Eugene Vorotnikov. The Russian government is considering a radical shift in the management of national universities, in an attempt to strengthen their research potential and Russian science. But there are fears that the move will erode university autonomy.
During the Soviet era the Russian National Academy of Sciences was the centre of research activity in Russia, and the role of universities in academic life was limited to training specialists for various industries. However, in recent years the position of the academy in Russian science has weakened, forcing the government to think about alternative ways to develop research. Under changes hailed by the Ministry of Education and Science, and in particular Minister Dmitry Livanov, national universities will become the new centres of research in Russia in the next decade.
This is expected to happen after university reforms are completed and up to 20% of institutions are closed. There are plans to cut one in five of Russia’s 600 universities and 30% to 35% of its more than 1,400 university branches that are identified as inefficient by a state commission. The Russian government makes no secret of its plans to rely in future on university research instead of the academy, which according to some officials has an outdated structure and needs to be modernised.