Whether branches of universities necessary: 5 non-obvious facts about education in university branches
More often than talking about the need for higher education itself, there are only questions: do we need university branches? Speaking of them, until recently people imagined, as they used to write, “a three-room apartment in which a thousand people allegedly study”, or some dubious institution with an inconspicuous signboard, where they do not give knowledge, but you can get a diploma from the head university. It is believed that all these divisions of universities and institutes appeared in the 1990s against the background of the hype demand for higher education, and nothing has changed in them since then. As a matter of fact, little is known about the life of branches so far, and they appear in the media only, as a rule, in connection with the death or resignation of their directors, after which many are surprised: have they not been closed yet? Anna Svirina, the vice-rector for science and development of the TISBI University of Management, tells about how education in branches is actually arranged in her author's column for Realnoe Vremya.
1. Branches are customer-oriented
Head universities are usually located in large cities, and branches are located in relatively small settlements. Therefore, they have to compete not only with each other, but also with nearby cities that offer more opportunities that are not only related to the field of education.
If the situation in the parent universities allows for a strict selection of applicants and their main customers are the state (for state universities) and business (for non-state universities), then applicants and their parents become the main client of the branch. In their work here they are guided by them, in full accordance with the principle of “demand gives rise to supply” — that's why branches appear where a thousand people study in a three-room apartment — this means that for some reason this is the kind of “education” that students and their employers need.
To be fair, let's say that the policy of Minister Livanov almost destroyed such structures — they ceased to be profitable due to sharply increased requirements. Conversely, in cities with high employer requirements, branches often provide very high-quality knowledge and work for reputation — otherwise graduates simply will not be hired. In small towns, everything is known about everyone.
2. Branches are effective
In parent universities, there is often a complex management architecture, which makes it possible to inaccurately observe the ratio of professors and students (1:12), administrative and managerial personnel to core staff (40/60), due to the development of internal job combination possibility. It is almost impossible to do this on a small scale of branches, so all the ratios set by the ministry are strictly observed. This leads to a higher and more diverse workload for each employee and, as a result, to the forced need for each employee to master related skills.
For the administration of the branches this means the necessity to set up the internal processes, otherwise, the branch will just not be able to fulfill a lot of requirements. There is the only one option to survive in this situation — to increase the efficiency of each. For parent university, this means that any novelties can be tested in the branch network — they will adapt quicker and form the process that can be adopted in the head university already adapted.
3. Branches are affiliated with businesses
Geographically, basic employers are located to the branches closer than the head university. Employers and university branches work in the same environment, better understand each other, and as a consequence from the first point in this article, are open for a dialogue. It is difficult for branches to survive with local businesses, and it is difficult for business without cadres, which the branch train — the youth who went to study to million-strong cities no longer want to return. Therefore, educational programmes in branches are often “closer to the ground”, they have no problems with the organisation of real practice — enterprises begin to select personnel at early stages, and employees of enterprises themselves teach with great pleasure and bring the real world to the audience.
4. Branches provide individual learning paths
In the classroom, through which not hundreds, but dozens of students pass, it is easier for the teacher to orient himself in the level of training of students and adjust the work to the characteristics of those who are in it. As a result, although the curriculum remains the same, the content of the training changes with each new cohort — which is almost impossible to do in cohorts of 100-200 people if you do not use special digital tools. Therefore, the appearance of branch students in the top of the olympiads at the Russian level is quite logical — yes, it is more difficult to choose team members from one group, but the quality of work with them can be ensured at a higher level.
5. Branches make the head university popular
The branches of universities conduct a lot of work, which now is attributed to educational activities by legislation. Projects in schools, open lectures, preparation for olympiads — all this takes place with the participation of employees of university branches. So, starting from the 4th-5th grade, a student periodically hears the name of the same university — and when the time comes to enroll, this university turns out to be the most recognisable for him. This gives the main university, albeit insignificant, but still a competitive advantage compared to the hundreds of opportunities that the applicant is sorting through.
Increased competition only strengthens the industry, makes it more attractive to the customer and gives impetus to development. From these positions, branches are useful for all higher education — by creating additional competition, they help to improve it. There has been no rush demand for higher education for a long time, and in order to compete, branches need to quickly respond to changes in laws, in the mood of customers and respond to an emerging demand. We don't ask ourselves if we need shops within walking distance, but just go there in the evening, because it's convenient and allows us to live a little better.
The author’s opinion may not coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya.