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Past Program

Dec 01 - Jun 01, 2010

The Visiting Advisors Program (VAP)

VAP

Overview

This website contains a unique, searchable archive relating to reform initiatives in higher education in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the Russian Federation (RF) and the former Soviet Union (FSU) in the period 1998-2010. It is intended as a resource for scholars studying this period and these countries, and for policy makers and advisors. It was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. There are eighty five reports, the product of the Visiting Advisors Program (VAP) of the Salzburg Global Seminar, which organized teams, each of four to five university leaders and advisors, who visited universities to advise on reform. The reports are presented here in combination with an overview of the Program's goals and objectives, the institutions involved, the external advisors, and its results.

The purpose of this introduction and overview is to provide the history and background of the eighty five reports which are brought together on this website. Together they provide valuable information on an important period in European higher education, in which institutions of higher education are coping with the challenges presented by administering the modern university in Central and Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, after the end of the Cold War.In the fall of 1998, with the support of the W.K.Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) the Salzburg Global Seminar launched the Visiting Advisors Program (VAP) in order to apply, on the level of individual institutions, the concepts related to reform of higher education in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the Russian Federation (RF) and the former Soviet Union (FSU). The VAP includes two target audiences: senior administrators of universities in CEE and the RF (host institutions) and senior administrators of universities in North America, Europe (West, Central and East) and the Russian Federation (visiting teams). The VAP is based on a cross-sharing approach, follow-up contacts, and hand-selection of teams; the VAP is client-driven.

Project Development

The Salzburg Global Seminar, founded in 1947, is an international, nonpartisan, educational organization dedicated to the recognition and development of tomorrow's leaders. The work of the Seminar brings together individuals from all parts of the world to explore topics of global importance through intense dialogue and the open exchange of ideas.

In 1997 the Salzburg Global Seminar started, with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Universities Project (UP): a six-year commitment to underwrite a program designed to bring together senior-level university administrators, government ministers, and senior academics from CEE and RF with colleagues from Western Europe and North America for practical discussions on university administration, governance, and finance. The purpose was “to establish networks among and between university colleagues from East and West, share best practice models of university stewardship, and re-create the important transatlantic linkages and free flows of ideas concerning universities and their role in civil society that had been disrupted for so long.” (Salzburg Seminar, Universities Project Final Report, 1997-2002)

The UP's aim was to promote the higher education reform process, as universities in CEE and the RF redefine their relationships with governments and try to become more integrated into the global intellectual community. From 1997-2003, the UP organized a symposium each year for (future) higher education leaders from CEE and the RF, together with colleagues from North America and Europe on the themes that are the focus of the UP:

  • University Administration and Finance
  • Academic Structure and Governance within the University
  • Meeting the Students' Needs, and the role of Students in Institutional affairs
  • Technology and Higher Education, and
  • The University and the Civil Society.

For more detailed information on the Universities Project see Final Report 1997-2003.

In the fall of 1998, with the support of the W.K.Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) the Salzburg Global Seminar launched the Visiting Advisors Program (VAP) in order to apply, on the level of individual institutions, the concepts related to reform of higher education in CEE and the RF. The VAP includes two target audiences: senior administrators of universities in CEE and the RF (host institutions) and senior administrators of universities in North America, Europe (West, Central and East) and the Russian Federation (visiting teams). The VAP is based on a cross-sharing approach, follow-up contacts, and hand-selection of teams; the VAP is client-driven.

Objectives & Goals

The objectives of the VAP as formulated by the Salzburg Global Seminar were: to provide practical advice and recommendations to institutions of higher education, which are coping with the challenges presented by administering the modern university in Central and Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation. The Program is seen to benefit both hosts and visitors. For the host institutions it is an opportunity to receive advice from colleagues from Western Europe and Northern America; for the consultants it is an opportunity to learn and discuss systems other than those found in their own region; and for both it creates opportunities to establish new connections.

Primary goals of the VAP included:

  • to provide advice to senior-level colleagues at the host institution on academic and administrative changes that seem promising, improve operations, and achieve objectives that the host university has identified for consideration; and
  • to offer advice on progressive reforms that will enable the host universities to play a leadership role in the economic and social advancement of their respective nations.

Secondary goals included:

  • the promotion of administrative improvement (e.g., in budgeting and revenue procurement, human resource management, and the development of technology);
  • the fostering of academic advancement (e.g., through curricular reform, interdisciplinary programming, instructional approaches, and international linkages);
  • political enhancement (e.g., internally through legitimatizing developments, and externally through credibility accorded by governmental authorities);
  • profile raising (e.g., press conferences and media interviews with Visiting Advisors); and
  • status building (e.g., through this visible linkage to the prestigious Salzburg Global Seminar).

(VAP Proposal Carnegie Corporation, 2005-2007)

Outcomes

Expected Outcomes were defined as follows:

  • Linkages and partnerships between universities in Russian and the Post-Soviet States with their peers in North America and West Europe
  • Knowledge exchange and best practices regarding academic governance, strategic management, development of human and institutional resources, curricular reform, and other key issues of HE renewal
  • Enhanced the leadership capacity of HE institutions in the region
  • Russian and Post-Soviet State universities become more integrated into the international HE community
  • Exposure of North American and West European university administrators to the ongoing reform process in Russian and Post-Soviet State higher education.

VAP Proposal Carnegie Corporation, 2003-2005, 2005-2007 and 2007-2009)

The VAP expected the following short-term impacts in its proposal:

  • Curricular improvements: eliminating redundancies, improving quality standards, credit transfer, introduction of new courses, Bologna process adjustments
  • Community relations: interactions with community on local, regional, and national levels, HE legislative reform, relations with media, collaboration with business and industry, social responsibilities of university
  • Institutional collaboration: at the domestic and/or international level
  • Technology improvement: (internet access, development of high-tech training facilities, creation of distance learning capabilities)
  • Improvement of relationship and collaboration between university leadership and CASEs
  • Development of a strategic plan for CASEs/university leadership

Longer-term impacts of the VAP included:

  • Linkages and partnerships between universities in the FSU with their peers from the international academic community
  • Analysis of modernization efforts of higher education systems in the region
  • Bologna process adjustments, particularly, with regards to Russian academic community objectives
  • Knowledge exchange and best practices regarding academic governance, strategic management, development of human and institutional resources, curricular reform, and other key issues of HE renewal
  • Enhancement of the leadership capacity of HE institutions in the region
  • International support for universities in the region in their efforts to become more integrated into the international HE community
  • Exposure of North American and West European university administrators to the ongoing reform process in Russian and Post-Soviet State higher education
  • Positioning CASEs as strategic centers within respective universities
  • Positioning CASEs universities as resource centers for other education institutions in the respective regions.

(VAP Proposal Carnegie Corporation, 2005-2007 and 2007-2009)

An additional rationale for the last grant was:

Now, FSU universities are moving from the implementation of fundamental reforms to strategic development. At a time of transition from an industrial to a knowledge-based society, FSU universities are challenged to build on the VAP recommendations and become effective agents of change for sustainable development and innovation. At this strategic stage, it is especially important to assist FSU universities to develop effective short-term and long-term strategies so that they can effectively contribute to the development of knowledge and innovation regionally, nationally and internationally; establish effective links to external partners in public and private sectors; as well as participate in relevant networks to sustain research and education and effectively contribute to the implementation of the Lisbon strategy for Europe in 2010 that intends “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustained economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”. The issue is to identify the crucial strategic areas and set priorities for action, particularly regarding effective interaction between universities and the environment in which they function. Since the VAP has accumulated a wealth of hands-on knowledge concerning the key issues and challenges of universities in the region, and because the VAP can engage selective international expertise to provide targeted advice, VAP involvement at this strategic phase is of paramount of importance.

(VAP proposal Carnegie Corporation, 2007-2009)

Structure

The Visiting Advisors Program intended to provide a vital site visit component to the Salzburg Global Seminar's work of higher education reform in Central and East Europe (CEE), Russia (R) and the Former Soviet Union States (FSU), in particular the Universities Project. The VAP sent 4-to-5 participant teams of North American and West and East European university presidents and higher education experts, who volunteered their time and expertise, to conduct site visits in Central and East Europe and FSU universities. The goal of the VAP was to provide practical advice and recommendations to institutions in CEE, R and FSU and assist them in the process of institutional self-assessment and curricular reform.

The VAP was originally connected to the broader Universities Project of the Salzburg Global Seminar, to assist in the on-going process of reform at universities in CEE and the RF. The UP ended in 2002 (a final seminar was organized in March 2003) and the VAP concluded in June 2004, as far as the WKKF support was concerned. In addition, In 2002, the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs financed three additional VAP visits to institutions in South Caucasus.

In 2003, the Carnegie Corporation provided the Salzburg Global Seminar with a two year grant to undertake seven Russian and Post-Soviet State universities' VAP visits: 3 visits in the Project's first year and 4 visits in the second year. In 2005-2007, The Carnegie Corporation provided the Salzburg Global Seminar with funding for VAP visits to six additional universities in Russia and the Post-Soviet States. In 2007, the Carnegie Corporation provided a third grant. Again for six visits to universities in Russia and the Post-Soviet States. Of these four have been realized with delay, two had to be cancelled.

For the period 1998-2004, the selection of the host institutions was related to their involvement in the UP symposia. Only institutions that had been invited to take part in a UP symposium could be registered as a potential host institution. The host institution had to fill in a form to register for the program and to indicate the issues and problems they would like to analyze, with reference to the five areas that the UP addresses. The decision to accept the host institution's request was made by the Seminar, based on the following criteria: participation in the UP, the identification of issues and problems in relation to the UP. Other factors influencing the decision were: a clear commitment by the leadership of the institution to embrace a change-oriented attitude, the perspective that the rector is still able to implement the recommendations (either because of a recent appointment or because of re-election), and the character and location of the institution.

This policy also was in place during the first grant period of the Carnegie Corporation, which overlapped to a great extent with the UP symposia. For the thirteen visits in the second and third grant period of the Carnegie grant, this policy could not be followed, although it was intended to select as much universities as possible that had taken part in the UP symposia. The changing higher education climate, financial constraints and the no longer existing link to the UP can be mentioned as the main explanations for the delay in the realization of the last four visits (the last one took place in 2010) and the two cancellations. The original objectives of the UP and VAP seem to have been reached sufficiently as to no longer require the support of such programs.

Numbers

By the end of June 2010, eighty five VAP visits have taken place at universities in CEE (35), Russia (36) and FSU (14) since the program's inception in 1998, of which fourteen were follow-up visits, which makes the total number of benefiting institutions seventy one. Of the seventeen visits under the Carnegie Corporation grants, seven took place in FSU states and ten in Russia. 16% of the visits were follow-up visits. In the original proposal for the VAP under the WKKF grant no reference was made to a follow-up of the visits. The importance of the re-visits had been recognized on the basis of the experience of the first visits and the feedback by host institutions and visiting advisors. As far as character and location is concerned, the idea was to select more provincial and not necessarily only prestigious universities, as to create a broader impact. Only a quarter of the visits took place in universities in capital cities.

 

 

 

Themes

Looking at the central themes which were formulated for the visits in the framework of the VAP, these were closely related to the themes central to the UP: 

  • University Administration and Finance
  • Academic Structure and Governance within the University
  • Meeting the Students' Needs, and the role of Students in Institutional affairs
  • Technology and Higher Education, and
  • The University and the Civil Society.

These come back frequently as central themes where the VAP visits did focus upon, as becomes clear from Annex 7, and as indicated in the numbers below:

  • University Administration and Finance: Russia 21 x, FSU 11 x,
    CEE 19 x, Total 51 x
  • Academic Structure and Governance within the University:
    Russia 27 x, FSU 14 x, CEE 15 x, Total 56 x
  • Meeting the Students' Needs, and the role of Students in Institutional affairs: Russia 10 x, FSU 7 x, CEE 13 x, Total 30 x
  • Technology and Higher Education: Russia 8 x, FSU 4 x, CEE 6 x,
    Total 18 x
  • The University and the Civil Society, including links with stakeholders and the region: Russia 15 x, FSU 4 x, CEE 9 x, total 28 x.

From these figures it also becomes clear that the first two themes have been more present than the other three. If we look at other themes than the five from the UP, we find the following other five key themes, mentioned frequently:

  • Strategic Planning: Russia 16 x, FSU 4 x, CEE 7 x, Total 27 x
  • Quality Assurance: Russia 9 x, FSU 2 x, CEE 8 x, Total 19 x
  • Academic Programming, Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Development: Russia 4 x, FSU 5 x, CEE 10 x, Total 19 x
  • Internationalization: Russia 6 x, FSU 3 x, CEE 9 x, Total 18 x
  • Research and Research Management: Russia 3 x, FSU 5 x, CEE 6 x, Total 14 x.

Other themes mentioned more than two times are: HRM, Continuing Education, Interdisciplinary studies, Alumni, resource management, facility management, national higher education systems.

The top ten themes are rather broad and it is relevant to mention the topics that come back rather frequently in the reports: fundraising and diversity of resources; challenges in relation to the market; profile, status of the university; credit systems and credit transfer mechanisms; university autonomy; university leadership; student evaluations by faculty; tuition fees; outreach programs; and more recently also: implications of the Bologna Process and Lisbon Strategy for the institution.

We saw little difference between Russia, FSU and CEE and also between the period of the WKKF grant and the three Carnegie Corporation grants. One can say that in Russia and FSU the themes: 

  • University Administration and Finance: Russia 21 x, FSU 11 x, CEE 19 x, Total 51 x
  • Academic Structure and Governance within the University:
    Russia 27 x, FSU 14 x, CEE 15 x, Total 56 x

appeared to be more relevant than in CEE, and Strategic Planning more for Russia than for FSU and CEE.

And the themes: 

  • Academic Programming, Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Development: Russia 4 x, FSU 5 x, CEE 10 x, Total 19 x
  • Internationalization: Russia 6 x, FSU 3 x, CEE 9 x, Total 18 x

appeared to be slightly more relevant in CEE than in Russia and FSU. But the differences are too marginal to come to hard conclusions.

The increased interest for the international dimension and Bologna Process and Lisbon Strategy were an illustration of the new reality of European higher education.Given all this, there appears to have been a need for the VAP. At the same time, as has been mentioned before, the relevance of the program under the current situation seems to have decreased, as illustrated by the fact that from 2009 onwards it was more difficult to stimulate institutions in Russia and FSU to participate.

Advisors

It was recommended to strive for a team composition with one former head; one acting head; one person from the vice-presidency, senior administration or departments; one leader from a (inter)national organization in higher education; and one Seminar staff member. As far as the professional background of the experts is concerned, former heads of institutions were the largest group (30%), followed by active heads of institutions (20%) and active vice-presidents/rectors/provosts (11%).

151 people have participated in the VAP as external advisors since 1998. 54 people have participated in more than one visit, 97 people have participated in one visit only. The percentage of women has slightly decreased from 25% in 1998-2004 to 23% under the Carnegie Corporation grants. Seven CEE trips and two Russian trips out of the 85 visits took place without an accompanying staff member, this was in particular the case at the start of the program. The average team size of the teams was four (including one staff member).

In the 70 VAP visits in 1998-2004, 34% of the team members came for the USA, 23% from the EU, 12% from CEE, 4,5 % from Canada, 1,5% from other parts of the world, 2% from the Russian Federation, and 23% was Seminar staff. For the seventeen VAP visits under the Carnegie Corporation grants the distribution was 14 team members from the USA, 21 from the EU, 6 from CEE/FSU, 4 from Canada, 6 from other parts of the world and 17 Seminar staff. Only one team member came from Russia. There appears to have been a shift from USA dominance to EU dominance among the team members.

Uniqueness of the VAP

John Davies, VAP team member and UP Advisory Committee member, describes in his contribution "Some Reflections on the Russian Visiting Advisors' Programme" to the Universities Project Final Report 1997-2002, page 81, the uniqueness of the VAP as follows:

"The conception of the VAP is neither as an institutional review or audit, nor a consultancy exercise in conventional terms, though it has elements of each. It has its own distinctive character, with the following elements:

  • the VAP comes at the invitation of the University, and is not associated with any external or governmental regulatory or budgetary process. The issues for discussion are defined by the University.
  • the discussion is highly collegial and between colleagues and peers, and typified by mutual respect and friendship, which does not, however, preclude straight talking!
  • the University is at liberty to use the team's recommendations or not, as it sees fit. Whether it does or not will depend very much on the quality and detail of the recommendations and the credibility and sensitivity of the team, and the seriousness with which the University views the VAP.
  • the team performs several roles. In one sense, it is a mirror for the University to see itself, and to react accordingly. In another sense, it certainly performs an evaluative function, commenting on how the University goes about its business. Again, it acts as a resource, bringing perspectives from other universities and national settings relevant to the issues under discussion, and thereby enhancing the University's understanding of alternative possibilities. Finally, it is a source of friendly counselling on the dynamics of change and transformation, which rectors invariably find helpful, since it is impartial and unconnected with any power structure.
  • given the above, it should clearly be non-threatening, though an element of apprehension is bound to be present at the start.

The above characteristics are appealing, when compared with normal institutional audits or consultancy exercises, but in order for visits to be successful, some additional conditions have been found to be important in the light of experience. These include

  • the selection of the team: a multi-national profile; experienced in organisational development and its sensitivities; and with expertise appropriate to the particular character of the university and its specialisations, traditions and setting.
  • effective preparation of documentation by the University: clear statements of issues to be discussed, and agenda items; adequate institutional data; a self-critical analysis of where the university stands in relation to the issues, and the success of its efforts thus far.
  • open, frank and courteous discussions, untrammeled by propaganda statements and rhetoric from either side.
  • good preparations by the visiting team, and a sound understanding of the financial contexts, national and regional settings etc., of any particular sensitivities."

Conclusions

As indicated in the introduction, this website has been designed to provide information on an important period in European higher education, in which institutions of higher education are coping with the challenges presented by administering the modern university in Central and Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, after the end of the Cold War. The website brings together the VAP reports in combination with an overview of its goals and objectives, the institutions involved, the external advisors, and its results. It is intended to be source of information for scholars studying this period and these countries, for policy makers and advisors. The reports do not provide information on the way the institutions involved have made work of the recommendations in the reports. Only in the case of the fourteen follow-up visits one can get an idea of how the first reports have been perceived and the recommendations implemented. For that type of information one has to consult the universities involved. All in all, the reports together, using the different keywords as well as the individual search option for each report, provide a valuable source on higher education challenges and issues in the period 1998-2010 for Central and Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation.

Hans de Wit,
Professor of Internationalization of Higher Education,
Centre for Applied Research on Economics and Management (CAREM),
Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands,
December 2011