Russian universities rise in Times Higher Education rankings

Moscow State University. Source: Andrei Lukin / TASS

Moscow State University. Source: Andrei Lukin / TASS

The Moscow State University (MSU) jumped 35 places to 161st in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. The total number of Russian universities listed increased from 2 to 13.

The Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) was ranked 161 out of 800 in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, which were released on October 1st. 13 Russian academic institutions made the list this year, compared to just 2 in the 2014-15 rankings. MSU was once again ranked highest among the Russian universities.

Last year, MSU was ranked 196 out of 400 (the list was expanded to 800 universities this year). The only other Russian university that was in the list last year was the Novosibirsk State University, ranked in the 301-350 position. This year, it fell in the rankings to 401-500.

In the 2015-16 rankings, the Russian top 5 also included the Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University (201-250), the Tomsk Polytechnic University (251-300), the Kazan Federal University (301-350) and the National Research Nuclear University MePhi (301-350). 

"It's great that Russia has 13 institutions in this list, with five of its universities sitting within the top 400," says Phil Baty, Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

“Russia has made huge efforts to improve its higher education system in recent years, including the launch of its Project 5-100 initiative,” Baty told RIR. He added that Russia would have to continue to work hard to ensure it can compete with China and other global rivals, who according to Baty “are also investing heavily in higher education.”

Russian Deputy Minister of Education Alexander Povalko praised the fact that more Russian universities entered the rankings, and said he was hopeful of even better results next year. "Universities are investing into their scientific research base and are recruiting the best people to enhance their international competitiveness," Povalko told RIR.

Novosibirsk State University (NSU) Rector Michael Fedoruk said his university has been rising in the ranking by subject category because of the quality of fundamental research work it carried out.  He attributed the fall in the general ranking of the university to a slight change in methodology. Nikolai Kudryavtsev, Rector of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) also cited the change in methodology and added that this year, THE apparently did not take into account scientific publications that have many co-authors.

According to both rectors, when it comes to physics, it is impossible to carry fundamental research with a small group of scientists. For major results, substantial investment and big teams are required.

Another obstacle that comes in the way of Russian specialized universities, like NSU and MIPT, climbing quicker in the general rankings is the limited number of humanitarian courses they offer.

"We only have three specializations in our institute: physics, mathematics and informatics,” Kudryavtsev told RIR. “It's very hard for us to deliver a better result in the general rankings.”  He added that the institute's ambition is to get to the top 25 of the physics ranking. Last year's THE Physical Sciences Ranking included MSU (56), NSU (85) and National Research Nuclear University MePhi (95).

The article is abridged. Read full version at ASIA.RBTH.ru.

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