HSE Centre of Sociology of Higher Education has analyzed how HSE students' values change during the course of their studies.
The analysis has been carried out as part of the pilot wave of the longitudinal study ‘Trajectories and experience of students of Russian universities’ between 2014 and 2019. Ten leading Russian universities are taking part in the study, which is being carried out in several stages and lasts five years.
The study involves 283 students specializing in both traditional HSE areas such as economics, sociology, psychology, and relatively new ones such as software engineering.
Students answered questions from the Schwartz Value Survey at different times: in the first two weeks of their first year of studies and at the end of the third year.
The study measured the expression of seven types of values: security, conformity and dependence on the opinions of others, independence and creativity, stimulation (risk and search for new things), the hedonism (pursuit of pleasure), personal achievements and self-enhancement (personal development) and care for other people and the environment.
According to the survey, by the third year of studies students of HSE differ from their peers in five value indices:
It is notable that the index of independence, creativity and social responsibility of HSE students and other young people of the same age group was the same at the beginning of studies.
The researchers found that the values of HSE students were not dependent on gender, form of education (fee-paying or state-funded) and place of residence (dormitory, parents’ house, own flat)
‘Senior students depend less on other people's opinion, it is more important for them to create something new and to deal with a problem creatively, as well as to do what they like,’ said Igor Chirikov, Academic Supervisor of the HSE Centre of Sociology of Higher Education, discussing the results of the study. ‘They are more likely to attract attention and less likely to act in a traditional way.’
To compare the value hierarchy of HSE students with wider Russian youth the researchers used data from the Russian section of the international study ‘European Social Survey’, in which respondents were asked the same questions.
Now the Centre is conducting a second wave of research, which includes a larger number of students and is spread across more study areas. This will help to check the reliability of the results on different groups of students.
Academic Supervisor of the HSE Centre of Sociology of Higher Education
Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough reliable data to talk about the factors that contribute to developing certain values of HSE students. We can only speculate on this topic. I see at least four groups of factors that could influence the dynamics of HSE students' values.
The first thing is the selection of students with initially different characteristics. HSE has a unique position in the higher education market as a kind of advanced university, free from corruption and nepotism, where it is difficult to study. I think this affects the kind of students joining the university; family background and individual characteristics are important in this situation.
The second one is the system of values that formed at the university and is introduced in the Declaration of Values. Although I think that many students are not aware of this document, the principles outlined in it are quite often transmitted to the students.
The third group includes different elements of the educational process, extracurricular life and interaction among students.
The most talented representatives of their generation come to HSE, and the mere presence of smart and ambitious people can cause peer effects and development of certain values associated with the desire for success and new experiences.
An appropriate educational environment (modular system, elective courses, project work) also helps to cultivate independence instead of relying on traditional behaviour. I should note that HSE provides a good platform for student projects via student organisations and initiatives that are actively supported by the institution.
The fourth group represents the wider environment of a large metropolis and labour market, which also has its own patterns of behaviour. I think that the increase in the value of hedonism may well be caused by students arriving in Moscow from smaller towns, but this hypothesis needs further verification.