"The Third University Mission" international conference, dedicated to the cooperation between universities and society  attended by over 260 delegates from 23 countries was held in Moscow November 30 and December 1. The conference was timed to the release of the new issue of Moscow International University Ranking "The Three University Missions". The conference was chaired by Viktor Sadovnichy, Rector of the Lomonosov University and Waldemar Siwinski, Vice President of IREG Observatory on Academic Rankings and Excellence. "The Moscow Ranking opens a new generation of academic rankings", said Luiz Claudio Costa, President of IREG Observatory, honorary guest of the Conference.  "Almost all of the existing rankings are based mainly on indicators of research and institutional reputation. It is time for a new generation of rankings that try to look more closely to the link between university and society."

The Three University Missions ranking results were presented by President of Russian Rectors Union Viktor Sadovnichy. He said the new global ranking covers universities from 53 countries. Head of the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science of Russia Sergey Kravtsov assured that his organisation would use The Three University Missions ranking for university accreditation purposes. Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education of Russia Marina Borovskaya noted that the ranking supports decision-making system and prioritising of work planning; it is a back-up for management of a university as well as the education system  within a region or a country.

The discussion of the third mission continued at the thematic sections of the conference. The first section focused on continuing education, online courses and new technologies in education. The section was moderated by Thomas D. Parker, Senior Associate Emeritus at the Institute of Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Washington, D.C. (USA) and Alexey Demidov, Rector of St. Petersburg State University of Industrial Technologies and Design.

President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (USA) Judith S. Eaton noted that the third mission, a university's contribution to society, has become increasingly recognised by researchers as one of the key functions of universities in recent years. Therefore the Moscow Ranking initative was timely. This is an attempt to move away from the elitist approach in the evaluation of universities, implying special attention to the social responsibility of higher education.

Mark O'Brien, Head of Education and Policy Evaluation at the University of Liverpool, spoke about the UK experience in spreading of continuing education. In recent years, due to the increase in the cost of training, the number of students on postgraduate programmes began to decline, and changing the situation is one of the difficult tasks for the authorities of the country.

The thematic section also featured presentations by Alex Asher, President of Higher Education Strategy Associates and Editor-in-Chief of Global Higher Education Strategy Monitor (Canada); Cengiz Acarturk, Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Informatics of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara (Turkey); Patricio Montesinos, Head of Unit, UPV Continuing Education Center, Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), as well as representatives of Russian universities.

The second section of "The Third University Mission" conference was devoted to the transfer of knowledge. Rector of National Research Nuclear University MEPhIMikhail Strikhanov, one of the section's moderators, made a presentation on the university's achievements in the respective area. The other moderator of the section, John T. Green, Life Fellow at Queens' College, Cambridge University, devoted his speech to the experience of Imperial College London, which since the early 2000s has stated the objective of increasing the commercialisation of technologies.

Having studied the experience of Italian universities, Rector of Link Campus University Claudio Roveda came to the conclusion that academia and business have largely contracting approaches that impede the effective transfer of knowledge. In order to bridge this gap, it is necessary to establish communication and achieve coordination between universities and companies in the real sector of economy.

More reports on knowledge transfer were made by: Viktor Koksharov, rector of the Ural Federal University, Zsolt T. Kosztyán, associate Professor and head of the Department of quantitative methods at Pannonian University, Associate Professor and head of Department of Quantitative Methods, University of Pannonia; Senior Research Fellow, MTA-PE Budapest Ranking Research Group (Hungary); Weiping Wu, Professor at Columbia University (United States).

The third thematic section of the conference was dedicated to social involvement of universities. The section moderators, Mirko Degli Esposti, Deputy Rector of the University of Bologna (Italy), and Barasbi Karamurzov, President of the Kabardino-Balkar State University (Russia), emphasized the multifaceted nature of universities and expressed their dissatisfaction with how fragmentary the assessments in popular rankings are. Including third university mission based indicators in the evaluation system could improve the situation.

The speakers have raised the rankings issue multiple times. Gero Federkeil, Head of International Rankings at the Centre for Higher Education (Germany), spoke about the European ranking system U-Multirank and acknowledged that the most poorly investigated rankings area is the social responsibility of universities. The participants of the discussion agreed that the evaluation of university impact on the social and cultural life of the country is a very ambitious and unstandard research problem. Mikhail Myagkov, Professor at the University of Oregon (USA), carried on the discussion speaking about the possibilities of using Wikipedia, the free multilingual online encyclopedia, for the purposes of third mission performance evaluation.

The discussion of social involvement of universities continued by reports made by Paul Blackmore, Professor, International Centre for University Policy Research, King’s College London (United Kingdom), Solomon A. David, Associate Professor & Head of Masters of Education Programme, Faculty of Education, The British University in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Nidhi S. Sabharwal, Associate Professor, Centre for Policy Studies in Higher Education (CPRHE) (India), and Agus Suwignyo, Senior Lecturer at Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia). The section also featured presentations of Russian university rectors.

The final day of the conference included workshops by invited experts. Konuralp Pirincci's contribution was devoted to the role of the university technoparks in supporting entrepreneurial activity in Turkey. The other workshop named "Accreditation and Long-Term Development of Universities’ Socio-Economic Impact" was held byThorsten Kliewe, Chair of Accreditation Council for Engaged and Entrepreneurial Universities (Netherlands).

Summing up the results of the third mission discussions, Managing Director of IREG Observatory Kazimierz Bilanow expressed his gratitude to all the invited experts, as well as to the organisers of the conference. CEO of the Association of Rating Makers Dmitry Grishankov concluded that the conference clearly demonstrated a great interest within global community in the third mission of universities and expressed hope that such events would be held on a regular basis in the future.

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