The celebration in honour of the beginning of the 297th academic year at St Petersburg University gathered thousands of viewers. At the same time, despite the online format, all University traditions were kept: the solemn oath; the midday firing of the cannon from the bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress; and the Ships of Hope setting afloat.

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This year, the most high-profile applicants in the country have again become students at St Petersburg University. Theaverage score of those enrolled in the government-funded places broke last year's record; it was 93.61. An upward trend in this indicator has been registered for several years. For reference: the average score was 92.49 in 2019; and 91.7 in 2018. Additionally, this year, one fifth of the 413,000 applications to the universities of St Petersburg were submitted to St Petersburg University.

93,61

is the average Unified State Exam score of first-year students this year.

Another record is related to the number of international applicants, who have submitted 12,000 applications for admission to universities in St Petersburg – the Northern Capital of Russia. Almost half of them have been submitted to St Petersburg University – the oldest university in Russia. It should be noted that the number of international first-year students at St Petersburg University has more than doubled in just a year. Additionally, this year, almost half of all winners and awardees of the Olympiads from St Petersburg (there are about 1,000 of them) have chosen St Petersburg University as their future Alma Mater.

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In a live broadcast, the Rector of St Petersburg University Nikolay Kropachev congratulated the first-year students. He noted that, despite the fact that the best of the best had entered St Petersburg University, they would have to do their best to get a degree.

The world is your oyster if you graduate from the University, and remember that you need to stick together. I know a lot of examples when St Petersburg University alumni, consolidating, have achieved amazing results. Today you have the best teaching staff, information resources, the Research Park, and the library at your disposal. I wish that you enjoy life in St Petersburg University and our great city – St Petersburg!

Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University

In his video address, Dmitry Medvedev, a graduate of St Petersburg University and Chairman of the University Board of Trustees, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, congratulated the freshmen on a new stage in their life and hoped that they will use all the opportunities that open before them.

‘Many years ago, I studied within the walls of our outstanding University. I always recall with very warm feelings my student years, as well as the period when I taught students here, including first-year students. Let the time spent at the University help you realise your talents and wildest dreams. Let your student life be filled with bright unforgettable moments and give you true friends. I have no doubt that you will succeed. I wish you success and all the best,’ wished Dmitry Medvedev.

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In a special video, the Governor of St Petersburg Alexander Beglov congratulated the freshmen on their successful admission to St Petersburg University. It had taken place during the challenging epidemiological conditions caused by the pandemic.

I hope that you will stay in the Northern Capital of Russia and glorify it with your work, talent, and scientific discoveries. And the city, for its part, will do its utmost to provide you with interesting work, and provide opportunities for the flourishing of your abilities and talents. I wish you an interesting, successful, eventful academic year. Good luck and perseverance!

Alexander Beglov, Governor of St Petersburg

Among those who sent their wishes to the University students and staff were: Aleksandr Gutsan, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District; Viacheslav Makarov, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg; Natalia Gutsan, Chairman of the Statutory Court of St Petersburg; Sergei Bebenin, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Leningrad Region; and many other alumni and friends of St Petersburg University.

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The right to fire from the Naryshkin cannon of the bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress to herald the beginning of the new academic year was entrusted to Viktor Nosov, one of the best first-year students of St Petersburg University. The young man became a medallist of two international chemistry competitions for schoolchildren (One of the best schoolchildren-chemists in Russia to study at St Petersburg University). He won gold at the International Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad and silver at the International Chemistry Olympiad - IChO 2020.

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The oath to become part of the University brotherhood was read by Daria Zhdanovich, Chairman of the St Petersburg University Student Council, and the first-year students who received the highest score during the entrance examinations. Kirill Kondratiuk, Leonid Petrov, Ekaterina Petelina and Stefaniia Chernova were personally given student ID cards by the Rector.

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After that, the Rector announced the beginning of the new, 297th, academic year and gave the command to fly three flags on Academician Sakharov Square: the flag of Russia; the flag of St Petersburg; and the flag of St Petersburg University. The flags were raised by: Vladislav Korobkin, Head of the Student Council's Cultural Committee; Leila Abdallakh, Chairman of the International Students Club; and Erika Lazovskaia, Head of the press centre of the St Petersburg University students’ team headquarters. The traditional student ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’ hymn was performed that day by the St Petersburg University Choir directed by Edward Krotman.

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As part of the celebratory broadcast, the ‘Hour of Science and Education was held. During it, the viewers of the broadcast could hear lectures by top University scientists and science communicators. The audience was addressed by: Pavel Skutchas, an expert in Mesozoic vertebrates and Associate Professor at St Petersburg University; Professor Nikolai Kuznetsov, Head of the Department of Applied Cybernetics and one of the most cited scientists in the world according to the Web of Science Highly Cited Researchers 2019 ranking; Igor Tikhonovich, the Dean of the Faculty of Biology at St Petersburg University, President of the Vavilov Society of Geneticists and Breeders and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Head of the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies at St Petersburg University and an Honoured Scientist of the Russian Federation.  

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The freshmen also got acquainted with other areas of University life. Part of the broadcast was a talk show, during which participants in the student contest for innovative business projects ‘SPbU Start-up’ spoke about their research projects and answered questions from viewers. The discussion was attended by: Aleksei Smirnov, Head of the Light up project and Chairman of the St Petersburg University Photonics Society; Ekaterina Baranova, the author of the idea of ​​organising a start-up accelerator STARTUP HUB at the Graduate School of Management of St Petersburg University; Arsenii Grekhov, one of the authors of the project of online Russian language courses for foreigners Speechkah; Stepan Danilov, Head of the E-tongue project; Valentin Ershov, Head of the Sulphur Energy project; and Valentina Chikina, Head of the Historical Maximum project.

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The University has developed many traditions during its history of almost three centuries. The setting Ships of Hope afloat is one of the newest. In 2011, for the first time, students entrusted their cherished dreams to paper ships and launched them.

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The idea was put forward by Semen Altov, a comedy writer and an Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation. This year it was possible to set a virtual ship by choosing the colour of the paper, the symbol and the dream written on the ship. After it was set afloat, an animated video appeared on the screen – the ship was sailing. In total, over 7,000 virtual sailboats were set afloat during the broadcast. At the end of the festivity, Nikolay Kropachev and Semen Altov set their paper ships afloat into the water area of ​​the Neva River. At the same time, real yachts with the inscription ‘I love SPbU’ on the sails were manoeuvring next to them.

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