The second half of August is a special time for the University. We are summing up the first results of the enrolment campaign. The first objective goal we have achieved so far is the average point of the enrollees that has gone up by 10 points over the last four years. We had many discussions on whether we should raise the bar comparing to that set by the Ministry of Education and Science or not. Raising meant we would have students with better academic records and improve the image of our University, but put in risk a number of those who would want to study and pay the tuition. Not raising meant the opposite.
Now, summing up the results of two recent campaigns, we see that the risks paid off. Of course, we will conduct surveys among freshmen to learn why they chose TSU over other universities. But we have already questioned many enrollees and their parents and found out that the average point was one of the major reasons why they decided to enter TSU. It showed that our University is in demand.
Another significant result of this campaign is that we have more winners of All-Russian competitions and freshmen who scored very well on their Unified State Exams (USE). Those are the very best who could enter Moscow universities with their high results, but they chose us. This is a very good sigh and we hope it marks the beginning of a new tendency. The thing is, several years ago the implementation of the USE affected the number of school graduates who chose Moscow universities over regional one. Today, it is obvious that the situation needs to be changed. High ranking universities is a factor that may influence the decision making process.
This year we have a 20% increase in the number of applications to the University. We still do not have the final number of those who will pay tuition for their education, however, we see that we will have enough of those too.
Therefore, the strategy we chose in 2017 proved to be the right one. Raising the average point signals the market: the better our enrollees are, the better our graduates become, and the more demand we have from the potential employers. Frankly, I thought it would take more time to achieve these results. Luckily, it was emerged by increasing the ranking of the University, attracting the most talented school graduates, regular work with school students on their professional orientation, and implementing new forms of social communication with our outside audiences. Strong universities begin to attract strong students.
There is another side of the story. Richard Munch in his book Academic Capitalism: Universities in the Global Struggle for Excellence argues, “The increased allocation of funds on the basis of performance leads to overinvestment of resources at the small top and underinvestment for the broad mass of universities in the middle and lower ranks”.
The book really stands out and is worth being enlightened in more details. But now I want just to emphasize the following. In my opinion, ranking is not either good or bad. Criteria that a certain ranking is based on determine whether it influences positively or negatively in any particular case. If we talk only about quantity criteria, the ranking they constitute is certainly far from being objective. Those who develop ranking criteria still have a lot to work on in this regard.
Nowadays, rankings divide academic sphere into “centres” and “provinces”. It used to be about partnership and tolerance, not about competiveness in here. This reflects global trends in research and education contexts. And there is no turning back to what we had before. Moreover, clustering in education and science is projected to increase within the next 20 years. That is explained by problems connected with implementing technologies in education and research and transferring knowledge in innovation. This processes are becoming more and more complicated and expensive. That is why there will not so many world class education and research clusters, around 50 in total. In Russia there will be not more than 3 and our goal is to become one of them.
Along with dividing universities into top and low classes, there is another trend that is seen as negative by many. Higher education is becoming exclusive and less affordable. Tuition prices are increasing. One of the reasons why the Ministry is turning tables is lack of qualified labor and office staff. Well trained and talented workforce in industry, agriculture, and the sphere of service will not be replaced by robots in the near future. However, for the last 20-25 years, young people preferred more sophisticated career paths. The Ministry is making higher education less affordable and education at training colleges and technical schools more attractive. The latter are sometimes equipped not worse than universities. Especially, when they are sponsored by oil and gas industries.
Any way, young people who want to obtain university diplomas have a choice: either have good and excellent grades at school, or earn money for tuition. For many years we were bummed by devaluation of higher education and demographical issues that led to the situation when even graduates with satisfactory records could enter universities. Do we want to have that in the future? Do we want to deal with mediocre professionals? No, we do not! That is why strategic decisions of the Ministry seem legitimate from the points of social and economic development of the country, rather than discriminating.
Getting back to the impressive results of TSU’s enrolment campaign-2017, I want to thank everybody who participated in it. We deliberately did not establish a “one window” service for all majors. We would not be happy with that technology, because our University is a community of various faculties with traditions of their own. They need to communicate and consult their future students without mediators. Everybody did an excellent job! I would like to address special thanks to the staff of the Enrolment Board. Not only did they do their job very well, but they tried new formats of attracting young people as well. Not all of their initiatives were met as expected, but some of them were extraordinary successful. AS a result, the campaign of 2017 has become one of the brightest and most recognizable. And our motivated, talented, and bright freshmen are the best award we could receive for our work!
Rector Eduard Galazhinskiy
Comments from Evgeniy Pavlov, Executive Secretary of the TSU Enrolment Board:
Today we have only preliminary results, because the campaign officially ends on August 31. This year, we have hit our own record. The average point increased, but the number of applications increased as well! For some graduates it became an obstacle, for others – an attractive factor.
We have a positive dynamic almost everywhere. Besides the number of students who will pay their tuition fees. There is an objective reason for that, which is a higher tuition rate. Parents’ reaction varied but in general, they understood that the Ministry had to deal with the regulation of the training process. For many years, the situation was misbalanced. We had excessively many people with university diplomas and not enough trained personnel for service jobs. Now there are two options for the children: to have excellent academic results or to pay for education.
This year, we changed our strategy of working with faculties. We used to direct a lot of efforts towards helping less popular majors. But this year, we prioritized cooperation with the “engines”, including the legal practice and the computer studies programmes. This strategy paid off and the competition was even higher than it used to be. Enrollees with good points who could not enter the most demanded programmes chose less popular ones so that all faculties and programmes had the necessary number of students.
Talking about the specifics of enrolment campaigns at classical universities, I want to point out that managing them here is more difficult than at engineering universities where all enrollees have the same set of USEs for all majors.
However, perfection knows no limits and we have started thinking about improving our work for the next year campaign. We are planning to make our internet resources more convenient and comprehensive for our enrollees and their parents. But people will always have a choice whether to apply and follow the campaign remotely (especially, if they live far away) or come and communicate with the staff in person. This is particularly important in non-standard situations that occur from time to time during campaigns. Anyway, we can solve problems and manage even the most outstanding situations via electronic resources.
For us, enrolment campaigns are not only about working with electronic and paper documents, but, first and foremost, with people. We help them to solve a whole range of problems from legal to psychological. We conduct public events, such as “I am at TSU!” I have to say not everything always goes as planned. However, we do our best and want our future students to know that studying at TSU is not only learning disciplines in classrooms, library and dormitories. It is also having fun. Our last event on July 31 gathered 2,500 people and was full of surprises, including a 3D laser show. Our guests were impressed and we had a great feedback from the audience.
On September 1, new students will start their journey at TSU and we will start working on the next enrolment campaign. Life goes on!