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What’s the university of the future?

Theses for Roundtable at ASEEES Annual Convention (2023) "Building a Free University in the Post-Soviet Space: Challenges and Opportunities"

Published onDec 12, 2023
What’s the university of the future?

Free University

What’s the university of the future? I think that it’s an upgraded version of the Free University. This is the university, which does not depend on classrooms or a campus. This is the university which can involve the best instructors from all over the world and teach the students irrespective of their geographic location. At the same time, our university does lots of research, we publish books and journals and host conferences. We do a lot, but not because we’re so advanced and smart — we had no other choice due to a number of circumstances with the Russian autocratic political regime in the first place.

Where did the Free University phenomenon come from? Everything is very simple. In August 2020, six professors at the Higher School of Economics were fired for disagreeing with the constitutional coup. It was a huge scandal covered by the media. Four days later, those six teachers agreed that they would continue to teach their students online. We decided that we would teach from home, from the library, and even from the beach. Because the university is not walls, tables, or chairs. First of all, these are professors and students. We called on our colleagues to join us. Thirteen more professors immediately did this (four of those first 19 are here today). In September 2020, we announced enrollment for 19 courses and received 6,500 applications for these courses from students. See how simple it is? This is how the Free University was founded, which today has almost 200 professors, 5 faculties, 3 schools, and 15,000 followers who have taken our courses in three years. We have our own publishing house, we have our journal (Palladium), we have our own independent librarian, YouTube channel, The Charter, and self-government.

I believe that building transboundary online universities, which audience is extraterritorial, is one of the possible tracks for the development of education in the next decade. To achieve this goal, we need to develop procedures for the adaptation/accreditation/recognition of such universities and to integrate them into the international system of higher education. Here, we are not talking about education in its general meaning, or about separate courses or programs. We are talking about multidisciplinary academic training, excluding areas that require a fundamental technical basis or experimental facilities. However, this problem can also be discussed from the viewpoint of collaboration between our researchers and traditional universities.

For the present, we may appear non-standard, a version of some kind of out-of-the-box thinking. But everything that is familiar and understandable to us today was once also unusual and new.

DOI: 10.55167/44d17dd6280b

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