Fewer People in Corporations, but More Promising Careers in Research
On February 12, the winners of last year's Student Research Paper Competition were announced. Not only did they receive prizes, but also had the opportunity to put some thought-provoking questions to the university administration. HSE portal selected five questions which are highly relevant to researchers at HSE and internationally, and the responses are below.
Is working as a researcher in Russia a promising future?
Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE Rector: Yes, it’s promising, since the job market is experiencing significant shifts. HSE is an institution which has traditionally focused more on the business sector of the economy than any other Russian university. But this sector is beginning to overflow with trained specialists. In addition, digital adaptation is impacting corporate management, and this means that managerial levels within corporations are disappearing, and provide fewer and fewer jobs. Graduates will subsequently be forced to take risks — to either start their own businesses or become freelancers. Alternatively, they can move into research.
The higher education research area is growing, and this year, salaries will double the average income. I believe that, if we meet again in five years’ time, we won’t be asking questions about the prospects of the researcher profession in Russia. It is sure to be well-paid — otherwise, our researchers will desert us to the global market.
Is there such a thing as ‘student research’?
Leonid Gokhberg, First Vice Rector: With regard to academic journals, we don’t really have journals ‘for kids’, that is, for students, and ‘for adults’, that is, for professors. If Russia were to continue with the tradition of ‘student’ journals and journals, where authors have to pay to be published, it would be a sad state of affairs. Researchers have to compete to be published in acknowledged academic journals, and this is quite achievable both for experienced academics, and those starting out in research. HSE offers various services, such as academic writing, which will help students develop their skills in this area.
Maria Yudkevich, Vice Rector: In other countries, there are no student academic journals which resemble those in Russia. But there are other concepts. In the first half of the 20thcentury, law students at Chicago University created their own journal. It has since become one of the three leading journals in law. A group of students managed to create a journal in which any leading professors of a law department anywhere in the world would give their right arm to be published. All the editing is carried out by students: they review the papers, and decide which should be accepted and which should be rejected. If any of HSE students have some ideas about creating journal that would be competitive in the ‘adult’ academic community, please contact me – we’ll meet and talk, and maybe launch a journal of our own one day soon.
Does striving for international rankings negatively impact the quality of education?
Sergey Roshchin, Vice Rector: We are often led astray by myths, and this is one of them, I believe. There is no evidence for it, but some people are convinced it is the case. The underlying logic is probably the following: the university is guided by indicators that are important for the rankings, such as academic productivity and publications. The university staff consequently pays less attention to teaching, and the quality is affected. However, let’s have a think about some other logical conclusions.
What does a university get from global rankings? The rankings render the institution visible in the global academic and educational community. If we become visible, we become interesting. Initially, we tweak the interest of the high-achieving students, as it’s a sign that they should apply to our university. A university can’t exist without strong students. Outstanding professors then become interested. HSE was one of the first universities in Russia to launch an international recruitment programme, and we employ hundreds of colleagues from various countries who have been hired as part of this programme. This also enhances the quality of education.
Certainly, for some colleagues, research becomes more important than teaching. But the opportunity for students to communicate with professors who carry out outstanding research remains. You can learn from them, choose this path, and collaborate with them in order to obtain great research results.
Does the university need lectures?
Sergey Roshchin, Vice Rector: The question should be worded differently: do we need the lectures in different formats, such as textbooks and MOOCs? The lecture is poor when the material delivered is just as easy to getwithout the lecturer. In this day and age, it makes no sense to simply regurgitate information at the lecture: students can access it at the pushof a button, and faster, than the lecturer can formulate the words. But it’s also a trap: there is so much information, that it’s hard to navigate this ocean without maps and pilots. The lectures should play a ‘coaching’ role. Their task is to set priorities which reflect the most important things to focus on in the sea of information, and to provide students with direction. This is why lectures are valuable, and this is why we shouldn’t abandon this format.
The online university: good or evil?
Igor Chirikov, Vice Rector: I’ll tell you about a small experiment that we recently carried out at three universities. One of the ordinary courses was replaced with an online course using the Open Education platform, and the students were randomly allocated to three tracks: the first attended the traditional course with its lectures, the second group watched online lectures, but also attended on-site workshops, and the third did the course completely online. And at the end, all of them sat the exam. Various predictions were made regarding the exam results. Some thought that online students would not do as well, while the others believed that they would do better. The results showed that there is no statistically significant difference. Of course, it’s important to consider the context of this specific study, and its results can’t be extrapolated to all online courses. But the point is, we can’t ignore new technology. It’s essential to identify formats where they will be most effectively implemented for everyone, including our students.
In the 19th century, the students at Yale protested when the lecturer first started writing formulas on the black board in chalk. They even demanded that the lecturer be fired, since they believed that this practice devalued memory work and verbal narration of the material. This is an extreme example. But the other extreme is to believe that new technology can solve all our educational problems. It can’t.
The full photo coverage is available here.