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Nadezhda Polikhina, Project 5-100, Russia

In 2012, the Russian government announced a flagship internationalisation initiative to put Russian universities front and centre on the global stage. Nadezhda Polikhina, deputy executive director of the Project 5-100, talks about the programme’s successes so far, and some of the hurdles Russian universities have yet to overcome.

The PIE: What’s the objective of the project – to have five universities in the world top 100?

"The average number of foreign students in Project 5-100 universities has increased by almost two times compared to 2012"

NP: This is not the ultimate goal, the goal is to enhance competitiveness of the Russian universities around the globe, to improve the Russian educational system and to develop universities in Russia. The rankings are an objective thing to measure the success but not the ultimate goal. It is a way of measuring and everybody recognises this as a way to know that we are going the right way.

The PIE: How many Project 5-100 universities are there?

NP: 21 right now. We had 15 universities which joined in 2013 and then in 2015, six more have joined the project.

The PIE: So how do you help Russian universities to become more competitive?

NP: The main challenges are to put the universities in the global arena. Historically, nobody from the universities did branding or promotion of themselves in the global arena. We help by representing the universities at global exhibitions and fairs and conferences, we also support them in PR, and do analytical support for them and also do methodology support, how to rise in the rankings and how to do things to get to the best places.

“Historically, nobody from the universities did branding or promotion of themselves in the global arena”

We just launched the Study in Russia website recently and we hope that it helps foreign students come to Russia. It has more than 3,000 programmes and you can choose for example, the field and then the subject, you go to the university page and you can apply online for the scholarship for example and there are many tips how to get to visa, how to get insurance, how to proceed with the application. The student also can go from our website to the form which allows you to be on the list for the government scholarship.

We also organise training of the employees of the universities, such as how to attract foreign students. Every quarter we organise the big conferences for all the universities in Russia. During the conferences we introduce the latest trends in global education, usually those conferences gather 600-700 people which are professionals in higher education.

The PIE: How do you measure how successful the project is?

NP: We have a system of indicators which is comparable to the system of indicators of the world leading universities: the amount of publications, their quotation, the amount of attracted foreign students, the percentage of foreign students, and foreign professors which universities have attracted. Those are the basics but we have more.

The PIE: What are some of the tangible outcomes you’ve seen so far?

NP: We see a great effect. We see the effect on the people in the universities; they have changed their attitude so they also develop with the universities.

“We see a great effect. We see the effect on the people in the universities; they have changed their attitude”

The average number of foreign students in Project 5-100 universities has increased by almost two times compared to 2012; in 2015 more than 4,700 foreign students came to study in Project 5-100 universities from the UK, Germany, Italy, China, Netherlands, and other countries.

We also measure how many programmes which are in collaboration with world leading universities. Since 2013, Project 5-100 universities have developed and implemented more than 680 such programmes with foreign universities and research organisations including institutions from the UK, Germany, China, Netherlands, the USA, Finland and France.

We also measure how many programmes in a foreign language have appeared – since the start of Project 5-100, its member universities have developed and implemented more than 280 study programmes taught in foreign languages, predominantly in English.

The PIE: Russian universities don’t typically rise to the top of rankings tables – why is that?

NP: Part of the reason is it is a big challenge to have publications in English, because historically Russian universities have publications only in Russian. Nobody knew the good results of the research. For the universities it is crucial to represent the results of the research in English, and so many universities have opened centres of academic writing and they teach you how to write in English and how to work with journals, how to apply the article to the journal.

Also the challenge is to reform the old system to attract new people, new management teams. And many of the universities were closed. For example the University MEPHI was closed until 2010 and no foreign students could apply. It is a nuclear university so the nuclear research arm was closed.

“It is a big challenge to have publications in English. Nobody knew the good results of the research”

The PIE: And so you support universities in publishing their research internationally?

NP: Recently we have organised a seminar with Jeffery Beall from the University of Colorado, who published a list of predatory journals, on how to see if the journal is predatory or not. So we teach them that they shouldn’t do a certain amount of publications but they should do quality publications and this is important. The project office of 5-100 also sees if they have quality publications or not. We don’t need the indicators that are twisted. We always report to the Ministry if there are some cases of this.

The number of highly-cited publications by employees of Project 5-100 universities in journals which are among the top 1% and 10% of the most highly-cited publications in the world has increased in 2012-2015 by almost three times.

The PIE: How will the project develop this year?

NP: Our project develops constantly. Yearly goals are set, for example this year, at first [universities] had those strategic development road maps. Right now they are modernising those road maps and giving exclusive priority areas which they can offer to the world, so the council have recommended to have those basic points of excellence.

Right now, the universities give money to those points of exclusive priority areas. So, for example, some of the universities have chosen space projects, some of the universities have biomedical priority areas, some of them research the Siberian nature.

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