Which of 15 universities-winners in the competition to increase international competitiveness will be able to become leaders of world rankings and why is it necessary to compile the National University Rankings (NUR)? Head of the research group of NUR, Alexey Chaplygin, answered our questions.
- How do you evaluate potential of 15 universities-winners? Were you surprised by the results or they were expected?
- I was glad that 54 universities participated in the competition. However I did not understand why MGIMO and Peoples` Friendship Russian University didn`t participate in the competition. They are already included in QS Ranking so they had all chances to win.
Generally, the list of winners was expected. The majority of them were research universities. I was disappointed by the fact that Bauman University had a poor programme and failed its presentation.
What concerns federal universities I can say that victory of Ural Federal University, Volga Region Federal University and Far Eastern Federal University were deserved. The Far Eastern Federal University is considered to be supportive university in its region. They develop special programmes designed for attraction of international students and Professors from South Eastern Asia and Pacific Region. Promotion of this university in international rankings is supported by QS agency.
It is too early to expect results from other universities. But I think that by 2015 with ranking of project participants Northern (Arctic) Federal University and North-Eastern Federal University will be able to get included into ranking.
- Which of these 15 universities has real chances to hit top 100 by 2020? In which ranking will they be able to strengthen their leader positions more quickly?
- For Russian Universities it will be more real to hit top positions of QS in subject areas. 50% of evaluation in this ranking is summarized from reputational assessment in academic environment that represent expert measurements on university activities. Leader positions in this ranking will be occupied by MEPhI and MIPT as they are brand universities and it is even difficult to distinguish them. They are recognized almost the same both by international academic community and international employers. Last year MEPhI was included into top-300 of THE ranking that`s why in further surveys the academic panel experts will choose it among universities-leaders from former USSR.
I consider Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University “LETI” to be decent brand. At least, it gained good reputation not only on the territories of former USSR and Eastern Europe but in the third world as well during the last 60 years. It actively collaborated with South Eastern Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China. Tomsk universities – Tomsk State University and Tomsk Pedagogical University- during the last 10-15 have been actively promoting their brands with orientation at the “third world” and CIS countries. I think that their reputational assessments will be also rather good. Although to hit top-100 positions by 2020 will be difficult for them.
- What will prevent Russian universities from getting promoted in world rankings?
First of all, lack of publications and citations in globally peer-viewed journals. In this case it is not enough just to make a spurt. You have to conduct systematic and boring work, to prepare articles and publish them in peer-viewed journals. It is necessary to stimulate publication activity of the academic staff, their participation in international conferences and development of academic mobility. An important factor is also cooperation with international researchers, joint work and joint participation in research.
This year the government assigned 9 billion rubles for the International Competitive Growth program. What is your opinion on what these funds should be spent for?
– For stimulation of publishing activity and academic mobility development. Some higher education institutions, particularly NIU VShE, are staking on invitation of foreign professors. But besides the salary problem another question arises – the question concerning creation of high-quality conditions for these scientists staying. It is no coincidence that discussions about university campus development in Russia have recently been renewed. One needs to spend good money for their design, construction and development. I think that certain attempts to solve the problem with campuses will be made within the framework of this program.
In these latter days the ranking topic has gained great popularity. What risks do you see in such a situation that people making them are exerting too strong influence on the university development strategies?
– Today a kind of business is being formed about rankings. Of course, we are not speaking about ranking positions being sold. Successful higher education institutions are advertised thanks to rankings, the best professors and strong university entrants are attracted there. As a result, even small but active rating agencies manage to turn a useful penny. In Russia such a business is not yet doing well. Nobody wants to pay for these services.
Another kind of business is a scientific one. Thus, Shanghai University can be taken as an example. Unfortunately no Russian managed to become the first in coming to the idea of counting laureates and cited scientists and form a ranking based on these data. But in China they managed to do that. There has a scientists cooperation formed around Shanghai ranking, articles are published, monographs are issued, conferences are annually held. A part of the academic community has immersed in this problematics. Correspondingly, sponsors’ money is already sent there.
What is risky about such a passion for rankings? All of them, at least, the three most widely recognized – Times, QS and ARWU – concentrate on research, that is, research university assessment. At the expense of rankings the latter universities struggle for funds for research – that is, appropriations, contracts and grants of governmental and private programs. If a university occupies good positions in these rankings, then it can lay claim to a really huge supplementary amount of funds for research. And all that is done to counterbalance or detriment of educational activity. Professors of such universities, being top 50 or top 100 in rankings, are mainly involved in research. Education is in the second place for them. It shifts to a virtual sphere. The growing emphasis is put on distant learning technologies, while usual auditorium classes actually stall, stagnate. Of course, professors cannot tear themselves apart. Today it is more profitable for them to do research.
It is not for nothing that the European Union has launched its U-multirank project. It has suddenly felt that there was something wrong with the world rankings; it is not necessary for everybody to follow the path of the research university model implementation, we must not forget about education. The attempt to reflect the aforesaid in rankings is being made now, because decisions based on ranking results should not only ensure funds allocation for research, but also provide families with information for them to decide where to send their children to study.
This year a work on forming national university ranking was started in Russia – there were budgetary funds in the amount of 25 million roubles spent for it. What will be its principal difference from the existing rankings?
– Yes, Interfax has won this contest. Together with QS agency it must present ranking data about BRICS universities ranking by the end of the year.
Partnership with QS puts certain restrictions, that is why this ranking will be little different from the existing ones. But these restrictions, in the first place, are connected with the fact that it is very difficult to quickly collect reliable and diverse data on the activity of universities, especially about the activity carried out by higher education institutions located on the territory of the former URRS. If the project exists for at least several years, then it will be possible to build an absolutely different model of university assessment for higher education institutions located on the post-soviet space. As for BRICS countries, one should expand the QS assessment methods and procedures and enrich them someway. So far the agency hasn’t been satisfied by qualitative and quantitative characteristics of its academic panel, as well as of its recruiters and employers panel. This panel is very weakly represented in the Russian-speaking space. It is extremely difficult to motivate our academic community, and especially employers to participate in reputation measurements. There is still a hope that we’ll manage to broaden these panels using joint efforts, first of all, certainly, at the expense of presence of academic communities of Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and Baltic countries. Then the global QS ranking will acquire a new quality, and a more or less balanced expert model will be offered.
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