The HED acted as a media partner of QS WORLDWIDE, the 2nd Annual Strategic Summit for the Advancement of University Excellence in all its Forms. This QS WORLDWIDE international forum with the aspiring slogan “In search of university excellence: prospectives from Russia and emerging countries” was hosted by the RUDN University, Moscow, on May 22-23, 2018 and brought together international educators, senior academic administrators and government officials from across Russia and beyond.
QS WORLDWIDE mission is “to promote higher education in Russia and Central Asia by means of international cooperation” and “to maintain the processes that lead to worldwide recognition of the universities in Russia and Central Asia.” It was held in Moscow for the first time. The founder of the global QS university ranking, Nunzio Quacquarelli, addressed the experts, “RUDN is the most international university in Russia—it is the most appropriate place to host the QS WORLDWIDE. It is a fantastic example how to show leadership. It is determined to change the educational market in the international arena. That is all QS is about. The main goal is to foster international cooperation partnership, to build new relations in the global higher education system, to connect the best practices of different educational systems of the world, to link motivated people together to boost international mobility.”
Prof. James Stuart Pounder,
Chair of the QS Worldwide International Academic Advisory Committee
“Functions of rankings are much wider than traditional understanding of them. We influence career of young people and change their life.”
The main issue discussed at the QS WORLDWIDE is the role of rankings in the global higher education system. “Functions of rankings are much wider than traditional understanding of them. We influence career of young people and change their life,” said Prof. James Stuart Pounder, Chair of the QS WORLDWIDE International Academic Advisory Committee.
RUDN Rector Vladimir Filippov outlined the trends of internationalization relevant for leading universities, “We must clearly distinguish external and internal internationalization of the university in order to ensure active international academic, scientific, entrepreneurial activities of its academics. Each Master's line of study should have a dual-degree with the leading universities of the world. Internal internationalization of universities is of special importance. The task is facilitated by English-taught programs, primarily by Master’s and LLL courses. Among the key areas of internationalization are also networking with leading universities and inviting internationally-oriented academics and researchers as well as academic exchange.”
Prof. Vladimir Filippov,
Rector of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia
“We must clearly distinguish external and internal internationalization of the university in order to ensure active international academic, scientific, entrepreneurial activities of its academics. Each Master's line of study should have a dual-degree with the leading universities of the world. Internal internationalization of universities is of special importance.”
Mandy Mok, CEO of QS Branding & Conferences by QS Asia (Singapore), underlined strengthening the positions of Russian universities, “The most significant change in the international higher education in the last 10-15 years is the rise of Russian universities in world rankings. The perception of higher education in the world is changing and such events like a QS summit help Russian universities to connect the world, and for the world—to connect Russia.”
Experts discussed ranking significance in the assessment of universities. The key figures of these debates are Stephen Hagen, former Vice-Rector of the University of Wales in Newport (the United Kingdom); his colleague Nguyen Hoi Nghia, Vice-President of the Ho Chi Minh National University (Vietnam); Kadarsah Suryadi, Rector of Bandung Technological Institute (Indonesia); and Ara Akopyan, Management Strategy Senior Manager of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Ms. Mandy Mok,
CEO, QS Branding & Conferences by QS Asia, Singapore
“Reputation is a part of university rankings, but the perception also plays the role in many aspects of higher education, from student and faculty recruitment to information of universities collaboration, to give just a few examples. QS WORLDWIDE writes a story of emerging higher education in Russia and Central Asia. It focuses global attention on higher education in emerging countries and in Russia in particular. And this focus is an important part of changing perception. Creating global awareness of the development in Russian higher education is a crucial step.”
Prior to the discussion, a vote was taken, which showed a skeptical attitude of the audience to rankings: 41% participants did not support university rankings as an essential key performance indicator of the effectiveness of universities, while 59% were for them.
At the beginning of the debate, Stephen Hagen noted that university rankings are a real reflection of the modern world, in which consumers (in this case, education consumers) make their own choices. Students and partners are meant to be guided by the efforts made by universities in various fields of their activities. And these efforts, in turn, are reflected in the rankings. In addition, Steven Hagen noted that thanks to the ranking system in many countries, for example, Kazakhstan, China, Russia, and Brazil, reforms in higher education have been implemented, and universities have gained a certain autonomy: today not only the state, but also commercial companies participate in financing and developing educational programs.
Mr. Nunzio Quacquarelli,
CEO &Founder, Quacquarelli Symonds Limited, London, the United Kingdom
“One of the key tasks of the QS WORLDWIDE Summit is to motivate people from different education systems around the world to share their best practices. Such events allow identifying individual problems of universities and developing common approaches to their solution. QS wants to open more Russian universities for international relations.”
The key problem in assessing the performance of universities, according to Stephen Hagen, is whether the university can rank high in many categories, and whether its activities should be described by one specific metric, even complex.
Prof. Hagen’s opponent, Nguyen Hoi Nghia, Vice-President of the Vietnamese National University of Ho Chi Minh City, argued that rankings should not be used as the only source of information about the university. Any university is a unique complex organism, which has its purpose: some are more focused on research, some on teaching students. Therefore, Prof. Nghia believes that the most important thing is the mission of the university, its purpose and goal. He claimed that such prestigious rankings as QS Rankings have a negative impact on the reputation of some small universities that do not receive huge funding and focus on their local tasks. He added that rankings also take universities away from the important component of their activities—social responsibility. Instead, higher education institutions are more focused on the quantitative indicators of the rankings (scientific publications, recruitment of international students, etc.).
A compromise position was taken by the Rector of the Bandung Institute of Technology, mentioning that universities are now becoming a business, and their participation in the rankings is a means of obtaining funding. But this is only one of the tools for assessing and planning the work of the university, far from being the only one. In addition, if it was not for rankings and exchange of experience, there would not be such events as a QS Worldwide conference. Therefore, the best practice would be a regular review of the rankings system in order to make them a more objective tool for assessing the performance of universities.
Mr. Dmitrii Guzhelia,
Advisor to the Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, Russia
“QS WORLDWIDE is an injection that leads to significant changes in the system of higher education in Russia. When Russian universities began participating in international rankings, they parted with many illusions and began to find practical solutions to move forward. Students of a number of countries, for example, the EU, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and China, show a clear interest in Master's programs in Russian universities. In the first place they want to major in medicine as well as architecture, aviation, programming, etc. International students ask whether the university has English-taught programs and whether it is known in the country.”
Ara Akopyan, the only representative of business, Senior Manager of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, said that the selection of indicators for the evaluation of the university should be based on its strategy. Like in commercial companies, numerical performance indicators alone do not give a complete picture and can often look deceptive. According to the speaker, the best way to assess the performance of any large organization, including a university, is a combination of different approaches, where rankings are only one of many.
Representatives of many universities shared this position. Participants from Hungary and Jordan expressed the opinion that there is a significant difference between high ranking and high quality of education offered by the university. The economies of small countries cannot always provide their universities with the activity required by international rankings.
Among the shortcomings of the ranking system, the participants also named the composition of experts mainly from Western European countries that are not familiar with the specifics of national education systems and the cultural environment in emerging countries and the fact that rankings cannot cover all aspects affecting the quality of the work of universities.
Despite different opinions, the speakers noted that though there are some shortcomings the system of university rankings is an important tool for disciplining universities. At the same time, rankings are only one of many channels for disseminating information about the university. As Prof. Suryadi said, “When you want to know that you are healthy, you have tests in a medical laboratory, the same is true regarding ratings and higher education institutions.”
Prof. Weifang Min,
Executive President, Chinese Society for Education Development Strategies
“Some of the most important factors in competitiveness, such as science, technologies, knowledge, talents, are all related with high-quality universities, and all of these factors are organized and flowed cross national boundaries. Therefore, to increase a country’s competitiveness, building world class universities is one of the most important strategies. At present in the world, international competitions become increasingly intense in every aspect: economic, political and cultural. In these competitions, one of the key factors for a country’s competitive advantages is its universities. Strong universities are one of major foundation for strong countries.”
At the end of the debate the participants voted again, the number of supporters of university rankings increased from 59% to 66%, 34% of the audience still remained against.
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