1. Agreement between SPbU and the Ministry of Higher and Secondary-Specialized Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan
On March 13, SPbU Rector N.M. Kropachev held a meeting with Deputy Minister of Higher and Secondary-Specialized Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan U.Sh. Begimkulov (Joint Joint workforce development: the delegation of Uzbekistan was focused on Oriental Studies and Biomedicine in SPbU). The Ministry representative suggested SPbU establishing a branch office in the capital city of the Republic to implement programs in Oriental Studies. He noted that high quality of higher education is the priority of Uzbekistan, therefore universities like SPbU will empower a competitive academic environment. The President of Uzbekistan has delegated the Ministry to investigate the prospects of establishing the SPbU branch office in Tashkent.
The meeting concluded with signing a partnership agreement between SPbU and the Ministry of Higher and Secondary-Specialized Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
2. Extended meeting of the Board of the Scientific and Educational Theology Association
On March 13, the Board of the Scientific and Educational Theology Association (SETA) held an extended meeting. M. Y. Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Methodological Support at SPbU, pro-actively participated in the meeting. The meeting considered different aspects of SETA activities. Those include publication of the first Russian journal on theology ‘Issues of Theology’, co-founded by SPbU and Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies. Representatives of all major confessions participated at the meeting.
3. Conference of the Association of Leading Universities in Russia (ALU) ‘Perspectives of Sharing R&D Equipment and Further Cooperation of ALU Members’
On March 13, the Association of Leading Universities in Russia (ALU) held a conference on ‘Perspectives of Sharing R&D Equipment and Further Cooperation of ALU Members’, that brought together representatives of 27 higher education institutions. Speeches were delivered by S.V. Mikushev, SPbU Vice-Rector for Research, directors of SPbU Resource Centers, and staff of the Research Park. Representatives of ten institutions appreciated the application procedure at the SPbU Research Park and suggested options for other institutions to adopt this system. The conference considered all dedicated ALU member institutions to enter a joint partnership agreement providing unconstrained access to the University infrastructure to operate the R&D equipment more efficiently (Experts of top Russian institutions, who gathered at SPbU, considered establishing an R&D equipment hub).
Currently, SPbU is receiving suggestions submitted by conference participants to set up an integral space providing researchers with unconstrained access to R&D equipment of ALU member institutions. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation was informed on the conference proceedings.
4. Regarding the outcomes of the meeting between the Rector, vice-rectors, Rector’s deputies, and heads of academic subdivisions
On March 13, the Rector held a meeting with vice-rectors, Rector’s deputies, and heads of academic subdivisions.
The meeting considered the following issues:
set-up of the academic process
organization of events, including those within the framework of enrollment campaign (olympiads, Doors Open days, etc.), as well as extracurricular events
academic mobility of students, academic staff
business trips for staff
On March 14 and 15, the University was supposed to hold Olympiads for school students in the following subjects: journalism, management, law, biology, IT, economics, (Finals of the SPbU Olympiad for School Students are over). According to the majority of directors and deans, under no circumstances was it possible for competitors of the SPbU Olympiad for School Students to participate in person. In their turn a few heads of academic subdivisions spoke in favor of traditional format. Their key argument was that applicants may be deprived of incentives for enrollment to respective academic programs.
Meanwhile, to postpone the Olympiad competition in-person until a later date, a respective ruling of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Russia – not the University – is required. The Rector reported that he consulted a dedicated Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education, but so far no decision has been issued to either postpone the in-person competitions or to allow the institution to transfer the in-person Olympiads to an on-line format independently. The issue was therefore postponed until the evening unless respective explanations are received.
Senior Vice-Rector E.G. Chernova spoke about hosting other events at SPbU, the academic mobility of students and academic staff, as well as business trips for SPbU workforce. The Rector reminded that the draft resolution on business trips amid measures to counter the spread of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) had already been discussed at the Rector’s meeting on March 2. At the meeting one of the deans voiced objections regarding the draft resolution referring to faculty students and teaching staff. Following a lengthy discussion, a decision was made that if a member of the teaching staff insists on making a business trip, such a trip can be organized upon submission of a respective statement by the individual. In the statement such individual must confirm that he/she has familiarized with the information on risks related to visiting countries with reported confirmed cases of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), on the ruling of authorities regarding this issue, and obliges to observe lockdown rules upon return to minimize the spread of coronavirus. V.V. Eremeev, Vice-Rector for Human Resources, agreed the text of the statement with heads of subdivisions.
E.G. Chernova’s proposal was not supported by heads of some subdivisions. Some of them were given the floor several times. Once proponents and opponents of the ban on business trips for SPbU staff presented their arguments, the Rector decided to enforce such a ban, as well as to cancel the scheduled events hosted by SPbU or with SPbU participation. The Rector tasked concerned vice-rectors to issue required regulations.
Moreover, the Rector reminded that earlier at the Rector’s meeting on March 2 heads of all institutes and faculties had been tasked to study the transfer to distant learning format. Two weeks passed. The Rector suggested that all heads of institutes and faculties present data on options and timeframe to implement such transfer.
5. Regarding voluntary attendance of classes by students and transfer to distant learning format
Referring to the official memoranda by A.S. Belov, Dean of the Faculty of Law, dated March 13, and O.K. Dergunova, Director of the Graduate School of Management, dated March 14, addressed to M.Y. Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Methodological Support, Order no. 1917/1 dated March 14, 2020 was issued ‘On special learning format for academic programs in the group of professional fields 40.00.00 ‘Jurisprudence’ and 38.00.00. ‘Economics and governance’ implemented by the academic staff of the Graduate School of Management’. On march 14 a similar memorandum was submitted by A.L. Kudrin, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences. On that day Order no. 1918/1 dated March 14, 2020 was issued ‘On special learning format for academic programs implemented by the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences’.
Om March 15 and 16 similar memoranda were submitted by A.V. Kurochkin, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Political Studies, Yu.M. Guzov, First Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Economics, M.B. Piotrovsky, Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies, N.N. Novikova, Dean Of the Faculty of International Relations, S.V. Ivanov, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, and others.
By the opening of the Rector’s meeting, heads of almost all academic subdivisions had submitted memoranda on voluntary attendance format for students (the brief report on the Rector’s meeting held on March 16 includes a false statement that all heads of subdivisions had submitted their proposals by the opening of the meeting). In fact, the last two deans submitted their memoranda on that very day late at night at 10.30p.m. and 11.30p.m. Based on submitted statements, respective regulations were issued for all academic programs, including secondary vocational and secondary comprehensive education.
As early as on March 15, N.M. Kropachev, Chairman of the Council of Rectors of the North-West Federal, initiated an emergency meeting with the Presidium of the Council of University Rectors for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region to discuss issues of potential transfer to the distant learning format. The meeting was witnessed by A.V. Demidov, Chairman of the Council of University Rectors for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, Rector of the St. Petersburg State University of Industrial Technologies and Design, and A.S. Maksimov, Chairman of the Committee on Science and Higher School of St. Petersburg. The discussion participants agreed to implement the following initiatives:
to delegate the authority to coordinate the potential transfer of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region universities to a distant learning format across a set of programs to the Presidium of the Council of University Rectors for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region;
to promote sharing of existing on-line courses between institutions;
St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region institutions shall provide access to existing on-line courses free of charge;
to delegate academic staff of all institutions to sustain existing on-line courses;
academic staff of all institutions shall integrate resources to develop relevant on-line courses;
St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region institutions shall grant access to their on-line courses to Russian Federation institutions located in other regions;
St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region institutions shall disseminate sharing of on-line courses to other regions.
On March 15 the University decided to grant free access to SPbU on-line courses to students of all other Russian institutions (On free and open access to SPbU on-line educational resources). Moreover, our University is committed to assist all Russian students who decide to take SPbU om-line courses on Open Education and Coursera platforms to have their credits obtained for these courses acknowledged within their academic programs (SPbU will assist Russian students to have their credits for on-line courses acknowledged by their institution). The next day the SPbU initiative was supported by MSU and HSE rectors: theses institutions granted access to their on-line courses to all Russian students too.
Partner universities are granted access to 3800 on-line courses on Coursera platform (SPbU on-line courses are available on Coursera for Campus). SPbU students can benefit from the platform resources free of charge because Coursera includes academic courses prepared by SPbU teaching staff (over 70).
6. On the workgroup
The University established a workgroup in order to implement the Resolution of the Chief Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation no. 5 deated March 2, 2020 ‘On extra measures to mitigate risks of bringing in and spread of the new coronavirus infection (2019-nCoV)’, the Recommendations of the emergency response headquarters to prevent bringing in and spread of the new coronavirus infection in Russia, the Recommendations of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare in St. Petersburg dated March 12, 2020, the Resolution of the St. Petersburg Government dated March 13, 2020 no. 121 ‘On measures to counter the spread of the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) in St. Petersburg’. Senior Vice-Rector E.G. Chernova was appointed Chair of the work group; Deputy Chairs are M.I. Gusarova, Vice-Rector, Head of the Rector’s Office, Senior Vice-Rector for Medical Care, Director of the SPbU N.I. Pirogov Medical Clinic.
Since the launch of preventive measures to counter the spread of the new coronavirus in SPbU, over 2000 students arriving from COVID-19 affected countries have been examined. No incidents of infection were found.
Specific containment spaces were set up in dormitories no. 12, 14, and 16 to monitor and provide medical care to students arriving from abroad. Such students are provided with single room occupancy to ensure strict isolation from other students.