The 1st International Conference on Initiatives of Academic Excellence
The first International Conference on Excellence Initiatives took place in St. Petersburg from June 30 to July 2. It was organized by Russian Academic Excellence Project 5-100, with its participants coming from 11 countries. Among them there were experts from the Russian Ministry of Education and the Project 5-100, as well as from the agencies responsible for the implementation of similar initiatives in Germany, France, Japan and Canada, the leaders of the International Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence of IREG, heads and representatives of Russian and foreign universities. Academic advisor of the HSE Institute of Education Isak Froumin and Institute’s junior research fellow Mikhail Lisyutkin were among the speakers at the conference.
According to the idea of “excellence initiatives”, special universities get additional financial support of the government to compete in the global market. Such initiative in Russia is called Project 5-100, and it supposes that by year 2020 at least 5 national universities should be on the list of the top 100 world rankings.
The Program Committee of the conference was headed by Andrey Volkov, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Project 5-100, and Jamil Salmi, an internationally acclaimed expert on education, former head of the World Bank program on higher education. According to Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation Alexander Povalko, the goal of the conference was to speak on the existing approaches to the implementation of such initiatives in a most straightforward and comprehensive way.
At the conference, the participants discussed essential issues related to the field of academic excellence, such as management models and the role of the state, methods of assessing the effectiveness and distribution of the funding between universities.
“What is the initiative of academic excellence? It is the government's decision to provide, as a rule, several universities with more funds than it is conventional. By granting these additional resources, you give them the opportunity to advance at an accelerated pace,” said Jamil Salmi at the plenary session. He also paid great attention to the problems which the management of such programs face.
He was supported by Isak Froumin.
“I agree with Jamil, the management of such projects is the most interesting and complicated thing, a real intellectual challenge. Governments around the world, starting from the USA to Australia and from Ireland to South Africa, are trying to participate in forming the higher education system more actively. The state is increasingly controlling the development of universities, whereas before it were the universities who were the engines of their own development, they challenged governments. Now, we see that governments challenge universities, so that they evolve in a certain way. The academic excellence initiatives present a passage towards a model with considerable state control”.
Isak Froumin and Michael Lisyutkin presented the results of the Institute of Education research. At the conference they demonstrated how governments in many countries are trying to accelerate the development of the universities, as well as how the programs supporting international competitiveness, in their turn, affect students.
At the closing meeting all the participants shared the opinion that the conference was very useful in terms of exchange of experiences and further cooperation.