Universities of the future, online education and rankings: BRICS Universities Summit is overDecember 5, 2016
The three-day BRICS and Emerging Economies Summit (organized by Times Higher Education, the University of Johannesburg and Project 5-100) adjourned in Johannesburg on December 2. The first summit of this kind was held in Moscow in 2014 by THE and Project Office 5-100; Johannesburg meeting is the third in a row. University leaders and global education experts discussed topical international trends, university development prospects and potential partnerships.
Phil Baty, THE editor-in-chief, welcomed the guests and announced the latest Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings; they feature 24 Russian universities, including 16 Project 5-100 participants. Mr. Baty noted colossal support of the state and the contribution of Project 5-100 to the achievements of Russian institutions in the ratings. Summit delegates were also welcomed by Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg. Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate in Literature, delivered an introductory speech on the model for a university of the future.
Maxim Khomyakov, UrFU Vice-Rector for International Relations, delivered a keynote speech on global academic networks and the future of universities. He presented the cases of Project 5-100 and BRICS Network University in the context of an academic revolution that entails commercialization, globalization and massification. In their search for the place in Global Academia, BRICS countries will need both better integration to the Global Academia (measured by rankings) and attention to the specificities of the BRICS societies (human development, fight against poverty etc.), according to Mr. Khomyakov. He insisted that the first goal was best served by national academic excellence initiatives (such as Project 5-100), while the second one required multilateral collaboration between the BRICS countries. Mr. Khomyakov noted Project universities’ ranking successes and emphasized the Project value of merely $878.5 million (compared to $6 billion in China, 5 billion euro in France, $2 billion in Taiwan etc.).
Project 5-100 organized a session on proliferation of subject rankings moderated by Duncan Ross, THE Data and Analytics Director. NSU Vice-Rector for Development Alexey Okunev analyzed his university’s performance in THE rankings by subject and emphasized their importance as a development indicator. Mr. Okunev compared global rankings to best athlete or manager nominations. “Who is considered the best player? A golfer, because he has the highest income. You will notice that global rating leaders are financial powerhouses. In other words, global ratings compare the managers of universities. To use a sports metaphor, rankings by subject help identify the fastest, the most enduring athlete, etc. So they are a totally different league table based on other indicators and variables”. Nur Kirabaev, First Vice-Rector of RUDN University, described his university’s long-term collaboration with African countries and stated Mathematics, Medicine and Chemistry were RUDN’s subject priorities. He underscored the extreme importance of interdisciplinary research, involving these and other fields (for instance, Mathematics and Medicine, Mathematics and Chemistry, Mathematics and Political Science), and pointed out the challenges of evaluation of such studies for ranking purposes. The last speech in the session was delivered by Raj Kumar, Dean of Law School at Jindala Global University (India), who posited that subject and regional ratings, unlike global ones, were the best indicators since they reflected peculiarities of national scientific and research traditions.
At a panel discussion on industrial partnerships and graduate employability, MEPhI Rector Mikhail Strikhanov spoke about MEPhI’s cooperation with the nuclear industry and shared success stories of their students joining largest Russian corporations. Mr. Strikhanov pointed out such avenues of cooperation as joint establishment of industrial laboratories and centers for students training, involvement of industrial experts in teaching, joint projects and target scholarships. He also proposed several changes to the ranking methodology such as increasing weights of Industry Income indicator from 2.5% to 5%, introduction of Online Education indicator (with a 2.5% weight) and reduction of the weight of Reputation Index by 5%.
Elsevier Head of Product Management Wim Meester presented an analysis of government research excellence initiatives in BRICS countries at a THE-organized master class on rankings. Mr. Meester compared Project 5-100 to similar initiatives in Asia Pacific, Australia, Germany, Canada and China. “The Project 5-100 universities make up one third of all Russian scholarly output in 2015. The growth rate of research at these 21 universities is very high and eclipsing some values for other international groups of universities.However, the Project 5-100 universities tend to be cited at a lower rate than their international peers,” commented Wim Meester. Continuous focus on journal selection, opportunities for international collaboration, and understanding the developments in other countries, allow Russian universities to accomplish the targets of the Project 5-100.
The summit also explored such subjects as online education, education links between Africa and BRICS countries, an ideal university model, students education expectations in the 21st century, and compact between the society and higher education in BRICS countries.