Autumn’s Winds of Change

The summer time was very fruitful and the HSE moved forward on a number of fronts from launching new international laboratories, remarkable number of newly hired international faculty to the structural transformation of the university departments. The September issue of the English bulletin The HSE LooK gives an overview of some important changes and new projects taking place at the HSE in the new academic year.

The competition for international lab projects to be conducted over a three-year period was announced at the HSE in December 2013. The goal was to locate promising and talented research teams, that have a potential to grow and give them funding so that they could invite renowned international academics to supervise their research. All in all 49 applications were submitted to the international expert committee for evaluation. The majority of applications came from such disciplines as physics, sociology and economics.  In March 2014 it was announced that eight projects will receive substantial financial support. Among the winners there were two teams that were previously functioning as research units at the HSE. To develop the other six projects new labs had to be created. Visit the website of HSE’s International Laboratories to see the list of new international labs.

September is when the university opens its doors to new international professors and postdocs. As a result of the last recruitment round 23 tenure-track professors and 22 postdoctoral fellows are joining the Moscow campus. The faculty and postdocs specialize in a wide range of areas including economics, finance, mathematics, computer science, management, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, linguistics, philology, public administration, institutional analysis, education, politics, media and communications, international affairs and law. The HSE campus in St. Petersburg welcomes two tenure-track professors, in history and economics, and three postdocs specializing in history. Perm and Nizhny Novgorod were pioneers in hiring international teaching-track professors in economics.

Martin Gilman, the Academic Supervisor of the Centre for Advanced Studies, describes the situation with international faculty recruitment using the metaphor 'the glass is half-full or half-empty'. 'If you look at the actual progress it’s rather remarkable,' says Gilman. 'The number of applications for tenure-track has gone from a total of 280 applications for the 2013-2014 academic year to almost 900 for the next year, 2014 - 2015. However we are not moving as rapidly as we would like. We have very strict academic criteria for the kinds of faculty we are looking for. At the same time, the HSE is unfortunately in no position to dictate to the international job market. In the future we plan to further improve the advertising and start the whole process earlier - we think that we’ve lost a number of good candidates who might have accepted our offer, if we had moved earlier. In terms of challenges, it depends first of all on the job market situation. The second obstacle is a Russia-specific one. We are not a major academic centre and so it can be more difficult to attract the better academics from international research universities.  We try to compensate by generous research travel allowances which seem to work in a generally satisfactory way. The third obstacle which I had hoped was becoming less important, but unfortunately now has re-emerged, is the perception of Russia as a rather exotic place to pursue your career. It’s more difficult right now because of the changing perceptions enhanced by the media hype about Russia in the light of the Ukrainian situation. I hope that will be temporarily. On the plus side though is that we think we are doing the right thing.'

The full text of the article, as well as interviews with new international faculty members can be found in Issue 7 (14), September 2014.