1. St Petersburg University and Harbin Institute of Technology laid the first stone of the joint campus
On 7 June 2020 the ceremonial laying of the first stone of the joint campus of St Petersburg University and Harbin Institute of Technology took place in Harbin (PRC). Wang Wentao, Governor of the People's Government of Heilongjiang Province, the Rector of Harbin Institute of Technology Zhou Yu, and other officials witnessed the ceremony. Nikolay Kropachev, the Rector of St Petersburg University, participated in videoconference format (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/spbgu-i-harbinskiy-politehnicheskiy-universitet-nachali-stroitelstvo-sovmestnogo).
Based on the shared resources of the two universities, the joint campus will occupy about 60,000 square metres in the historical and cultural centre of Harbin. The first students will be able to study in three bachelor’s programmes: chemistry, physics, applied mathematics, and Russian as a foreign language. All study programmes include mandatory Russian as a foreign language, history of Russia, and other subjects in the St Petersburg University benchmark curriculum. The construction of the joint campus is expected to be completed by 2022. Once finished, the campus will be able to house 1,500 students.
2. Meeting of the Russian Union of Rectors
On 5 June 2020, the Board of the Russian Union of Rectors held a meeting. It was attended by: Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation; Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation; and Aleksandr Sergeev, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Tatyana Golikova highlighted that Russia has successfully implemented the transition to online learning, and expressed hope that the admission process will be a similar success. She noted that considering the last months’ events, the system of higher education has been scrutinised. This includes the preliminary results of efforts to boost the competitive potential of Russia’s higher education on a global scale.
Valery Falkov shared key points of the Strategic Academic Leadership Programme. It promotes the principles of competition, transparency, and partnership among academic and educational organisations. The Minister mentioned that competitions are scheduled for autumn this year. Based on their results, the Top University Ranking will be expanded (up to 70 maximum) and efficiency of national research universities reassessed, the number of the latter supposedly shrinking to 25. The Ministry of Education experts assume that, so far, some 150 universities satisfy the admission requirements.
The Minister underscored the exceptional role of two Russian universities – Moscow State University and St Petersburg University – for national research and education. He added that these two universities do not participate in the initiative, as they are developing according to individual programmes (in conformity with the Two Universities Law).
Nikolay Kropachev, the Rector of St Petersburg University, Vice-President of the Russian Union of Rectors, and Chairman of the Association of Leading Universities of Russia, participated in the meeting. He expressed support and high appreciation of the programme presented by the Minister of Science and Higher Education. Both in his speech at the meeting and a follow-up interview, Nikolay Kropachev underlined that the cornerstone principles of the programme (transparency, fair competition, accessibility of the programme to both educational and academic institutions) should also include the principle of fostering integration within the entire academic and education system. According to Nikolay Kropachev, a well-integrated academic and education system of Russia (i.e. 724 universities and over 1,000 academic and industry-specific research institutions) is the only way to enhance shared performance; given that due to the economic setting, financial support is only provided to individual institutions or clusters.
Nikolay Kropachev noted that the goals of the programme (to promote development of technologies in the Russian Federation; to facilitate acquisition of digital technologies; to establish a high-performing and export led cluster across basic industries; to promote the Russian Federation to the top five largest economies in the world) do not cover all of the national development goals formulated in the Russian Presidential Order No 204 dated 7 May 2020 ‘National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation through to 2024’. In particular, social and human goals, formulated in the Presidential Order, are still missing from the programme, which is incompatible with the mission of higher education. Moreover, the goals of the programme shall be better coordinated with programme-specific initiatives. Otherwise, the declared goals will not be achieved by implementing these initiatives formally.
Participants of the Rector’s meeting decided to comprehensively discuss the strategic academic leadership programme in two weeks at a different Rector’s meeting.
3. Organisation of interim assessment
The current assessment process at the University includes 32,608 online tests and exams. Over the last week, the Virtual Reception received 69 enquiries from students and teachers regarding the educational process set-up; on top of that, Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods, received 31 more enquiries through her corporate email.
For example, University students were concerned about the timetable of online courses and the procedure of taking tests online. The Dean of the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes reported that some students expressed concerns that the exams in the so-called ‘difficult’ subjects – mathematical analysis and mechanics — were scheduled close to the end of the examination period. On 5 June 2020, the Dean and representatives of the Academic Affairs Department met with students in videoconference format to engage students in the timetabling process. All issues were successfully resolved during the meeting.
4. Organisation of final assessment
Since 20 May 2020, the University is running graduation project defence procedures. 1,430 students have already presented their graduation projects (including 837 over the last week). 235 more law students have passed the first part of the state exam. The results are a success: 1,044 defences were graded ‘excellent (78 %); 248 – ‘good’; 36 – ‘satisfactory; with only 3 failures. Some students filed appeals: 5 appeals in Philosophy; 2 in Control Processes; and 1 in Mathematics and Mechanics.
The meeting delegates were reminded that research supervisors, fellow reviewers, and representatives of industrial partners and organisers of industrial training can participate in the defence procedure. A relevant request must be submitted to Marina Lavrikova (https://guestbook.spbu.ru/prorektory-spbgu/lavrikova-marina-yurevna/15441-ob-uchastii-v-zasedanii-gak.html).
Meanwhile, the meeting delegates noted that it is important to ensure that supervisors and peer reviewers cannot impact fair assessment of graduation projects. The delegates emphasised that such defence format gives more time to the State Assessment Board (SAB) to familiarise with the graduation project, as well as to assess the student’s oral presentation and answers to questions addressed by SAB members.
Incidentally, not all student welcomed this format. Some students have already submitted enquiries that SAB members should be limited in time to familiarise with the graduation project, presentation, and defendant’s answers to their questions. The meeting delegates noted that in contrast to such appeals, the University is committed to ensure that SAB members take as much time as they require to analyse and assess students’ performance without bias.
5. Preliminary tests of Cryptoveche e-voting system
The Cryptoveche e-voting system was demonstrated at the Rector’s meeting a year ago (https://dltc.spbu.ru/ru/). Delegates were provided with a detailed description of the e-voting system. It is powered by a technology developed at the University Distributed Ledger Technologies Centre. The system will soon be available through a regular smart-phone (https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/itogi-zasedaniya-uchenogo-soveta-spbgu-86, Academic Report section). It was also mentioned that the technology can resolve confidentiality issues of secret e-voting.
The delegates noted that Cryptoveche has successfully passed the tests (Order No 5137/1 dated 5 June 2020). Siberian Federal University used Cryptoveche to elect the University President (https://news.sfu-kras.ru/node/23087). This technology ensures confidentiality of secret e-voting at meetings of the St Petersburg University Academic Board and institute or faculty academic boards. The technology has successfully passed the model tests, simulating alternative election of academic and teaching staff by members of the Chemistry Institute Academic Board. HR Department are going to provide training to secretaries of faculty and institute academic boards. Cryptoveche technical support will be set up to provide fast responses to any issues that meeting participants may face during e-voting.
6. Lyudmila Verbitskaya Fellowship
Following the plan of efforts to commemorate the memory of St Petersburg University President Lyudmila Verbitskaya (https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/materialy-rektorskogo-soveshchaniya-411#p15), the Professor Lyudmila Verbitskaya Fellowship was established to honour the University undergraduate and postgraduate students of all degree programmes for outstanding performance in studying different aspects of the Russian language (Order No 4877/1 dated 1 June 2020).
7. University students win the Globcom 2020 competition
Anastasiia Alekseeva and Daria Rodicheva, St Petersburg University students (‘Advertising and Public Relations’ degree programme) have won the Globcom 2020 international competition (https://www.globcom2019.com/). This year the finals were to take place at Vilnius University, but eventually participants had to defend their projects online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with other members of their international team, St Petersburg students developed a PR-project and defended it orally. Ultimately, this project was selected best out of the nine projects submitted by the other teams who were able to make it to the finals (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/nashi-studenty-pobediteli-mezhdunarodnogo-konkursa-globcom-2020).
8. University students as camp counsellors
Children’s healthcare camps in the Leningrad region are going to open on 1 July 2020. To successfully organise summer activities for campers, assistance of students as camp counsellors, as well as commitment of professional teachers is crucial. Camp counselling is great fun and an exceptional experience, with useful skills and new career competencies, respecting traditions, true friendship, and a memory of a lifetime.
This year University students have an opportunity to work as camp counsellors in healthcare camps of the Leningrad region. Students wishing to assume these responsible duties can submit applications (https://students.spbu.ru/mmen-novosti/5294-priglashaem-na-rabotu-vozhatymi-v-detskie-ozdorovitel-nye-lagerya-leningradskoj-oblasti.html). Over 130 students have applied so far.
Remarkably, the University student squads have a long-standing tradition. Student activities at the University include membership in one of the five student teaching squads: Granat (‘Pomegranate’), Perspektiva (‘Perspective’), ROS (‘The Republic of Burning Hearts’), Skazka (‘Fairytale’), and Unison (‘Syntony’). Established in 1979 by law students of the Leningrad University, ROS (‘The Republic of Burning Hearts) is the oldest teaching squad in St Petersburg. Student teaching squads Skazka and Unison also have a long history. They were established in 1984 and 1987 respectively by Leningrad University students of mathematics. Granat is the youngest squad established in 2012 by psychology students; in 2019 Granat was recognised best pedagogical squad in St Petersburg.
9. Image events at St Petersburg University in 2021
The list of the University image events for 2021 has been approved. The list includes all international and national events where the University is among co-organisers or standing participants (St Petersburg International Legal Forum, St Petersburg International Economic Forum, St Petersburg International Labour Forum, St Petersburg International Cultural Forum, etc.) Directors and deans can submit feedback to amend the Order No 5088/1.
10. Financial management monitoring
The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation has published preliminary results of annual financial management monitoring, performed by major federal public funds managers. Over the three years the University has improved its ranking 84 to top 5, outperforming the Kurchatov Institute (top 12) in its group (АА+). The Ministry of Science and Higher Education is ranked 37, whereas Moscow State University is 79.
A detailed description of the monitoring procedure is available at: https://www.minfin.ru/ru/perfomance/budget/fin_quality/results/res2019/?id_65=130274-otchet_o_rezultatakh_provedeniya_predvaritelnogo_godovogo_monitoringa_kachestva_finansovogo_menedzhmenta_po_sostoyaniyu_na_01.01.2020_go
The meeting delegates noted that the monitoring performance of universities and other organisations is taken into account in making funding allocation decisions.