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Interview with Magdalena Gaete, An Expert in University Management and Reputation

Interview with Magdalena Gaete, An Expert in University Management and Reputation

Magdalena Gaete, an expert in university management and reputation, comes from Chile. She graduated from the Viña del Mar University with a degree in social media communication. She got her second degree in humanities at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Italy.

Magdalena has been living and working in Russia for about 14 years already. She spent her first 7 years doing business as a representative of a Spanish Rufepa Tecnoagro Greenhouses company. Then she began to work at the University of Navarra as a researcher in the field of management and university reputation as well as a representative of University of Navarra in Russia.

In this interview Magdalena explores topics of what university reputation is and how it can be managed and also highlights the role of students in university reputation building. Furthermore, some peculiarities of academic cultures in European countries are revealed. In addition, here you can find good advice how to build successful career!

How did Magdalena Gaete start working in HSE?

After taking part in the conference “Education and World Cities 2019”, which was held by HSE and University of Navarra, she was invited to work at HSE to support the development in the sphere of university and museum reputation. Since that time Magdalena has been a researcher in the HSE department of the reputational management in education.

Everything you need to know about Reputation Management

Firstly, it is important to understand what reputation is. It is not only about how to look better but about real improvements of quality in different aspects of the university, for example, the educational process, employability, social activities, etc.

There could be a good metaphor of an iceberg whose top is a reputation while the main part under water is the organization itself together with its stakeholders.

Another comparison is with marketing strategies. They show us only positive sides of a product in order to catch our attention. Certainly, we can't resist a temptation. ‘Wow! What a good offer!’ Charmed by an attractive image we buy it.

However, if the product doesn't live up to either the promised one or our expectations, there is a small chance that we will buy it again or recommend it to our friends or colleagues.

So, in order to avoid this disappointment, universities have to provide people with true information. While highlighting their strong sides they must honestly admit some drawbacks. At the same time, they should mention what kind of measures are being taken in order to minimize them.

Considering reputation management, it is often thought that reputation cannot be managed because it lies on the stakeholders and their perceptions. However, it is just a myth. Reputation can be and must be managed through increasing quality inside the institution and answering to the needs of the stakeholders.

To understand what reputation is, it is important to consider university stakeholders. It can be made by mapping of stakeholders, and it is not a surprise that students are becoming more important stakeholders in connection with university reputation.

Imagine a university in the middle of the last century. Universities were the centers of transmission of knowledge, and maybe that was the only mission that was expected from them. Now, the picture is different, millennials started to change the colors of that picture. It is extremely relevant to improve students' learning experience, which mostly depends on their interaction with the lecturers.

The best way of communication between students and professors

It is essential to find a golden mean to avoid familiarity on the one hand and formalism on the other. The best way of communication between professors and students is mutual respect.

Considering the teaching approach, academics have not only to transfer their knowledge but also to teach students critical thinking abilities. Of course, lecturers have to provide students with useful resources. However, it is also crucial for students to analyze given materials and suggest their own creative ideas and original thoughts.

A student is the ‘captain’ of the ship, while the professor is the “boatswain”, the one showing the way, giving advice, because is more experienced. The boatswain as an expert of the ‘knowledge sea’ offers an optimal way, whereas the captain-student experiments with it and controls the ‘studying ship’.

So, it is essential for a lecturer to tell the students what to think about and how to use that knowledge, giving the tools to use it, no wonder why in many conferences of Higher Education you hear “science with a purpose”.

Thus, academics have the possibility to guide students in the process of the development of their self-study abilities, encouraging them to work in projects where they can develop those talents. This approach of studying and teaching could improve learning experience and boost the general quality of education.

There are universities that work in that way, and they are a good practice to take into consideration, and, of course, it involves both sides – students and academics.

How can you assess the integration of foreigners into the HSE student and academic community? What are the opportunities for growth?

'Well, I haven’t been working in HSE enough to see a full picture, but there are some foreigners in our team. I am satisfied with successful interaction of people from different cultures and there is an idea to organize a Spanish talking club in HSE Saint-Petersburg, whose members will be able to discuss various topics and share their ideas about a lot of different topics related to Latin American cultures and also the quality of education. I suppose that there are a lot of Spanish speaking people who would be glad to take part in scientific discussions and projects'.

Ratings and Reputation

In the matter of ratings, they are often considered as an indicator of how good a university is. There are four most popular university rating systems: QS, Times Higher Education, ARWU and the US NEWS Rankings.

Nevertheless, reputation is not about ratings. Despite that fact, the last 10 years ratings are an integrated part of the life of universities, and it is important for universities to enter them. They are similar to beauty contests in some way.

For instance, there are a lot of beautiful girls but only few of them are on the catwalk. In the same way there are many universities with good reputation, but only few of them meet the requirements of the rating systems.

That is why reputation is mostly determined by the quality of education and the stakeholders’ perception of the university but not by the rating system. Trying to fit the rating selection criteria universities might miss extremely important things for their students and internal community. For instance, their social mission, which for a long time was not considered by the rankings. Nowadays, the ‘third mission’ (or 3M) of the university is quite a promising way of development. It represents the contribution of universities to social development. In this sense, universities have the opportunity to be more open to the society where they live.

Science might be theoretical but also open to practical use as it is crucial to provide students with appropriate hard and soft skills that will be useful for their future jobs. It is essential because many urban enterprises need highly qualified employees that are T shaped professionals.

Magdalena’s experience and knowledge might be helpful in different ways. For example, students’ interests in studying abroad. She revealed some peculiarities of academic cultures in European countries.

Spain

There are 80 universities, both state and private ones, and, what is most important, their quality doesn't depend on the type of owner of the university. There is also a great variety of regional universities. However, there are many universities and study centers in Spain that are among the best in the world.

The QS World University Rankings, for example, list 21 Spanish universities, including the University of Barcelona, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Navarra. In addition, Spain has some of the world's most prestigious business schools, including IE, IESE and ESADE.

Italy

Мost Italian universities are state institutions. There are two types of universities: secular universities and pontifical universities. In 2006, with the change of Bologna and the standardization of Higher Education in Europe, you could think that there was a tendency to make all European universities look alike, but the challenge for each university is to find their distinctiveness.

Speaking about academic culture, Italians tend to master the subjects. As for the reputation, there are many prestigious universities in Italy. Unfortunately, as they have their own specific teaching format, it is highly likely that they won't get the very best places in the international university rankings. They differ much from the Anglo-Saxon method of teaching. However, they have their own advantages which are not considered by this rating system.  The same situation happens with Russian universities.

Russia

Talking about Russia, there are about 700 universities of different types in Russia, and it is a common belief that private organizations are worse than the state ones. Nevertheless, 3 very good private universities with high quality of education must be highlighted. They are the New Economic School, Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and the European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP).

Despite some different approaches, Times Higher Education created a new “Higher Education Impact Ranking” relating HEI with the 17 Sustainability Development Goals of the UN two years ago. 47 Russian universities were ranked, and 3 of them are included in the top 100. They are Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Russian University of Economics and Altai State University.

Russian universities have a great history and potential, and as everywhere in the world there are matters that could be improved. There is a significant progress in the reputation sphere in the last 7 years. Earlier, Russian universities were not represented appropriately in international educational forums, nowadays the situation is different. As a result, a great number of myths have disappeared.

Nevertheless, even now there are a lot of people who don’t know about the Russian educational system. The Russian Academic Excellence Project has achieved a lot spreading information about Russian universities all over the world. So, there is a variety of opportunities in reputation growth. Another good reason is that there is a great number of motivated scholars who are eager to promote their universities.

What is most important for graduates to build successful careers?

'I suppose that it is crucial for students to develop their soft skills, project skills and social skills, because hard skills will be developed profoundly as the scholars in HSE are highly qualified. Soft skills play a big role in building a successful career. The first thing to do is to perform a personal analysis of general strengths and weaknesses in order to find opportunities to improve your weak sides.

Furthermore, students should make sure that they are proficient in languages that are needed nowadays in Russia: Russian, English and Big Data language. Big Data language is now of critical importance. This technological language is the basic knowledge for any professional in any sphere of career development'.

Author

Ekaterina Baranova