HSE’s approach to international recruitment of academic staff
In April 2004, the OECD produced an assessment of the internationalization of HSE. In sum, while noting the commitment of HSE to the Bologna Process, it lamented that research lagged considerably behind teaching in terms of international standards. In order to raise the academic standards of research, much less to be taken seriously as an international research university, it was clear that HSE academics would need to acquire the rigorous methodology and attitude toward research found in the world’s best universities. And so began a process of turning to the international job market to hire full-time staff who could impart such knowledge to students and staff alike.
Even earlier, HSE had hired a few academics from foreign universities on an ad hoc basis, mostly Russians who had acquired Western PhDs and for various reasons desired to return. A more systematic effort to recruit both Russians and foreigners for permanent positions at HSE from the international market only began in earnest in 2009.
From a formal point of view, HSE established a Recruitment Policy Committee under the first deputy rector and appointed the Center for Advanced Studies, a university-level structure to promote international standards of academic achievement, to coordinate the recruitment effort. This initial approach to rely on a central university effort for international recruitment reflects both the relatively low level of experience with the process among the HSE faculty and the need to prioritize to ensure that the university’s goals are pursued to the best effect.
HSE’s aim is ambitious: to promote international standards of research and of academic excellence in the social sciences as evidenced by publication in high-citation, peer-reviewed journals. As part of this effort it seeks to recruit professors from the international job market with PhDs from prominent research universities.
The HSE recruitment effort was modeled on the approach common to many international research universities where individual academic committees for each discipline screen applicants on the basis of scholarship. The actual hiring decisions also involve administrators. All procedures are within the framework of a university-wide policy and budget.
It was recognized that the move from reliance on ad hoc procedures to a comprehensive approach to recruitment would require time and management focus. A couple of aspects in particular were raised from the beginning of this process: one was that, with limited experience, low credibility, and a desire to ensure objectivity, a key feature of international recruiting was to involve experienced external academics in each screening committee. The other was that, once HSE begins hiring from the international market on a systematic basis, a large number of other issues would need to be resolved on an urgent basis including the treatment of foreign as well as returning Russian staff, the need to develop a comprehensive package of benefits as well as salaries, and the development of a career path with aspects of tenure.
In the early fall of 2009, the HSE recruitment policy committee approved the recruitment of staff from the international PhD market in four areas: economics, sociology, management, and international relations. By late October 2009, screening committees were established in three fields (economics, sociology and management). Initial advertising was launched in specialized media for the three disciplines, although this proved to be an iterative process for sociology and management in terms of identifying the appropriate outlets. The initial results were modest: two recruits in economics and one in sociology. We had to recognize that, even in favorable market conditions (for Russia), HSE has many disadvantages that cannot be overcome quickly. Objectively HSE is relatively unknown in international recruitment circles and in global research based upon citations. There are also the obvious negative external perceptions of life in Russia that are difficult to overcome.
For the 2011-12 academic year, recruitment efforts began early and became more systematized, building upon the previous experience. HSE had much greater success in its second year recruiting from the international job market with 11 new faculty members, including one tenure professor, an associate professor and 9 assistant professors. Of the 11 new hires, 6 were non-Russian. By discipline, 5 were hire in sociology, 4 in management, and two in economics and finance. One of the new hires too up his position at HSE’s St. Petersburg campus.
In view of the importance of international recruitment to the success of the university as an international research center, it is recognized that there is a daunting agenda of issues that must be addressed in parallel such as the development of the use of English for all aspects of academic life in the HSE, the more objective benchmarking of salaries that are competitive and comparable to other European universities, the establishment of more automatic procedures to provide offices, equipment, travel, relocation allowances, research support and limited teaching time as well as the development of more substantive benefit packages for internationally-recruited staff and their families whether Russian or foreign. Such policies under development include issues of housing allowances, medical and hospital insurance, maternity leave, family assistance, education allowance, social security and pension benefits, visa support, home leave, paid sabbatical leave, etc. Some progress is being made but a well-formulated and comprehensive package is not yet available. HSE is also working to formulate a program for career development to associate professor and full professor levels with tenure, as well as how reviews are to be conducted, what objectives criteria will be used and what future salary levels can be expected.
Finally, it is recognized that international recruitment cannot focus exclusively on recent PhDs for tenure-track positions. HSE needs to move beyond ad hoc steps to the development of incentives and benefits to attract staff from the international market for post-docs and senior, non-tenure appointments. This process is still admittedly in its early stages that will depend much more on the individual contacts of existing faculty.
In sum, HSE now has about 50 faculty staff with PhDs from Western research universities who are spread over a number of disciplines. Of these 25 were recruited from the international job market in recent years. The goal over the next 3-5 years is to at least triple the total number and concentrate new hires in a few key areas to establish a critical mass to motivate world-class research. Over the longer-term, HSE intends to establish an international PhD program beginning in the field of economics.
 Only at HSE’s International College of Economy and Finance, a joint undertaking with the London School of Economics, did an institutionalized recruiting process begin earlier. Much of what has been adopted by HSE as a whole is modeled on the precedents set by ICEF.
 Screening committees were formed with staff members either having a western PhD or publications in high-level international peer-reviewed journals, as well as an experienced academic from the London School of Economics.