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An International Comparative Study of the Institution of Contractual Relationships in Russian and Foreign Universities and Schools

Priority areas of development: economics
Department: International Laboratory for Institutional Analysis of Economic Reforms (LIA)

The purpose of this study is to conduct a comparative analysis of contractual relations, work conditions, and career prospects in Russian and foreign universities and schools. This analysis is aimed at building an integrated model of interaction between the key players of the higher education market when under the influence of various institutional rules.

The objects of the study are higher education institutions, as well as faculty members and students. The subject of the study is an analysis of the transformation of contractual relations in higher education. This study examines the contractual relationship between professors and educational institutions, between applicants and educational institutions, and between institutions and the State.

Research Objectives:

1) To conduct a comparative analysis of conditions for new staff in the university sector;

2) To assess the academic profession in Russia in accordance with international methodology on changes taking place in the academic profession;

3) To develop a theoretical framework for analysing the role of inbreeding in a university system and its empirical verification;

4) To evaluate the impact of investments in additional training on matriculates' results after introducing the Unified State Exam;

5) To develop a methodology for analysing the dynamics of matriculates' educational mobility patterns;

6) To develop a methodology and survey instruments for a study on supporting talented children.

These objectives were carried out using theoretical and empirical analysis.

The present study is based on the methods of game theory, microeconomic analysis, the new institutional theory of markets and organizations, a statistical and econometric analysis of data, as well as sociological data collection methods (questionnaires, surveys, and in-depth interviews).

Solving these problems involves using both existing databases, which had been prepared by researchers previously, and data collected directly during this study, as well as databases such as the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS), which monitors educational markets and organizations.

The first part of the report presents the results of a comparative analysis of working conditions for new university sector staff in several countries, as well as the results of an empirical study of the academic profession in Russia in accordance with international methodology on changes taking place in the academic profession.

According to some criteria, the Russian academic sector differs significantly from the academic sectors of other countries participating in the research project "Changing Academic Profession", particularly in terms of preferences for research/teaching activities and job satisfaction level.

In Russia, the majority of university faculty prefer teaching as opposed to research, unlike faculty in many other countries. Moreover, the distribution of the preferences of faculty at National Research Universities currently does not differ from the distribution of the preferences of faculty in universities having no special status. In this section, we will show that the characteristics of Soviet and Russian higher education have led universities to focus on teaching. Moreover, we will describe faculty who are interested in research. In particular, it has been shown that they are more satisfied with their jobs in higher education institutions and are more active in professional terms (eg, on average, they work more hours per week and often apply tp compete for research grants).

While Russian faculty are not satisfied with their work, they are not under stress. Considering the link between work resources and stress and job satisfaction, we learned that Russian faculty members value communication resources more than material resources (the availability of classrooms and the workplace, computer equipment, a library, etc.). Russian faculty members value being informed about the work of their university, and having their opinions taken into account when the management is making decisions.

In the section of the report devoted to academic inbreeding, we will show that the high level of academic inbreeding (a university’s practice of hiring its own graduates who lack significant experience at other universities) at Russian universities is caused by 1) the severe financial constraints that universities face as employers (academic salaries are rather poor, so once a graduate is on the job market outside academia, it’s very difficult to bring him or her back, so universities try to involve their students in academic activities); 2) the traditionally low mobility level; and 3) other characteristics of the higher education sector, in general. The effects of inbreeding are also revealed: on an individual faculty level (inbred faculty spend significantly more time on private teaching and administrative activities, and participate less often in research projects with colleagues from other institutions, etc), on the institutional level, and on the higher education system level.

Research on younger entry-level academics, a segment of the academic profession that is key, but has so far gone largely ignored, revealed that if the “best and brightest” young people are not going to be attracted to academic work, the entire future of the academic world looks bleak. It is, of course, true that a career in higher education has never offered the same remuneration as a career in business or industry, but data shows that the gulf between work in academia and professional opportunities for similarly trained people outside higher education is great and expanding. For a growing number of academics in many countries, building a career is increasingly difficult; more are employed part-time or on a limited contract. Competition for jobs has accelerated. At the same time, many countries are facing severe shortages of university faculty. This is particularly true of developing countries and places such as India and China, which have witnessed a rapid expansion of enrollment in higher education in recent decades. In most countries of the world, many senior academics are of retirement age, and the need exists to replace these scholars with younger colleagues.

In the second part of the report, which is devoted to an analysis of the effects of introducing the Unified State Exam and to how universities are adaptating to the new admission rules, we present the results of an assessment of the impact investments in additional training have had on the results achieved by applicants taking the Unified State Exam, and we analyze the patterns of educational mobility of entrants to higher education institutions.

For several years, the Russian government has been implementing higher education reforms, one of the goals of which is to increase access to higher education for different groups of the population. One of the reform's main components involves changing the rules of admission, namely introducing the Unified State Exam (USE). The USE was supposed to increase opportunities for students across the country, particularly by expanding the range of universities that are available to them and match their preferences. The USE has been mandatory since 2009. Under the new rules for admission, students do not need to take exams at each institution to which they apply. Now every student can pass the major exam in his/her city, and then send their results to multiple universities. That is why it would be logical to assume that the reduction of barriers to university access would be accompanied by changes in student behavior patterns associated with additional training for entry. The universities’ own courses for matriculates and private classes with tutors were relevant prior to the introduction of the Unified State Exam, when universities offered their own entrance tests. But after the USE's introduction, the need for such training may decrease, because the USE is a standardized exam; it is the same for all school graduates. Therefore, preparation for the exam is probably shifting from private lessons to school and self-study, because training materials are available on the internet and in bookstores. Nevertheless, a large percentage of students are still attending university preparatory courses and private lessons. A study on the impact of additional training has showed that only courses can improve exam scores in all subjects, but the real increase in points is small: on average, those who attend extra classes in courses gain 3 points over peers not involved in courses. Furthermore, it was shown that family factors, such as income and parental education, as well as training in specialized schools, contribute significantly to final results on the USE.

In addition, this section describes the basic theories explaining student mobility: the theory of consumption, investment theory, and correspondence theory. We have identified the variables that can affect student behavior: the entrant's personal characteristics, the migratory behavior of his/her relatives and friends, the characteristics of the educational market in a region, and the level of development and geographical characteristics of a region. Russian data (from a survey of university executives) showed that since the USE was introduced, the mobility of matriculates between regions has not changed. At the same time, the students who relocate or do not relocate, differ significantly. The mobility of matriculates is connected to the results they achieve on the USE in Russian and mathematics, the level of their family's welfare, and the behavior of those within their inner circle.

The report also presents the results of developing methodology and research tools for the study of support for talented children.


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