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Regular version of the site

‘Over the Last Two and a Half Years Five Russian Universities Have Joined the World’s Top-100 in Various Subjects’

HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov updated the President of Russia Vladimir Putin on the implementation of the Academic Excellence Project 5–100. He also suggested extending the project until 2025 and setting the objective that at least one Russian university be included in every subject-specific ranking by 2025.

The transcript of the talk, published on the official website of the Russian President, follows below.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Kuzminov, the Higher School of Economics will mark its 25th anniversary this year. How will you celebrate this notable event?

Rector of the Higher School of Economics Yaroslav Kuzminov: We will celebrate it with new achievements, as usual.

Thank you for this meeting and the opportunity to discuss the development of not just the HSE but also the entire group of our leading research universities that are participating in Project 5–100, which has been launched upon your instructions.

As you know, we have created an association of these universities, so-called global universities. This association includes all the 21 members of Project 5–100.

Every time I prepared for a meeting with you, people wondered if I brought you presents. I have, this time. I am pleased to report that over the two and a half years since the project was launched, five Russian universities have joined the world’s top 100 universities in individual subjects. They are the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Novosibirsk State University, ITMO University from St Petersburg (you know it very well) and the HSE. They were ranked by different subjects, including computer science and physics. The HSE was ranked in the economics and management category.

I must say that projects such as Project 5–100 are being implemented in many countries. As you know, China first launched such a project in the 1990s. Their logic is very simple: to enhance the competitiveness of universities, to bite off a bigger chunk from the pie of intellectual capital, which has become the most sought-after resource, and to attract the world’s best students. We can say that the result we have achieved is based on the latent potential of Russian and Soviet universities, the potential that was unnoticed by the global community. It is very good that we started opening it up and demonstrating it to the global research community, particularly in the humanities and social studies, where Russia was strongly underestimated.

Actually, if we compare our university rankings, which are no less important than Doing Business, something we are also involved in, China has 36 universities among the top 100 universities in various subjects, India has nine and South Korea – 10 universities in a number of subjects. These countries have invested heavily in attaining this result: China has invested tens of billions of dollars over 20 years; and the other countries have invested billions of dollars over at least 10 years. Russia has attained its current rankings by investing some 40 billion rubles of budgetary funds and some 20 billion rubles in university funding. In other words, we have achieved a lot, and I am sure that more Russian universities will join the rankings in the future. Four are on the verge of joining the top 100 universities, and one university may join the top 150 or top 200 group in different subjects. The HSE is on the list of top 150 and top 200 universities in seven subjects, lagging behind only Moscow State University in this respect.

 Of course, these rankings are only an indicator of the achievements, an acknowledgement of very hard work. The number of international publications by the association members has increased by 50 to 300 percent; fourfold at some universities, which also shows that they did not know how to present their results more favourably. They have learned to do this, and their achievements have been acknowledged. Their works have been published in the best and most popular magazines. The Global Universities Association accounts for 39 percent of all Russian publications in natural and engineering sciences and for 68 percent in social studies and the humanities.

 Over the past two years, the volume of research per faculty member at our universities has increased by 50 percent reaching 1 million rubles per capita. This is a great deal, four times more than the average for Russia. Project 5–100 universities last year accounted for 27 percent of research projects at Russian universities. It was 21 percent before Project 5–100 was launched.

I will not list all the companies we work with, since I have already shared the materials with you. It would be fair to say that we work with practically all the major Russian companies. I think that the key achievement of this project is that we were able to reverse the trend in what is called global “brain circulation.” According to our calculations, at the Higher School of Economics, at ITMO University, at Novosibirsk University and a number of other participating universities, if not all of them, more foreigners have become permanent faculty members than Russians who left to work for Western universities.

We need to be part of this global movement of skill and talent and have a surplus in this area. The fact that we were able to achieve a surplus is a major accomplishment by our colleagues.

Vladimir Putin: One may even say that it is a major breakthrough.

Yaroslav Kuzminov: At the Peter the Great Polytechnic University in St. Petersburg, the number of foreign faculty and staff increased 10-fold compared to 2013.

Vladimir Putin: This is an impressive and positive development. What matters most is that we attract specialists we really need.

Yaroslav Kuzminov: Why would we hire people we do not need?

Vladimir Putin: There was another figure I liked. The number of students who study remotely via internet using modern technology.

Yaroslav Kuzminov: I think that we are going through an education revolution, almost like the revolution set off by Gutenberg and the printing press. In 2012, Coursera and edX, two major university associations, were formed. Today, the online courses they offer have almost 30 million users. Only half of them are students, while the other half are people with university degrees. This means that online courses have become the main form of life-long learning. According to estimates, by 2020 the number of people using international education online platforms will reach 100 million, while there are only 150 million students in the world, which means that by 2025 all but a few students will use online education tools.

This does not mean, however, that in-class education, seminars and lectures where students can be face-to-face with a professor will cease to exist. After all, when people started reading books they did not stop talking to their teachers. What this means is that uncompetitive education courses and universities will fade away, since we are operating in a competitive global environment that transcends borders.

It is also very important that we established the National Association for Open Learning in a timely manner. Currently, we have almost one million students using our online courses. If you look at the statistics of the Higher School of Economics, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and ITMO, we have almost 150,000 students in the United States, around 100,000 students in the EU and 50,000 students in Ukraine. This is the soft power that we gained thanks to new opportunities because we boarded this train just in time. We are not just working independently; we also cooperate with Coursera and edX.

Last autumn, Coursera, which is actively cooperating with Russian universities, convinced the US government to lift the embargo on teaching in Crimea. The ban has been lifted despite the fact that Coursera is an American company. Our colleagues from Coursera say that the reason they insisted on this was that Russian universities are actively involved in this education project and they respect Russian universities.

Vladimir Putin: In general, I am pleased to see that the indicators are quite good and we are moving towards fulfilling the plans that we discussed before. Congratulations.

Yaroslav Kuzminov: Thank you Mr President. I think it is time to set new objectives for this group of universities. Speaking of subject-specific rankings, there are around 60–70 subject rankings in the world. With regards to continuing the project, technically it has been completed since five of our universities are in the top 100.

We discussed the matter before this meeting with you. We would like to suggest extending the project until 2025 and setting the objective that at least one Russian university be included in every subject-specific ranking by 2025, be it biology, life sciences or engineering.

This goal will place responsibilities on the Ministry of Education and Science for investment and additional support. Russia must be represented at the top of each ranking in all academic subject areas, not just in those where we have managed to get through.

Vladimir Putin: We need to talk about this in greater detail.