The Arctic and the law: St Petersburg University is in cooperation with the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

A delegation from the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (France), headed by its President Professor Alain Bui, has visited St Petersburg University. Discussions focused on increasing interaction in the field of jurisprudence and research of the Arctic region.

Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities of St Petersburg University, welcomed the guests to the oldest and one of the highest ranked universities in Russia. She pointed out that St Petersburg University is a classical university representing almost all fields of study, with programmes ranging from general secondary education to doctoral and clinical residency programmes. The University's research activities are equally diverse. They are facilitated by the Research Park, a unique academic facility in Russia and internationally, and the rich library. 'Our interests lie in different subject areas,' said Marina Lavrikova. 'The university has a wide range of resources, and we are ready to discuss all of them to explore possible fields of cooperation. We always welcome guests, and especially guests from France, with whom we have long-standing and close links'.

Professor Alain Bui said that the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines was founded 30 years ago and since then it has earned an excellent reputation: today it ranks among the top 20 universities in France. Like St Petersburg University, it focuses on a wide range of fields, but its distinguishing feature is its emphasis on law and Arctic studies. Since 2011, it has been part of the University of the Arctic (UArctic). Professor Jan Borm, Vice-President in charge of International Rlations, stressed that the Faculty of Law at the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines ranks among the top institutions in the country in international law and collaborates with foreign partners.

The administration of the university encourages senior students in international law to participate in exchange programmes at foreign universities to obtain the necessary experience and students have been taking advantage of this opportunity. According to the Vice President for International Relations, students are most interested in Eastern European countries, in particular the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania, but Jan Borm suggests they should look even further afield – at Russia.

Jurisprudence and Arctic studies can form the basis for joint projects, for example in the study of the law of the indigenous peoples of the Extreme North.

Professor Jan Borm, Vice-President for International Relations

'We also have many excellent master's programmes related to the study of law in the field of the environment, space and digital technology. There are many other areas of interest – for example, research into the shared heritage of France and Russia which we would also like to develop,' said Jan Borm.

St Petersburg University has been advancing Arctic research for many years, and in 2019 it established a specialised research centre. Anastasiia Iarmosh, Vice Rector for Strategic Development and Partnership at St Petersburg University, explained that the University pursues Arctic research across several scientific disciplines. 'Over the past three years, we have conducted more than 117 studies: ranging from biodiversity, climate, ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) to the problems of indigenous minorities, regional economics and the development of new materials for the regions of the Extreme North. These projects have been supported by both Russian and foreign research foundations,' said Anastasiia Iarmosh. 'In 2021, the University established the Arctic Project Office, which will consolidate the scientific, educational and innovative initiatives. St Petersburg University has been developing Arctic academic programmes and research in cooperation with foreign and Russian partners, including northern regions such as the Republic of Karelia, Yakutia, and Krasnoyarsk Krai. In 2022, the University plans to expand its activities within the University of the Arctic (UArctic) and implement several thematic programmes with partner universities, including those that are not members of the consortium.'

Sergei Belov, Dean of the Faculty of Law, noted that lawyers from St Petersburg University are actively involved in various interdisciplinary academic and research projects at the University. For instance, one of the studies at the recently established Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage at St Petersburg University concerns the non-material heritage of the countries of the Arctic region.

There are 18 master's programmes in law, many of which have been purposely developed on an interdisciplinary basis. The master's programme in Medical Law, for example, is the first of its kind in Russia.

Sergei Belov, Dean of the Faculty of Law

'This year, the University has launched a programme on the Legal Regulation of Natural Resource Use together with the Institute of Earth Sciences. The University also offers a master's programme in English in Transnational Legal Practice, which is at present unique in Russia. The University employs French-speaking academics, so we are ready to cooperate in the academic field and develop student exchanges,' said Sergei Belov.

The participants discussed the possibility of setting up joint academic programmes following the double-degree model and organising cooperation in the field of jurisprudence. Alain Bui, President of the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, added that, as a teacher of English literature, he was also interested in developing cooperation with colleagues in the humanities, such as literary history, the history of research, and anthropology.

Elvira Zeletdinova, Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods of St Petersburg University, noted that the University has already implemented the joint Russian-French programmes Russia and France in Historical and Cultural Context/La Russie et la France dans l’espace de l’histoire et de la culture and Literature of Russia and France: An Alternate Glance/Littératures russe et française: regards croisés developed in cooperation with the Sorbonne University. 'All our faculties and institutes run joint programmes with European and Asian universities. It shouldn't be therefore difficult to find areas for cooperation regarding student and teacher mobility, or the creation of academic programmes. The University is willing to consider any proposals and submit its own for the implementation of joint work with universities in France,' said Elvira Zeletdinova.

Alain Bui also said that the university had recently published a series of books through one of the most respected scientific publishers in France, and would like to contribute the publications to the library of St Petersburg University, and to arrange a series of joint conferences with Russian colleagues.

At the end of the meeting, the parties agreed to exchange information and send concrete proposals for future projects.