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Changes in Store for HSE’s Faculties of Law and Humanities

The Academic Council has approved changes to the Faculties’ structure

© Daniil Prokofiev

On June 26, members of the HSE Academic Council approved changes concerning the internal structuring of the faculties of Law and Humanities.

In the Faculty of Law, a number of structural units will be closed, and new academic institutes, laboratories, and centres will be created in the Faculty’s priority areas of study for further development. In addition, a few already-existing institutes will be incorporated into the Faculty—namely, the HSE – Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development, the Institute of Administrative Law and Enforcement, and the Institute for Law in the Digital Environment.

In the Faculty of Humanities, departments have been merged to form larger schools. The School of Philosophy and the School of Cultural Studies have been merged into the School of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, while the Faculty’s two philological departments have been merged into a single School of Philology.

The new 2030 HSE Development Plan envisages the creation of large project- and research-unit-based networks that bring faculty members together based on their research agendas. These networks will replace current departments and schools, which have been engaged exclusively in personnel development and have lacked the resources to develop larger projects. Last fall, the Academic Council agreed that three faculties would be restructured in 2020, and the rest of the University’s faculties would be restructured in 2021-2023.

© Daniil Prokofiev

Over the course of the restructuring, teaching staff will be reduced, and new salary rates will be introduced for research employees. With the introduction of a standardized contract for HSE research and teaching staff, research staff will be required to teach, while teaching staff will be required to conduct research.

In addition, the Faculty of Humanities will begin adjusting teachers’ salary rates in accordance with their class sizes—a practice that is standard in other faculties at HSE. The teaching load that History and Philosophy faculty members have in other HSE faculties will also be reduced.

This past year, researchers of the Faculty of Humanities collectively submitted more than 30 new research group proposals. The most promising of them have been identified, and the winners have been announced. However, in July, the dean’s office and the university administration will continue the task of fine tuning the projects. Based on the output of the selected research and project groups, the possibility of converting the most successful ones into separate research- and project-based units (institutes, centres, or laboratories) will be considered in the coming 2020-21 academic year.

‘Projects that receive support at the first stage of the review process will receive RSG (Research and Study Group) status or PSG (Project and Study Group) status, and, if applicable, the initial installment of their funding award,’ says HSE First Vice Rector Leonid Gokhberg. ‘The criteria that the review committee considers when evaluating a research or project group are simple: the project topic’s potential significance for Russia, the academic profiles of the project authors, the feasibility of assembling a large team, the involvement of external partners (or in the case of applied projects, a client), and the number of students involved in the project. HSE is a state university, and our areas of research are determined by the priority areas of academic and technological development laid out in Russia’s Science and Technology Development Strategy.’

Based on the decision of the Academic Council, HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov, within the purview of his authority, decided to close the faculties’ previously reorganized structural units. ‘The version of the proposal that we initially considered was based on the assumption that we would immediately determine who will be invited to join the new structures and who will not. After consulting with deans and heads of the new structural units, as well as speaking with a number of employees, I came to the conclusion that an additional period of time would be needed for leaders to make these decisions—maybe two-three weeks, maybe a month. And colleagues from the reformed structures should be given an additional chance to propose and justify new projects,’ he said.

‘The structural changes that are being implemented in the Faculty of Law accord with the objectives of the HSE Development Programme,’ says Vadim Vinogradov, Dean of the Faculty of Law. ‘The reform will be based on the Faculty’s Development Plan, which we discussed with the teaching staff in June. At the same time, in addition to educational tasks, we are faced with scholarly ones: we need to ensure that the Faculty has the proper resources to foster the development of research projects as well as inter-departmental research project groups. This summer, all necessary documents will be finalized and classes will begin as usual in September.'

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HSE University is beginning to implement its 2030 Development Programme. The first steps to achieving the new goals include major structural changes to the university’s faculties. HSE First Vice Rector Vadim Radaev spoke about the immediate plans that will be implemented in order to transform HSE.

Mikhail Boitsov, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, told HSE University Life about the changes that are in store for the Faculty of Humanities.

Mikhail Boytsov
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities

Why are these upcoming changes to the Faculty of Humanities necessary?

– The 2030 HSE Development Programme aims to significantly strengthen the project-based activity of academic staff and potentially make HSE the first project-based university. Moving in this direction is a difficult and largely experimental undertaking, which involves changes that are much more serious than you might think upon first reading this part of the Programme.

We cannot rule out the possibility that becoming a project-based university at some point might significantly weaken or even lead to the elimination of the structural system of schools and departments that is so familiar us, as well as our institutes, centres, and laboratories. It is not hard to imagine project-based groups—whose members will conduct research, teach, and carry out project work simultaneously—becoming the university’s main structural loci. 

So far, we are seeing how these changes have resulted in a dramatic structural reorganization of the Faculty of Law, which was first in line to transition to project-oriented activity.

The Faculty of Humanities is second in line, and it looks like the changes will be no less dramatic than they were for our colleagues in law. Moreover, the transformation will not be limited to the changes proposed this summer.

One of the major changes at the Faculty of Humanities concerns the School of Philosophy and the School of Cultural Studies, which are being brought back together as the School of Philosophy and Cultural Studies. Why was it decided to merge the two schools

– When the Faculty of Humanities was created five years ago, the former Faculty of Philosophy was divided into the School of Philosophy and the School of Cultural Studies. So, the two schools are no strangers to each other.

At that time, it was important to bolster the field of cultural studies at HSE—to institutionalize it in its own right and to put it on equal footing with traditional disciplines such as philosophy, philology, linguistics, and history.

Now, no one doubts the importance of cultural studies for HSE University and no one would think of marginalizing it. At the same time, it is evident that in cultural studies at HSE, there are have emerged, three faces, so to speak. One is project-based research, the second is teaching, and the third is cultural theory. Now, it seems, the first of these faces has become so significant that it may well claim its own institutional existence. The question is, however, where? In which institution?

In the second face, a certain lack of rigor has been detected—that is, it needs more fundamental theoretical education. Reuniting with the School of Philosophy should quickly rectify this issue.

As for the remaining third face—it is, in essence, none other than the face of the philosopher.

In June, the Faculty of Humanities concluded its first proposal competition for project groups. Why was it decided to put out a call for proposals this year? How will it affect the Faculty?

– The idea to invite proposals was directly linked to our decision to embrace a project-based course of development. On the one hand, when we conducted an inventory of the projects that had been carried out in one form or another in the Faculty, we were all surprised not only by their heterogeneity, but above all by their sheer number.

On the other hand, in this multiplicity and diversity, it was hard to make out the contours of the system that was supposed to be providing a framework. It was then that we proposed holding a grant proposal competition using funds allocated by the Faculty for the development of project activity.

The aim of the competition was to identify active colleagues who were ready to take on the task of not only organizing groups of associates, but of developing robust areas of research that would lead, preferably, to the formation of solid project teams consisting of lecturers and professors.

It is true that employees of institutes, centres and laboratories are already engaged in project work. But many teaching staff members are not included in these projects.

July 01, 2020