2ndInternational Summer School on higher education research was held from June 8 to June 14, 2014 in Pushkin, St. Petersburg. Among the participants there were five international professors and twenty early career researchers from Russia, Europe and China. The program of Summer School included various disciplinary approaches to higher education research and conducted not only analyses of the current situations in higher education, educational and institutional policies, but also discussions to understand why these situations have taken place, what are the rationales and approaches of the modern reform and institutional transformations. That is why the program focused on the major concepts that define the contemporary development of higher education.
First presentations of the Summer school participants took place later on that day. The first three focused on post-socialist transformations in higher education: Sanja Petkovska (University of Ghent/ University of Belgrade) gave a talk on conceptualization of public and private in post-socialist knowledge structures, Galina Gurova (University of Oulu) presented a study in which a Russian training program for top higher education administrators was analysed through the prism of NPM (new public management), Dmitry Semyonov (HSE) discussed the project on the institutional differentiation in higher education in Post-Soviet countries. Also, Taru Siekkinen (University of Jyvaskyla) presented her dissertation study on research carriers at Finnish universities.
At the end of the day the participants of the Summer School were divided into four groups and received group tasks. Each group was expected to answer a question which is related to the theme of the Summer School: who are the students in higher education today, what their roles are and how their roles have been changing. The groups should develop and present their group perspectives on the topic on the last day of the Summer School.
The formal program of each five days finished by an evening session, where, in the informal setting, the professors of the Summer School shared their experiences of research and publications. All of them tried to address the issue of how an interesting research idea emerges, how an idea evolves from personal and professional experiences of a person, who develops it, which efforts are required to get it published. It is also important how those theoretical, conceptual, research matters are related to their implementation in educational policy, to which extent a research should be and can be value free, what will be the risks (like in educational research) when these research ideas will be implemented in this or another way. During the sessions the professors also discussed the issues of professional and disciplinary identity, the balancing between the main discipline (economics, sociology, history, etc.) and higher education as a field of research, because that determines the membership in professional associations, publications in certain journals, participation in certain conferences etc. They also talked about which themes are most interesting today in leading journals in interdisciplinary studies of higher education.
On the third day the participants again approached economic and socio-economic perspectives on higher education. Pedro Teixeira gave an overview of one of the key economic theories which had an enormous impact not only on the development of higher education, but also on the entire socio-economic development in the world: a human capital theory and economic return on education. This concept was an attempt to employ economic perspective to explain human behaviour beyond areas which economics traditionally examine. Human capital (a stock of skills, knowledge, and expertise accumulated by a worker) and its development involve individual investments to maximise benefits. Individuals and societies spend resources in human capital not only due to consumption but also to investment motivations; education becomes individual and social investment. Costs and benefits are considered in two dimensions: individual – social, pecuniary – non-monetary. Research on the links between education and earnings show that education generates an earning differential which increases with age (using OECD data). Significant difference is maintained between non-completed and completed level of education, and across countries. In some countries, e.g. in Portugal, there is an erosion of premiums on higher education for graduates as a whole, as well as for graduates of different types (Licenciatura and bachelor’s degrees). Gender inequalities, income group inequalities are persistent. Hence, the relationships between education and earning are much more complex than human capital theory states. The explanation of relationships between higher education and labour market can be sought beyond that theory, in other social concepts such as segmentation of labour market, screening function of education, social capital, social reproduction, individual abilities, non-cognitive abilities, etc.
The topic of the seminar by Rajani Naidoo was consumerism in education and a concept of a student as consumer. Neoliberal turn in education has started in 1980s, when the ideas developed by economists of the 1960s (of which P. Teixeira has talked about) started to be implemented in policy-making. Individuals and their individual responsibility became a priority, while an idea of a society and collective good was largely neglected. Market and state were counterposed to each other: government establishes conditions for quasi-market of higher education, while market competition and market-oriented behaviour help attain political goals. It ascribes to a student a role of a consumer at the higher education market. Mechanisms of consumerism were widely introduced in UK. Among them there are publication of information on universities and courses in the public domain, measuring university performance against performance indicators, league tables and rankings, opportunities for students for complaints and redress (including ombudsman), using student satisfaction survey (NSS) for evaluation of university performance, student charters as contracts between students and university about mutual responsibilities. Consumers, as it was declared, could become a modernising force for higher education as they can demand for higher quality of program and courses relevant to the labour market needs; market competition will erode elitism of traditional universities to result in greater social equity. However, consumerism restructures pedagogical relationships so that to comply with market via reconceptualisation of education as commercial service, restructurisation of student-faculty relationships as those between service consumers and providers, disaggregating their commonalities of interests and investing each party with distinct, sometimes opposing interests.
That policy resulted in a formation of a new model of a “good” student – as the one who maximises benefits, but no longer the one who challenges and takes risks, which contributes to the instrumentality of education; education becoming a “product”, not a process. A new model of a professor is also being formed: working on a temporary contract, looking for security, not looking for innovative teaching. Education has borrowed consumerism from business, but for business that model is outdated (they do not talk about consumers, but about those who both produces and consumes – prosumers), but education keeps reproducing an outdated model.
The program continued with the presentation of the Summer School participants: there were three economic and four sociological works. Po Yang from Peking University discussed a consumerist shift among Chinese students choosing their major; Pavel Derkachev (HSE) presented a new collective project which employing a new method of analysis of semantic field allows to forecast a demand for new professions and occupation and, as a result, might help government to plan a number of publicly subsidised places in higher education; Victor Rudakov (HSE) provided an overview of the results of the study of student employment based on results of a national student survey. Next four participants also worked on the studies of studentship: Ivan Gruzdev (HSE) presented an analysis of the links between social ties of students and their academic achievements using social network analysis method; Daniil Kozlov (HSE) discussed a project employing the method of pattern analysis to the analysis of student academic heterogeneity; Natalia Maloshonok (HSE) highlighted the results of the study on students’ opinions about academic cheating and plagiarism; Berta Terzieva (Vienna University of Economics and Business) contributed to the discussion by presenting a research on the issues of student mobility in Europe.
Wednesday has started with the introduction of historical perspective on the development of higher education, universities and students. Jussi Välimaa discussed several ideal types (in Weberian sense) of universities which can be identified throughout of history. European universities are unique European innovation, a place of many tensions which enabled universities to grow and develop. First universities in Paris and Bologna have never been established; they evolved organically as a place of teaching and learning. European universities are based on a few fundamental beliefs and values. First, it is a belief in the dignity of man capable of impressive intellectual and spiritual growth (which is education); the belief in an ordered universe open to rational understanding (which makes research possible); the belief in the prospect of man’s mastery of his environment through his intellect and mounting knowledge and experience (and thus, utility). Besides, among basic values there is a culture in which questioning and analytical approach to both classical and contemporary material was encouraged (that is critical thinking), publicity of research & open debates, equality and quality of scholars. Since 18th century two major ideal models of universities have been developed in Europe – French/Napoleonic and Humboldtian; recently new models of entrepreneurial university (normative model) and world class university model (idealised model of American research university) have emerged. The Humboldtian model was rather a myth, which, however, influenced the formation of research universities in the US and national higher education system in Japan.
Manja Klemenčič addressed the conceptualisation of student engagement – a basic concept which can be used in the studentship research. She started with the concept of human agency which can be treated in different ways: as the capacity for autonomous social action; as the capacity of actors to critically shape their own responsiveness to problematic situations; as a temporally embedded process of social engagement, informed by the, but also oriented toward the future (as a capacity to imagine alternative possibilities) and toward the present (as a capacity to contextualize past habits and future projects within the contingencies of the moment), etc. The notion of human agency can be traced back to the ideas of individual freedom by J.Lock and J.-J.Rousseau and was further developed in the works of other scholars. Having considered existing approaches, M. Klemenčič suggests the following definition of students agency as a process of social engagement during studentship, which is shaped through variable notions of agentic possibility (“power”) and agentic orientation (“will”); temporally embedded (shaped through considerations of past habits of mind and action, present judgments of alternative trajectories of action and future projections of action), relational and social, and embedded in particular structural, cultural and socio-economic-political context of action. At the empirical level of studies, student agency is shaped/constrained by a number of factors: class, race, religion, gender, cultural capital, socialisation, institutions/structures, emotions. Roles of students are multiple and changing depending on the social context (class, extra-curricular activity on campus, work and activity outside campus etc.): learners, teachers, mentors, tutors, producers of knowledge, workers, members of academic community, activists, citizens, etc.). There is a number of quantitative surveys measuring student engagement, however all of them have certain limitations, that is why it is important to employ qualitative and mixed-methods to complement quantitative research on studentship and student engagement.
On the fourth day Jussi Välimaa discussed cultural perspective in higher education research. Culture is one of the organising principles in academia, it is a horizontal aspect of its internal differentiation, while organisation is a vertical principle of differentiation. Cultural differences in academia can be found across disciplines, professions, institution and society/nation. The differences can be traced back to two philosophical traditions in Western science: humanist tradition—interested in oral, particular, local, timely knowledge, and thus, in the complexity and diversity; and rational tradition (from Descartes)—interested in timeless principles and permanent structures, hence, in universal laws, general and abstract ideas and principles. Both traditions are supported and maintained by different disciplines and methods. The differences among disciplines are largely dependent upon the nature of the problem which leads to the fundamental differences in publication practices, ways of working, careers. Institutional culture can be captured by institutional memory, institutional sagas (collective stories), institutional identity. Professional culture in American tradition is more related to the institute and discipline, while in European tradition with the counterposing professors vs other social groups. In higher education research it is important to take into account all the multiplicity of the cultures in the academia: values, norms, models vary at the national institutional, departamental and individual levels.
It was also a last day for the Summer School participants’ presentations. The first session was focused on the idea of life-long learning (LLL) and online education, in particular, MOOCs. Natalie Nestorowicz (University of Tampere/MARIHE Erasmus Mundus program) made an analysis of the development of LLL education at the University of Vienna; Mikhail Balyasin (master’s student of the same program) talked about the project measuring success of MOOCs participants; Alexandra Kuvaeva, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, gave an overview of a large-scale project dealing with the expansion of MOOCs in Russia; Tatiana Semenova (HSE) presented the results of the study of the motivations of students taking economics courses by HSE at Coursera. In the next session, Elza Dyachkova presented a study of universities endowments and their role in the development of universities; institutional diversification of Russian HEIs was a focus of the study by Daria Platonova (HSE); Natalia Isaeva (HSE) discussed her dissertation research dealing with the analysis of simulation games in higher education; Igor Chirikov (HSE) presented a study being done together with Natalia Maloshonok on the institutional and disciplinary factors affecting student engagement.
The last day also extended Europe-centric perspective on the world towards the changes in higher education in other national contexts. Po Yang gave a talk on the development of higher education in China. Chinese higher education has greatly expanded over last fifteen years, in terms of both HEIs and number of students. However, striking regional and institutional differences and disparities accompanied that growth. P. Yang noted that main challenges for China today is the transition from “supernatural development” to “regular” development, when the fast increase in the number of students and institutions will be over, when major mergers and consolidation will be completed, when large earmarked grants will be finished. Then it will be essential to understand how to shift from quantitative expansion to quality enhancement, from teaching-centered to student-centered approach, from government supervision to third-party evaluation. To a significant extent, that transition will be inevitable due to a number of factors: demographic situation of the shrinking cohort of potential students, growing number of students going to study abroad, technological transformation (such as MOOCs), changes in standards of educational quality (introduction of international standards in engineering programs, using student engagement and development surveys for evaluation of teaching and learning, graduates surveys to estimate employability and quality of employment).
Finally, four groups presented their projects on which they worked over the week. The program of the Summer School was very intense, so it was expected that group projects would be rather a brain storm exercise which would help develop new ideas and perspectives on the changing role of the students than substantial research projects. In almost all groups the main argument focused on changing the traditional role of students; some even refused to give a definition to this term, because students are no longer a special social group due to the current social and technological transformations (studentship was called as simulacra, university as a state of mind). Nevertheless, the discussion was interesting and stimulating for all the participants for further development in their positions regarding this issue. The victory was given to a group that provided the most comprehensive analysis of the changes of the multiple roles of students: as consumers, stakeholders, tourists and other models.
The Summer School program included three excursions: around the historical building, a Summer School venue; water tour in St. Petersburg “White nights”; Catherine palace at Tsarskoe selo. The Summer School concluded with the final exchange of participants’ and faculty ’s experiences, certificates, hand-outs and a final reception.
Feedback from the faculty and participants
Summer school 2014 Materials
Reportage on the Summer School 2013 you can see here.