The topic:  Distance Learning, Lifelong Learning and Voluntary Service (in the context of teaching translation and foreign languages at St Petersburg University).  In what follows there are excerpts from the rector’s speech. 

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This document designates 17 primary goals in order to achieve sustainable development on a global scale.  Goal No 4 calls for equal opportunities in education and the possibility of lifelong learning for all.  It also promotes the ‘building and updating of education facilities that provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all students’. 

The following educational technologies are used at St Petersburg University to achieve this goal:

  1. distance learning using the Blackboard platform for students from remote areas and/or with special needs
  2. online courses in different subjects, including foreign languages, conducive to, among other things, customised learning
  3. clinical forms of learning
  4. non-degree academic programmes embodying the idea of lifelong learning and enabling a person to find new employment and a sphere in which they can apply their abilities to a broad spectrum of students.

In 1998, the first student clinic was opened at the University, the Legal Clinic.  At present, there are a number of clinics, such as the Social Clinic, the Legal Clinic, the Psychological Clinic and others.  Linguistics students can, for example, undergo practical training in translation at the Social Translation Centre. It is now possible for St Petersburg University students to not only do an internship at a translation centre but to work with actual customers who have ordered translation services. 

The Social Translation Centre of St Petersburg University is a nonprofit ‘academic company’, or student agency, that provides interpreting and translating services, in particular to the underprivileged, who are in need of assistance due to their age, health, station in life or insufficient means of sustenance.  Students translate standard documents (identity papers, certificates, discharges, medical reports), contracts, correspondence, technical documents (operation manuals, descriptions of pharmaceuticals, instructions for registration on foreign-language sites), academic papers, postproduction scripts for educational feature films, and patents.  In addition, students carry out semantic-textual analyses of documents containing personal information. 

The Social Translation Centre is part of the project to organise different forms of clinical practice at St Petersburg University, the formats of which presuppose a combination of educational and socially-oriented activity. 

The clinical model of practice allows a St Petersburg University student to get a feeling of what it is like to work as a professional and at the same time receive friendly and methodologically qualified guidance from the teachers who work at the clinics.

All of the translation services provided by students are free of charge and are supervised by teachers at the University.  Carrying out the professional duties of a project manager, a technological manager, a translator or interpreter, an editor and a dictionary maker, interns have an opportunity to try their hand at different aspects of their future profession. 

The following two points need to be stressed:

  • For a student, work at a clinic or a centre is part of the curriculum, and their performance is assessed
  • For a teacher, it is part of the teaching load for which they are paid

The #INFOCUS International Conference is a key event at the United Nations venue in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is dedicated to volunteerism.  It has been held at the Palace of Nations since 2012 shortly before a session of the UN Council on Human Rights.  More than 1500 participants from 52 countries throughout the world have attended this international event during this period of time.

In the near future, the University is going to open a call centre to assist journalists with their use of the Russian language.  It will be called ‘Let’s speak correctly’.

The volunteerism movement is also thriving at St Petersburg University.  In keeping with the Roadmap to Develop Volunteerism (voluntary service) in the Russian Federation by 2025, which was approved on December 27, 2018, the St Petersburg University Volunteer Centre has been established.  It enables students to take part in various charity projects, such as Give the Gift of Hope. 

These activities at St Petersburg University promote the social growth of students, nurture in them a sense of civic engagement and, at the same time, contribute to sustainable development.