On 31 August, yesterday’s schoolchildren who received the title of university students from the oldest university of Russia gathered on Academician Sakharov Square. The midday firing of the Naryshkin’s cannon from the bastion of Peter and Paul Fortress heralded the beginning of the 296th academic year.

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In 2019, St Petersburg University accepted applications for 418 academic programmes. The applicants were of all levels of education: from yesterday's schoolchildren to those applying for doctoral programmes. Everybody could choose a suitable field of study. The average admission score rose again and reached a record 92.49. It became the highest in the history of the University. 573 winners of Olympiads became students of the University. 419 new university students scored 100 at the Unified State Exam in at least one subject. 

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Addressing first-year students with a welcoming speech, Nikolay Kropachev, the Rector of St Petersburg University, warned that studying at the University would be anything but simple. He emphasised, ‘It is important to be result-oriented from the first minute, from the first day. It is necessary to be the first and the best. You came here from beautiful cities: Pskov, Novgorod, Moscow, Vladivostok and many others. You were the best there and must remain the best here. And to achieve this you have to work hard.'

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Also, Nikolay Kropachev read out the congratulations addressed to the university students from the members of the Board of Trustees of St Petersburg University: Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia; Valentina Matvienko, Chairwoman of the Federation Council; and Veronika Skvortsova, the Minister of Health of the Russian Federation.  

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Aleksandr Gutsan, a graduate of St Petersburg University and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District, congratulated the freshmen on their Initiation Day. ‘You survived a tough elimination process to become students of one of the top Russian universities. And I am convinced that you are the best. The most important thing is that you always remember: today is only the beginning of your journey,’ said Aleksandr Gutsan. He also added that all the academic programmes of the University are tailored to the needs of employers, which means that graduates will be in demand in the labour market.

This year, more than 70% of enrolled students come from other cities and regions of Russia. For them, studying at the University will be an opportunity not only to acquire valuable knowledge, but also to join the history and culture of St Petersburg. Alexander Beglov, the current governor of St Petersburg and a member of the Board of Trustees of St Petersburg University, greeted new city residents, ‘You have become first-year students of the oldest and best university in our country. Today, you will take the oath to become part of the university brotherhood, which is inscribed in gold letters in the history of Russia. In 2024, you will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the oldest university. Carry the title of a university student with honour and dignity and prove that you are the best. The city needs you, your energy and inspiration.’

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Alexei Kudrin, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, urged students to acquire knowledge from different fields. ‘Dear freshmen, you are privileged to be here and have the opportunity to study at St Petersburg University, a unique university which provides opportunities for growth that will help you to become happy and successful. Use them and don’t wait to be taught,’ said Professor of St Petersburg University Alexei Kudrin.

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Yesterday’s schoolchildren were congratulated on Freshmen Initiation Day by teachers, graduates of the University, and distinguished guests. Among them were: Georgy Poltavchenko, Chairman of the Board of Directors of JSC ‘United Shipbuilding Corporation’; Olga Dergunova, Director of the Graduate School of Management School of St Petersburg University and Chairwoman of VTB Bank Management Board; Raul Gainetdinov, Director of the Institute of Translational Biomedicine at St Petersburg University; Stanislav Smirnov, the Fields medallist and academic supervisor of Chebyshev Laboratory, St Petersburg University.

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During the matriculation ceremony, first-year students of the University took a solemn oath, promising to treasure and promote the traditions of education and humanism, and serve dedicatedly the cause of prosperity of the mind. In honour of the new university students, the ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’ hymn was performed by the University choir. The best school graduates enrolled in the first year received student ID cards from the hands of Nikolay Kropachev. By tradition, the celebration ended on the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island, where the participants of the ceremony set their paper Ships of Hope afloat into the Neva River.

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