Russian Higher Education: New Opportunities
An overhaul is needed in university education
“The problem is that virtually every 20–25 years, there are significant, one might say, fundamental changes in the education system all over the world,” Andrey Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation.
“The demands of employers today are clear – for them, it is not enough for a graduate to possess solid professional knowledge alone. They want an applicant for a certain position to have the ability to work in a team, an understanding of business architecture, the ability to use IT confidently and, of course, to have transferable skills,” Alevtina Chernikova, Rector, MISIS University.
“As the planned overhaul gets under way, we will inevitably touch upon all the fundamental processes that occur at the university. We will have to address all the issues that have built up over time, or most of them. That includes the teaching load of staff and all sorts of bureaucratic paperwork associated with completing exercise books and everything else, to the amount of practice,” Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.
Economic shifts are making it essential to reform the education sector
“It is vital to understand that in line with these trends, our economy is in a fundamentally different situation. <...> The economy is inextricably linked with the education system, so the education system had to respond [to economic changes – ed.],” Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.
“On the one hand, education can and should be a more stable institution than others, because it helps ensure that the cultural code is transmitted from one generation to the next. However, on the other hand, it must change periodically in order to adapt to the enormous shifts taking place in society. These shifts have now begun to accelerate,” Andrey Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation.
“The transition to a new education system, which we are discussing, is occurring against the backdrop of another important global process, namely, a pivoting of our industry – or the main sectors of it – towards domestic developers of technology and manufacturers of high-tech products,” Dmitry Livanov, Rector, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (National Research University).
Insufficient work with school teachers
“The quality of education is firstly down to working with teachers and setting requirements for them across a whole range of issues, right up to the amount of paperwork they are expected to do. Secondly, it is down to the quality of students, i.e., those who receive a school education and then go to university. <...> Then it is about what we teach and how we teach it, i.e., the content itself, the content of the programmes,” Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.
“Unfortunately, university funding is such that the profession of teaching cannot be made attractive to the brightest and most talented young people,” Dmitry Livanov, Rector, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (National Research University).
“We were shocked by the fact that the source material of school education is generally non-existent. This problem is probably even more acute now, for the simple reason that there are two ministries. <…> We probably need to change something in school, in secondary education, to orient them a certain way,” Sergey Kogogin, Director General, KAMAZ.
An imbalance between theory and practice
“A distinctive feature of higher education today is its inherent dialectical contradiction. Everyone wants incompatible things. Everyone wants the same theoretical rigour as in Soviet times, and they want there to be a focus on practice,” Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.
“Whatever you call it – a bachelor’s degree or a basic education – the knowledge, skills, abilities and qualifications that we instil together with employers are more important. They should preferably also be commensurate with international standards,” Eduard Galazhinsky, Rector, National Research Tomsk State University.
“We are starting to reform or change approaches to education. What will be the outcome in 2035? We know what will happen in industry over the next five to ten years. <...> We, as customers, say that today’s overhaul of education should be geared towards what will happen, say, ten years from now. If we can’t say what that is, then we are probably doing something wrong,” Sergey Kogogin, Director General, KAMAZ.
Changes for the better will only be possible if employers are involved in the process
“Markets can only be conquered with very large scientific and educational tech clusters, in which industry exists alongside science, manufacturing, and education. It is about consolidating the efforts of numerous universities and large enterprises with a particular goal in mind,” Andrey Bezrukov, President, Technological Sovereignty Exports Association; Professor, Department of Applied International Analysis, MGIMO University.
“We live in a rapidly changing world, and it is no longer possible to train a specialist once and set them up for life. It is vital to constantly learn. And today, the country's leading universities, together with employers and academic partners, are building a lifelong learning system. We can achieve these objectives only by working in close partnership with our employers,” Alevtina Chernikova, Rector, MISIS University.
Aiming for versatility when developing programmes
“Today, we are attaining synergy, and are starting programmes within our Russian university network. More and more, these exist at the intersection of natural science and technology, and the socioeconomic and humanitarian spheres. I firmly believe that this is how our university education will develop,” Anatoly Torkunov, Rector, MGIMO University.
“When training a development engineer, it is crucial to focus not even on fundamental disciplines, but on general technical ones. Perhaps when it comes to operations engineers and technologists, this is less important, because a ready-made production chain is being used. <...> In our experience, it is very, very difficult to build up such expertise in four years,” Mikhail Gordin, Rector, Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
“At our university, we based the educational model on an integration of science and education. That way, each student can immerse themselves in research and in specific projects offered by business partners. This is an interdisciplinary approach, because today not a single major problem can be solved in one professional or scientific field alone – metadisciplinarity is needed. And, of course, it is a personalized approach, too,” Alevtina Chernikova, Rector, MISIS University.
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