‘We Want to See Ourselves Through the Eyes of Our Stakeholders’
How can universities maintain a balance between competition and cooperation? Is it possible for higher education systems to adapt to the new digital reality? Who are university ambassadors? These questions were discussed during the first day of the Sixth International Conference ‘Education and Global Cities: New Horizons in University Reputation’.
Professor Sergei Kadochnikov, Director of HSE University – St Petersburg, gave a welcoming address and noted that the subject ‘New Horizons in University Reputation’ was chosen for two main reasons. First, HSE University started a collaboration with the World 100 Reputation Network and the University of Navarra (Spain), well-known for holding the conference Building University Reputation. The second reason is that when universities build their reputation, they think not only about where they rank in the international ratings, but also about the message they deliver to their stakeholders and the tasks they have to solve. ‘We want to take a broader look at university reputation and see ourselves through the eyes of their stakeholders,’ he said.
International Partnerships as One of the Instruments for Building Reputation
The conference started with a plenary session, devoted to international education and new approaches to university partnerships.
Christopher Gerry, Dean of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, discussed the specifics of establishing a collaborative relationship with universities in Great Britain. One of the main challenges the universities face when they try to establish partnership relations with the UK universities is related to high tuition fees. Another point is that the universities in the UK are not yet ready for balanced student mobility: there are much more incoming than outgoing students in Great Britain now. The speaker related it to some ‘obsession’ with the quality of education—holding very high positions in international rankings, the British universities do not want to send their students to weaker educational institutions. Another peculiarity which complicates international collaboration is the fact that the duration of Master's programmes in the UK is one year.
In spite of these specific features, UK universities successfully develop international collaboration. One of the brightest examples is the IMESS programme of University College London, which nine institutions, including HSE University, take part in.
Mark Sudbury from the World 100 Reputation Network noted that all systems of higher education have faced a serious challenge. ‘Education becomes global, and the competition between universities becomes tougher. Universities compete for international students, leading research staff, funding and reputation. At the same time, the system of higher education has always been based on collaboration—breakthrough research, high quality of education and international mobility are not possible without close cooperation. Thus, we are now in a very interesting situation when universities have to compete and collaborate at the same time’.
I believe there are truly fantastic opportunities for the development of international networks and associations. Strategic partnership is possible only in an environment where participants are not afraid to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and jointly find a solution to the task.
Ivan Prostakov, Vice-Rector of HSE University, noted that HSE is now in a process of transition from a regional university to a global one. ‘Till recently we have been collecting best practices and adopting the expertise of more experienced colleagues. We have more than 400 international partners.’
Now we see that HSE University has reached a new quality level, and we are ready to not only activate but share our knowledge. We have more balanced mobility now. We have all the opportunities to become a global university.
Educational Models in the Era of Digital Transformation
The session devoted to new educational models in the era of digital transformations brought together the representatives of several universities who shared their views on the changes universities are to make under the influence of modern technologies.
Natalia Chicherina, Deputy Director of HSE University – St Petersburg, presented the cases of Bachelor’s programmes based on the Major/Minor principle. In her talk, she mentioned that the large-scale task universities face now is the development of new forms of education, allowing students to form competencies in an efficient and flexible manner.
Andrey Sebrant, Strategic Marketing Director at Yandex, expressed the opinion that traditional fundamental education, provided by universities, makes graduates too qualified for the mass market and not enough qualified for top management. ‘We are in need of confident people, who are able to study, who can orient themselves in the ocean of information and know how to work with it,’ he said.
Vadim Volkov, Rector of European University in St Petersburg, noted that we should avoid overestimating the importance of digital transformation. Still, he underlined that modern technologies should be used to optimize processes and facilitate administrative mechanisms.
‘First-Hand’ International Experience: Partner Universities Fair
As part of the international fair, participants of the International Partners Week and the Conference met with students of HSE University – St Petersburg, presented their institutions and answered questions. Staff members of HSE also took part in the event. Student mobility coordinators told students about preparing for studying on exchange and getting a scholarship. Maria Neklyudova held an informational session and told students about QTEM, Quantitative Techniques for Economics & Management Masters Network.
University Ambassadors Abroad
The final event of the first conference day was the round table ‘University Ambassadors Abroad and Their Role in the Reputation of Their Alma Mater’.
‘Our alumni are our DNA,’ said Zarema Kasabieva, Vice-Rector of the New Economic School. ‘We invest a lot in our alumni. From the first days in the university we tell our students about the NES community. Which means new friends, new love, new partnerships.’
Olga Krylova, Head of the International Office at HSE University – St Petersburg, presented the project ‘International Ambassador’ implemented in the campus. ‘We have got the feeling that we have a lot of happy students; the idea of mutually beneficial collaboration with them is out in the open.’ The International Ambassadors programme has been implemented in HSE University – St Petersburg since 2018. Now students from Armenia, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Mauritius bear the official status of ambassador.