среда, 13 февраля 2013 г.

GO Inside: On the highest level

“Have you seen the American action film “300” - 300 referring to the 300 Spartans? Well, this is a similar tale, only the Spartans in this case are deans of Russian universities. There were 300 and now, after a highly competitive selection procedure for admission onto the programme, only just over 100 remain. Their fate is sealed and they are destined for success,” says Alexey Gusev, Director of Public Sector Programmes at the SKOLKOVO Education Development Centre, when describing the participants of the “New Higher Education Leaders” programme.

What is so special about the programme? Why are top managers of leading Russian universities so interested in it? And why did Dmitry Medvedev himself, Chair of the SKOLKOVO Advisory Board, say that, “The project to train 100 state university deans is very important for the school”?

“The programme will have a system-wide effect. It’s not just about education, it’s an attempt to change the mindset of university managers,” says Alexey Gusev. “We know how to develop an entrepreneurial, business way of thinking. It’s time to use the experience we’ve gained on the corporate programmes and put it into the non-commercial sector”.

The “New Higher Education Leaders” programme is similar to the Executive Education programme in format: 8 five-day modules, group work, moderators and the best industry experts and professors. The participants’ main objective is not only to attend lectures, but to develop concrete projects which will become pilot platforms for change within the education system. Representatives of different universities will come together in teams to work on areas approved by Dmitry Livanov, Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. This approach will help stimulate inter-university cooperation and have a multiplicative effect on certain higher education sectors. “For example,” says Alexei Gusev, “The framework of the programme will facilitate the development of an industry education cluster model for the construction of aircraft, the effect of which will be felt not only by one given university, but by a whole constellation of strong engineering universities and even by the industry itself.” Moreover, there’s no doubt that a lot of really interesting strategic projects will emerge as the result of the programme, at the end of which participants will have to defend their theses before heads of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

Participation in the “New Higher Education Leaders” programme is free, however competition for places was stiff, with three people to any one place. More than 300 top-management representatives from 170 higher professional educational establishments submitted applications. The SKOLKOVO business school commission selected candidates whose applications best satisfied the requirements and format of the programme. The criteria were determined in advance: managerial experience, being able to speak good English and prior involvement in scientific and innovational projects. The candidates were also asked to prepare a presentation explaining their own position on one of 15 topics relating to the development of higher education today.

Advantage was given to candidates who already had not only academic, but also project management experience, and also to those who could demonstrate experience working in business or other fields unrelated to education. “This radical approach to selection is designed to reflect one of SKOLKOVO business school’s main principles with regard to higher education,” explains Alexey Gusev. “Universities need to interact with the real economy. Without external stimuli to boost development they will remain isolated and consequently the decline of the whole system will be inevitable.”

Investment is made into the mutual cooperation of business and universities from the very first module of the programme. Numerous business experts are eager to cooperate with universities, for example Alexander Abramov, Founder of EVRAZ Group; Mikhail Pogosyan, President of the United Aircraft Corporation and Kamil Isaev, Head of Research at Intel. Enio Omae, a representative of foreign business and top manager at Education First, ex-Research and Development director at Apple and one of the world’s leading experts in the implementation of new technologies in educational products, proved one of the most exciting speakers.

This business-mentality focused approach and the attention paid to new technologies and project work will prove an integral part of the programme as a whole. This is namely why the “New Higher Education Leaders” programme will become an experimental platform for the implementation of bold ideas as part of higher education system reforms.

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