State and World-Class Universities: Seeking a Balance between International Competitiveness, Local and National Relevance
The role of the governments in the development and operation of universities in the emerging countries is being significantly transformed by the global agenda. There are a lot of evidences that governments’ aimed at the establishment of the world-class universities increase their interference in higher education systems and even in the operation of particular institutions. Governments set tasks for universities related to the accelerated increase of their global competitiveness by launching so-called excellence-initiatives in higher education. Consequently, the matter of the changing autonomy of the higher education institutions participating in excellence initiatives arises.
There are academic and expert discussions arguing that the implementation of excellence initiatives is in large degree irrelevant to national and local challenges. The question arises whether governments should specifically set national and local objectives for world-class universities, or whether the growth of global competitiveness brings benefits for national and local challenges. Through the analysis of excellence initiatives, this chapter shows that in most cases governments do not specify the objectives related to national and local contribution. This chapter presents a study that examines the implementation of the Russian excellence initiative, Project 5-100, which aims to have at least five universities participating in the project in the top 100 world rankings by 2020. This initiative ignores potential direct national and local contribution. At the same time, the experience of the Russian initiative shows that participating universities purposefully develop nationally and locally relevant activities while they move towards global competitiveness without government pressure. The chapter discusses why these objectives are interrelated.