Trends of development of higher school in Russia and in the world were discussed at Higher School of Economics

On October 24-25, 2018 Higher School of Economics hosted the IX International Conference of Higher Education Researchers 'Universities in search of balance between new and old goals. ' Its participants discussed the educational policy issues including the issues of internationalization of education, bridging the gap between school, university and market, changes in academic profession. The media partners of the Conference are Accreditation in Education Company and Higher Education Discovery.

There were over 200 applications from 28 regions of Russian and from 17 foreign countries, but only one-third of them were included in the program. The three plenary reports are presented below.

The author of the first report, 'Diversity, differentiation and research university', is Philip Altbach, founder of the the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, famous for his papers about activities of world-class research universities. He is a member of Council on Competitiveness Enhancement of Leading Russian Universities among the leading world research and educational centers (Project 5-100) and is well familiar with Russian realia.

Research universities are at the top of the high school hierarchy, this is a small but important part of the educational ecosystem. However, we should not forget that that there are a lot of universities of other types including polytechnic and artistic HEIs which do not regard research as their principal activity. Various types of educational institutions should be clearly differentiated, and the countries' governments should make decisions on this matter and 'put everybody in their places.' The differentiation should be based on quality evaluation but it is not always given due consideration.

How to improve PISA and TIMSS results

The author of the second report, 'The key factors of progress of the Portuguese education system: appraisal of results, diversification of focus areas and internationalization', is Nuno Crato, former Minister of Education and Science of Portugal.

Nuno Crato told that it wasn't that long ago that Portugal was a backward country. In the first half of XX century it lagged behind Russia and neighboring Spain in terms of a literacy level. Until the Revolution of 1974 higher education in Portugal was only pursued by 3-4% of population, then this percentage started growing, and in 2000's higher education became mass education. At the moment there are 3,000 thousand postgraduate students per 10 mln people in Portugal. The parameters related to teachers' publication activities have significantly improved, the number of foreign students is growing, etc.

These achievements were made thanks to serious focused efforts. For example, all university centers were subjected by strict external evaluation. Its results had an impact on financing. When Nuno Crato served as Minister, in 2015 Portugal took a leap in international comparative studies of education quality PISA and TIMSS and outperformed in Mathematics even Finland, an acknowledged European leader. Besides, the percentage of schoolchildren who withdrew from school was significantly reduced. What is unique here is that an upward trend was observed in schoolchildren both with high and low learning results.

Effective general education is a guaranty of high quality of university education and a number of higher school issues must be solved in secondary school.
Portugal managed to advance in PISA and TIMSS thanks to focused effort. New educational standards were introduced, clear requirements for results were stated, teachers were charged with work with lagging students, children started taking centralized tests in 4 and 6 grades. Besides, the authorities started publishing the results of independent measurements: Nuno Crato considers an independent evaluation a key factor of improvement of school performance quality.

 

Internationalization of education must be a means but not the end

Hans de Wit, Director of Boston College Center for International Higher Education, a world-acknowledged expert in higher education internationalization, presented a report 'Concepts, approaches, trends and challenges of internationalization of higher education in the world, lessons for Russian high school.'

The main idea of the report is that internationalization in a modern university is not only education import and export, staff and student exchange but also an element of strategic vision. Internationalization is enhanced thanks to massiveness of higher education. In such countries as India and China, where demand exceeds supply, students are encouraged to study abroad, and in such countries as the USA, on the contrary, universities aggressively recruit students on the international market. At the end of the last century internationalization of higher education was a synonym for cooperation but now it is also a competition for students and teachers.

At the same time, universities often tend to be formalistic with regards to internationalization. For example, they aspire to conclude more international agreements which remain on paper. To achieve desired results, universities need real partners who will help enhance student and staff mobility, implement joint programs.
Internationalization is often regarded as an ultimate goal, but in fact this is just a means to improve the quality of educational services.

Internationalization must be less elitarian and more egalitarian, it must involve as many students as possible. Today, the maximum percentage is observed in European countries — about 20-30%. In Russia, according to Hans de Wit (he worked extensively with Russian HEIs as part of 5-100 Program and is a member of the Advisory Council of People' Friendship University of Russia), internationalization of higher education is often developed due to universities' ambition to place high in rankings. To achieve this, they hire foreign professors, attract foreign students. But it must be vice versa. Russian universities need to create overarching strategies, develop strategic partnerships with foreign universities to guarantee a success in international rankings.

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