Everything I heard at the forum made me think about the situation at TSU. Over the last several years, Russian universities have struggled trying to solve an issue of implementing corporate methods and standards of management and maintaining their values of social institutions with a specific mission. The mission is to provide education, creating a personality, which is conveying knowledge and shaping skills, along with building a motivation and value foundation of a person. We may say that university education is something that helps people to achieve high level of self-identification and self-consciousness. It creates environment and provides with opportunities for self-actualization. University education allows managing current labor market needs and foreseeing its future. It assumes those who provide with such education have all necessary academic rights, freedom, and privileges.
However, many universities chose the option to sweat their employees mercilessly for the sake of showing high numbers. We tried really hard to avoid putting high pressure on our staff and did our best at allowing our employees to find their ways of professional self-actualization. We provided them with a variety of training programmes; supported their academic mobility (inside the country and abroad); opened access to multiple electronic resources; equipped new work spaces for individual and group work and new Wi-Fi zones at the TSU Research Library; started creating English environment; invited experts in preparing papers for publication in English in international journals; opened a School of Candidate Pool; held several series of strategic sessions; and invited a number of acknowledged researchers to conduct open lectures. All of that cost big money.
But we have another very important priority, which is to improve the quality of life of people who work at TSU. John Willard Marriott, founder of one of the world’s biggest chains of hotels, once said: "You’ve got to make your employees happy. If the employees are happy, they are going to make the customers happy." Putting the same idea in other words, if our professors and staff are happy, they are going to make the students happy. It is hard to make them ultimately happy. Unfortunately, we do not have money for that. However, even in the hardest financial conditions we must meet the basic needs and provide them with such things as kindergartens for their kids, university catering system, convenient facilities, healthcare programmes, and so on. We deal with all of that on everyday basis.
For a classical university it is natural to be oriented towards people. We must set our agenda around people’s needs. However, not all members of the Russian academic community share our beliefs. Many of them think that we have made our life complicated because nobody said we should not remember about the key indexes of effectiveness.
Listening to the presentations from the top managers at the forum, I realized once again: we made the right choice. There are values that cannot be abandoned under any circumstances. They allow our university to survive and develop even in the toughest economy. At the forum, I found myself among like-minded people. I was shocked to see that competing on the market does not stop successful companies from considering the values we are oriented towards. There are over 500 such companies only in Russia! They prioritize human potential just like we do.
At the forum, I met a lot of Russian top managers of the companies “with a human face”. Now we have to establish strong relationships with them with long-term prospects of partnership. These particular companies will be main employers for our graduates. We have achieved preliminary agreements with Vladimir Sedov, President of Ascona group. Our university needs partners from the high-tech sphere, who, at their turn, need well-trained engineers. We will try to maintain this mutual interest by carrying out a joint education project that will be launched in the near future.
ReForum turned out to be not just an education and information platform, but also a place to be inspired and feel engaged in something big. The latter is probably more important. Artem Stepanov, Executive Director of MIF publishing house, said: “ReForum makes you feel you are among people who are on the same page with you. This is a magnetic place where people are brought together to share ideas and emotions. You will never be the same after having this experience.”
Tomsk State University has been recognized by this outstanding community and this fact is truly amazing. But I believe we may think of it as of an advance. Our main achievements in developing the potential of our employees are still ahead!