Mikhail Kudilinsky, Vice Rector for Economic Development of SPbU, tells us how the Rector refused the money for construction work, why the dean of the Faculty of Management was reprimanded, and how many criminal and administrative law provisions were violated, as well as why the new campus of St. Petersburg State University has become a unique project on the national scale and when new halls of residence will appear on the territory of the Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus.
Interviewer: The new SPbU Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus has just completed its first semester. For many university students and teachers the opening of the new campus was an important event. Today, over a thousand students specializing in management study here; the campus also hosts university events of key importance. And this is just the beginning: after completing work on the first start-up facility, the university continues the construction work. How difficult was it to turn the first stage of the project into reality? What are the plans for further development of the campus in the years ahead?
Mikhail Kudilinsky: Creation of the new Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus is a serious experience of building a university campus that is unique for Russia. The construction of the first start-up facility, which included the Main Academic Building (19,261.7 square meters), a multifunctional student centre (4,809.7 square meters) and the general services building (3,996.2 square meters) was completed already in 2014. In 2015, these facilities were put into service. And in the first semester of the 2015-2016 academic year, students began to have classes here, a number of significant academic events took place, as well as events with participation of eminent SPbU graduates, prominent politicians, and partners of SPbU (see
I would like to make the following point: the Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus is one of the first “smart” university campuses in our country. Here we use sophisticated IT infrastructure for the purposes of education and research (
For this to become a reality, the university had to put in a lot of effort. We took a number of measures aimed at optimization of the project design in order to achieve maximum efficiency. As a result, we were able to launch the first start-up facility (which included the Main Academic Building, a multifunctional student centre and the general services building of the campus) within a short time and to save a substantial amount of the committed budget funds – 2.7 billion roubles. This fact was directly mentioned in a regulation of the Russian Government (
I.: Was the reduction of construction costs dictated by the current economic situation?
M.K.: Totally not. Rational, efficient use of all resources (facilities, equipment, consumables) is a general rule that has been since 2008 applied for project management at St. Petersburg State University. On the University website, you can find the information on how things were put right with regard to the use of premises which the University had rented out: by 2012, the area of premises rented out before 2008 had been reduced by half, while the rental income had nearly tripled (see
This is how it all started. In 2007, all the relevant departments agreed upon the RF Government Regulation “On implementation of the development, renovation (repurposing) of the palace and park grounds of ‘Mikhailovskaya Dacha’ in 2007-2010 and construction of facilities to house the business school – the Graduate School of Management of the Federal State Educational Institution of Higher Professional Education ‘St. Petersburg State University’” (
The required amendments were introduced into St. Petersburg legislation only in 2008, that is, two years after the start of the project. Therefore, all the time preceding 2008, the design and construction work had been carried out illegally, which means that the allocated budget funds had been spent illegally! In 2008, the new administration of the University had even to give up almost 10 million dollars allocated for these purposes from the Russian Federation budget, since in the absence of the government expert review it was impossible to legitimately spend the money on the campus construction (see
It was also possible to choose a different way. As early as at the start of 2006, the University administration received a tempting offer: the Administrative Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation was ready to take up the management of the entire construction project. The University was in this case supposed to act as the construction project owner, who would determine what exactly was to be built. Unfortunately this proposal was not approved by the University administration. The Dean of the Faculty of Management and the Vice Rector for Economic Affairs were also totally against it. Citing the proven experience of previous construction woks in SPbU (repairs of the roof of the University’s main building, the renovation of the former building of the SPbU Research Institute of Physics (NIFI) to house the University Library, the renovation of the Bobrinsky Palace, major repairs of the University halls of residence), the former administration of the University insisted that all those multibillion funds should be entrusted to the University administration for conducting construction work independently.
By the way, quite soon it became abundantly clear how exactly “successful” these previous SPbU construction projects had been. Here are a few facts. In the case of the roof repairs of the University’s main building, misappropriation of over 1.5 million dollars (out of slightly over 3 million dollars appropriated for the project) was proved in court; the Vice Rector for Administrative and Economic Affairs, the chief engineer, the chief accountant and some other employees of St. Petersburg State University, as well as director of OOO “Stroitelnoye Delo – SG” company were convicted. Misappropriation of almost 1.5 million dollars out of 8.5 million dollars appropriated for the renovation of the former NIFI building to convert it into the SPbU library was proved in court, and the general director of OOO “RSP Balvik” company S.A. Kalinin together with the chief engineer and the actual head of OOO “RSP Balvik” B.V. Balanov, who entered into a criminal conspiracy with V.N. Sobolev and V.A. Sakhnovsky, at different times heading the SPbU directorate for building construction, were convicted (see
Anyway, the University Administration succeeded in obtaining the right to manage the entire construction project independently. And so it began... They should have obtained the introduction of changes into the city development plan and the law of St. Petersburg “On public landscaped areas”, and only then should they have commissioned a construction project design. But no, this was not what they did. In the very first year, the allocated funds were used to finance both the work on the project design and the work on the lot, as well as the cleaning and landscaping of ponds, which was subsequently (and rightfully) qualified by the Federal Service for Fiscal and Budgetary Supervision as a violation of fiscal legislation. In 2007, while the construction project design was still not ready, a tendering procedure for the construction work was undertaken (a flagrant violation of all possible rules!). At this point, by the way, not only the design project was absent; even the building programme had not yet been developed. Under such circumstances the tendering procedure should never have been started! But the tender was undertaken, and the Vice-Rector for Economic and Social Development signed the contract with the winner. It was only a few months after the completion of the tender and the signing of the contract that there finally appeared the technical design assignment approved by the Federal Education Agency, in which the range and scope of work required from the construction firm differed significantly (and to the higher side) from the targets set by the public contract already signed (see
But this is only half of the story. In the situation when the contract with the designer and the construction company had already been signed, ten months later, in August 2008, the Federal Education Agency changed the technical design assignment at the request (!) of the University administration. In accordance with the new assignment, new requirements for the composition, types and brands of technological and other equipment for the educational process were established. All this yet again led to the increase in the cost of the project. So it is no surprise that the State Expert Examination Department assessed the cost of the project to be not 8.050 billion but 17.5 billion roubles. I would like to emphasize that it had to do not with the increased costs of the work itself but with the increase in its scope and the use of higher quality equipment, which was therefore more expensive.
Since the contract with the construction company had already been signed, the latter had every right at any time to refuse to perform the works not included in the contract. In the absence of the design project and, consequently, lacking the information on project cost, the University administration launched the construction work on the project, with the work starting almost immediately on all possible facilities at once (10 facilities altogether). I would like to emphasise that SPbU officials knew perfectly well that the 8.050 billion roubles provided by the Government Regulation would not be enough to compete all those works. However, they stubbornly continued the large-scale simultaneous development of all facilities (see
Unfortunately, the desire to spend the allocated funds and the lack of experience at the beginning of project implementation led not only to errors but also to some serious violations. In 2006, the former administration of the University made a decision to spend more than 600 thousand dollars, which had been allocated to SPbU specifically for construction work, on carrying out the work on the land plot, as well as on cleaning and landscaping of the ponds. In 2008, when the violations were detected during an internal (and not external) inspection, the University immediately and on its own initiative returned all the money to the budget (using the income received from the extra-budgetary activities of St. Petersburg State University). The following year, government appropriations for the construction of the campus were reduced by the same amount (see
Why so many violations? This is a question to the previous administration of the University. Let me point out that the constant attempts of the former administration of the Faculty of Management (which for a long time had been supported by our economic managers as well) to drive up the requirements set for the designers and the builders, as well as the requirements to the materials and equipment used, led to negative consequences. For example, the design included construction of a library with a book depository for over 1 million storage units. And this was done in a situation when libraries increasingly get converted into electronic form and access to electronic publications can be achieved from each workplace. The construction of this facility together with site preparation and library equipment would have required one billion roubles, while at the same time enough space for all the books in physical form could be easily found in the Main Academic Building. The same officials came up with a decision to repurpose the Palace of Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolayevich to house the Institute of Management. The building of the Institute is mostly offices of the researchers, while the renovation of the palace and its repurposing would have cost almost 1.5 billion roubles adjusted for current prices. Meanwhile, just a few hundred meters away from the palace, there is a multipurpose building where every (!) member of the academic staff already has an individual office, including spaces suitable for research work.
I would like to emphasize that we have always had a different task: to remedy the violations of our predecessors and to find legitimate and effective solutions that will help us to create the required favourable conditions for the best business school in Russia and Eastern Europe — the business school of SPbU.
In October 2008, the Rector succeeded in obtaining changes to the city development plan and the law of St. Petersburg “On public landscaped areas”.
14 out of 17 state expert examination reviews for the total sum of 15.5 billion roubles (i.e. two thirds of all the funds) were obtained only in 2008 and 2009. That means that up until the end of 2009 there was no information on the cost of the entire project. When at the end of 2009 the positive state expert examination reviews were obtained and the total estimated cost of the project became clear, the University took a number of measures aimed at optimization of the project design and at saving the costs (see
Members of the Board of Trustees for the Graduate School of Management of SPbU, headed by Sergei Ivanov, endorsed the initiative of the Rector of SPbU Nikolay Kropachev on restructuring of the project. It was agreed that it was necessary to concentrate the efforts on the most important facilities that would enable the University to start the teaching and learning process at the campus, that is, on the construction of the first start-up facility and, above all, on the renovation of the Main Academic Building. The Government of the Russian Federation supported the proposal, and in 2011 the University was allocated 6.9 billion for the completion of the first start-up facility. This was preceded by the audit of the Accounts Chamber, and only after its approval had the Government issued the Regulation (see
In order to complete the first phase of construction in 2014, the University needed 530.044 million roubles. Meanwhile, no money for that purpose was provided in the budget. However, only about ten percent of the federal funds already invested in the construction were lacking.
So what was to be done? After a long negotiation process, the University managed to convince the contractor to review and optimize the design project without depreciating the usability and technical properties of the facilities. As a result, more than 500 million roubles were saved during the construction of three facilities in 2013 (that is, more money was saved that the amount needed for the completion of the first phase of the construction — the construction of the Main Academic Building, the Multipurpose Student Centre, and the General Services Building). The University reported the savings to the authorities, duly transferred all the saved funds to the federal budget and requested their return in 2014 for the purpose of competing the work on the buildings of the first start-up facility. And here we suddenly got a refusal!
The Russian Government prepared and adopted the 2014 budget – and again a refusal. Our arguments that we saved 533 million roubles in 2013 alone and during the entire period of construction had saved over 2.7 billion roubles were not taken into account. We got the following response: “There are a lot of construction projects where money is saved…” (though no examples were ever provided). The January of 2014 passed by, then the February, but there was still no decision on the allocation to us of the funds that we had saved. If we did not start the construction work immediately, we were running out of the possibility to finish it by the end of 2014. The builders agreed to continue the construction on the word of honour of the Rector, who was sure that one day justice would finally triumph, and more than half of the planned work had been already completed by June. In August, we finally received the long-awaited approval from the relevant ministries, and then the Russian government issued Regulation № 1150 of 3 November 2014 “On implementation of the development, renovation (repurposing) of the palace and park grounds of ‘Mikhailovskaya Dacha’ in 2007-2010 and construction of facilities to house the business school – the Graduate School of Management of the Federal State Educational Institution of Higher Professional Education ‘St. Petersburg State University’” (see
I.: How much was invested in the construction of the campus? What is the total sum we are talking about here?
M.K.: During all the time that the project has been implemented, 10 billion roubles have been spent on construction work, and only 7.1 billion roubles were spent on the buildings of the first start-up facility. The rest of the money was spent on such projects as halls of residence for masters and doctoral students, the administrative building, and especially on the halls of residence for bachelor’s degree students, which are already 23 per cent complete. The funds spend on the halls of residence for undergraduates, master’s degree students and doctoral students were not wasted; the construction work to complete the halls of residence will be renewed in 2016.
I would like to mention that construction of a university campus on the grounds of a palace and park estate is a unique project, which is unprecedented not only in Russia but in the world. Only our students get an opportunity to study – and ultimately live – in the buildings constructed on the grounds of a historic park.
However, the fact that the campus is located in a historic place is not only the unique attraction of the project; it also represents significant difficulties at all stages of its implementation. For example, the existing city-planning standards limit the height of buildings erected in this area to 12 metres, which makes it impossible to build standardized and relatively inexpensive halls of residence of 10-15 stories high on the grounds of Mikhailovskaya Dacha. Therefore, we had to design and build three-story halls of residence over a larger area and to increase the number of buildings, which, of course, increased the complexity of the project as well as increasing its cost, making it two or three times higher than similar construction works in the area where it is allowed to build standard high-rise halls of residence, or even on Vasilyevsky Island (see
I.: When will the halls of residence appear at Mikhailovskaya Dacha? What is the planned time period for completing the whole project?
M.K.: Today, when the construction of student halls of residence and the Chamberlain’s Building for the administrative staff has not yet been completed, it would be premature to speak about the finishing date of construction. 600 million roubles were allocated to the University in 2016 for the purpose of completing the construction of the halls of residence. In 2011 alone, the construction of three unfinished halls of residence was stopped, and one of them, consisting of 9 buildings, is at the highest degree of completion. Now the funds will be committed to its construction, and this year we plan to finish at least two of the nine buildings. If the Government finds a way to allocate to SPbU additional funds for the completion and putting into service of all nine buildings of the halls of residence (they belong to the second start-up facility), 600 students of our University will be able to move in there already in 2017.
As for the other two buildings of the halls of residence, which belong to the third start-up facility and are designed to accommodate 300 and 350 people respectively, only the so-called “zero cycle” — excavation, drainage, foundation work — has been completed for them, so the completion of their construction is planned for subsequent years.
I.: So the halls of residence are a priority?
M.K.: Undoubtedly. I would like to stress the following: the very fact that the Russian government, under the current difficult economic situation, allocated funds to the University for building new halls of residence is highly significant. This is a sign that our work has been highly appreciated. President Vladimir Putin, as well as Sergei Ivanov, the Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Graduate School of Management, St. Petersburg State University, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Olga Golodets, who visited the new campus in 2015 year, praised the results of our work (see
I.: You have compared Mikhailovskaya Dacha with a “smart” home. What modern information technologies are already in use and what opportunities do they create for university students?
M.K.: Today, the new SPbU campus is outfitted with cutting-edge equipment, and some of the information technologies used here have no equals anywhere in Russia. In future, when the construction work is completed, the campus will become a truly “smart” home for our students and teachers: all the systems (lighting and heating, burglar and fire alarms, etc.) will work simultaneously, and it will be possible to operate the equipment of the entire campus from literally one control room.
We managed to create a convenient, high-tech environment for teaching students in the Main Academic Building. About 30 lecture rooms in the building are “smart” rooms. One remote control desk makes it possible to control the work of all equipment in the huge building — from lighting to multimedia systems.
I would like to emphasise that not only the construction but also the operation of the new campus is a difficult task. It can be solved only with the help of highly qualified personnel because working with the state-of-the-art equipment requires special knowledge and skills. This is a serious challenge for the University, but it also represents a new, invaluable experience.
I.: Many were surprised by the successful combination of the classic and high-tech architecture in the Main Academic Building (the building itself was created in the 19th century in the Neo-Renaissance style) that you managed to achieve. How did this design concept appear?
M.K.: The project of the Main Academic Building was based on the concept of open space: the idea of a classical Greek polis, the Agora of classical Athens - the venue of the Athenian popular assembly. The building embodies the concept of free communication of students and teachers. This is the idea embodied in the architectural space: there is a lot of natural light in the lobby of the building; it comes from the ceiling and the floor-to-ceiling windows; many rooms have “transparent” walls made of glass, etc. In my opinion, we were able to fully implement the concept, which is in harmony with the idea of an open university.
It is no secret that maintaining the delicate balance between the site of unique cultural heritage, represented by the entire territory of the palace and the park of the Mikhailovskaya Dacha estate, and the construction of a modern campus comfortable for students and teachers is a difficult task. I am convinced that when we complete all stages of the construction, the result will satisfy not only our students and teachers. Building of this high-class campus is a unique project for Russia. In the long term, this experience can be replicated, and our solutions can be used in future projects for the development of SPbU and other universities of our country.
I.: What are the most interesting technological solutions that you would like to mention?
M.K.: It would be difficult to name everything. Our unique experience can be found in the very system that provides for the needs of the campus (the automation and management systems, communications, etc.). No other university in Russia can boast that they have created such a system. Practically in every type of classroom you will find our own software developed specifically for the needs of SPbU.
The very few first months during which the new campus started its work showed that the funds that had been invested in the automation and management of complex utility systems had totally paid off. Therefore, the experience of developing a unified system for management and automation of utility systems, and the systems providing for the educational process will be used to the full during the repurposing for the needs of the University of the buildings comprising the First Cadet Corps — a group of buildings with an area of 58,000 square meters, which until the end of 2011 belonged to the Military Academy of Materiel and Technical Security. We already know what issues can arise and how to avoid them with a new project. It has been a truly unique experience, both for the University and the designers as well as the developers of these systems. And we could only acquire this knowledge by implementing such a complex project as the construction of the Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus.
I.: What other development projects does SPbU plan to carry out in the coming years?
In addition to the new campus, the University is actively working on several development projects. For instance, in 2014 the administration of St. Petersburg allocated to SPbU a plot of land on Vasilievsky Island near the Smolenka River estuary (see
We have already started the work on the territory of the First Cadet Corps: the electricity supply network is being renovated. Here we are going to create a multipurpose educational centre, where students from any faculty or department of the University will be able to study, and the rooms will be able to accommodate any academic field, from philology to chemistry. Together with the city administration, we plan to establish on this site a conference centre to be used not only for academic and research activities, but also for holding major city and national events (see
It is still too early to say when the project will be completed; here everything depends on federal budgetary allocations. I am convinced, however, that we will be able to demonstrate as efficient an approach to spending the public money when implementing our future projects as we managed to achieve when building the university campus on the territory of the Mikhailovskaya Dacha estate.
In conclusion, many are unaware of the fact that initially
All these figures (i.e. that the cost of renovation and new construction would be three times higher) were, of course, not yet known to anyone in the early 2000s. But even then it was clear that the cost of construction work in this part of Peterhof would differ significantly from the renovation work on the palace estate and the new construction under conditions of height limitations. These arguments were voiced by the deans of social sciences and humanities faculties (the faculties of economics, law, psychology, and philology) at the meeting in the University holiday centre in Roshchino held to discuss that particular issue. The 2006 presentation of the project was made by the Dean of the Faculty of Management V.S. Katkalo and the Vice Rector for Administrative and Economic Affairs L.V. Ognev. The objections voiced by the humanities faculties were ignored (see
We cannot change history. But it is both possible and necessary to ensure that the modern infrastructure of the Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus would work to the benefit of the entire University!