Evgeniy Terentev has been appointed Director of the HSE Institute of Education. HSE Life talked with the new head of the institute about his plans in the new position and about innovations in education.
Evgeniy Terentev graduated from the HSE Faculty of Sociology and has been working at the university since 2012. He defended his PhD thesis in 2016 and has a number of publications in international peer-reviewed scientific journals. His research interests include the sociology of education and the methodology of online research.
— Having just taken over, how do you see the development of the Institute of Education?
— Two years ago, the Institute of Education and an invited strategic committee conducted an audit of our activities and created a new development strategy. The strategy covers three main tasks. The first is to implement advanced research in the field of education on global frontiers in this field. The second is to train top staff for the education system. This task correlates with the implementation of our degree programmes, which cover different levels of education and train both education managers and practitioners. And the third task is related to the promotion of ‘smart solutions’ in the field of education. These include best practices, creating degree programmes, teaching, education management, and so on—everything that can help our university and the Russian system of higher education as a whole to move in the right direction.
We have a large and absolutely amazing team, and together we can continue along this path and solve the new tasks we face.
The tasks are determined by the high level of competencies in the team: in recent years, we have strengthened our research potential, and we can see the results: this year, we entered the top 100 world rankings in education for the first time. We plan to further strengthen our positions by recruiting new young staff, including our master’s and doctoral students.
— Which projects at the Institute of Education would you say are strategic now?
— I would start with the Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Center. This is a large-scale project that we are implementing together with our colleagues from a number of Russian academic institutions. The centre conducts hundreds of studies, contributes to the international agenda, and is well-represented at world conferences, etc.
In addition, we have a series of comprehensive research areas that complement and expand the activities of the Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Center. There are three main areas: the first examines inequality in the education system and the factors that help to overcome it. The second focuses on the study of universal competencies, new literacies and new educational results, which are especially in demand in the modern world.
Within this field, we also study critical thinking, creativity, financial literacy, digital literacy, and more. We are trying to develop methodological approaches and specific models that will allow us to assess individual progress in the development of these qualities and skills.
And the third major area concerns the study of agency and human independence in the modern world. We analyze barriers and how to stimulate the development of agency, how we can assess the effects of agency in a person's trajectory both at the individual and social levels. In terms of important projects that deserve attention, I would also highlight the so-called ‘social impact projects.’
In 2019, we launched the first project with the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), which was aimed at comprehensively improving the educational results of schoolchildren. We have conducted studies analyzing the problems faced by the school education system. We offered solutions to these problems, and conducted training programmes for teachers and managers of the education system. The project pursues a global goal: to develop the education system in a particular region and improve the achievements of schoolchildren. We are currently discussing a similar project with Kamchatka, and we hope that in the future, this concept of social impact projects at the regional level will be actively developed.
— What new areas of work are you planning to focus on?
— We are not just planning, but already launching a major new interdisciplinary project called ‘Human success and independence in a changing world.’ It is a multidimensional study of the factors that influence the sustainment of human independence in the face of changes in socio-economic reality. We are cooperating with sociologists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, managers, and economists to develop solutions aimed at supporting people and studying how different institutions of human development, formal and informal, can contribute to strengthening individuals in conditions of uncertainty.
Our goal is to offer tools to enhance a person's individual success. These are not only educational tools, but also technological and economic solutions.
We also want to create a large centre at the institute to study the transformation of education systems in the post-Soviet space. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR, and it is very important to reflect appropriately on the paths different countries have taken and which models have been effective and not so effective. We want to create a large group that will analyze and design further changes at different levels of education. In fact, we already have a group that studies the transformation of national systems at the school and continuing education levels, and we want to develop this project.
As for actual educational practices, we strive to become an expert and methodological centre that will help improve teaching and learning at HSE University. Yes, we are still a Russian research and educational centre, but we want to strengthen integration with HSE University and put our research and development into real practice—to become the HSE Development Institute. This is normal practice around the world: educational institutions established at universities become an important resource for the development and improvement of processes within these universities.
With this message, we are launching a large project on education design in distance and blended learning. We are working in cooperation with the world's leading experts. In particular, we are currently discussing the creation of an international laboratory for education design supervised by Professor Jeroen van Merrienboer from Maastricht University. We plan to use educational analytics data from digital learning environments to redesign courses, and this is an absolutely revolutionary area—little research has been done in this area, but it is certainly promising. The expert and methodological centre for education design, which aims to develop and implement research solutions for education design at HSE University, will be a satellite of this programme.
We launched a similar project with Tomsk State University and a group of 14 leading universities to study the quality of higher education during the pandemic, as well as to design solutions to improve the quality of higher education after the pandemic. This is a large project that we have been implementing for two years and will keep on developing.
— The Institute of Education has announced a new doctoral programme for managers in education. What tasks does this programme aim to solve?
— The programme will increase the practical significance of the research that we and our partners conduct and help bring it to a general audience.
Traditionally, graduate school theses are dedicated to fundamental scientific discoveries and are not always easily transferred to practice. At the same time, there are many researchers in education who have excellent know-how and awareness of developments in management models and teaching. The programme aims to help managers and practitioners in the education system to arrange their developments according to academic canons.
— At the end of 2020, the International Observatory for the Transformation of Higher Education was created by IOE and Polytechnic University of Milan. Tell us about the interim results of the project and how it will develop.
— The Observatory is a global expert platform for discussing the higher education system in the context of the pandemic and, most importantly, how it needs to be transformed afterwards. During the pandemic, all basic social processes essentially crashed. Now, social and public life is reassembling, which has a major impact on educational processes.
First of all, we want to form a global network of researchers and experts in the field of education to observe these changes together, as if through a telescope, and to determine trends and promising solutions. A global view is really important, because there are different contexts in different countries and regions, and these processes can bring different results in different contexts. In order to see the global picture, we need the participation of many people, observers who can then discuss what they see. Collectively, we can come up with ideas of how to work with the situation, discuss the effects we see, and consider how we can better design the education system so that it adequately responds to the challenges that it faces.
— This year, HSE University made the top 150 of THE subject ranking in education. What comes next?
—This is indeed a great achievement. We were already in the top 100 of the QS ranking, and now we are in the top 150. If you look at the QS ranking for European countries, we are in the top 20, and surpass all other countries in the post-Soviet space by this indicator. I would emphasize the personal contribution made by Isak Froumin to this result, as well as that of the entire staff of the Institute of Education, other HSE departments, and HSE University as a whole.
I think our task is to consolidate our leading position in Eastern Europe. As for the rankings themselves, it’s a rather complicated story. Of course, our ambitions aren’t limited to our current achievements. Given our increasing pace, we can enter both the top 50 in QS and the top 100 in General Education in the near future. But I feel that it is important not to focus only on rankings—international reputation is made up of something more. There are other forms of recognition that you also need to pay attention to: scientific publications, participation in the activities of international associations, etc.
For example, Isak Froumin is one of the few people in the history of the Russian education system to join the International Academy of Education, the most prestigious international association in our field. You can only join by invitation, and the fact that Isak was invited—that he became one of the most active members of the association—is a great achievement. Of course, we expect that after his sabbatical, Isak Froumin will continue to work with us in this field.
— HSE University has been a major part of your life—you studied here and now work here. What strengths of ours can you highlight?
— The University has always been renowned for its high quality and achievements in the organization of the educational process, interaction with students, and excellent staff. Of course, these areas should be maintained and strengthened. HSE University’s advantage was—and still is, I hope—largely due to the fact that we are not afraid to experiment. Yes, we have failures, but we have a lot of successes, and those successes go on to become role models for the entire higher education system. In the process of searching, new solutions are born.
Another important feature of HSE University, which needs to be further strengthened in my opinion, is the very strong positioning of the university as a single organism that includes teachers, students, administrative staff, and managers. There is a strong corporate identity at the university, and we can solve significant issues collectively. In particular, we have a very strong student council. There are very few universities where students are really involved in meaningful activities related to the organization of the educational process and its management.
Yet another feature is HSE University’s constant development. It started with a focus on socio-economic sciences and now covers almost all scientific fields, which creates opportunities to build powerful new interdisciplinary research teams. This interdisciplinarity, this communication between different departments and different researchers, produces breakthrough knowledge. This process involves students and creates knowledge that can be transmitted outside the university. There are great opportunities for this, including the fact that HSE won the Priority 2030 competition for supporting universities, and I have high hopes that the strategic projects highlighted in this programme will really become key points of HSE University’s global development in terms of research. This will allow us to take an even more ambitious look at how we do research, how we organize education, how we develop, and how we obtain this new and unique knowledge.