than in the lower-quality segment (Q4). Moreover, interaction with international organizations abroad is typical for a high-quality segment, and with Russian organizations – for a low-quality segment. The largest prevalence of interaction is observed in the physical and technical sciences, the smallest – in the humanities and social sciences.

A separate study is devoted to the analysis of international collaborations in the field of higher education research using the Scopus database from 1978 to 2017. It is shown that over time, the factor of the geographical distance between the authors becomes less important. International cooperation in the field of higher education research over the past two decades has grown significantly. We found that the number of international collaborations depends on the geographical distance and the official language of the countries. The influence of geographical proximity varies significantly between different regions of the world: in Europe, the distance between the authors has a smaller impact on the formation of collaborations compared to the authors from North America and Asia.

The project addresses the development of graduate schools, their current position in the international context, and analyzes the institutional features of their organization. We demonstrate the diversity of the world practices by using 14 national and one regional cases. The differences, similarities and features of the countries studied are analyzed in terms the scale of the graduate school system, the degree of its internationalization, the types of graduate school, the features of defending a doctoral theses and the patterns of scientific management, financial models of graduate school systems. We conclude on the current state of the graduate school system in the world in terms of institutional characteristics and make forecasts about the further development of graduate schools.

The analysis of the educational strategies of schoolchildren is devoted to the influence of parental involvement in the educational process on the educational achievements of Russian students and their educational strategies, such as studying in high school and successful admission to university. We argue that the patterns of parental involvement represent a link between the formal (school) and informal (family) educational institutions and can have a beneficial effect on academic performance and contribute to the choice of the educational pathway to higher education. Based on data from the longitudinal study ‘Trajectories in Education and Careers’, it was shown that the results of school state examinations are positively associated with the active participation of parents in school meetings, the employment of tutors (except for the Unified State Exam score in mathematics), and the provision of additional literature for the child. A negative relationship was found between homework control and student success. In general, the factor of ‘rational’ (not excessive) involvement is positively associated with educational achievement and educational choice, which may indicate the non-linear nature of the relationship. Parental involvement itself depends on the family characteristics, such as mother’s education, family income and the number of books at home. In addition, family has a positive impact on educational success and educational strategies, and high school characteristics are especially important for the results of the Unified State Exam and the university choice.

Two aspects are devoted to studying the preferences of students of Russian universities. The first one represents the role of cultural capital in the process of student networks formation. Two hypotheses (on homophilia and attractiveness) are put forward and tested empirically. A methodology for measuring cultural capital was developed and tested. Based on the self-reported data on students’ competence in literature, music, visual arts, theater and cinema, as well as the frequency of attending cultural and art events, a two-level factor model of cultural capital is constructed. The results show that students are more likely to be friends with those who are close to them not only by gender and performance, but also by cultural capital. By extrapolating the results to a more general question about the essence of cultural capital – the Bourdieu ‘elitism’ or the Peterson ‘diversity’ of, the evidence was found in favor of the former.

The second aspect is devoted to studying the preferences of Russian undergraduates regarding further employment in the public or private sector. Based on the data of the longitudinal study ‘Trajectories in Education and Careers’, it was shown that the choice of employment in the public sector is positively related to the importance of such characteristics as the acknowledgement by colleagues or by management, or by society; the proximity of workplace to home; status and prestige of the profession; benefits to the community; the proximity to the government; good social security and state guarantees; the opportunity to change life in the country for the better; and the opportunity to help people. On the other hand, the choice of employment in the private sector is positively associated with the importance of the company's reputation, independence in work, involvement in the development of the company's policy and its implementation, creativeness of work, as well as the ability to receive a high income. Male students are less likely to work in the public sector than female students. Students, who are already receiving or expecting to receive higher wages, tend to choose employment in the private sector.


Prakhov I. The Determinants of Expected Returns on Higher Education in Russia: A Human Capital Theory Perspective / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series EDU "Education". 2019. No. WP BRP 50/EDU/2019.
Matveeva N., Sterligov I., Yudkevich M. M. THE RUSSIAN UNIVERSITY EXCELLENCE INITIATIVE: IS IT REALLY EXCELLENCE THAT IS PROMOTED? / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series EDU "Education". 2019. No. WP BRP 49/EDU/2019.
Avdeev S. International Collaboration in Higher Education Research: a Gravity Model Approach / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series EDU "Education". 2019. No. 54/EDU/2019. doi
Kotomina O., Prakhov I., Sazhina A. Parental Involvement and the Educational Trajectories of Youth in Russia / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series EDU "Education". 2019. No. 53/EDU/2019.
Matveeva N., Sterligov I., Yudkevich M. M. Impact of government intervention on publication activity: case of Russian universities, in: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics ISSI2019 Vol. 1. Italy: Edizioni Efesto, 2019. P. 896-907.
Yudkevich M. M. Russia: Higher Education, between Survival and Innovation, in: Professorial Pathways: Academic Careers in a Global Perspective. Johns Hopkins University Press , 2019.
Prakhov I., Sergienko D. Matching between Students and Universities: What are the Sources of Inequalities of Access to Higher Education? // European Journal of Education. 2020. Vol. 55. No. 2. P. 261-274. doi