CGHE Webinar 312

What happened to the Soviet University?

Date: Thursday, 27 October 2022 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Event Materials

This event is now archived and we are pleased to provide the following event media and assets, along with the original event overview.

This seminar presents some of the key arguments from Maia Chankseliani’s recently published book What Happened to the Soviet University? (OUP, 2022). The book explores how one of the largest geopolitical changes of the twentieth century—the dissolution of the Soviet Union—triggered and inspired the reconfiguration of the Soviet university. It offers a historical and sociological analysis of radical and incremental changes affecting sixty-nine former Soviet universities since the early 1990s. The book departs from traditional deficit-oriented, internalist explanations of change and illustrates how global flows of ideas, people, and finances have impacted higher education transformations in this region. It also identifies areas of persistence. The processes of marketisation, internationalisation, and academic liberation are analysed to show that universities have maintained certain traditions while adopting and internalising new ways of fulfilling their education and research functions. Soviet universities have survived chaotic processes of post-Soviet transformation and have self-stabilised with time. Most of them remain flagship institutions with large numbers of students and relatively high research productivity. The majority of these universities operate in a top-down, one-man management environment with limited institutional autonomy and academic freedom. As the homes of intellectuals, universities represent a duality of opportunity and threat. Universities can nurture collective possibilities, imagining and bringing about different futures. At the same time, or perhaps because of this, the probability is high that universities will continue to be perceived as threats to governments with authoritarian inclinations. One message to take away from the book is that the time is ripe for former Soviet universities to loosen their last remaining chains.

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