The University Rector Nikolay Kropachev invited all meeting participants to observe a minute of silence in honour of Innokentiy Zinoviev, Colonel (Res.) and Chairman of the University Council of Veterans of War, Labour, and Armed Forces (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/pamyati-predsedatelya-soveta-veteranov-voyny-truda-i-voennoy-sluzhby-spbgu), and Viktor Riazanov, Chairman of the Department of Economics Theory and Honoured Professor of the University (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/ushel-iz-zhizni-vydayushchiysya-uchenyy-ekonomist-professor-viktor-timofeevich).
The meeting agenda was as follows.
1. Measures to prevent COVID-19 spread
At the meeting, it was noted that the existing self-isolation will not be lifted from 1 June to 14 June 2020. This rule, however, has been somewhat relaxed: research fellows, as well as the academic staff working at Resource Centres of the University Research Park are allowed to access the premises (but no more than 200 individuals daily) (Order No 4811/1 ‘On Measures to prevent…’ dated 29 May 2020: https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/o-merah-po-preduprezhdeniyu-rasprostraneniya-novoy-koronavirusnoy-infekcii). During the discussion, Robert Evarestov suggested amending the order to include punishments for violation of the rules enforced to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infection. The meeting delegates supported the initiative that violators of pandemic prevention rules ‘shall be banned from work’ at the University for 14 days.
2. Educational process
The interim assessment at the University is in progress. Marina Lavrikova reported that over the past week she received total 85 enquiries from students and teachers through the Virtual Reception; on top of that 26 enquiries were addressed to her corporate mail. Those included six enquiries regarding the educational process.
Abdulla Daudov, Director of the Institute of History, reported that he had satisfied the appeal of first year students to have the Latin language final test organised by the University teachers, instead of taking it on the Open Education platform (given that the on-line course in Latin exceeds the students’ curriculum requirements manifold). The final test in online format is scheduled for 6 June 2020.
3. Organising the state final assessment
The final assessment at the University is in progress. Over 13 State Examination Boards are operating already. On 29 May 2020, 115 students took their state final exam, followed by 126 students on 1 June 2020.
The State Examination Board reported that only two students failed. Both of them have appealed their grades. A few enquiries have been submitted to the Virtual Reception regarding the State Examination Board operation. For instance, a graduate thesis peer reviewer representing the employer wanted to witness the defence without being a member of the State Examination Board. Marina Lavrikova reminded the meeting participants that according to the University regulation peer reviewers (as well as research supervisors or other experts) can witness the defence with the State Examination Board (reference to the enquiry).
Another remarkable enquiry was submitted by a student of economics. The young man was disappointed that as a result of the online format of the defence, the State Examination Board was able to review graduation theses in a more detailed manner and gained extra time to formulate questions to graduates. This undermines the adversarial principle (between the State Examination Board and defendants). The meeting delegates assumed that the enquiry was apparently a flawed joke or the student misunderstood the meaning of the adversarial principle. Nevertheless, Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods, addressed her response (reference to the Virtual Reception).
4. Self-registration in the next academic year’s courses is open to academic staff
In the run up for the coming academic year, the University is about to open the traditional annual course self-registration to the academic staff engaged in the curriculum implementation process. The meeting delegates highlighted that self-registration will be open to the academic staff and research fellows of other universities or research centres, as well as to the University teaching staff. To register, they will need to visit the Teaching at the University website and submit requests.
5. Organising the University admissions
A few enquiries were submitted to the Virtual Reception regarding whether a mandatory digital signature is required to apply to the University (https://guestbook.spbu.ru/vse-obrashcheniya/401-prorektory-spbgu/admission-education/15488-tsifrovaya-podpis-dlya-postupleniya-v-spbgu-ne-trebuetsya.html). School graduates and their parents found out in the media that without a digital signature, they will be unable to apply to the University, noting that applicants will be charged to have a digital signature registered. The meeting delegates received explanations that no digital signature is required to apply to any academic programme at the University.
Admission to University degree programmes is organised using the University Applicant’s Personal Account (https://cabinet.spbu.ru/). Applications to academic programmes of all levels are accepted through the Personal Account. All information on the University admission procedure is available at the Admissions Office official website (https://abiturient.spbu.ru/).
It was also noted that over the last 8 weeks the University has organised over 100 online events for applicants: open door days to mainstream academic programmes; lectures career counselling; online counselling for foreign nationals (https://abiturient.spbu.ru/dni-otkrytykh-dverej-v-spbgu.html); as well as the University Applicant’s Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKCeIylj6c8). In total, over 15,000 participants from Russia and other countries were present at these online events for applicants. Additionally, by 1 June 2020 over 4,000 viewers watched the video of the University Applicant’s Day. To compare, by 1 June 2019 less than 6,000 participants turned out for similar events organised for prospective students.
The number of applications submitted by foreign nationals to the University academic programmes shows an upward trend as well: 3,500 applications were submitted by 1 June 2020 versus only 2,400 by 1 June 2019.
The delegates also focused on the international project Gaining Knowledge at Home (http://rs.gov.ru/ru/activities/10/projects/2667), launched in May 2020 by the University and Rossotrudnichestvo Federal Agency. Gaining Knowledge at Home offers a set of free webinars for teachers in Russia and other countries to provide them with methodological support amid the pandemic outbreak. In May, over 5,000 participants from 45 countries joined online classes on pedagogy and teaching Russian as a foreign language.
In June, there will be the second set of webinars (https://testingcenter.spbu.ru/novosti/50-vtoroj-tsikl-vebinarov-znaniya-doma.html) on subject-specific approaches to teaching (maths, physics, chemistry, biology, foreign languages, etc.), as well as webinars on the most relevant approaches to developing talented young learners.
Russian nationals can submit applications to the University bachelor’s/specialist’s programmes starting from 20 June 2020.
6. Research Awards Competition
The University has announced the Research Awards Competition-2020 (Order No 4639/1 dated 25 May 2020 ‘Research Awards Competition announcement…). The Competition is organised in accordance with the University regulation on research awards, enforced by Rector’s Order No 2341/1 dated 23 March 2020 (https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/o-premiyah-prisuzhdaemyh-spbgu-za-nauchnye-trudy-0).
Applications are solicited for the following nominations:
- ‘Innovation in Basic Science’ award is granted to an individual or a team (5 members maximum) for research projects (or a series of research projects), making an outstanding contribution to science; the amount of the monetary prize is 70,000 roubles;
- ‘Young Researchers Award’ is granted to an individual or a team (5 members maximum) for research projects (or a series of research projects), making a significant advancement in science, demonstrating outstanding originality and relevance of proposed innovation; the amount of monetary prize is 50,000 roubles.
The new awards regulation has introduced a different number of prizes in each: now each nomination offers maximum 5 prizes (versus the previous 6 prizes maximum for ‘Innovation in Basic Science’ and 3 prizes maximum for ‘Young Researchers Award’). An identical number of prizes within each nomination is meant to support younger researchers and was initially put forward by the Standing Research Commission at the University Academic Board.
The application deadline is 5 October 2020. Applicants shall submit applications via the University Pure website and follow the guidelines approved by the University awards regulation.
7. Another Scopus-registered University journal
‘Vestnik SPbU. Language and Literature’ journal has been registered with the Scopus Science Metrix database. On 30 May 2020 a relevant decision was made by a board of experts. In their report, experts noted that ‘it is a reputable and well-structured journal, that has been publishing papers of presumably worldwide relevance for many years’. The journal was earlier registered with Web of Science Core Collection (WoS CC).
By now 16 journals out of 28 issued at the University are indexed in most reputable international Science Metrix databases: Scopus and Web of Science Core Collection (https://spbu.ru/nauka/nauchnye-zhurnaly-spbgu). Those include 12 Scopus indexed and 15 WoS CC indexed journals. The meeting delegates also mentioned that less than 5 years ago (on 1 January 2015) only one University journal was indexed in Science Metrix databases.