University Research Capacity in Post-Soviet Countries: Case Studies of Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Russia

19th November 2020 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Maia Chankseliani, Department of Education; Sona Balasanyan, Yerevan State University, Armenia; Olga Mun, Department of Education, Oxford; Gulzhanat Gafu, UCL Institute of Education; Igor Fedyukin, HSE University, Russia; Isak Froumin, HSE University, Russia

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Convener: Simon Marginson

Audience: Public

The Soviet Union was the first country to build an atomic power plant, to launch the artificial satellite, and to send the first human into space. The Soviet research community was part of an enormous centralised machinery of the Soviet science that did not recognise academic freedom, was uniform, highly politicised, and entirely state-driven. Universities played a minor role in the development of the Soviet science, as universities were seen as educational institutions. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the mission of universities has expanded. Most former Soviet countries started to recognise the importance of research for the international legitimisation of their universities. Some of these countries also managed to transform what they considered to be outdated science structures centred around the Soviet-style Academies of Science.

This panel presents the emerging findings from our ongoing research project on “University Research Capacity in Post-Soviet Eurasia”, co-led by Maia Chankseliani (Associate Professor, University of Oxford), Igor Fedyukin (Associate Professor, HSE Moscow), and Isak Froumin (Professor, HSE Moscow). The panel presents the country case studies of Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. These case studies offer a multi-disciplinary analysis of how and in what ways universities in former Soviet countries internalised their research mission and developed the capacity to carry out this mission.

Higher Educational Research Capacity in Armenia
Sona Balasanyan
Armenian higher education has been undergoing intensive shifts in research practices: Post-Soviet, post-Bologna, post-Revolution times have created an ever-changing institutional landscape. Problems of translating state law on higher education into research policies, lack of collaboration in research, need for clarifications in research ethical standards, academics paradoxically feeling they have academic freedom in not yet autonomous research institutions, have brought the Armenian research development to a specific “amorphous” (lacking a clear structure or focus) condition. Nevertheless, with persistent and complex issues, research governance in Armenia showcases some elements of academic self-governance, which if given proper attention can benefit higher educational research capacity development.

After presenting some important background information on the Armenian higher education, the reported research provides reflections on changing priorities in higher education and research, starting from the traditional modes of research governance and structural changes, ending with the practice of institutional autonomy, research funding and collaboration. It discloses the contradiction between the formal research structures and informal academic agency and an associated possibility of academic self-governance.

It is argued that academic self-governance in the Armenian higher education is maintained through independent strategies of individual academics or researchers. These strategies are realised in the context of limited operational autonomy and lacking institutional autonomy. And while Armenian academics are well engaged in decision-making about routine research matters, they are excluded from core system-wide or institutional-level strategic planning of academic research.

The Challenges of Internationalisation of Higher Education and Research in Different Types of Higher Education Institutions in Kazakhstan
Olga Mun and Gulzhanat Gafu
In this talk we will present the findings of an exploratory case study of internationalisation of higher education and research in different types of higher education institutions in Kazakhstan. We will start by outlining major higher education reforms in Kazakhstan and an overview of the existing literature on the topic. We will then proceed to the analysis of our original data and findings. Based on the results of the 11 semi-structured interviews with academics, university administrators and policymakers, we will highlight the main challenges of internationalisation as described by early career researchers and mid-career scholars who are based in regional, Almaty and Nur-Sultan higher education institutions. The presentation will conclude with the analysis of the findings of the research reforms as interpreted on meso-institutional and micro-individual level. We close the talk by analysing the data through postcolonial lenses.

The Politics of Developing University Research Capacity in Russia, 1990s-2010s
Igor Fedyukin
Boosting university research capacity was the key policy project in the STE field in Russia in the 1990s-2010s. It was also an important political project, insofar as it called for universities to become the hubs of research equaling, if not surpassing and replacing in this regard the Academy of Sciences. This, in turn, implied dramatic redistribution of both symbolic and very real financial capital; a redefinition of what exactly constitutes “research” and “research capacity,” how are these to be assessed, measured, and compared – and even what constitutes the goals and the driving forces of economic and social development. This presentation will map out the key stages in the process including the most important policy initiatives, but also the key paradigms and the ways in which these paradigms were appropriated and repurposed by political actors.

Discussant: Professor Isak Froumin

This webinar is part of the free public seminar programme hosted by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).