Institute of Education

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2018 CHER International Higher Education Conference: Firsthand Impressions from IOE Experts

As the 2018 CHER International Higher Education Conference was underway at HSE Moscow during August 30 – September 1, we approached several IOE experts in between the forum sessions to ask about the most interesting topics and areas on the Conference agenda.    

Ekaterina Shibanova, analyst at the IOE University Development Lab, student in IOE’s Measurements in Psychology & Education MA:  

As part of this year’s CHER event, I was privileged to deliver a talk on the efficiency analysis of Russia’s ‘5–100 National Academic Excellence Project’ in a special session exploring various issues of higher education competitiveness. An important question that the session participants brought up following my research presentation is whether it would be possible to expand the study framework to see if the ‘5–100 Project’ has had any influence stretching beyond the participant universities proper and the control group to impact the entire Russian university system.

A study presented by our colleagues from St. Petersburg European University also deserves a special mention. By offering a cluster analysis of the national higher education system, their project sets itself apart as a very interesting attempt to gain insights into how universities are stratified based on state-run HEI performance assessments and how this stratification is correlated with the historical division into engineering, medical and comprehensive universities.       

Another interesting talk to be noted was concerned with the role and mechanisms of global HE rankings, such as Times, QS, etc. The author argues that the discussion on HE rankings and raters has so far been too cursory and superficial to provide a compelling holistic picture of how this realm works. Accordingly, the author claims, it is vital to delve way deeper into various linkages and relationships among different actors that international HE rankings involve, including publishers, individual experts and academics themselves.

The Conference presentation that I liked best was made by a colleague from Germany’s University of Bielefeld and centered upon the conceptual framework in global HE competition, which is discussed by the author as a three-dimensional phenomenon. The first dimension relates to competition as institutional pressures that affect every single stakeholder in the realm of higher education. The second dimension analyzes competition as a social construct. Here the author distinguishes between the dyadic and triadic competition, where the former is HEI rivalry for a finite resource whereas the latter is about universities competing to win favor of a third actor (by the way, HE rankings are a particular example of triadic competition). The last dimension is the organizational level, and here, as the author claims, there can in fact be observed no competition proper at all since, for example, the reputation that HEIs compete for is a sort of infinite resource and all universities can potentially achieve academic excellence and strong reputation. The author concludes it is yet to be more comprehensively understood how these three dimensions of HE competition are interrelated through empirical research.       

Stanislav Avdeev, student in IOE’s Education Economics & Management MA, research assistant at the International Research Laboratory for Institutional Analysis of Economic Reforms:

It’s been my pleasure to volunteer at this year’s CHER global forum at the HSE University Moscow. On Day One, I was tasked with meeting Dr. Christine Musselin, who is among CHER 2018 keynotes, at the airport and as we set off on our way back to Moscow, this trip provided a great chance to talk about life and higher education research. Participating in CHER 2018 upon a special invitation from HSE Vice Rector Maria Yudkevich, Dr. Musselin is a world-renowned scholar who was at the very bedrock of creating the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers and also spent a term as CHER President. This year, Christine is moderating a CHER session on organizational transformations in higher education.

For me, CHER 2018 is an unequalled opportunity for building networks that unlock sound prospects for new academic collaborations. This is a place to meet the scholars that you would like to pursue joint research with in person and to draw up meaningful plans for future work. CHER ranks among the world’s key venues to explore multiple conceptual and applied perspectives in higher education scholarship, so this forum is definitely not to be missed out on. Now that I’m doing an Education Economics & Management MA at IOE, I look forward for CHER 2018 to render fresh insights into such domains as modern universities, students, the academic profession, etc., which are the principal academic areas that I’m interested in.     

Ksenia Romanenko, analyst at the IOE University Development Lab

Alongside a host of other invigorating discussions, CHER 2018 has featured presentations of two newly released volumes where IOE experts have contributed their major stakes. The first book, co-authored by Isak Froumin and Oleg Leshukov, provides novelty perspectives on similarities and differences across higher education landscapes in federal nations. Dr. Martin Carnoy, Academic Supervisor at the IOE International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis, joined us online to take part in the book presentation.

The second volume addresses developments in higher education scholarship in Asia. A book of meta-reflections, it explores how this interdisciplinary research realm has been evolving in Asian countries from multiple standpoints of both national and global agendas. A region with its marked identity and ambition in higher education, Asia has recently piqued more and more interest in terms various HE research perspectives. Interestingly, many of the challenges and issues that confront Asian higher education research also closely resonate with Russian and post-Soviet state agendas. Thus, for example, one common roadblock to overcome has been low interest to local research outputs from the global community: “While we’ve been working hard to produce high-quality papers in English and to get them published in reputable journals, there are still only very few international peers interested in them. However, it only took the world-renowned authority, Dr. Simon Marginson of UCL to give a quick media spotlight on what we’ve done for higher education research in Japan to almost immediately receive overwhelming attention on the part of our global colleagues,” CHER 2018 participants from Japan have commented.