School of Advanced Studies, University of Tyumen

The value of traditional 3-4-year BA programs is increasingly contested, as more and more services, both online and offline, become available to teach all kinds of competencies faster, cheaper, and, arguably, better. It appears less and less self-evident why lifelong learning, with its short and often part-time modules, should only begin upon the completion of a full-time BA and not right after high school.

The argument in defense of full-time on-campus BA programs may focus on its greater efficiency in teaching more complex and fundamental competencies or it may try to go beyond the very logic of competency-based education. In the latter case, one must specify what it is that students should be learning at university — or, as some business schools argue, during long full-emersion programs for mid-career adults — which cannot be learned by other means.

The 2019 Disciplinary Landscape forum at the School of Advanced Studies, University of Tyumen will take the second approach. We invite scholars and teachers from a variety of disciplines to try to formulate an alternative to the increasingly dominant worldview whereby virtually everything, up to the person’s ability to enter a romantic relationship or lead a meaningful life, is described as a combination of distinct competencies teachable through a set of educational modules.



opening remarks


Roundtable Learning beyond Competencies
(open to public)


team work



plenary session (open to the public)




team work


plenary session (open to the public)


1 Akshaya Kumar, Indian Institute of Technology Indore Juliette Colinas, SAS 12
2Andrew Wachtel, Narxoz University Kira Akimova, Tomsk State University 13
3Andrey Shcherbenok, SAS Ksenia Romanenko, Higher School of Economics 14
4Dara Melnyk, Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO Maria Yudkevich, Higher School of Economics 15
5Denis Akhapkin, St. Petersburg State University Marina Makhotaeva, Pskov State University 16
6Dmitry Afanasyev, Cherepovets State University Matvey Lomonosov, SAS 17
7Duskin Drum, SAS Oksana Chernenko, Higher School of Economics 18
8Ekaterina Selikhovkina, SAS Olga Agapova, Stiftung EVZ 19
9Elena Kochukhova, Institute of Philosophy and Law, RAS Ural Branch Peter Jones, SAS 20
10Giacomo Andreoletti, SAS Tomasz Blusiewicz, SAS 21
11John Tangney, SAS Vera Maltseva, Ural State University of Economics 22


Anne Mulhall

In an increasingly financialized world, contemporary thinkers are attempting to defend subjectivity and democracy from wholesale colonization by economic forces. Language is becoming the critical terrain on which this battle is being conducted. Recent Italian philosophy has suggested two opposing linguistic-therapeutic interventions. On the one hand, Christian Marazzi suggests that we all need to understand the “neolanguage” of financial capitalism in order to “refuse the linguistic opacity” in which finance prospers. On the other, Franco Berardi argues that we need to deploy the language of poetry and metaphor as an excessive affront to the reduction of the linguistic to simple informational content. My short presentation will transpose this problem into current debates that pose the question, “what is the university for?”

Juliette Colinas

  • To me, if something has been learned, then it is a Competency, so I do not understand what “learning beyond Competencies” means.
  • The question, thus: what is the added value of learning in a full-time 3-year program, compared to short dispersed courses?
  • Two things, among others: a) social skill Competencies, which are very valuable and not easily gained otherwise b) a strong social network.
  • That said, I do think that students should gain more real-world experience before pursuing higher education, to acquire more knowledge and understanding of themselves and the world.

John Tangney

Learning beyond Competency means absorbing the spiritual values embodied in the institution as an expression of society at large. By this definition the liberal arts university might be thought to be a place for individuals to develop ‘negative capability’, or the ability to function in a state of uncertainty as they move among competing ideas. However, today’s universities are suffused with the values of the economic right and the identitarian left who have been hand in glove in the university sector for forty years. Under their tutelage students learn how to navigate a cultural and economic landscape dominated by reductive postmodern ideologies that promote dogmatism, don’t nourish them as human beings, and represent the decadence of liberalism."

Kira Akimova

There are two different approaches in order to enable the learning process. First is related to organization of the process around the “ideal taxonomy”, which is developed by an expert/teacher. In this case, doesn’t matter how we will call competencies, the result will be the same – matching to the taxonomy. Second is considering education as an ecosystem for folksonomy of different stakeholders. Consequently, results of a program can be seen as real products and social contacts. I adhere to the second approach and believe that the future of education is not about competencies, rather about collaboration, creation and professional network.

Dmitry Afanasyev

From the very beginning the concept of Competency and competency-based education had generated controversy and confusion. Political, ideological, theoretical, and practical objections have been raised against СBE.

These arguments are not so much an arguments against CBE. It is an objection against utilitarian curriculum in general, to the primacy of economic and industrial considerations in university curriculum. This objection is an ideological one and cannot be overcome in university teachers’ community.

So, we need to move the discussion to the field of reliable evidences. Which approach and which type of learning activities is the most effective for transformative learning?

Oksana Chernenko

The question of teaching and learning achieved its popularity these days again.

Key education players appear on the horizon of the university study classes. These new instructors can compete easily due to a flexibile structure and new programmes. Modern labor-market dictates to the graduates that cognitive and soft skills are more appreciated nowadays. 1The university also changes from the inside as it's hard to imagine a modern study programme without a course on Data Culture or project-based learning. Students also change. And the main issue being lead after all these questions, is if the teachers and professors also change?

How universities can answer to these fast changes? How they support their teachers and professors in this new education era?

Denis Akhapkin

Russian higher education system claims to be a «competency-based». Nearly all documents - from educational standards to «working programs of academic disciplines» - mention this term. However, no transfer from «knowledge and skills» model to «competensy-based» model have ever actually happened. One of the main reasons is that most faculty do not have clear understanding that significant part of learning happens beyond classrooms and it is based not only on formal assignments but on a broad spectrum of informal reading, writing and discussing activities. One of the ways to improve the situation and help to manage these activities is to turn teacher oriented «working programs of academic discipline» into comprehensive and detailed student oriented syllabi that could become a learner's manual to build her way to - and beyond - the Competencies both inside and outside the classroom.

Olga Agapova

Life history can be the subject of study at any age, especially important for older people. To start talking about dramatic situations, special procedures and interactive methods are to be used. The process of biographical study leads to practical results: unique memories are saved, digital archives and even small museums based on memories (“Christmas decorations museum”) are being created aswell as so called “stumbling blocks” were installed (Orel). I noticed that older people change into (grand)children when they remember their grandparents and food from childhood. In Talking Cafes we always started with the topic “Favorite dish of my childhood”. First I offered this topic intuitively, but realized that food is an important bridge between the past and the present, the result of brain activity, where memory, sense of smell and emotions are activated. Through the biographical approach, the learning processes for elderly can become a voyage of discovery, insights for both learners and teachers.

duskin drum

Horrifyingly, universities are for parking people, potential dangerous people, moralistic people with naive and unrealistic notions of change. Sadly, higher education blunts and dulls intensity of global and local injustices with the particular myopic methodical and conceptual concerns of disciplines.

The imperative of places of learning is to figure, model, and practice moral and ethical society responding to historical challenges produced by enlightenment, European colonization, and industrialization. Higher education’s task is to nurture altruistic leaders and citizens. Carry forward the aspirational goals of living well together; cultivating peace, justice, understanding and responsibility to the relations that sustain us.

Dara Melnyk

I think considering the following pentad could prove productive: ideology, an ability, a plan, an action and a result. University curriculum shapes one’s personal ideology, which, in turn, informs our actions – a graduate acts according to the way they have been schooled in, with their possibilities in life being both expanded and limited by their education. While the ability to develop an ideology and to act upon it can be called ‘Competencies’, the ideology itself cannot. The plan for action is not a Competency either. Finally, the result, the consequence of one’s action is beyond Competencies. If we contrast processes (i.e. developing an ideology or a plan) and results (i.e. ideology itself or consequences), we might arrive at the limits of Competencies.

Akshaya Kumar

The university implies a universality which sits uncomfortably within the political economy of social mobility. Particularly in South Asia, education infrastructure has been so dysfunctional that learning becomes a rare personal triumph, while the universality of the Western canon across BA programs alienates the students and effectively delegitimizes learning beyond Competencies. The language question, carrying the gatekeeping legacy of colonial provenance, is a key signature of such a delegitimation. I suggest that to reimagine learning at the university, it must be untethered from its presumed cosmopolitanism and liberated of the banality of geographical evil embedded within it.

Marina Makhotaeva

Currently the role of universities is rapidly changing. In the nearest future they must shift from product business to service business which main peculiarities are active participation of learners, learning process and co-creation of students. Formal and non-formal learning will be replaced by informal learning. Digitalization of universities will continue. On-line programmes will improve in terms of content, methodology used, learning outcomes and be respected by potential participants and employers. They will provide opportunities in getting knowledge but human Competencies (emotional intellect, creative and critical thinking, communication skills, curiosity, motivation to study) will require individual face-to-face communication and feedback as well as mini-group activities. Universities will integrate to surrounding infrastructure aiming at close cooperation with business and public sectors, citizens and nature.

Giacomo Andreoletti

According to Plato, future rulers should spend ten years studying only mathematics between the ages of 20 and 30. Back then, mathematics had almost no practical applications and it was considered to be the most precise and pure among the known sciences. Why should skills in abstract thinking have any bearing on how to properly rule a community? Is it just a matter of transferable skills? If so, how learning how to calculate the area of a circle can be transferred into the art of government, or any other activity?

Andrew Wachtel

There are many possible objections to seeing what is taught at a university as a collection of Competencies. Probably the biggest problem is that our students should learn from interactions with their peers (and also their professors) in an iterative way that assumes the possibility of multiple possible answers to the same questions (some better, some worse, some equally good), many of which depend on the various points of view that students and faculty bring to the table. It is hard for me to see how a system that teaches Competencies outside the social and emotional give and take of multiple points of view would serve our students well. In my intervention, I propose to give a few examples of how I think this process works and why breaking it into a set of Competencies that can be taught individually and then somehow summed up is unlikely to work.

Elena Kochukhova

University may be thought of as an art gallery. Why at gallery are people who want to be involved in understanding something difficult or unusual? How they can do it? The experience of art mediators of the IV Ural Industrial Biennale shows that there are three reasons why non-professionals involved in art-process. Biennale give them knowledge, community, work experience. They are not «spectators», they help other people to build a dialogue with art. I think, university can adopt that practice and can give more freedom and responsibility for students.

Tomasz Blusiewicz

Blusiewicz will highlight the experience of designing a student's own educational track in a liberal arts college, by the student and with the assistance from his mentor(s). This is a complex process that, at SAS for instance, starts from choosing first-year electives to picking a major (and courses/specialization within it). Oftentimes, for a young person, it happens to be one of the first serious experiences in making an informed choice out of many promising possibilities. Blusiewicz believes that this is a major difference that differentiates liberal art colleges from traditional universities. It is a learning process that will matter for students beyond their university years, and should help them to make better-informed decisions throughout their life and career.

Peter Jones

To fully understand the problems of function and Competency in universities today, we need to go back to the 80s — the 1180s. When the university was first in formation there was a fierce debate about the fundamental purpose of scholarship. Should it be a spiritual journey, or should it be way for producing lawyers, diplomats, and bureaucrats? Of course, the two were never really mutually exclusive. In the 1180s, as the early university morphed into a workshop for training literate preachers, we might glimpse an intriguing path out of the competency/personal growth impasse that we believe we are currently in.

Ksenia Romanenko

Higher education is not an individual, but collective experience with shared culture and identities. Consequently, it should not be reduced to the package of educational models with various projected Competencies inside them. Focus on the academic freedom and common research in the Humboldtian model of higher education or on the specific university culture and free intellectual communication in Newman’s “liberal education” idea resist the values of utilitarian knowledge. So, when we are thinking about alternative to the dominant worldview, it will be productive to revise Humboldtian and Newman models and to implement them into the contemporary universities.

Matvey Lomonosov

Surprisingly, the tendency towards de-essentializing the university has gone in parallel with an increasing attention to cultural capital. Relevant to our topic, some argue that cultural capital is just a Competency. However, cultural capital cannot be reduced to a Competency alone. In order to be i n s t r u m e n t a l l y efficient, cultural capital needs to be o r g a n I c a l l y acquired. The acquisition of cultural capital depends on the intensity of often face to face and unpredictable interactions in intellectually and culturally diverse context.

Vera Maltseva

Skills mismatch has become a crucial policy issue in 2010-s. More and more national policy initiatives are focused on combating skills deficits, enhancing the responsiveness of the education, including HEIs, for adapting to emerging employers’ needs. But are there enough proofs of skills gaps, and could we rely on this demand-side point of view? The problem is that there is no widely accepted mismatch measure because of the complexity of the direct objective measurement of supply and demand for skills. Existing estimates of skills mismatch are very different and misleading, and they entail different policy implications.

Maria Yudkevich

In recent years academic profession faces new challenges of rather controversial nature. Some of them are related to massification of higher education (and a consequent increase in teaching loads, diversity of students and their needs/motivations) while others are associated with an increased competition from a variety of teaching modules not necessarily university-affiliated (such as MOOCs etc.). We argue that a response for these challenges is crucial for understanding of what stands (or should be) beyond the simple sum of Competencies that students might get from various teaching modules.