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Russia boosts efforts to support global competitiveness of its universities

The Russian Ministry of Education and Science has published the results of a ‘megagrant’ call for proposals, which aims to attract top researchers worldwide to work and teach at Russian universities and research institutes. This is already the third round of the competition, which enabled the selection of 40 projects in 2010 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2010) and 39 projects in 2011 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, September 2011), respectively. This year’s competition has attracted 720 project applications, almost 40% higher than in the second round.

Overall, 42 winners of the third call (including one Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry from the US) will obtain up to RUB 90 million each (EUR 2.2 million) for the implementation of their three-year projects at the Russian labs. Nine researchers of the selected cohort come from the EU (2 scientists from Germany, Italy and Spain, and 1 from Ireland, France and the Netherlands, respectively).

The annual megagrant competition is not the only initiative of the Russian government to promote the global attractiveness of the Russian academic landscape. Although Russia has no dedicated public agency or programme which would specifically deal with the issues related to the internationalisation of higher education or academic mobility, some new ideas seem to crystallise and might bring fruit in terms of a new institutional framework in the near future (e.g., see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, February 2013).

Thus, in April, a newly established Advisory Council, in charge of improving the competitiveness of top universities in Russia, ran its kick-off meeting. The Council is chaired by the Russian Minister of Education and Science, Dmitri Livanov, and includes 6 Russian and 6 international experts (academic administrators from China, Hong Kong, the UK and the US). The objective of the Council is to work out a framework for public support of selected higher education institutional development programmes. Specifically, international academic mobility programmes, new curricula designed and implemented jointly with international partners, attraction of foreign students, young researchers and senior academic administrators to Russian universities are amongst the measures that can be included in the development programmes and supported by the government. The new initiative’s (public) budget expected in 2013 amounts to RUB 9 billion (EUR 220 million). However, in Russia the devil is always in the details. Thus, it is still unclear which criteria will be applied for the selection of winning institutions. The performance of winners will be assessed on the basis of their standings in international league tables (e.g., Times Higher Education and QS). At least five Russian universities will be expected to appear in the top 100 worldwide universities by 2020.

Russian Ministry of Education and Science – ‘megagrant’ results (in Russian)

Russian Ministry of Education and Science – Kick-off meeting of the Advisory Council charged with the improvement of the global competitiveness of Russian universities (in Russian)