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The Soviet Flagship University Model and Its Contemporary Transition

P. 173-190.

The chapter aims to explore the special model of flagship universities that emerged in the former socialist Soviet system and analyse their contemporary transition. A planned state economy requires the development of a sophisticated hierarchical typology of higher education institutions with flagship universities positioned at the top of the hierarchy. The Soviet higher education model was different from those found in other parts of the world because of its officially assigned special leadership roles. Soviet flagship universities provided support for other universities in national or regional contexts. This support included the training of teaching staff, curriculum development, and quality control. Flagship universities had exclusive opportunities to conduct research. The first part of the chapter highlights the differences between these flagship universities and the rest of the higher education system.

After the collapse of Soviet Union the hierarchical model of Russian higher education has changed under the influence of market forces, private education, and increasing competition between universities. These changes have affected flagship universities. The second part of the paper examines the reasons why some former flagship universities lost their special role, why some flagship universities managed to keep or strengthen their role, and, why several new leadership universities have emerged. The chapter describes the transformation, changes of internal features and attributes of former leading universities on the path to the contemporary models of flagship universities. The end of the paper discusses the basic factors that allow leading universities in Russia to become contemporary flagship universities.