The Russian system of higher professional education, which boasts universities with centuries-old traditions – as well as reflecting the pride of their own formidable academic reputations – now faces an arduous task: how to keep up with the current pace of international development while not undermining its own excellent academic antecedents. The Russian Academic Excellence Project wants to tap into the full academic and research potential of Russian universities while bolstering their positions in the global education market. The Project, which is intended to last for eight years, was launched in May 2013 in accordance with Presidential Decree of the Russian Federation No. 599, "On measures to realize state policy in the sphere of education and science".
Excellence initiatives, which are similar to the Russian Academic Excellence Project 5-100, are now among the in-vogue imperatives of many governments. Their aim is to better the system of higher education and raise the position of their national universities in the global ratings. Universities with outstanding academic reputations are, of course, more likely to snag the hottest talent among lecturers, researchers and students, and indeed are viewed by many companies and organizations as virtual partners: scores of their alumni are sought after by headhunters.
The launch of Project 5-100 sent a new satellite into orbit to assist in the process of revamping Russian higher education and making it more contemporary. Past brainstorms and initiatives of the Russian government are now proving effective, resulting in the creation of federal universities and national research universities.
In the spring of 2013, the Russian Government announced a resolution, according to which a Council would convene to oversee the further development of the leading universities. The Council on Competitiveness Enhancement of Leading Russian Universities among Global Research and Education Centers has been designed to enjoy long-term service as a permanent interdepartmental advisory body; its mission is to handle the various issues that arise under its scope. The Council is also the main governance body of Project 5-100. Its members include many international and Russian representatives of the academic community, public officials responsible for educational reform, acclaimed experts, and scholars of high repute.
The Council goes over the Universities reports, suggests how much money is needed to follow through on everything, and then communicates what it thinks ought to be done to the Russian Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation in terms of continued support of the Project’s selected universities.
In October 2013, the Universities scrambled for special recognition in an open contest by brandishing their "roadmaps" to the Council members. These roadmaps are in fact action plans, which include the following:
Establishing a succession pool for senior university management, attracting specialists with experience in international and Russian Universities and research organizations;
Recruiting younger faculty members and researchers with time spent and know-how gained in academic and research spheres, in leading international and Russian Universities and research organizations;
Putting into force a number of international and internal academic mobility programs for faculty members and researchers (internships, advanced training, professional re-training, exchange programs, etc.);
Improvement of tertiary education – postgraduate programs and doctorates;
Supporting undergraduates, graduates, interns and young faculty members and researchers;
Development of joint educational programs with leading international and Russian universities and research organizations;
Recruiting foreign students to study at Russian universities, including joint (double degree) programs with international universities;
Fundamental and applied scientific research in collaboration with Russian and international organizations.
The main goals of the Russian Academic Excellence Project are:
Development and implementation of measures aimed at creating long-term competitive advantages for the universities;
Internationalization in all spheres, development of infrastructure to recruit the best scientists, faculty, managers and students;
Creation of world-class intellectual products;
Development of an outstanding academic reputation by conducting breakthrough research and recruiting the world’s leading scientists;
Bringing the university educational programs in line with the best international examples;
Development of cooperation between the academic sector, the industrial sector, and the business sector;
Increased export of educational services.
Expected results of the Project by 2020:
− entry of at least five Russian universities into the top 100 of global education rankings (Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Rankings of World Universities (ARWU);
− at least 15% international students in each University’s student body;
− at least 10% international faculty members.
“Getting into rankings is not the ultimate goal,”- said Dmitry Livanov (Russian Minister of Education and Science in 2012-2016). “The most important thing is to create a new system of research and teaching at Russian universities”.
The universities participating in the Project report on how their "excellence programs" are faring to the international Council and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. Subsidies are given to the universities whose action plans (roadmaps) have been successful. Also, in order to get these subsidies, the university has to demonstrate the ability to garner co-financing funds from non-budgetary sources.
A new management system is being ushered in among the Project universities. This system is designed to be a prompt and ready problem solver with regard to the integration of Russian universities into the global education environment. One of the main points of the management reform that is intended to bring great results is that each university now has an international council (international academic council) making great strides along the path towards their international competitive standing.
Such Councils represent a blend of major international scientists from academic spheres that are thought to be important for the university, as well as gurus from the world of higher education management. Above all, the Council is striving to offer feedback and expert advice in terms of how the university might groom its image in the international arena; how to go about putting it among the top international research and education programs; suggestions to develop and perfect its international recruitment procedures; and coming up with ideas for international participation and guidance in getting the whole show on the road to securing a higher placement for university.
Since the start of the Project, its participants have developed useful ways to combine these excellence initiatives into one: they have hired international specialists for senior management and academic positions; they have set up new labs, organized project offices, and re-branded their schools. The Project has encouraged Russian universities to be more active in the international arena and has helped raise awareness of what Russia has to offer in the global market of educational services.
The main results expected of Project 5-100 by 2020 are that Russia will have a group of leading contemporary universities with an effective management structure, and a strong international academic reputation which meets global development trends and can quickly adapt to global changes.