As is well-known, the United Nations Organization declared 2005-2014 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
The global goal of this initiative is to attain such a level of education that could meet the crucial challenges of the current century.
Therefore, new content, new quality, and a new level of cooperation are attributes of education in the XXI century.
The governments of many countries initiated reformation of their national educational systems. Russia is no exception. Substantial transformations are going on in this country as well. The following is a retrospective list of some significant events which have become core landmarks for renovations of the Russian educational system.
2003—the Russian Federation officially joined the Bologna process.
The objective was Russia’s integration and participation in the processes of establishing and harmonization of the common European Education Area. As a result:
2006—the National Priority Project Education was initiated in Russia. The project aimed at performing complex modernization of all education levels in order to achieve new quality corresponding to the current societal demands. As a result:
2008—the beginning of a gradual implementation of a new generation of the Federal State Education Standards (FSES) based on a competency building approach. The objective was to adapt the content of education to the latest personal, economic, societal and state demands. Due to the framework nature of the new generation standards educational organizations gained greater independence in terms of education content. For instance, while developing bachelor’s programs a higher education institution is responsible for determining independently up to 50% of courses (modules), and as for master’s programs—up to 70%. As a result:
2012—the new Federal Law “On Education in the Russian Federation” was enacted. The objective was to establish a legal environment adequate of the national educational system. As a result:
Education Levels in the Russian Federation:
One of the key objectives of the initiated reforms is improving the quality of the Russian educational system. Is it a tangible objective? Definitely, yes. Here are some examples of a positive development of school and vocational pre-tertiary education.
Thus, according to PISA 2015 results (the Program for International Student Assessment) in By 2020 Russia intends to become one of the 15 top performers of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) as well as to achieve the five top countries in Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
One of the main factors of school education quality improvement is creation of innovative learning environment in 100% of Russian general education organizations by 2020.
70 countries, Russia has seen slight improvements in all focus areas.
Particularly, in Science the country moved 5 places up from 37th in 2012 to 32nd in 2015.
In Reading Russia was ranked 26th in 2015, that was 16 places up in comparison with its previous performance in 2012.
In the field of Mathematics Russian students also achieved a significant progress: in 2015 Russia occupied the 23rd position in Maths, it was an 11-line better performance than in 2012.
The following example can illustrate the development and achievements of the vocational education system of the Russian Federation. Therefore, at the end of 2012 Russia joined the international non-commercial movement WorldSkills International (WSI) which today unites 75 countries of the world. In 2014 the Russian national team participated in Euroskills, the largest European skills competition for the title Best of Europe, for the first time and was ranked 11th. However, two years later in 2016 the Russian team became the leader of EuroSkills-2016 competitions and won the first place in the team classification among 28 European countries. The similar improvement was demonstrated by the WorldSkills Russia team in the WorldSkills Competitions.
The success like this is predictible. The fact is that Russia began an active upgrading of vocational skills training to comply with the international standards of WorldSkills (WS). This objective is declared to be one of essential national strategies in the area of secondary vocational education. Particularly, within this strategy:
The strategic goal of a new quality level of Russia’s education which would meet challenges and demands of the XXI century is applied to Russian higher education to its full extent. For the past decade, since 2006, the government introduced a number of large-scale changes in the structure of higher education. The core of these changes is the establishment of a modern effective network of Russian leading HEIs which should become the driving force necessary to attain the strategic goal.
Nowadays such a network is well-established. Originally it included 41 higher education institutions: ten federal universities, 29 national research universities, and two oldest universities of the country—Lomonosov Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University. The latter two got a special status of unique academic organizations of national significance. In 2010 all the above mentioned educational institutions formed the Association of Leading Universities (for more details refer to here). In 2016 another eleven universities joined this leading HEIs network as they got the status of a key university due to participation in the contest of the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF. The second stage of the Key University contest takes place in 2017. According to the Ministry, another 19 educational institutions will become key universities.
It should be noted, that most of the leading universities are located in the largest cities of Russia such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and others.
The brief description of the mentioned HEI categories is as follows.
Federal university. The name federal in this case relates to the mission and the location of such universities. The territory of Russia is divided into macro-regions which are called federal districts. Therefore, the strategic mission of a federal university is creation and development of competitive human resources in the district as well as ensuring its social, economic and technological progress through advanced intellectual, research and educational opportunities, solutions, and cases. Such solutions and practices should be shaped on the ground of close integration of education, science and employers representing the main industries of a federal district. Becoming such an innovative institutional integrator is the key strategic task of a federal university.
Ten federal universities were established in Russia in the period from 2006 to 2016.
The activity of each federal university is conditioned by an individual long-term development program which contains target indicators in HEI’s priorities—educational, scientific, or international (integration of Russian education into the international academic area and export of educational services). It is essential that these indicators are mutually related with strategic indicators set in the programs of socioeconomic development of the macroregions—the federal districts. In addition, the development program of each federal university complies with the priority growth areas in science, technology and engineering in the Russian Federation and with the key technology list.
The priority and key technology list (approved by the President Decree in 2011 and amended in 2015) defines the main trends in the scientific, technological, economic development of the country. It frames the long-term benchmarks for Russian higher education in general and for the leading Russian universities in particular—what human resources will be necessary for the science and research sector and for the national economy within the coming ten to twenty years.
National research university. The project focusing on the establishment of a national research university pool started in 2008. The higher education institution nominated for this category (as well as related budget funding), similar to a federal university, should generate a strategic program of its development for the period of ten years and defend it in the open contest organized by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. National research universities are selected based on the outcomes of a thorough analysis and the previous development dynamics of the applicant university. The analysis comprises such categories as human resources, an educational and research infrastructure, efficiency of academic and research activities, certificates of international and national recognition as well as the quality, feasibility and expected outcomes of the development program submitted to the contest. Despite the tough selection requirements almost every third state university in Russia applied for participation in the contest procedure. After the two-stage contest held during two years, by May 2010 the Russian network of national research universities had been finally established.
Nowadays the mentioned network includes 29 educational institutions. The mission of a national research university is to a large extend similar to the strategic goals and objectives of a federal university. The difference is in the emphasis put by a federal university on academic and human resource aspects of the innovative development of Russia’s macroregions, while a national research university plays a specific role in the development of world class high technology, in knowledge creation and in training a new generation of Russian researchers, scientists, and academic staff for higher education. According to this mission every national research university assumes the program obligations to improve the priority growth areas corresponding to its profile. The comprehensive list of priority growth areas (totally 106 fields) is compiled with the view of the main objectives of the innovative and technological development of the Russian Federation; the priority growth areas are distributed among 29 national research universities.
Key university. Another essential element of the new up-to-date architecture of Russian higher education is a HEI category which is called key universities (for more details refer to official web-site).
The goal and the main mission of a key university is to provide human, research and educational resources for the development of Russia's region where it is located through establishing close cooperation with enterprises and businesses in the region, focusing on the region’s research policy, and generating key positive change agents in the region. Another important effect of establishing key universities is the reducing of prospective brain drain from the regions to the large federal centers. This process can be considerably reduced due to creation of modern university environment, new educational and research opportunities provided by the key universities, which will be considered by young talented applicants to be more competitive in comparison with leading capital-city and federal universities.
The universities are selected to this category on a competitive basis, too. The winners of the contest are defined based on their five-year development program. In addition to this program, the applicant university should meet another eligibility requirement: it has to undergo a reorganization procedure and deliberately merge with some other state educational institutions in the same municipality. According to the program initiators, such a transformation will require integration of all resources of the universities which will lead to the improved efficiency and, consequently, in the advanced quality of education in a newly organized university. At least, such expectations are clearly expressed in the government’s requirements to this new category of universities. So, after the implemetation of a five-year development program a key university should feature seven headline parameters which comprise the following: at least ten thousand full-time students; at least two billion rubles as a university’s annual revenue; at least twenty majors or profiles in which the university delivers main study programs; the postgraduate and master student ratio in relation to the total number of students—at least 20%; income from research—at least 150,000 rubles per academic researcher; a number of publications indexed in the international Web of Science and Scopus systems—at least ten and twelve, respectively, per hundred of academic researchers annually.
The first stage of this contest was accomplished in 2016. As a result, eleven educational institutions were granted the status of a key university.
In 2017 the initiator of the contest, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation will hold the second stage—another 19 key universities will be determined. The third stage is planned for 2018.
According to the Global Innovation Index mentioned above, Russia is ranked 43rd among 128 countries. The crucial trend found out by this annual survey is the positive dynamics of the country’s innovative development: in comparison with 2012 the Russian Federation went eight positions up. The experts of the Global Innovation Index state that this improvement was attained due to conventionally high rankings of Russia’s education—particularly those of higher education and a research sector.
Indeed, one of the major strategic concerns of Russia is the establishment of the up-to-date National Innovation System (NIS). Creation of such a system could ensure the country a rightful place in the globalized, complicated and fast-developing world of the XXI century. In Russia this understanding manifests itself in long-term strategic initiatives and programs developed and being implemented on the national level with a focus on consistent structuring of the domestic NIS. Undoubtedly, the ultimate fulfillment of the nation’s intellectual and creative potential has a great significance for attaining this goal. Higher education as one of the main social institutions engaged in generating and developing human capital assets plays a crucial role in the implementation of these initiatives and programs. Some of them will be discussed further in this chapter.
National technology initiative (NTI). The idea of the NTI was first articulated by the President of Russia in December 2014 in his Address to the Federal Assembly, “On the basis of long-term forecasting, it is necessary to understand what challenges Russia will face in 10-15 years, which innovative solutions will be required in order to ensure national security, quality of life, development of the sectors of the new technological order.” During the past two years the organizational structure for the NTI implementation was established and the operators and key participants were defined. Namely, the federal Ministry of Education and Science was entrusted with coordinating research, educational, and technological, together with the relevant ministries, activities within the NTI. In the framework of several large-scale foresight sessions the experts— representatives of the academic community, hi-tech and venture businesses, governmental authorities and professional associations—created roadmaps containing schedules of the NTI implementation. The NTI directions include nine industry-specific Nets of the Market group as well as thirteen fields of the Technologies group. These Nets, inherently representing fundamentally new advanced technology markets, focus on developing transnational corporations of the Russian origin.
The leading Russian universities are expected to become a scientific and technological foundation for the NTI implementation. On the one hand, the universities’ mission is to train highly qualified professionals in the fields demanded by companies participating in the NTI; on the other hand, the universities to a great extent are becoming the main generators and stakeholders of technological innovations while the universities spin-offs should be the NTI market leaders and shape new markets (refer to source).
At present the representatives of the leading higher education institutions, the expert community, and the companies operating the NTI are model, which is believed to be similar to the concept of University 3.0, as well as in determining forms of the implementation of the NTI projects and programs within universities (for more information on the National Technology Initiative refer to here).
Innovative territorial clusters (ITC). Nowadays clusters playing the role of a driving force for the innovative economy and generators of a new technological paradigm are developing in many countries. The main mission of a cluster is to create conditions facilitating the fastest and effective transfer of research and development from laboratories to business. The first cluster projects were initiated in Europe in the 1980s. However, the real cluster boost began worldwide in the 2000s. By 2005 about 1.5 thousand clusters operated in the world, while over 60% of them were established within this five-or-six-year period.
Russia generated and accepted the concept of the cluster policy in 2008, and since 2012 after the federal contest 26 pilot innovative territorial clusters have emerged in the country as their development programs have been supported by the state (the total number of clusters in the RF is over 125). The characteristic feature of innovative territorial clusters is their location in the regions traditionally featuring intensive research, engineering, and manufacturing activities.
Many prominent Russian research organizations, universities, and manufacturing companies participate in the ITCs. According to the experts, by the present time each cluster has developed close partnership relations with at least two or three universities. In Russia the interaction between a cluster and a university can be implmented in three ways: 1) delivering study programs in the cluster’s priority fields, aiming at training, retraining and further education of human resources, especially engineers; 2) doing joint applied research with business companies; 3) shared use of the HEIs’ innovative infrastructure. One of the generally determined algorithms for partnerships, that has already proved its efficiency, can be described as follows: the university (as a source of innovations and projects) –> the venture fund (as a source of investments) –> the innovative territorial cluster (as a user of the end intellectual product).
Strategy—2035. In December 2016 the Strategy of Russia’s Research and Technological Development was officially enacted; it is a long-term plan until 2035. The goal of the Strategy is the establishment of an effective system for growing and extensive utilization of the nation’s intellectual potential. This novel document is the first to formulate the so-called “grand challenges” for future Russia. They can be explained as “a combination of problems, threats and opportunities,” which already in the near-term prospect will demand large-scale institutional solutions. Among the most significant “grand challenges” are the following: issues of demography, ecology, energy efficiency, food security and national security, global competitiveness of the Russian Federation. However, the challenge list begins with the crucial for Russia statement—it deals with “depleted possibilities of the economic growth due to extensive use of primary resources.” The only appropriate solution to this and other “grand challenges” is to replace the extensive national development model with the innovative one, thus making Russia’s research and technological complex a top-priority in the national development.
The research and development sector of higher education, that left behind the other Russian research and development segments (i.e. academic and corporate), should play an essential role in the fulfillment of the mentioned task. Thus, for twenty years, from 1995 to 2014, the number of higher education institutions engaged in R&D increased almost twice—from 395 up to 700. At the same time, the number of university R&D employees increased by one third—from 35.5 thousand up to 44.3 thousand people. Moreover, from 2004 to 2014 the Russian universities increased internal expenses on R&D by 28 times—from 2.77 billion rubles up to 77.66 billion rubles. In addition to it, the Russian university R&D sector has another peculiarity—it comprises the majority of young researchers.
The Strategy focuses on the further development of higher education and R&D. Namely, the following directions are outlined: transforming some leading Russian HEIs into entrepreneurial universities; delivering educational programs on technology entrepreneurship; establishing professional management of research and development sectors at universities; delivering special educational programs for university administrators in compliance with international standards; improving the management of university research laboratories through the implementation of advanced and flexible rules (standards, guidelines) regulating their activities; establishing a special register and a special ranking of research universities in the Russian Federation.
Russian universities should become a base for the system of centers of excellence and centers of competence. The objective of centers of excellence is to ensure the universities’ top positions in the international rankings, which are compiled by surveying or engineering organizations, as well as in the bibliometric systems. Centers of competence are supposed to ensure availability of advanced technologies for the Russian manufacturing sector and for other research or educational institutions.
Another idea is to establish in Russia innovative territorial clusters on the base of university campuses and “innovative districts” in metroplexes for concentrating research and innovative activities. Some experience of the implementation of this idea has been already gained. Nowadays the country develops such projects as innovative centers— Skolkovo, INO Tomsk, Innopolis, and Vorobyovy Gory science and technology valley of Lomonosov Moscow State University.
An ability to generate new knowledge is one of the determining characteristics of a country pursuing leadership in the XXI century. Russia has an infrastructure relevant for such generation: today 188 shared knowledge centers, 146 unique research units, 16 supercomputer centers operate in the country. The Russian Federation actively participates in a number of breakthrough international research projects, for instance, in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
For more information on the status and development of the innovative system of the Russian Federation refer to here.
At the same time the Megascience infrastructure is being established in the territory of the Russian Federation. It involves joint international projects such as IGNITOR—construction of an experimental nuclear fusion reactor; PIK—building of a high flux reactor for the International Center of Neutron Characterization; NICA—construction of a proton and heavy ion collider, etc.
The Strategy of Research and Technological Development also focuses on establishing world-class research megaunits in the territory of Russia. The Russian Megascience projects are considered as one of efficient ways both of attracting international researchers to Russia and of Russia’s integration into the global science. Thus, currently 30 countries participate in the NICA project, the collider is expected to be launched in 2020.
Universities as centers of creating innovation areas. It is the name of a new priority action framework for development in Russian higher education.
The document was approved by the RF Presidential Council on Strategic Development and Priority Projects in the fall of 2016. In fact, the new program continuous the large-scale national project Education as it aims at systematic qualitative changes of Russia’s higher education. The implementation of the project Universities as Centers of Creating Innovation Areas will involve all the leading universities of Russia.
The program is supposed to be implemented in stages during a ten-year period—up to 2025. The milestones for each stage are the quantitative and qualitative changes which should be attained in each program directions by a clearly defined deadline. The overall outcome of this program is the global competitiveness of Russian higher education and the development of the national network of innovative university systems—an effective action force of the country’s overall innovative transformations.
The post-Soviet Russia initiated the establishment of the higher education assessment and quality assurance system twenty-five years ago, when the Law on Education of 1992 was enacted. During this period the methodology and criteria of state accreditation of higher education institutions have been elaborated, organizational and legal regulations for accreditation procedures have been developed as well as enormous practical experience of state accreditation has been gained.
In 2012 the new Law on Education entered into force in the Russian Federation. According to this Law, the modern higher education assessment and quality assurance system is represented by state accreditation and professional public accreditation.
The objective of state accreditation is the compliance of an educational program with the Federal State Education Standards (FSESs). Only such compliance entitles educational institutions to award state-recognized degrees. After successful completion of the state accreditation procedure the higher education institution is granted an accreditation certificate which is valid for six years. After this term the HEI is to undergo the relevant accreditation procedures again. A Certificate of State Accreditation of an educational program is an obligatory document to be published by the educational institution on its official website. The executive body authorized to conduct state accreditation of higher education institutions is the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science, a structural division of the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF.
Within the past decade the professional public accreditation system was extensively developing in Russia. In contrast to state accreditation, this procedure is voluntary for higher education institutions. Its objective is to reveal significant (advanced) achievements of an educational institution corre sponding to the latest trends of the education, science and manufacturing development in Europe and in the world.
Nowadays Russia faces the growth of organizations conducting public accreditation. First of all, it deals with large employers’ associations which include the relevant accreditation councils. In this case accreditation criteria correspond to employers’ requirements to educational institutions: for example, a practical focus of educational programs, effectiveness of cooperation with partner employers, demand for graduates on the labor market, etc. Some time earlier, similar organizations were established within the academic community, too. The three oldest and most reputable players in the Russian academia are the following:
It should be noted that the Russian coordinator of this important international meeting is the National Centre for Public Accreditation. NCPA is a full member of such international networks of quality assurance as: the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA); the Central and Eastern European Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (CEE Network); the Asia-Pacific Quality Network (APQN); the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). Since 2013 NCPA has been a member of the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence (IREG Observatory); in 2014 NCPA was officially registered in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education.
In 2014 the National Centre for Public Accreditation became the coordinator of the Fourth ENQA Members’ Forum which took place in Russia for the first time.
The unique NCPA’s project Best Educational Programs of Innovative Russia is one of the first projects in the country focusing on independent evaluation of higher education quality. The project is not a classical ranking, but selection of best programs without assigning any places or arranging any succession. The project hallmark is assessment of programs as other ranking projects existing in Russia focused on assessment of educational institutions differentiating them according to their profiles and types of legal entity. Such information on educational programs is especially requested by prospective students. It is also useful both for HEI’s administration (from the rector to deans and department chairmen) and for HEI’s divisions such as Quality Management.
Distinct advantages of the project are as follows: its periodicity (implemented annually since 2010), independence (performed by the National Guild of Experts in Higher Education, and by the Accreditation in Education journal, wide public participation (over 2,000 evaluations annually), extended dissemination of results (the reference book Best Educational Programs of Innovative Russia is annually published electronically and in hard copies, in 2014 it was published in English).
Other two nationwide rankings of higher educa tion in Russia are the National University Ranking compiled by Interfax and the Echo Moskvy news agency and the RAEX University Ranking. In addition to it, in 2016 the ranking focusing on effectiveness of the innovative activities performed by the leading Russian universities (namely, the national research universities, the Project 5-100 universities, the federal universities) was published for the first time. The project was implemented by ITMO University and Russian Venture Company (RVC) (for more details refer to web-site).
Summarizing the information of this chapter it should be noted that professional associations and public organizations—employers, academic and expert communities, student associations—are taking a more active and significant part in the establishment and development of the Russian professional education assessment and quality assurance system. However, the significant institutional stakeholder of this system is the state itself. In particular, except state accreditation, in 2012 the government, represented by the Ministry of Education and Science of the RF, initiated the annual monitoring of HEI’s efficiency and the monitoring of training quality in educational institutions delivering programs of secondary vocational education. The information and analytical materials of the monitoring are annually published on the special website and publicly available.
This procedure focuses on revealing and analyzing the compliance of the university activities with the criteria set by the state. The criteria concern the following fields: education, research, international activities, financial and economic activities, academic staff salaries, graduates’ employment, etc. If an educational institution meets less than four out of seven monitoring indicators (i.e. it attained the threshold requirements) then a special inter-institutional commission should be established for elaborating recommendations for the founders of an ineffective educational institution. In each case recommendations can vary; they may contain measures for optimization of a HEI’s activities or, as an extreme measure, a proposal for HEI’s liquidation. Thus, the annual monitoring is a tool for operative analysis of higher education and vocational education institutions in Russia and for eliminating a low quality sector, if necessary.
The measures taken within the past decade and aimed at the modernization and quality improvement of higher education have already resulted in some positive outcomes. It is proved by the increased number of Russian universities presented in different world education rankings as well as by improving their ranking positions in comparison with the previous ranking surveys (for more information on this topic refer to the article “Rankings: the Leadership Race” in this issue). Nowadays the Project 5-100 is initiated and being implemented in Russia; its goal is the targeted state support of the leading Russian universities’ competitiveness and their promotion in the global education area (here).
An additional way of integration of Russian higher education with international partner universities is the establishment of network universities:
The significant state project promoting the integration academic processes is the Megagrant Program. The Minister of Education and Science of the RF Olga Vasilyeva called this program “Russia’s business card for international cooperation in science and technology.” The program initiated in 2010 will be in progress until 2020. Its goal is the establishment of the world-class research laboratories on the base of Russian universities and research centers as well as the development of advanced scientific schools and research teams. The objective of research laboratories is breakthrough fundamental and applied research, the outcomes of which can be used in the real economy.
Grants are awarded to those who intend to implement their ideas in this country together with Russian expert teams. The grantees are leading international and Russian scientists, Russian citizens working abroad at the moment. From 2010 to 2016 five Megagrant contests took place, they aroused great interest of the global research community. All in all during this time scientists from 45 countries submitted almost 3,000 applications. All the submitted projects are considered in accordance with international standards. Eventually, 78 foreign and 82 Russian scientists (including 57 researchers living abroad) became the program finalists. The program winner lists include five Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Humboldt Prize winners, and other prestigious prize holders.
The establishment of up-to-date environment for life and professional activities as well as most favored conditions for study and research is the main ground which can make Russia a country attracting international researchers, educators, and students. Definitely, it is a large-scale task, and its solution is a long-term project by itself. Not only for selected universities, but also for
the country—society and the state—as a whole. Will Russia meet this challenge? Let statistics show.
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