The First Russia-UK University Rectors Forum

On November 12, the First Russia-UK University Rectors Forum was announced officially open. This Forum was the result of joint efforts of the Russian Rectors’ Union, Universities UK International, Lomonosov Moscow State University, British Council, and British Embassy Moscow. This highly important event brought together the representatives of 40 universities of Russia and 20 Universities of Great Britain. They addressed both the challenges in the international collaboration in research and education and the opportunities both countries could get from it. Russia and Great Britain has had a strong history of cooperation and working together and both now have a strong desire to continue for the benefit of the research community in both countries.

The Forum started with the plenary talk by the President of the Russian Rectors’ Union, Rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University, academician Victor Sadovnichy. He considered the Forum to be the most favorable place to strengthen friendship and cooperation between two countries and called for making this meeting a turning point in the long history of Russia and Great Britain cooperation in higher education and research excellency.

In the first part of his speech Sadovnichy overviewed the world trends in modern education through the lens of globalization and internationalization, historical milestones of Russian higher education, and its current state. The prominent role in how Russian higher education is organized is played by the Russian Rectors’ Union aiming to advance and improve the higher education system through consolidating efforts and coordinating the interaction between research and education centres. It was the Russian Rectors’ Union that developed the Ranking “The Three University Missions”. The third version, published in September 2019, included 94 universities in the UK.

In the second part of his talk, Victor Sadovnichy featured numerous examples of successful collaboration between Moscow University and British universities. Semyon Desnitsky and Ivan Tretyakov, the first students of Moscow University, were sent to the University of Glasgow, to became Doctors of law in 1767. They returned to Moscow University and became its first professors to give lectures in the Russian language. Many honorary guests visited our University including Her Highness Princess Anna (1990), the Chancellor of the University of London, and British Prime Minister David Cameron (2011). Recalling his own journey to the UK, being part of Russian delegation he visited a number of university botanical gardens and science parks. This experience proved to be useful in organizing the MSU Science Park and in restoration of the oldest botanical gardens in Russia – “the Apothecary Garden".

Nearly 30 years ago, the first association the English language teachers (LATEUM) was organized and is still working to improve teaching of English in the context of higher education. Over the years, the conferences and workshops organized by the Association brought prominent professors from universities of London, Nottingham, Liverpool, and Sussex and were attended by thousands of English teachers from the Universities all over Russia. For more than 20 years, the School of Foreign Languages at the University of Leeds has been sending its students for an internship at Moscow State University. About 30 students from the UK enroll annually on various programs at the Institute of Russian Language and Culture of Moscow University. MSU has several joint master's degree programs (double degrees) with universities in the UK. Cooperation is particularly close in the fields of mathematics, information technology, biology, chemistry, geology, climatology, etc.

At the end of his report, V.A. Sadovnichy expressed confidence in further more intensive and fruitful collaboration by developing new joint master's programs, enhancing academic mobility, expanding the horizons of scientific cooperation for mutual benefit.

The vice-chancellor and the Chief Executive of Exeter University, Chair of Universities UK’s International Strategic Advisory Board, professor Sir Steve Smith also expressed hope that the dialogue between two countries will help develop the existing links between two systems of higher education. Analyzing the data on publications and collaborative work he stressed that these publications generally have a higher impact as compared to the works done alone. He noted that one of the goals of the UK is to increase the number of students who study abroad, including Russia. Steve Smith emphasized the importance of both academic and research mobility and outlined the steps already taken in this direction.

Academician Grirory Trubnikov, the First Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, recalled the events that took place within the framework of the Uk-Russia Year in 2017, noting that this contributed to the development of collaboration. He stated that these meetings allowed to bridge different cultures. The scientific and educational contacts are the strongest and most durable, least exposed to political controversies. Grigory Trubnikov provided the analytical background of UK-Russia collaboration in science in the last few decades and outlined the major pathways and funding streams the collaboration is planned to proceed.

The Vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, President of the Universities UK , Member of the Board of the British Council, Professor Dame Janet Beer spoke very much in the veins of knowledge economy by building strength in Russia and though partnership. She presented the major figures characterizing science and education in the UK, the state's contribution to the development of these areas. Particularly, the First Deputy Minister presented the UNESCO data, according to which 4 thousand of Russian students study in the UK on various programs ranging from bachelor to post-graduate, and only 62 students from the United Kingdom study in Russia, and on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Science she promised to create the necessary conditions so that the students’ flow in both directions is balanced.

Small reports on the importance of collaboration were also given by Mikhail Shvydkoi, the Special Presidential Envoy for International Cultural Cooperation, Scientific Advisor of the Higher School of Policy and Management in the Sphere of Humanities, the CEO of the British Council Sir Kiron Devine, and the Principal Advisor for Science at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, Professor of Bath University, Carol Mandell.

Kiron Devine invited the Russian rectors to pay a visit to Britain in June 2020, get to know the country's universities and take part in a global conference on higher education, when the Russian delegation will be able to communicate not only with the British colleagues, but also with leaders in higher education from all over the world.

Brining the plenary session to the close, the President of the RRU, the Rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Academician Victor Sadovnichy and the Director of the Universities UK International Vivienne Stern signed an agreement between the Russian Rectors’ Union and Universities UK International.

The forum continued with a panel discussion on the topic “Building research partnership and increasing Academic Mobility between UK-Russia Universities”, moderated by Victor Sadovnichy and Vivienne Stern. All speakers agreed that both British and Russian science and education meet the highest standards of excellency, and international professional cooperation will bring them to a whole new level. Providing the conditions for young researchers will foster the advances of science and impact for both countries

The next day, November 12, continued with a round table discussion on the more detailed and practical ways to extend and expand further inter- (and cross-) university collaboration.

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