Does government support of a few leading universities have a broader impact on the higher education system? Evaluation of the Russian University Excellence Initiative
Many governments attempt to improve national higher education through the competitive support of universities. These policy approaches raise questions about the impact on the entire system—both in research and educational—of targeted support for a small number of universities. Addressing challenges in the measurement of university excellence initiatives are among the most vital topics in research evaluation due to the central roles they often play in national research and university policy efforts. Using data from the Russian University Excellence Initiative (RUEI), we measure the spillover effects of such focused support and demonstrate that a broader impact does exist. In particular, we examine the performance of higher education institutions that were not part of RUEI and were not directly supported by it. We compare the university performance in regions both with and without RUEI universities. In doing so, we measure the indirect impact of RUEI on the higher education sector at the regional level. We show a positive effect on the level of publication activity that has recently become apparent. However, there has been no effect on the share of young faculty, international collaboration in publications, or the quality of enrollment. Judging from the broader research policy\research evaluation perspective, our study sheds light on the systemic effects of excellence initiatives, which are often neglected. Besides, excellence initiatives could trigger a change in the approach to evaluating research. So government should develop measure properly, taking into account various consequences, some of which are considered in our article.