About higher education in Russia and a language barrier in science

Posted: September 27, 2010 in Society
Tags: , ,
In Stockholm my wife and I had a short conversation with a subway cashier – a 40 years old man. We found out that he speaks Russian fluently and many years ago have studied in Herzen Institute. Excellent painting – Russian education is just good enough to sell tickets in Sweden…
Despite there are no Russian institutions of higher education in top 200 of the Times Higher Education’s list 2010, Moscow State University still holds at 152-nd place on another list. It is not a reason for cheers, because it is only one Russian institution on the list and only at 152-nd place (the situation with higher education and science in Russia is awful and MedvePut does not pay attention to it). But it is an example that all depends on methodology. Let’s take a look at the methodology of the Times…
Times’s methodology (source)
There is no sense to perform a deep analysis, so straight to the point. 11% – of the rating points are different types of incomes, which are definitely much higher in developed countries than in Russia. More over recently the research function was officially separated from education in Russia. So let’s take that any Russian university loses at least 10% out of total 11% in this type of comparison.

32.5% – the greater part of the index is a Citation impact. The main part of the universities from the list are from English-speaking countries. And the main part of the others uses an English for publications. So it is much harder for Russian institutions to gain Citation impact points due to most part of publications are in Russian and it makes them unavailable for the most part of scientific society. Of course there are international publications of Russian scientists but it is a small part of overall publications. Let’s take that Russian institutions lose at least 30% out of 32.5% of Citation impact score.

100% -(10%+30%)=60%. This 60% means 77-th place in current rating – the best what Russian university can get. The last place has 46.2%. Particular Russian university have to lose only 14% in other parts of the rating to be out of the list; remember – 40% are lost by default.

This means that actually it is hard to confirm that Russian education is too bad only because there are no Russian Universities on the list. But definitely there are a lot of problems. Most obvious are a lack of financial support for everything (I don’t even want to talk about corruption) and  a problem with exchange of scientific knowledge.

The last one is a very interesting subject for discussion – it concerns misunderstanding of scientific publication’s goals in Russia (an exchange of knowledge between scientists of the world – not only with fellow countrymen) and one of the main problems of the science (to my mind), which was pointed out by Nietzsche – a general problem of particular language usage (multiple meanings for a single word, etc.). So there are two problems for the knowledge exchange: impossibility of understanding (for foreign languages)  and misunderstanding due to particular language peculiarity. Actually there are 2 more: a general public accessibility  due to intellectual property of journals etc., and classified information, but it is another story.  It is obvious that science have to have its own language. For now  English is a common language for science de facto and you have to accept it. But I suppose that Scientific Language must be created from scratches. I will try to write some thoughts on this subject later.

Back to the Russian universities. If we want to have them on the top 200 list, then we should provide an adequate financial support and put a great-power proud (so typical for Russia) in the ass and publish scientific papers only in English.

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