HSE University engages in cutting-edge sociological research in a wide variety of areas, demonstrating its global competitiveness in many key fields of this discipline. For instance, the University has consistently appeared in the first places among Russian universities in global ratings (for 2019: ##51-100 in the QS rankings; ##51-75 in the Shanghai Rating, and ##151-175 in THE Rankings for Social Sciences).
Based on the existing specialities at HSE University, latest developments (e.g., newly implemented projects and databases) and research interests of its faculty, as well as with due consideration of new agenda, key areas include:
- Sociology of Education and Science - a strong theoretical practice is in place, synergy with both the Institute for Educational Studies and Laboratory for Institutional Studies is possible;
- Comparative Social Research - the International Laboratory for Comparative Social Research has developed a strong personnel and theoretical/methodological base for the comparative analysis of Russian, Eastern European and Asian societies;
- Sociology of Markets and Economic Sociology is at thecore of sociological studies at HSE University, as evidenced by relevant research and publications by the Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology, as well as several other projects and project groups;
- Urban and Environmental Studies - this field combines urban studies and economic geography, which is particularly relevant today due to the recent trends in social environment development in both Russian cities and rural areas;
- Migration and Demographic Trends in Modern Societies – this field relies on the theoretical, statistical and expert analyses carried out by the Institute of Demography, which help to identify and monitor trends in population and migration flows inside and outside of Russia;
- New Methods for Collection and Analysis of Social Data – the development of this area is driven by new opportunities opening up with the advent of Big Data and data mining technologies, in both social sciences and expert analytics;
- New Social Processes and Phenomena in a Digital Society.
In all these sub-fields, HSE University has cultivated strong ties throughout the global academic community, while also taking active part in prestigious conferences and publishing works in top-tier journals.
In the future, all of the aforementioned fields will regularly contribute to the generation of innovative outcomes, which, in turn, will be instrumental in the analysis of global processes both in modern societies writ large and specifically in today’s Russia. These analyses will also attract the interest of global academia, thereby providing scientific support for state social and economic policy in our country.
The implementation of multi- and interdisciplinary research will encourage more efficient interaction between colleagues from various Faculty of Social Sciences’ departments and other subdivisions (e.g., Faculties of Computer Science, Humanities, Communications, Media and Design, Urban and Regional Planning), as well as with the St. Petersburg regional campus, through involving their experts in appropriate research projects and centres.
The research carried out at HSE University is useful in assessing critical factors in political decision-making, particularly, readiness of Russian society to meet the challenges of the digital age, changes in the structure of human and social capital, dynamics of labour relations, socio-demographic processes and the situation of socially vulnerable groups and relevant support measures in place for them.
When making projections with respect to the specific points of growth in sociological research over the midterm (up until 2024), the following criteria must be considered:
1) interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches (working with other departments and research centres);
2) opportunities for going outside of the “transition-focused” research;
3) orientation toward practice;
4) opportunities for applying synergies with active research subdivisions;
5) opportunities for launching core degree programmes on the basis of implemented projects / embedding projects in current programmes.
The centres of excellence, now under development, should meet all, or at least two to three, of these criteria and have them embedded from the bottom up. With this in mind, the following fields might serve as centres of excellence up until 2024:
- “New Methods for Analyzing Data in the Social Sciences”, which meets the first, second, third and fifth criteria (at present, documents are being drawn up for launching the “MA in Digital Sociology of Business Organizations” programme in conjunction with the Faculty of Computer Science);
- “Methods and Technologies for Enhancing the Reliability of Collected Social Data”, which meets the second and third criteria (this centre will be implemented in conjunction with the All-Russian Centre for Studying Public Opinion); this may be adjusted to the needs of the degree programme (“MA in Applied Methods of Social Analysis of Markets” programme);
- “Inclusive Development in a Transformative Society”, which shall satisfy first, third and fifth criteria (“MA in Sociology of Business and Public Sphere” programme).
By 2030, these new fields, in combination with the development of the sociology of markets and comparative social research, will serve as key platforms for enhancing competencies among students. By the end of this period, each of these areas will see the creation or development of current international collaborations, e.g., through recruiting postdocs from top foreign centres. In addition, the development of the University’s human resources base will lean on the involvement of students (interns) and doctoral students (researchers). At least two field-specific journals shall join the first and second quartiles of key databases (owing to their transition to the open-access format and their impact factor growth). In addition, by analyzing the best practices in inclusive employment, HSE University shall implement programmes to carry out extensive or express assessments of inclusiveness in organizations (“soft inclusion index”) in the interests of government and business organizations and the non-profit sector.
Finding solutions to these wide-ranging issues requires developing academic ties with both top-ranked Russian institutions and the University’s international partners. At the global level, the existing network of partnerships now covers practically all key centres of excellence in the aforementioned fields, especially those engaged in the research of social processes and phenomena in transitional societies (e.g., partners in Europe include: King’s College London; EHESS, Paris; ZOiS, Berlin; Aleksanteri Institute, Helsinki, etc.) Further development of these and other partnerships shall be attained through the following measures:
- implementation of joint projects (under the following terms: each party shall independently secure resources for research activities);
- exchange internships for doctoral students and postdocs for the purpose of writing joint articles for high-end journals;
- joint Master’s programmes and doctoral consortiums.
Integration with Educational Processes
The development of research in Sociology will, in turn, strengthen such educational activities as:
- instruction in mathematics, e.g., collecting and analyzing data with the use of new methods, as well as developing new Master’s and CPD programmes on this basis;
- individualization of educational trajectory in order to ensure opportunities for multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary instruction for students;
- re-organization of current degree programmes in order to boost flexibility in alumni in the future job markets;
- enhancing students’ project experience: involvement in social projects, field research, analysis of real-life social processes. This can be achieved by merging degree programmes with current and new centres of excellence in research.
With these trends in mind, next-generation Master’s programmes shall be designed (with expanded project components). Concurrently, double-degree programmes with top foreign universities shall receive active development, along with creating hybrid types of educational programmes. The latter shall combine components of core degree programmes with those from CPD courses.