In the early 1990s, my colleagues and I clearly understood that our new country was in need of professionals who could help build a new economy, create enterprises capable of competing with the West, and develop research free from ideology. We created the Higher School of Economics to train such professionals.
HSE was conceived as a small school with several Master’s programmes that were urgently needed at the time. By the time we opened, however, we realized that we couldn’t go without an undergraduate programme: we had to teach from scratch. This was probably the moment when we began to constantly strive for better, conquer new heights, and expand our reach into new subject areas.
HSE is special because new areas of education here are not usually invented in executives’ offices; rather, they evolve organically. We sometimes see that we lack a certain competency; for example, the Graduate School of Urbanism was founded to bring together work on urban development being carried out by the faculties of sociology, public administration, and cultural studies. There are other times when strong teams of researchers in certain fields have come to us with their willingness to continue working as part of HSE; this is how the Faculty of Philosophy joined us, for example. I am proud that we have managed to build a house where scholars want to work, where they care, where they spend not only several hours of their day but are ready to argue and prove, create something new and get rid of something old. I believe this is what a university should be.
HSE, of course, is a home not only for professors, but also for students. Students have created the university’s unique atmosphere – an atmosphere of freedom, creativity, and the expectation of success. What sets HSE’s students and alumni apart is their ability to focus on results, achieve balance, and defend their interests. They don’t come to HSE merely for a degree; if they do, they won’t last long if they don’t change this initial goal once they get to know the university’s values. Rather, they come here to learn what it means to be professionals and citizens, to change life for the better – not only for themselves, but for their home, neighbourhood, city, and indeed the whole world. I am proud to congratulate HSE’s graduates on the achievements in their academic careers, to become a customer of their companies, to take part in their charity initiatives, and to celebrate their promotion in public service.
The School is still very young, and we have yet to see the first HSE student, graduate or researcher who invents something vital for humanity. We have yet to see the first Nobel laureate from HSE, the first president, or the first renowned writer. The best is yet to come, but I believe that we are well on our way.