During an online meeting, Nikolay Kropachev and Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany Stefano Weinberger discussed the issues of developing cooperation in the sphere of science and education.

Read more on the projects of St Petersburg University and large technology companies in ‘St Petersburg University and Samsung have opened the Internet of Things Laboratory’ and ‘Sharing best practices: experts from St Petersburg University and Huawei talk about their projects’.

When opening the meeting, the diplomat emphasised that St Petersburg University is an important partner for German universities, whose joint cooperation has continued for many centuries. ‘I have read that from the moment of the University foundation, German professors and scientists have worked and created there. We are proud of it and it will be crucial to discuss your interaction with the research organisations and universities of Germany,’ said Stefano Weinberger. ‘With great interest I have read the interview, in which you tell about the University participation in the German—Russian Year of partnership in research and education. I would like to express my gratitude for your active participation and for your kind words about German research institutions and universities.’ Nikolay Kropachev noted that the cooperation between St Petersburg University and German universities can be considered successful. Based on certain criteria including the number of joint publications and the scope of academic mobility, it is far ahead of similar cooperation with other international partners. However, in recent years, China has been rapidly advancing in certain areas. For example, the number of Chinese students studying in the University degree programmes has grown more than twofold in the last five years. The number of joint publications with scientists of the People’s Republic of China has reached almost a half of the number of articles co-authored with German colleagues. The question of opening a representative office of the University in Germany is still unsettled, while in China such an office has successfully operated since 2018. However, according to the University Rector, the most important thing is that in the last five years the number of academic programmes with Chinese component has increased by 5 times — from 8 to 40. Notably, this component is not only increasing in the programmes on law, management or tourism with in-depth study of Chinese, but also becoming a part of the educational process in other fields including philosophy, sociology and many others. In a similar way, the University academic programmes are enriched by Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and other components. Nikolay Kropachev has noted, that the time has come to emphasise German studies at the most popular Russian university among international applicants.

During the meeting the University Rector made a number of proposals on further cooperation to the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany. First of all, the relations could gain momentum by broader inclusion of German representatives into the councils of academic programmes beyond those related to German studies only.

It is important that the representatives of the Consulate General and the Embassy of Germany take part in the meetings of councils, expert round tables and other events held at the University. Moreover, many consuls and ambassadors become teachers of St Petersburg University or give public lectures to students.

Nikolay Kropachev put forward an initiative to organise a meeting with the representatives of German companies that operate in Russia, in order to discuss the issue of targeted training for specialists, arrangement of internships for students, and performing research and development at the request of the companies in more detail. The Rector underscored that St Petersburg University is ready to work with German businesses more actively and use its successful experience in creating joint laboratories with international enterprises including Samsung and Huawei. The issues of renewing close cooperation with the German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, HRK), joint implementation of summer and winter schools for Russian and German students, and organising advanced training for the teachers of Russian as a foreign language were also discussed.

Another important field of cooperation is related to creating online courses. Today, St Petersburg University is the third in the world after Google and the University of Illinois (the USA) in terms of the number of courses offered on the Coursera platform, being the first among Russian universities. Besides, St Petersburg University is the only Russian university represented at the Chinese platform XuetangX. Nikolay Kropachev mentioned that the University is planning to intensify efforts and make a breakthrough in the field of online education. He offered to begin cooperation with the German universities and organisations in creating online courses.

Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany Stefano Weinberger expressed gratitude to the Rector for the proposals and said that he would try to support their implementation.