Transformation of education in BRICS countries – the NAFSA conferenceJune 3, 2016
On 1 June, a seminar entitled “Initiatives of Transformation in BRICS Countries: Opportunities for Cooperation”, which had been initiated by Project Office 5-100, was held during the international NAFSA conference. The session aroused considerable attention from education professionals attending the NAFSA forum. For the record, Russia was represented by Alexei Falaleev (Head of Expert Support of Project Office Programs) and Maxim Khomyakov (Vice Rector for International Relations of Ural Federal University). Other speakers at the session included Jose Freire (Vice Rector of UNESP, Brazil) and Nico Jooste (Head of International Education of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa).
Maxim Khomyakov opened the session by presenting the main research and education programs within BRICS:the BRICS Network University, the BRICS University League, and the current status of research being conducted within the framework of BRICS. The Speaker told his audience about the history and development of these projects, and went on to emphasize the role of UrFU as one of the main Russian participants. He noted that BRICS Network University has a vast amount of potential because it is by education ministries from all BRICS countries. The Network University now unites 55 universities, and these include those Russian universities which are part of Project 5-100.
Khomyakov listed the main directions of the Network University: development of academic mobility, joint overseeing of PhD dissertations based on cooperative research, and the coordination of innovations. The speaker also said that the first exchange programs between BRICS universities will start in January 2017 once the international council has approved financing and as soon as the relevant topical groups have agreed on the content of the main master’s and PhD programs. Khomyakov concluded by observing that BRICS university cooperation is developing rapidly and branching out in many directions; finally, he expressed hope that soon this cooperation will produce a bright and fruitful harvest.
Jose Freire spoke about the system of higher education in Brazil and the main directions of its scientific development. He noted that in Sao Paolo alone more than 30 research projects in cooperation with Russian universities are currently in progress. Freire also said that the cooperation within the framework of BRICS is one of Brazil’s main priorities.
Nico Jooste talked about the structure of the system of higher education in his country and promised that, while there are presently only 23 fully qualified universities in South Africa, three more will be added by the end of 2016, boosting the overall total to 26. Such a relatively small number of qualified universities is apparently explained by the fact that South Africa is now trying to switch to a model of comprehensive universities through a system of mergers and restructuring. Based on this prerogative, Jooste insists that the multi-aspect relationships within BRICS have now become the main attraction for South Africa. In conclusion, Jooste said that BRICS is helping and strengthening the system of education in South Africa.
The presentation delivered by Alexei Falaleev was devoted to international cooperation within the framework of Project 5-100. Falaleev addressed the interim results of the Project including the progress of its university-participants in various academic rankings. According to Falaleev, regular seminars and conferences of the Project, which attract numerous education experts from various universities, can become a platform for the development of relationships with foreign partners. The speaker invited his colleagues to take part in another exclusive event of the Project – a Conference on academic excellence initiatives, which will soon be held in ITMO University.
In his presentation, Falaleev listed various possible vectors for the cooperation of Project 5-100 universities and universities from other countries: joint labs, research centers and publications, international research teams, English-language study programs and technology transfer initiatives – in other words, all those directions for which Project 5-100 was initially designed.