Russia has ambitious plans to improve its higher education, which can only be achieved by massive reforms of the entire sector. More than 130 smaller institutes have to merge or close in order to guarantee quality standards.
Next to that, the leading Russian universities will get their own master plan to make them ‘world class’. More than €200 million is reserved for this program that should make Russian universities climb the world rankings for higher education.
However, universities from the other BRIC-countries are doing a lot better. “Currently there are no Russian Universities in the top 100 of the most important university rankings. President Putin formulated the goal that before 2020 five universities have to be in the top 100 of the most authoritative rankings, like the Times Higher Education World University Ranking”, Victor Koksharov, Rector from of Ural Federal University, said. He is also the spokesman of the Russian association of universities and rectors, which organized the visit to their Dutch colleagues.
The program that can be compared to the German Excellenzinitiative is appropriately called the ‘Upgrading for world competition of Russian universities’ and will give support to fifteen selected universities.
“These universities will receive extra financial support in the coming years, but the program encompasses far more than just money. The universities will also be assisted to improve their management structures and education and research teams”, says Koksharov.
The fifteen universities will have to create conditions to attract outstanding teachers and researchers from leading Russian and foreign universities. Furthermore, the universities need to implement joint educational programs on a national and international scale. Finally they need to start collaborations in research and innovation projects with leading high-tech companies.
No easy money
“The money will not be given too easily. Universities that participate in this prestigious program have to make a detailed plan to show how they want to achieve their goals. Their plans will be assessed and monitored by a special board which is chaired by the minister of Education, Dmitry Livanov. The rest of the board includes international education experts from for example MIT and the rector of the Hong-Kong State University.”
Koksharov wants Russian universities to get more active in the field of internationalization. “There is an important international trend towards the cooperation with other universities, both nationally and internationally. In this new reality of increasing internationalization, we face challenges together.”
“Both our countries have to become world-class in order to attract the best students, teachers and researchers from around the globe. This shouldn’t be done competitively but in cooperation. We should in the future be able to exchange our best students, teachers and researchers.”
New international focus
This new focus on international cooperation is new in Russian Higher Education. “In Russia, universities work first of all on a regional scale, they are the drivers of innovation in their regions. People from outside Russia have to keep in mind that regions in Russia are a lot bigger than in other countries, both in area and population.”
Koksharov: “Each region in Russia has its own specialization. The Ural, the region in which my university is located, is very big in oil and gas, mining and heavy industry. Those are also the fields in which the university specializes since it is very important to cooperate closely with the most important regional industries. These collaborations are the best way to boost the world-competitiveness of the region.”
“I was very impressed by the regional strategy of some of the Dutch universities; the University of Maastricht and the Technological University of Twente play an important role in their region and on top of that they have very strong mission to strengthen their regional economy with an international outlook. I completely agree with their vision that you have to try to become excellent on the regional scale first, because that is what will make you great on the international level in the long run.”