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The goal of Project 5-100 is to maximize the competitive position of a group of leading Russian universities in the global research and education market.

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"An effective university management system attracts effective teams”

July 20, 2015

On 9 July, the most highly qualified members of the University Club 5-100 met with Alexei Novoseltsev (Provost of the Higher School of Economics) who is in charge of the university’s finance and innovation institutions. This event was the Club’s first attempt to provide business people with an “in-depth” introduction to the specifics of a university environment.

Novoseltsev outlined the history of the university’s organizational blueprint. Since its inception 20 years ago, the Higher School of Economics has gradually developed into a classic model, attracting the most reputable professionals to come onboard and work in the numerous fields of knowledge that the university offers. “An effective university management system attracts effective teams”, the Provost affirmed.

Novoseltsev also said that one of the key characteristics of the Higher School of Economics is its practical participation in social and economic reforms; thanks to that, HSE is turning into a project research university capable of transferring its knowledge and innovations into real business and social life.

The speaker also elaborated on the governance structure and practices of the university: for example, the role of the rector’s office, that of the supervisory board, the academic board and other governance bodies. In addition, he spoke about the governance reform which is currently being carried out in HSE and of the specific features of the university’s activities as a “state autonomous” institution.  On the concept of “shared governance” (building a self-regulating governance system in a university), Novoseltsev noted: “A university is, first of all, a “community of professors”, a collective of scientists and lecturers who make independent choices and whose opinions and positions are independently valuable. It is a complicated social system. And this is the main difference between university governance systems and corporate systems”.

Warming to his subject, Novoseltsev explained that  “A university’s success is closely related to whether or not it has a comfortable professional environment facilitating the creative work of its members,” emphasizing that “This is why the development of human capital is the core foundation of a university’s internal policy.”

Elena Yudina (Senior Director for Finance, HSE) then added her view that: “In essence, a university’s policy must revolve around its human resources. Of course, we are speaking foremost about the lecturers and researchers. We have a very clear understanding of this imperative, and that is why the administrative body is, above all, dedicated  to creating comfortable working conditions for our people”.

 Higher School of Economics now stands, in fact, as one of the most attractive employers in the academic market of Russia – no doubt largely for the reasons stated by Novoseltsev and Yudina

Concerning the idea of inviting business specialists to work among university administrative bodies, the Provost noted that until very recently the majority of Russian universities existed within a “distributive” state budget model, while the arrival of administrators with an “investment-based” mindset could provide the university with real market advantages. However, the speaker warned that the process of professional adaptation of business people to a university environment may take up to eighteen months.

This was confirmed by Yulia Grinkevich (Director for Internationalization at HSE), who referred to her own experience.

The participants in the meeting also discussed the possible formats of cooperation between the university and experts coming from outside the university domain, development models for the university’s supervisory boards, and the organization of master classes for those taking part in HSE’s administrative staffing reserve program.

Some of the participants who were attending a Club 5-100 event for the first time shared their thoughts:

Irina Kibina, Deputy General Director, CJSC Rus Atom Overseas: “Any initiative to attract experience which comes from outside this closed environment would be very useful because, if I may refer to a famous quote, “all great discoveries are made on the junctures of sciences". The same is true  here and for us:– there is hope that we will be able to come up with simple but effective solutions to help our universities  make simple but fast steps forward by using our business experience. We know that our people are just as smart, our experts are just as good and our experience is just as relevant, but often our good ideas are not used because of simple glitches in the system, and this the business world understands very well. I think that our potential contribution, as representatives of another sphere of knowledge and experience, can be used by our university colleagues to make sure that our universities are more attractive not only as places where one can earn a degree, but also as places where the students will embrace a constant flow of learning which will last their entire lives. Personally, I enjoyed this experience very much. I liked the lively, informal, interesting exchange of opinions and the fact that one could express any idea, ask any question, and be assured of getting a thorough, qualified answer”.

Anna Griaznova, Associate Professor, Higher School of Business, Moscow State University: “As today’s meeting showed, the outside world is curious not only about the complexity and  apparent ‘mysteriousness’ of the multi-level structure of a university, but even more so about the true importance of the university for the country and society as a whole. As mentioned here today, the society at large doesn’t always understand what a modern university does, what its inner life is like and what goals it has --and these goals are much wider than just the study process, but also include the actions that a number of stakeholders and special interest groups are taking in terms of participating in this process directly or indirectly. The business community, as one of the main concerned parties in this evolutionary progress, often doesn’t have a clue how the management process is really, organized in a university, while, on the other hand, the university’s highly bureaucratic life often comes as a shock to the business community. It’s clear that the time is at hand to communicate, interact, and work together on a systemic level. The dialogue here today has been unique for its openness and will certainly help to build ties, awareness and constructive cooperation between the business and universities in the future. I think that this is a very ambitious initiative, both in essence and in spirit, and I want to wish the best of luck to all the participants and the Project Office, and I hope that everything works out well”.