Academic Affairs Department and Students' Rights: Past and Present
Imagine an impossible situation: in one part of the city (for example, on Vasilievsky Island), the green traffic light means 'Go!' and the red light means 'Stop!', while in another part of the same city (say, in the Petrodvortsovy District), yellow means 'Go!' and green is 'Stop!' (and red means 'ask the traffic officer').
Ten or fifteen years ago, such an impossible situation was normal for the University: its different parts (which used to be called 'faculties' back then) had different rules! For instance, how many times could a student resit an exam in one examination period? Once at one faculty, twice at another one, and more than five times at a third one. Which fee-paying students were to be transferred to government-funded places? One faculty said 'only those with excellent marks', another one chose to transfer students who got both excellent and good marks, while yet another faculty's rules included students with satisfactory marks. Who was eligible for a merit-based scholarship? Who was the first in line to go on a study visit to a foreign university? Who could have an individual schedule, and how did one obtain it? Many of these questions did not have definite answers, as there were no uniform rules at the time – can you imagine the number of potential conflicts between pedestrians and drivers if there were no official traffic regulations?
How difficult was it to develop the uniform Internal Regulations, which became the new norm? How were separate faculties merged in order to create a united university? What was the role of the Academic Affairs Department in this process? How are students' rights protected? These questions are answered here by: the Head of Academic Affairs Department Natalya Boyko; Senior Vice-Rector for Academic and Methodological Affairs Ekaterina Babelyuk; and Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Methodological Support Marina Lavrikova (Deputy Director of the Academic Affairs Deparment for Education and Research in Medicine, Medical Technologies, Dentistry, and Law in 2010–2011; Vice-Rector for Education and Research in the same fields of study in 2011–2012).
A game with no rules
The uniform Internal Regulations for the Main Educational Programmes of St Petersburg University were only introduced in August of 2012. The order that sanctioned the Regulations repealed 28 (!) by-laws that used to be in effect at the University. Those were rules introduced by deans of various faculties, and they were far from consistent. This was possible because until 2010 the University had structural units with separate legal identities (Can There be 'Separate Units with Legal Identities' at the University?), whose heads acted under the rector's letter of attorney and could issue their own orders, including those that introduced new internal rules without additional approval from anyone. As a result, students from different faculties of the same university had different rights (St Petersburg University E-services in Education: Past and Present). Deans' orders only applied to teachers from their faculties, but the implementation of any educational programme involves teachers from several faculties. For instance, foreign language, physical education, philosophy, and history teachers take part in all programmes. There are many educational programmes where almost half of the teachers are members of other faculties. During classes with teachers from other faculties, students usually had to deal with different rules concerning attendance, term paper specifications, eligibility for taking pass/fail tests and examinations, taking and resitting pass/fail tests and examinations, grading written and oral works, and appeal procedures. If a faculty was one of the 'rich' ones, and teachers from a different faculty were paid a personal bonus (as people used to say, 'They are paid by two faculties'), the dean of such a 'rich' faculty could demand that other teachers comply with their rules as well.
'For example, students from different faculties (Economics, Physics, Law, Management, Psychology, International Relations, Philology, Mathematics, etc.) had different numbers of resittings in one examination period, ranging from two to five,' says the Head of the Academic Affairs Department Natalya Boyko. 'Fee-paying economics students could get individual study plans, while, for example, international relations students did not have such an option.' 'Fee-paying law students could sign an agreement to resit examinations for the winter examination period in April instead of February. And, for example, medical students could not do that,' recalls Marina Lavrikova. 'Medical students had many subjects, and they could have two pass/fail tests in one day, and an examination the following day!'
To justify these differences in rules, many deans referred to certain unique features of educational programmes. In a discussion with heads of structural units, Ekaterina Babelyuk pointed out that those unique features should not result in discriminating against students from different programmes. 'The University is not trying to harmonise all educational programmes. But under federal law, all students must have equal rights and obligations. The University should be a united entity without, so to say, feudal fragmentation (which I had to face in 2008 when I came to work in St Petersburg University as the head of the Academic Affairs Department),' explains Ekaterina Babelyuk, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic and Methodological Affairs.
At that time, a final-year student could bring their thesis to their research supervisor the night before the defence. The supervisor read it overnight and tracked down the reviewer the next morning, so that the latter would quickly throw together a review, and then they all went to the thesis defence. And some other student could go to the dean's office, as it used to be called, and turn in a stack of blank sheets of paper instead of their thesis, only to swap it for the real thing the day before the defence. There were no deadlines and no rules.
Moreover, most rules were unwritten back then! Deans of only a few faculties (Law, Economics, and Management) issued orders to introduce education regulations. Other faculties were governed by traditions ('It has always been done like that!'), which basically replaced any rules, and each teacher used the traditions they knew and remembered. In other cases, certain rules (but not all of them) were formalised by decisions of faculties' academic boards. As a result, students' rights were unprotected: students had no say in those unwritten rules, could not appeal violations, and could not receive fair treatment. Going back to our Traffic Code analogy, it is easy to picture the following situation: a traffic policeman arrives at an accident site and says: 'This driver is at fault because the driver on the left was found guilty last time – it's a tradition, you know...' And no one can prove their innocence because the rules are unwritten!
A thorny way towards new rules
The development of uniform Internal Rules began at the University in 2008, when Ekaterina Babelyuk, Associate Professor of the St Petersburg University Department of State and Administrative Law was appointed as the head of the Academic Affairs Department (Associate Professor Nikolai Kaledin was Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at the time). Prior to this, tasks like curriculum development, scheduling, teaching workload distribution and tracking, etc. were dealt with by deputy deans for Academic Affairs, i.e. it was done by people at academic teaching positions in their spare time. In 2010, Ekaterina Babelyuk created academic offices for specific fields of study, which were accountable to deputy heads of the Academic Affairs Department. Instead of independent deans' offices, a centralised structure appeared, whose employees followed uniform rules and the same requirements, and pursued a uniform education policy.
'The duties of deputy heads include, among other things, counselling students on all education-related issues,' Marina Lavrikova tells us. 'It was very important to establish reliable information sources. Quite often, employees at deans' offices did not know the uniform rules and requirements, and therefore they misinformed students.' Even in 2011, there were cases when deans gave incorrect information when answering questions in the Virtual Reception (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting held on November 14, 2011, item 6).
Head of the Academic Affairs Department Ekaterina Babelyuk held weekly meetings with her deputies, where they developed uniform rules and requirements. For example, they discussed the student information card format (before that, information cards were kept in whatever way a dean's office chose to use), the procedure for filling in, filing and storing examination records, etc. Step by step, these decisions formed the uniform Internal Regulations (by consolidating separate by-laws in the form of a Code). 'We discussed every single item in detail at those meetings. What if we introduce this or that rule – how will it work? We tried to provide arguments for and against every decision and eventually found solutions that everyone could agree on,' says Marina Lavrikova.
'There may be exceptions. But these exceptions must have the form of new rules, so that they can be used by all students in a given category,' explains Ekaterina Babelyuk. There was a case when Dean of the School of Management Valery Katkalo insisted that management students should not have the right to resit examinations (prior to that, the faculty had a rule that granted only one chance to resit exams). Ekaterina Babelyuk offered the Dean to give this exception (or rather, a new rule) a wording that could be applied to all University students, since the rules are supposed to be the same for everyone. Valery Katkalo could not come up with such a rule. Now all St Petersburg University students have the right to resit an exam twice: they are assessed by their teacher the first time, and by an assessment board the second time.
The administration also introduced a method of monitoring compliance with the new rules: regular checks. Inspectors came to an academic office for a specific field of study (for example, International Relations, Political Science, Sociology, and Economics), gathered all the documents and checked them thoroughly. For example, are there any students that are unaccounted for? Are all examination records in order (meaning that all the necessary signatures are present and all applicable deadlines have been met)? Is the information consistent across different documents? For instance, marks for pass/fail tests and examinations were to be entered into three documents: an examination record, a student information card and a summary examination record. If a mark was missed or if a wrong one was entered, then one student could lose their scholarship, and another one could continue studying instead of being rightfully expelled. There are also educational programmes with lots of students (for instance, there are 200–300 students in such programmes as Economics, Mathematics, and Philology), so in the times when there were no automated information systems, the chance of a human error was high. These errors were offered up for discussion during meetings, where they were analysed and taken into account. Heads of academic offices were wary of such checks, but they did realise the importance of such work.
Now that we have the information system Obuchenie (St Petersburg University E-services in Education: Past and Present), there should be no such errors – the system automatically transfers all the data at the request of the manager. If a mark is entered into one e-record, it is automatically inserted into every other relevant document.
Today, meetings at the Academic Affairs Department deal with issues that are not yet regulated by the rules. For example, until recently, different educational programmes scheduled the third resitting of a foreign language pass/fail test at different times: in December, January or February. The date was chosen by managers in charge of timetables. 'St Petersburg University by-laws do not prohibit this; they only determine the period for resittings. However, this means that students from different educational programmes would have unequal periods of time for revising,' says Natalya Boyko. 'After discussing this issue, we decided that meetings of attestation boards on foreign languages should not be held before February. Now all students are on equal terms, and they all have a month and a half to prepare for the resitting.'
Students protecting their rights
Here are some examples of the way the uniform University regulations are helping students to stand up for their rights.
Case 1. A failed test and possible expulsion
A fourth-year journalism student asked the Rector for help May 6, 2011. She was going to be expelled for failing one of the tests at the beginning of May. Nikolay Kropachev explained to the student that in order to solve this issue he had to know whether there had been any breach of procedure. At the same time, it was irrelevant that she had had only good and excellent marks for several previous semesters, or that she had been enrolled under the sponsored admissions programme from The Sakha Republic (Yakutia).
The Rector looked into the reasoning behind the student's appeal. For instance, the resitting had taken place the day after the test itself (official timeframes had to be checked). The teachers had breached the pass/fail test procedure published at the St Petersburg University website (it had to be checked whether the published procedure was compulsory or advisory). The website had one list of questions, while the test had used another one, and the student had not been given any assignments from the website (this also had to be looked into).
The letter dated May 26, 2011 from Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Ekaterina Babelyuk to the student (as instructed by the Rector) says the following: 'Based on the results of the review, it was established that during the resitting of the pass/fail test on Theory and Practice of the Media you were given questions and assignments that are not indicated in the list of questions and assignments for taking and resitting the pass/fail test for this subject published on the official website of the University in the "Faculty of Journalism" section. Accordingly, the statement of the assessment board is found invalid, and you will be given the opportunity to retake the test for the specified subject, and its results will be reviewed by the assessment board in accordance with the procedure established by the University.' The student was given the chance to resit the test June 2, 2011 (Minutes of the Meeting with Public held on December 18, 2012, item 2).
The results of interim assessments also gave rise to a number of appeals, both personal and via the Virtual Reception (for example, Resitting a History Exam).
Natalya Boyko, Head of the Academic Affairs Department
Case 2. Breach of the pass/fail test procedure
A third-year African studies student had failed the test for Social Anthropology of Africa three times and was to be expelled. In the course of Rector's meeting with the public held on June 10, 2014, the student stated that there had been violations of the procedure during the test and cited specific rules from the St Petersburg University Internal Regulations, which, in his opinion, had not been observed. In particular, he said that during the oral test the instructor had deliberately chosen questions for students and had not given them the opportunity to draw random questions; however, according to item 4.2.10 of the Regulations, 'when questions (topics) are distributed in an oral test (examination) via drawing lots, each student has the right to draw any question (topic) without knowing its content in advance and without seeing the task(s)' (St Petersburg University website, section Academic Affairs).
The Rector instructed Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Ekaterina Babelyuk to look into this matter (Minutes of the Meeting with Public held on June 10, 2014, item 3). It was established that members of the assessment board had violated the procedure during the resitting of the test on Social Anthropology of Africa: they had not allowed the students to draw random questions (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting held on July 28, 2014, item 4). Therefore, the results of the interim assessment were cancelled, a new test date was set, and the order for expulsion was repealed.
Case 3. Scholarships
In February 2012, students from the educational programme 'Applied Mathematics and Control Processes' did not receive their scholarships on time. The students went to the academic office and were told that the relevant scholarship papers had not been drawn up in a timely manner. And instead of quickly issuing the papers in the following days, they decided to postpone the payment for a month. The reason was simple: 'We have done it this way before...' This blatant violation of the University Regulations was reported by the Rector at the meeting of March 12, 2012 (Minutes of the Rector's Meeting held on March 12, 2012, item 2).
By that time, the issue had already been resolved, and the money had been transferred to the students' accounts. Such a quick resolution resulted from a first-year student's message to the Virtual Reception. She wanted to know when she would receive her scholarship (The Response of Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Ekaterina Babelyuk from March 5, 2012). It was of real help for other students, who otherwise would have been forced to wait for the scholarship for another two weeks, and also for the administration, who not only managed to solve the problem quickly, but also eliminated the underlying cause of such situations.
The administration of the University needs feedback in order to obtain information on possible setbacks in the management system. There are various means of communication: a written appeal to the Rector and to Vice-Rectors via the Virtual Reception, e-mails to the corporate addresses of University officials, and personal appeals during meetings with the Rector, Vice-Rectors, and Deans. There are quite a few issues of concern, but they are being dealt with. The Virtual Reception has a special section for the responses to appeals.
Appeals from students, teachers, and University employees result in measures taken to resolve issues that are brought up. For example, the University introduces changes to the academic timetable and provides explanations for the established procedures and rules. Natalya Boyko, Head of the Academic Affairs Department
'Today, students study the Internal Regulations more and more often, and they are actively defending their rights, supporting their appeals with references to by-laws (Students' Actions in Protecting their Rights). Thus, they help detect violations of formal procedures and avoid them in the future,' Ekaterina Babelyuk notes.
For example, sometimes assessment boards conduct examinations or tests with an improper number of members: only one or two instead of three (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting held on July 28, 2014, item 4). This constitutes the basis for cancelling the results of interim assessments, for setting new dates for tests or examinations, and for repealing expulsion orders.
Here is another incident: the subject syllabus for the educational programme 'Mathematics' said 'Mode of examination: traditional', while there is supposed to be a description of examination methodology and assessment criteria for students' skills and knowledge. Students filed complaints, and the interim assessment results had to be annulled.
How do these rules work?
Here are some more examples of how the uniform rules help the Academic Affairs Department solve various issues.
Case 4. Merit-based scholarship
A first-year biology master's student had studied the criteria for assigning merit-based scholarship at St Petersburg University and decided that his score had been miscalculated. He wanted to sort out this issue at his meeting with the Rector May 15, 2012. St Petersburg University Rector Nikolay Kropachev invited Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Ekaterina Babelyuk to join the conversation. They discussed every criterion mentioned by the student.
For example, the master's student noted that, according to clause 7a, additional points for academic success can be accrued if the student has been receiving excellent and good marks for at least two semesters preceding the scholarship application. The visitor was not credited for this criterion because he had studied at the master's program for only one semester. He believed that it was necessary to also take into account the results of the last two semesters of his bachelor studies. Otherwise, the student argued, all first-year master’s students would have zeros for this criterion. The Rector explained: master's studies means studying at a new educational programme; it is a new entry to a university, so no previous results are taken into account.
Then, they examined clause 9b – students' academic papers. The visitor was dissatisfied with the fact that he had not been credited for the publication of an abstract. According to the Rector, it was only natural that students took part in defining those criteria. Biology students exercised their right to decide when they had ruled not to include abstract publications into the criteria. The student can learn the reasoning behind this decision from the Student Council administration at his faculty. Then, clause 12a: the visitor had not been credited for his victory in table tennis competitions at Universitetsky health resort. Both the Rector and the Vice-Rector shrugged: is this an appropriate competition to be taken into account for the merit-based scholarship? Would it be fair to receive a merit-based scholarship for such athletic achievements? The master’s student received detailed answers to all his questions (including those about the meetings of the Student Council where the merit-based scholarship criteria were discussed). The student, the Rector and the Vice-Rector looked up the ranking for the second semester at the St Petersburg University website under Extra-curricular Activities. On that page, they found that eight first-year master’s students from the Biology and Soil Sciences Faculty were able to score enough points for the merit-based scholarship.
The conversation with the student was informative and to the point. In the end, the Rector was able to convince the visitor that the decision was correct, based on the current regulations. 'This year, students have had to get at least 32 points to be eligible for the merit-based scholarship,' says Aleksey Zavarzin, Vice-Rector for Biology, Geography, Geoecology and Soil Science, in his reply to the appeal of the master’s student. In accordance with the submitted documents, the student scored 17 points, which was not enough for the merit-based scholarship (Minutes of the Meeting with Public held on May 15, 2012, item 2).
A conversation like that could hardly have been held two or three years before that. There were no uniform rules (including those for the merit-based scholarship eligibility), and there was nothing to discuss, as both sides had no real reasoning. And now we have rules for assigning the merit-based scholarship that are enforceable and that actually work.
The merit-based scholarship was established in late 2011 by the Government Decree No 945 of November 18, 2011. The Decree determined the procedure for giving the merit-based scholarship to students with academic, research, public, cultural, creative and athletic achievements, and established the criteria for assessing said achievements. Each Student Council of a faculty or an institute used them to develop their own system of criteria for assigning the merit-based scholarship to their students. Otherwise, the eligibility and calculation procedures were the same for the whole University. Vladimir Savinov, Head of the Department for Youth Affairs
At the end of 2016, this Decree was repealed. On the new rules, see The Rules for Assigning the Merit-Based Scholarship Have Changed and The Student Council Has Presented Proposals on the Criteria for the Increased Merit-Based Scholarship.
Case 5. Information in the diploma
In the spring of 2016, the Virtual Reception received a request from a second-year master's economics student, who asked to include the information about the internships into his diploma. Despite the fact that, according to the St Petersburg University Regulations on Filling out, Issuing and Storing Documents on Higher Education dated May 10, 2016, the name of the organisation where the practice had taken place would be obligatory to be indicated in the St Petersburg University diploma only starting from 2017, it was decided that it was possible to include this information at the request of the applicant, as such information can be of great importance for potential employers.
Case 6. Individual timetable for examinations and pass/fail tests
A third-year student studying at the bachelor's program 'Software and Administration of Information Systems ' had taken part in an extracurricular event during the interim assessment period as a member of the St Petersburg University team for the Wits and Humour Competition. In view of the fact that there was no order that officially had sent him to that event, the student could not confirm his participation. The student wrote to the Head of the Academic Affairs Department with a request to give him an individual examination timetable. After ensuring that the student had indeed taken part in the extracurricular event, it was recognised that the student had a valid reason for his absence, and he was given an individual examination timetable.
Case 7. Readmission to doctoral programmes (aspirantura)
In December 2012, a former St Petersburg University doctoral student asked the Rector for help. She said that in the summer of 2010 she had won a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and left for Germany, where she took a language course in Göttingen and then studied at the Ruhr University Bochum. This, she said, had been necessary for her thesis, as most of the research on her topic was in German. And when she had returned to St Petersburg, she could not continue her doctoral studies because, as she had been told, 'the papers for the study visit were not filed properly.'
In the spring of 2010, she was a first-year doctoral student and received a DAAD scholarship for studying abroad. She says that the staff of the department of doctoral studies had suggested that she drop out at her own request, promising that she would be reinstated when she returned from Germany. And without dropping out she would be expelled for poor academic performance. The student said that she had had no choice, and she had written the request to dismiss her.
Having returned to Russia, in August and October 2011, she applied to the same department, but she could not be reinstated because there were no vacant state-subsidised places. This had been going on for more than a year, and there were still no vacancies. The former doctorate student believed that the staff of the department of doctoral studies had misled her, suggesting that she should drop out at her own request and assuring her that she would be restored upon her return to St Petersburg.
Nikolay Kropachev agreed that her situation was very complicated and said that he would try to figure out what had happened two years ago. The Rector explained that, for example, the University sends management students to study abroad for more than one year, and no one asks them to drop out. And credits for courses completed at other universities are accepted at St Petersburg University. This had been the case for many years, and it was necessary to understand what had gone wrong in this particular case.
As it became evident from the individual curriculum of the former doctoral student, her participation in the DAAD scholarship competition had been planned. Which means that the study trip to Germany had been planned as well! Thus, when the incompetent staff of the department of doctoral studies had suggested that the student should drop out at her own will, it had been a violation of the student's rights. She had been supposed to continue her doctoral studies in Germany, and upon her return, the results of her work had been supposed to be subject to annual assessment. And if the results had been satisfactory, the student would have had enough time to complete her thesis. In this regard, the order to expel the doctoral student at her own request was repealed. She continued her doctoral studies (Minutes of the Meeting with Public held on December 18, 2012, item 3).
But that was not the end of it. At the Rector's meeting held on January 14, 2013 (Minutes of the Rector's Meeting held on January 14, 2013, item 2), Vice-Rector Ilya Dementyev said that the appeal of the former doctorate student to the Rector prompted checks of individual study plans at more than a dozen departments in fields with similar teaching and learning strategies. It became evident that only this student's individual study plan included the DAAD scholarship for an international study visit (out of dozens of doctoral students).
The issue turned out to be much broader. As a result, the University established an effective system for planning the learning process and assessment of doctoral students. For example, when enrolling a student to a doctoral programme, the University needs to take into account its resources (is this doctoral work feasible, are there enough resources for its implementation – for example, are there funds for a study trip abroad?). Doctoral students' individual study plans were brought in line with the St Petersburg University rules for their training and assessment. A seemingly specific issue brought about the solution of a systemic challenge across the whole University.
Recently, amendments have been introduced to the Provisional Regulations for the Training of Academic and Teaching Staff at St Petersburg University Doctoral Programmes (Order No 1367/1 dated February 10, 2017 'On Amendments to Order No 3783/1 dated May 13, 2015 "On the Approval of the Provisional Regulations for the Training of Academic and Teaching Staff at St Petersburg University Doctoral Programmes"'). Now the Provisional Regulations do not include the item that restricted readmission to only being possible before the beginning of the academic term corresponding to the term of a doctorate student's expulsion, which used to make it impossible to reinstate doctoral students in the middle of the academic year. As a result, a number of doctoral students have stated that they have been readmitted to doctoral educational programmes as of February 11, 2017. Natalya Ivanus, Head of the Department for Doctoral, Residency and Internship Programmes at the St Petersburg University Academic Affairs Department
Case 8. Master's studies at a Japanese university
In October 2013, Nikolay Gladkov, a master’s control processes student at St Petersburg University, was sent on a study trip to the University of Tokyo (Japan) for a period from October 28, 2013 to March 31, 2014. During his stay in Japan, he participated in a competition and won a grant for a year of master’s studies at the University of Tokyo. The student found out the results of the contest just a few days before the end of the study trip. The Head of the International Academic Cooperation Department at the St Petersburg University Academic Affairs Office Anna Porodina recommended him to exercise the rights given by paragraph 126.96.36.199. of chapter 8 'Leaves of Absence' of the St Petersburg University Internal Regulations. So, the student sent an e-copy of the application for the termination of his study trip and the request for a leave of absence (enclosing a letter from the university confirming his admission) without leaving Japan. He successfully completed the year of master’s studies in Japan. Then, he came back, discontinued his leave of absence, finished his studies and defended his Master’s thesis. Such options became available after the new version of the Internal Regulations came into effect.
Case 9. Summer internship in one's hometown
In the spring of 2015, an evening student at Applied Communications sent a message to the Virtual Reception asking why summer internships had to take place in St Petersburg. During the academic year, evening students take extra work to pay the rent, and in summer they would like to go to their hometowns and do the required practical training there. He then received a reply from Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Ekaterina Babelyuk, who explained the rules of practical training at the University to the student. Among other things, she said that working students can do the internship at their place of employment, without a separate agreement between St Petersburg University and said organisation on conducting an internship. If a student's place of employment does not meet the necessary requirements, the student may choose another organisation from the corresponding list (Summer Internship in One's Hometown or in Another City).
As a new version of the Regulations on Practical Training Organisation and Procedure for St Petersburg University Students is being prepared, the administration is planning to introduce certain clarifications concerning practical training and its subsequent assessment into the Internal Regulations. Svetlana Surovtseva, Head of the Department for Practical Training and Employment at the St Petersburg University Academic Affairs Department
As we can see, the uniform Internal Regulations for the Main Educational Programmes of St Petersburg University are working. They protect students' rights, including cases when students (or their relatives) ask University officials to 'make an exception' or 'do a favour' or 'provide assistance' in one situation or another. Now such visitors are told that they are essentially asking to violate the regulations, and they are reminded that exceptions break rules.
In March 2015, the St Petersburg University website launched a new section, where you can find examples of such appeals; it is called 'I am Asking You to Break the Rules!' And before that, in February 2011, a section called 'Appeals to the Rector' was created for publishing illegal appeals from officials to the Rector of St Petersburg University with requests of 'assistance' – for example, asking to enroll a particular applicant to the University. In both cases, the publicity of such appeals has led to the fact that requests to violate the rules have practically disappeared. And the rules themselves continue to operate, while constantly being perfected.