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  • Looking Beyond the Rankings: University Reputation to be a Focus of the Sixth International Conference 'Education and World Cities'

Looking Beyond the Rankings: University Reputation to be a Focus of the Sixth International Conference 'Education and World Cities'

On 22-23 May, HSE University – St Petersburg will host the sixth annual international conference, ‘Education and World Cities 2019: New Horizons in University Reputation’. This year, the conference will focus on the issue of universities' reputations and brands beyond the world’s university ranking systems.

Global agenda and local challenges

University reputation will be the pivotal topic of the conference this year. The issue has been discussed a lot recently, especially in regard to international university rankings, where reputation ratings constitute up to 50% of a university's final assessment. However, according to Sergey Kadochnikov, the Director of the Higher School of Economics in St Petersburg, if a university's reputation is understood only as that which is comprised in international rankings, there is a risk of overlooking equally important local challenges.

‘The reputation of a university is not only an indicator of academic status and popularity among employers, it is something that needs to be viewed with a broader lens,’ says Sergey Kadochnikov. ‘This should happen first and foremost with regard to various market scales – local, regional, national, and international. Issues related to the local markets are just as important for universities as their global agendas. It wasn't for nothing that there was a project for supporting universities with a focus on regional tasks that was developed in Russia a few years ago.

'Secondly, reputation refers to relationships with a variety of stakeholders. In addition to students, their parents, and employers, all of whose opinions were important to pay attention to before, today, a university's relationship with its alumni has become most crucial. Until recently, this relationship has been underemphasised. And yet graduates are university's key partners.

'Other types of stakeholders are business, government and non-profit organisations. All these agents are the part of a university’s life, and they are able to influence the way it changes, what products it produces and how it corresponds to modern realities. At the conference, we want to raise all these issues.’

Three days – three tracks

Over the course of three days, the sixth annual international conference ‘Education and World Cities 2019: New Horizons in University Reputation’ will cover three thematic tracks.

The purpose of the first track, ‘International Education: New Approaches to the University Partnership’, is to discuss the main trends in international student mobility and prospects for the development of the world’s market of educational services. Special attention will be paid to the goals and methods of establishing various educational consortia and networks.

The second track, ‘Building Universities’ Reputation (BUR) – Russia’, is organised by HSE University – St Petersburg in cooperation with the University of Navarra, whose eponymous annual conference is an influential international platform for expert discussion on university reputation as a significant resource for strengthening the position of a university in the global education market.

‘There are two centres of excellence on the matter of reputation in the world,’ explains Maxim Khomyakov, Deputy Director of the Higher School of Economics in St Petersburg. ‘First, there is ‘Building University Reputation’, a conference hosted by University of Navarra which has already become a brand. Second, there is the World 100 Reputation Network, an association that deals with academic reputation management, university strategic development and international partnerships. Together with these organisations, we will be holding our conference, a regional version of the Building University Reputation Russia, which can become an annual event. We hope to establish a large forum in Russia and attract experts to discuss the features of development of university reputation in different national and international contexts.’

The third and final track, ‘Multiple Models and Modes of Education for the Labour Market Transformations’, considers various educational models in the era of digital transformation. The discussion will focus on ways to improve international competitiveness of universities through development and implementation of innovative models and methods of teaching. Experts will present their experiences with transforming the educational landscape in accordance with the new needs of the labour market.

Speakers and topics

Foreign specialists who have been working on building the international reputations of their universities will be among the experts at the conference.

Alan Ferns, Associate Vice-President for External Relations and Reputation at the University of Manchester, will deliver a keynote speech on ‘Building Reputation as a Part of University Strategy’.

The plenary sessions will be attended by experts including Juan Manuel Mora, who has served as the Vice President of Communications at the University of Navarra for more than ten years, Mark Sudbury, currently the Head of Global Network Development at the World 100 Reputation Network and formerly the Head of Communications and Marketing at University College London, and Kevin Downing, the Director of the Institutional Research Office at the City University of Hong Kong and a member of the QS World University Rankings advisory board.

In addition to foreign experiences, cases from Russia and CIS countries will also be presented. ‘In accordance with the methodology of modern institutional rankings, multidisciplinary universities take higher positions,’ notes Sergey Kadochnikov. ‘There are a lot of specialised universities that have a prominent industry specificity in the post-Soviet countries. It turns out that these universities are usually underrepresented in international rankings, though they have a huge reputation potential. We think it is important to analyse these cases, share them with foreign universities, and show how we respond to the challenges of the modern world when becoming prominent players in the international scene.’

‘I would say that in every country, they have their own challenges,’ says Magdalena Gaete, a representative of the University of Navarra in Russia and an expert on global trends in higher education institution reputation. ‘For example, China faces the challenge of providing education to millions of prospective students every year and not having enough universities in order to do so. In the UK, after the uncertainty of Brexit, universities are working on underlining the fact that they want to stay ‘global’ no matter what. One of the challenges for the Russian higher education is to place the relationship between teachers and students at the centre of attention, and work harder on the social responsibility of universities.’

‘We really have something to show and learn from. "Education and World Cities 2019: New Horizons of University Reputation" is the first conference of its kind in Russia. We hope that every year we will reach new heights and continue to gain more and more experience,’ adds Maxim Khomyakov .