‘Internationalization of Education is Becoming a Real University Practice’
A survey conducted through the HSE website as part of the second stage of the OECD research project entitled ‘Institutional Management in Higher Education’has been completed and the results published . Tatiana Meshkova, Assistant Rector of the HSE, told us about the project’s goals and the initial results.
-Tatiana Anatolievna, what universities are taking part in this project? What are its main goals?
- A total number of 29 universities from 20 countries are taking part in this project, conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), although the Higher School of Economics is the only Russian participant. This project is certainly innovative:it aims to analyze those aspects of the quality of education which have not previously been in the focus of attention. Usually international comparative studies pay more attention to universities'research activities - these are easier to measure, and it is precisely this assessment that has been used in key university rankings. But intuitively we understand that at the end of the day the level of students'education is determined by the quality of teaching.
- What did the first stage of the programme include?
- During the first stage the OECD wanted to understand what initiatives in general are used by universities to support teachers. The OECD was interested in various aspects of the university's activities, such as the current state of the educational environment, methods of recruiting new teachers, their continuing professional development and student consultation. According to the project requirements, during the first stage each university could choose a maximum of three initiatives for such self-inspection on the basis of a questionnaire suggested by the OECD. The HSE chose rankings created on the basis of student surveys, academic bonuses and departments of vocational relationships.
- Why did you choose these three initiatives?
- We worked from the basis that these criteria are very diverse. Rankings are an evaluation form, department of vocational relationships - organizational and bonuses may be considered as an economic way of stimulating teaching. But academic bonuses were not included in the final analysis, since our colleagues from the OECD considered this initiative to be more aimed at supporting research, rather than pedagogic activity.
- What are the key differences between the first and the second stages of the project?
- In the first stage universities themselves were assessing their activities, whereas the second stage involves a joint analysis conducted by universities together with OECD experts. Apart from that, during the first stage OECD didn't aim to compare different initiatives and evaluate their effectiveness, but in the second stage it plans to develop specific recommendations for a university. And this process will not be limited to filling out a traditional questionnaire;in September OECD experts are coming to the HSE to conduct interviews with our teachers and students.
- What conclusions can you make based on the results of the first stage of the project?
- According to the results of the first stage - and this is not specific just for the HSE - initiatives on improving the quality of teaching are usually come from the top:they are initiated by the university administration, and in some sense they are imposed on the academic community. This certainly doesn't mean they are bad or ineffective, but it is important to remember that key beneficiaries of these initiatives are students and teachers, and it is necessary to listen to their opinion on different stages of providing the educational process. Apart from this, we can assume that we just don't have the full information on what teachers use in their daily teaching routine:it is very probable that some of them realize their own initiatives, well-proven within their department or even faculty. Our project provides an opportunity to share such experience with colleagues and international experts.
- The second stage started with a special survey. What did its results show?
- That's right:to support ‘bottom up'initiatives and listen to the voices of our teachers and students, we began the second stage with a survey on the HSE website. We asked participants to choose the initiatives they considered to be the most important and promising. We suggested several possible initiatives for future consideration, including the use of information and communication technologies in the educational process, creation of distance-learning courses, creation of educational programmes in English and organization of research and educational laboratories and project groups.
The survey was completed on April 12th, and it turned out that the HSE community is primarily interested in the creation of educational programmes in English and the support of professors teaching courses in English. Of course, this topic deserves to be the subject of further specific research, but already we can say that the process of internationalization of education, which has been largely discussed and previously perceived as a theoretical concept is now becoming real university practice and defines real students'and teachers'demands. This is also confirmed by the fact that the second stage of this international project will be coordinated by the HSE Office of Educational Process Organization.
- How actively did students participate in the survey?
- About 70% of the respondents were students, and this is an excellent indicator, since participation of students in various procedures of the quality of education evaluation is a modern trend in educational policy and one of the demands of the Bologna Process. Such enthusiastic student activity in surveys and discussions should be further tapped:for example, we could think of organizing special student internet forums and conferences on the problems of the quality of education.
This will also contribute to the development of a learner-centred pedagogic approach which is becoming more and more popular in universities worldwide.
- You mentioned that OECD experts will take part in the analysis of the data and elaboration of further recommendations. How universal can these recommendations be?
- Of course no one should adopt someone else's experience directly, without adjusting it to the specific environment. And there are no quick and easy recipes which will guarantee universities improvement of their work quality. Moreover, OECD emphasizes that is does not impose any idea of quality and suggests the universities to elaborate their own definition of quality education. International experts can only help us to find approaches to help create an optimal strategy of quality, with the support of the authoritative results of numerous inter-country OECD studies in education and researched practices and methods.
- So we are not speaking of developing formal standards of the quality of education?
- Our project is more aimed at developing informal game rules and the ‘culture of quality'. We would like our teachers to have an understanding that quality is not just a standard imposed on you from the outside, but the results of your own initiatives, efforts and desire to make your work the process of joint creation, search and research with students.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service