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В архиве НУГ появилось новое интервью

Наш архив интервью пополнился рассказом Анджея Тимовского, директора международных программ Американского совета научных программ, профессора Варшавского университета, факультета "Artes Liberales".

В интервью для Центра университетских исследований Анждей Тимовский рассказал о разнообразии университетских практик, работе в Американском совете научных программ, научной экспертизе заявок на гранты и изменениях в сфере современного университетского образования

С интервью на английском языке можно ознакомиться ниже.

Анджей Тимовский — директор международных программ Американского совета научных программ, приглашенный профессор Варшавского университета (Факультет «Artes Liberales»). Получил степень доктора политических наук в Йельском университете. Преподавал политические науки (Университет Эмори), а также вел несколько междисциплинарных семинаров, посвященных разнообразным темам в Колледже Йеля и Варшавском университете.
Сейчас одним из главных исследовательских интересов Анджея Тимовского является сравнительное изучение различных академических культур и их влияния на взаимоотношения академической среды с общественностью.
В январе 2014-го года Анджей Тимовский побывал в России. По приглашению ИГИТИ он провел мастер-класс для студентов и аспирантов факультетов истории, философии и филологии «Revising Academic Texts: How your texts can win invitations to international conferences and be published in international journals». Одной из участниц мастер-класса, Зарине Гатиной, удалось пообщаться с профессором.

Интервьюер: Зарина Гатина.
Расшифровка и редактирование интервью: Марина Кибальная, Марина Фадеева.
Интервью на английском языке .

You've seen a lot of universities. What is your image of the Ideal University? Does it exist in reality

— It is a very hard question at retail to think about. The word “ideal” means something like Plathonic Ideas, something like Newman's Idea of University. It depends on what you mean here — philosophical picture of the university or an answer to the question what is the best university? 

I prefer the second version.

— The second version. What would be the best university? Now my next question. The best university for me or the best university in sort of general? Because, on the one hand, I have my own experience in the United States, and, on the other hand, in the United States there are many different kinds of universities. Whereas in a country like Holland it’s more hierarchy, that's why there should be the best, than second and third in this hierarchy, because of it, the universities arguing around these best positions in the hierarchy. So, in Russia it’s the similar – if you are not in Moscow or in St. Petersburg it means you are not able to get access to a number of the best universities in this hierarchy. So, for me, to the question what the best university is can be the several different answers according to what kind of place you want to be.

So, with that long introduction, I like the American style of education, higher education, which divides college from graduate study. So for students who first come to the university, college is usually, physically, a smaller place. In other words, I like it to have four years of general education, I like such experience for myself, for my children, for anybody to be able to spend four years deciding what they want to choose. So, I don’t like the European system, I don’t like the Russian system, where you have to, when you come to the university, immediately decide sociology or history, and you are plucked into their, that’s the answer. The best kind of university should have two stages, the first – introductory, general stage. And then graduate study, where you pick your faculty, your direction, your “oblast”.

Is that sufficient or you want the names of the universities?

If you want

— Well, there are famous universities, you know, Sorbonne in Paris… They have traditions, in the United States I went to a small college, which is not very well known, but I have felt that I have had a good education, good introduction. Then for graduate school I went to, reasonably well known university, Northwestern University for philosophy and finally I went to the Yale University. It’s a very well-known university. And, you know, it’s a good standard. I think American university system has many disadventages, but it still has many advantages.

Unfortunately, some Russian students after two years of education became disappointed and cause of it they have to change their profession and, go to the another university.

— In other words, Russian university students fail after two years? They can’t keep up because they are not good enough and they have to go someplace else?


— They are rejected by the university. Well, that happens in other places, you know, university is not for everybody.

Tell me about your arrival in American Council of Learned Societies? How did you become the Director of the International Programs in it?

— Well, I should tell you something about the organization. The Council is a federation of Learned Societies, of scholarly associations, so the members of the Council are not individual, but associations, so it’s a federation of associations, so the American Historical Society, The Philosophy Society, in the Humanities. And the actions and the activities of the Council are to take care of the business of the associations, but also ACLS is well-known for distributing research funds. So, we organize the competition for individuals mostly in the United States to apply for research support. Research'ssupport really provides money for them to take leave from their position at the university. So, it’s not to buy a car and drive to the desert or to hire people to do “oprosy” for that. It’s simply to replace the salaries, for they have time to write and sometimes for willful. There are also small projects at the giving historical moments, which become important.

And I came to ACLS, because there was a special project about constitutionalism and it was at the middle of 1990s, it was after the changes to democracy in Eastern Europe. It was the project dedicated to discussing new constitutions and means of making societies understand the role that constitution place to the society. And I came to that reason and I stayed, because I was also interested in research support and I was in the constitutional process in Eastern Europe, so I knew one language, than several languages. And when a new project came along in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, I became a director of that project and that was really the most important one. And after while, I became a director because international programs became important for the organization. So, maybe 80-90% of the work is in United States, still there is the smaller part has to be done by someone, who knows the area.

What in your opinion is the sense and logic of modern reforms of universities in Europe and in Russia?

— What about modern reforms? Now, there are two kinds, at least two kinds of reforms. Maybe, three. One is rationalization, it used to be in many universities, there were inefficient because they duplicated the labor. In Russia there is now the big number of the universities. When used to be a little stuff “Uznyj federalnyj gosudarstvennyj universitet”, you know. It’s one kind of reform. And it’s poorly administrative and I don’t have to say much about that.

There is another kind of reform is Bologna process, which is standardization of practices, of standards, of criteria. Education in one university is comparable to the education in the other universitioes. That is preceding the peace. And I can see the effects in Poland. And this is an effort to make, to standardize the practices, the values, “stepeni” at the university has forced internal changes as well, changes for better bureaucracy, more rational system of monetary and control. So as before, life of the professor, life of students, or life of the departments was furled. You had, you know, people in Harvard, because they had power, they were older, they had degrees.

Basically you entered that community when you was accepted in that community. Some people do better, some people do worse. Now there is an insistence of rational capability. So, professors have to present a number of articles, they have written, some of that articles have to be in English. They were given different points, the professor presents the work that he has done in a year to the department head, the department head dispensed the points.

It’s much more, you have to produce the quantities, say “well, we are friends; we are doing the work in general”. It’s another kind of reforms. What I think about that?

Well, I think it’s probably a good thing, because the basic idea is a good one that should be accountability, in other word, everyone should be examined at the some point from its production, what you have done, what do you do. There is no obsession with the numbers, you know, people are people, people are able, in expression in English, gain the system, they understand – they need to gain points, and they go to get those points as easily, as quickly, as effectively, as possibly, and instead of thinking of the substance of they are doing, this becomes less important and getting points just becomes more important. It obviously produces a lot of, you know, faults results. It seems stupid, but I think in university system, in Europe generally, certainly in Eastern Europe, and certainly in Russia, as well, as there are a lot of sleepy, inactivity. In Poland the level of teaching could be described by a phrase— “they pretend to teach us, we pretend to listen”. What has happened in the classroom wasn’t education, students had to seat and listen, and at the end of the semester, it was extremely tense moment getting the exam, and you had to talk to your professor for two minutes or for an hour, you had no idea, what you were going to be asked or how to respond. So students stressed up. It was irrational system. It’s much better to rationalize what they have — written work or exams. Same thing in the qualification for professors, I mean, it’s a good thing to have some record. I think, probably, the system in the United States is better, although it has irrational aspects, system in the United States depends a lot on collegial, in sort of committees, to get a promotion, professor has to present work before them and they examine, and the decision is made. It’s slightly more transparent system, and it’s slightly less dependent on points. You get points for certain articles, people in committee look at the articles. There were published six articles, but in journals which nobody reads.

And there is, I suppose, less perform in sort of kind of teaching, kind of training, and that’s in the direction of student’s centered teaching, student’s centered training. Here again, I think, American system is better because it’s important that you know in Russian university, in Polish university professor doesn’t care if you are listening or not, that’s your problem, I am telling you important things, if you not enough smart to understand it, to write it down. Whereas, you know, I heard lectures exactly in a subject, as a scholar I suppose to do scholarship, and then I deliver lectures what I am doing, but I am not doing the serve the students, whereas there is the sense in but in the United States, in the university, especially in the college teaching the students is number one responsibility, if the students are not learning it is not their problem.

Is that a problem of professor?

— It’s a problem of professor. So, you know, I mean, there are students, who, whatever, are not intelligent enough, who don’t want to work, but there is another problem. When students are not doing well, it’s university's responsibility, and university provides, you know, the professor has certain responsibility, especially in small classes. Colleges have small classes, sometimes, you talk to the professor outside the class, sometimes you eat with him, and it’s completely different. Here, in Eastern Europe, there is a big distance between professor and the student, and its own kind. And then there is help for the student, if you need to have… to study more or… So, it’s that kind of reform – turn student’s training and then turn doctoral training. So, PhD is, you take classes, you teach yourself, as a PhD student, you are trained how to write, how to do research and that really is the responsibility of the professors and they take it very seriously, so…

What should do the professor when he deals with big audience?

— There is no good answer. What can you do? If you have a big audience, you are television speaker, talk-show host, and there are professors which are very good, they like to speak to the large groups, they have good Power Points, they show, you know, visual lessons, maps, paintings, and that’s better… But, that’s a whole, that’s not teaching, it’s lecturing. Teaching for me, and I think, in the American experience, as I say, but it’s happening, in the Polish university, students have international experience and they know ones who have, somebody, who lecturing, they want to interchange, they want to speak in the class, and they demand that, and they will go to the professor who can do that.

So, I think, it’s a good thing, but, yes, there are moments when there are large classes, and you go to get information.

What do you think, how does the world university space and culture change?

— Just very general questions. How does it change, I think, it’s changing…, universities can no longer be locked, can no longer be enclose to themselves, because there is Internet, because of the opportunity of travel, they must be more open. And I think, you know, with globalization comes the reaction of globalization, students, professors and universities say “We like our traditions, we don’t want to change”. But I think that’s vestigial, it’s no less more, they can’t compete. If your students only know how to move in one limited geographical and intellectual space, they won’t be as interesting as they could be. That’s a big change – turn to great openness and the question is whether that to be used as the best advantage, whether it’s a new kind of superficiality. Everybody is at home everywhere and there are no differences everywhere.

It’s really general question, I agree. Tell me about American Council of Learned Societies and how does it estimate the quality of the research grant application?

— I told you a little bit about it. I told you a little bit about our system, and it’s very hard to explain Europeans, because our competitions do not dictate topics, they do not commission the research. Question always is, what you support, if you support philosophy, what kind of philosophy do you support etc. The most of our competitions are in the humanities. The topic is after the individual who propose, there are four individuals, they were not from certain universities, certain departments, anybody in the United States are available, or anybody in Belarus, Russia or Ukraine can propose a topic, it doesn’t have to be about gender studies or about constitution… So, they are interdisciplinary, they are open, they are peer-review, and they are married based. So, it is the quality of the work that counts.American Council of Learned Society, get 4000 application a year. We distribute 15 million dollars in grants in this open process, open as to topic, open as to the university. So, the division is by ranks, so the young, new PhDs, in sort of half way assistant professor, and for professors. The process of first review is by discipline. So, each application is read by experts in the field – History, American History, European History, and South American History. And half are eliminated at this stage, and the reminder go to the interdisciplinary committee ‘komisiy”, who read them before the individuals come to the meeting, and the meeting decides. So, decisions are made by peers, not by the president of the council, not by the stuff of the council. We are only to organize the meeting and to conduct the meeting and to sign the checks. Now, some words about criteria. Well, this is the most difficult part, but the criteria are the exactable standards in the committee of the researches. This is what peer-review means. It means that in this committee five usually six scholars in the field, good scholars in the field, not necessarily, most famous people in the field, because they won’t waste their time with the committee, but people who are accomplished and have written application themselves, have read applications of others, discuss the work, and in the discussion they are also discussing their own standards of value. So, I think this is good because you give a reason and another person says “well, yes, may be, but I think this other one is better because...” So, the discussion is not a simple grading, it’s a very complex discussion, but I would tell you that it’s very common that the members of the committee come out extremely satisfied with the process. They don’t always individuals… committee members don’t always get their own people, which they think are good in but they like the opportunity, again, in an open way.. Why this is good, there is no one person, who has authority and says “OK, mi obsuzhdali, ya reshil’’. The decision is made only on the application and the letters of recommendation, not on the importance of the university, importance of the supervisor, or importance of letter writer, which is another thing, which hard to explain. So, it’s the process.

So, how to avoid estimating mistakes in such situation?

— Well, it’s a very good question. What are the problems? The problems are that you have an application in a discipline that nobody in the committee understands. So, if we have a linguists it is disadvantage, certain kinds of philosophy, also our disadvantage, because languages are so technical, it’s very hard to understand what… whose not in it, even very intelligent and capable person. So, how to avoid mistakes there. You have to rely on disciplinary readers, and disciplinary readers make comments, and they have to say, you know, this is very technical, but it makes sense to me because I understand this. There is, also, unaccepted eneral format in a sense of type of presentation. So, an application has to have a part of it. There has to be a claim, you know, person has to show that he or she accumulated enough information to begin the work, that he or she has thoughts about the information, and has come up with the hypotheses, has a plan, person has to show some elements, you can judge, has to have a work plan. Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian applications, many of them are, they just gave the idea, you know, I have a plan for philosophy of the world but nothing, what he is going to do. Whereas in our applications you really have to have a work plan (what I would have for the work in a year, in the first three months, like I am going to visit the archive here and next three months, I have project for 6 years, I half way done, I need to do, now, I am wondering what my next step should be and I need to spend some time etc.). And committee after reading applications can tell if the person is serious, if the project is visible. So, we do make mistakes. Sometimes, people who don’t deserve get it, sometimes do deserve, don’t get it. But in general it’s not a bad system. And in general, people, who get it, they are good. It’s very rare, when someone, who don’t deserve it, has written a very good application, but doesn’t have a good project, very rarely.

And you usually have the results of the work?

— It’s another thing, it’s different. We ask for books, but we don’t monitor it. Another words, the person is supposed to write a report, but they don’t have to present the book, and in fact you can say after an year, I started, I was half done, after an year I am three quarters done, but I am still not done, it’s OK. In force mechanism is the next grant? Next time the person who writes for the grant, he needs to say I had grant before, and when you say you had a grant, you need to say, what did you do, and you want another one to do the same thing. No.

So, I have a last question. What is the specific of Russian universities in comparison with American and Polish ones?

— We talked about it a little bit. I think Russian system is still more traditional. I mean, the Polish system is now really in Europe and European Union. There is much more exchange, it’s a system as a whole, obviously is very ancient, the small universities in Poland are still very traditional. A system as a whole, is much more open, transparent, has more mobility. So, the students in the university course, in ideal PhD students — they always travel all over Europe, and that’s a good thing. That really is. It’s still little more difficult in Russia, even in very best universities, to have some wider experience.