Top Down Push for Excellence

Lesson from Russia


Isak Froumin and Alexander Povalko


Isak Froumin and Mikhail Lisyutkin

Abstract 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.

Accelerated Universities

Ideas and Money Combine to Build Academic Excellence


Edited by Philip Altbach, Liz Reisberg, Jamil Salmi and Isak Froumin

During the past several decades, several “highly-resourced, accelerated research universities” have been established around the world to pursue—and achieve—academic and research excellence. These institutions are entirely new, not existing universities that were reconfigured. Accelerated Universities provides case studies of eight such universities and highlights the lessons to be learned from these examples. Each of the cases is written by someone involved with leadership at the early developmental stages of each university, and provides insights that only senior executives can illustrate. Accelerated Universities shows that visionary leadership and generous funding combined with innovative ideas can yield impressive results in a short time. Universities aspiring to recognition among the top tier of global institutions will find this book indispensable.

“In the 21st century nations compete intellectually more than ever and heavily invest in the business of ideas. When starting one such program for Russia we studied the experience of startup universities in other countries—both already world-class and those in their nascent stage. This book contains eight such captivating stories of the accelerated buildup of universities, aiming to become drivers of economic diversity and prosperity of their countries.”
Viktor Vekselberg, President, Skolkovo Foundation and global entrepreneur

Accelerated Universities provides a unique perspective on the success of eight young, generously-funded universities. This study offers a significant contribution by providing analysis and insight to understand how these institutions achieved international recognition and respect within a relatively short period of time following their creation. This work confirms that there is space on the international landscape for new world-class universities. Guided by exceptional leadership, money and ideas can lead to exciting innovation.”
Henry Rosovsky, Geyser University Professor and Dean of Arts and Sciences Emeritus, Harvard University

The Art of Starting a New University

Lessons of Experience


Jamil Salmi, Philip G. Altbach, Liz Reisberg and Isak Froumin