The Rector's meeting was held on 13 July 2020 via video conference. It addressed the following issues:
1. Admission to the academic programmes of St Petersburg University
Applications and documents for the academic programmes of St Petersburg University are currently being accepted. Acceptance is being conducted exclusively online. In 2011, the University introduced the 'Admission' and 'Applicant's Personal Account' information systems, gradually expanding the facility for applicants to submit applications and documents online. The introduction of these information systems enabled the remote acceptance of applications and documents for all levels of education. Applicants have an opportunity to submit an application for admission, as well as other documents necessary for participation in the competition (credentials , diplomas, certificates, other documents including portfolios and materials) through the 'Applicant's Personal Account’ information system. It allows applicants from any Russian region to submit documents for admission to the University without travelling to St Petersburg.
Since the University has not introduced any additional profile-oriented entrance tests (although since 2009 it has had the right to do so, which is the same as Moscow State University), online submission of documents opens wide opportunities for applicants from all regions of the Russian Federation. It is not surprising that in recent years more than 70% of applicants from other cities are enrolled in bachelor’s and specialist’s state-funded programmes.
The transparency of the admission procedures and the possibility of remote submission of documents have greatly increased the interest of foreign citizens in studying at the University. This year, foreign citizens from 90 countries have submitted more than 3,800 applications to study government-funded programmes. This is over 35% more than in 2019. The catchment area for applicants to St Petersburg University has also expanded. The countries participating in the competition for the first time include: Cuba, Mauritania, Angola, Benin, Chad, and Chile. CIS countries and the People's Republic of China remain the leaders in the number of submitted applications.
In 2019, more than 2,800 applications were submitted by foreign applicants. This year the number of applications for places on a tuition-fee paying basis from foreign applicants from 72 countries has reached 3,000, which is 30% more than 2019: (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/pandemiya-obrazovaniyu-ne-pomeha-spbgu-poluchil-rekordnoe-kolichestvo-zayavleniy).
It should be noted that (according to Rossotrudnichestvo) the University has become the most popular Russian institution of higher education for foreign citizens in recent years: (https://rg.ru/2018/10/08/reg-szfo/nazvany-samye-populiarnye-rossijskie-vuzy-i-specialnosti-u-inostrancev.html; https://rg.ru/2019/10/18/reg-cfo/v-kakih-vuzah-rossii-hotiat-uchitsia-inostrancy.html).
2. Organisation of the educational process
The University has already completed the interim and final state assessments. However, many graduates of St Petersburg University still remain in the city. In May, they were informed about the possibility of prolonging holidays and the student's status (including the corresponding payments of scholarships, the possibility of staying in a student's residence). About 76% of students have availed of this opportunity.
3. Organisation of the online educational process at the Graduate School of Management
The Head of the Graduate School of Management Кonstantin Krotov talked about the organisation of the educational process via distance learning. For this purpose, the GSOM staff use various systems, such as Zoom or Webex. However, the most popular application is Microsoft (MS) Teams. MS Teams has been used to conduct classes, meetings and even presentations of academic programmes since March. According to Konstantin Krotov, MS Teams surpasses similar resources in a number of ways.
First of all, MS Teams is a Microsoft product, and this company pays much attention to the security and reliability of its applications. MS Teams is a part of the Microsoft system and easily integrates with popular applications such as MS Word, Excel, Outlook and dozens of other products. The system is constantly updated and improved to meet user requirements. In addition, as part of the Office 365 MS Teams package, it is integrated with the OneDrive cloud storage service, allowing multiple users to work together conveniently on a single document. MS Teams allows you to organise video conferences with more than 100 participants.
For detailed instructions on working with MS Teams, please visit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn3k7ca4cQI).
By the decision of the Rector, the academic staff of St Petersburg University will be offered further training in working with MS Teams and other systems.
4. Preparation for the new academic year
Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods Marina Lavrikova held meetings with the heads of all educational and scientific departments to sum up the results of this academic year and outline plans for the new one. Directors of institutes and deans of faculties were instructed to compile lists of online courses that could be used in the implementation of academic disciplines. Teachers must be prepared for various educational process scenarios at the beginning of the academic year.
Academic staff, deans and directors are completing registration for academic disciplines. The deadline for commenting by deans and directors in the system was extended until 15 July. The heads of the teaching and research departments have been informed that the process should be completed as soon as possible in order to draw up the schedule for the upcoming academic year.
5. Transfer of functions to the head of the academic programme
The University took a decision on the expertise procedure for online courses, academic disciplines and periods of study. From now on, these questions can be resolved independently by the head of the master’s degree programme. Before taking such a decision, he/she may consult the members of the educational and methodical commission and the council of the academic programme. The respective order for master’s programmes is already available, the orders for bachelor, specialist and post-graduate programmes are currently under preparation.
More than 13,000 students from other universities got access to the online courses of St Petersburg University in the spring semester: (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/spbgu-pomozhet-rossiyskim-studentam-zachest-onlayn-kursy-peterburgskogo; https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/onlayn-kursy-spbgu-nabirayut-populyarnost-v-period-pandemii). The vast majority of students were granted access through an initiative from university management. Moreover, following requests from students from other universities to access online courses offered by St Petersburg University, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods Marina Lavrikova addressed the heads of universities whose students wanted to take online courses. She asked whether these courses would be recognised for students enrolled in the academic programmes of those universities. The heads of 23 Russian universities gave their consent. As a result, more than 1,100 students from various institutions of higher education have successfully enrolled in online courses from St Petersburg University.
6. ‘Japanese for Beginners’ and other online courses of St Petersburg University
The online course 'Japanese for beginners' in English offered by St Petersburg University has been ranked among the 20 best online courses in the Class Central ranking: https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/onlayn-kurs-spbgu-po-yaponskomu-yazyku-voshel-v-top-20-samyh-populyarnyh-v-mire.
St Petersburg University has maintained its leading position in Russian online education not only in the number of courses. The University offers unique online courses in Eastern languages (Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, Persian), which are greatly in demand. For example: the first part of the online course of the University 'Chinese for Beginners' enrolled more than 37,000 students; the second part 13,500; and the new online course of the University 'Turkish for Beginners', launched in the spring of 2020, attracted more than 11,000.
Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development Vladimir Starostenko noted that academic staff, who participate in the creation of online courses, increase significantly their recognition both in the academic environment and beyond. Their wide audience reach can be compared to that of media figures. In the last year alone, there have been many cases where our scientists, the authors of online courses, were recognised by voice at international conferences by colleagues who took online courses. Some teachers were greeted in the street by random passers-by – participants of online courses – and thanked for the knowledge gained.
In addition, students often send positive feedback and mail commenting on the courses. Online courses offer an opportunity for many of them to improve their employability and provide a key to self-development.
7. Measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection (COVID-19)
The current mode of operation is maintained for the period from July 12 up to and including 26 July. Academic staff members are admitted to the territory of the University to work in the resource centres of the St Petersburg University Research Park (up to 300 people per day as before) (Order No 6618/1 of 10 July 2020 ‘On measures to prevent ...’).
On the basis of the access to workstations granted to conduct research and the data provided by the ACS, the University performed an analysis of the attendance of the buildings of University by academic staff in the period from 22 June to 5 July.
During this period the academic staff (the sample includes 271 people) planned 1,984 days of visits to the University.
- real attendance amounted to 633 days (32%);
- 12 % (33 people) of employees visited the University during all of the scheduled days (and even more);
- 37% (99 people) of employees visited the University one-half or more of the scheduled days;
- 45% (123 people) of employees did not attend the University at all.
On the basis of the data obtained on the use of the access granted to the territory of the University, the following decisions were made:
- to suspend the admission of all academic staff with zero attendance;
- to reduce the number of days requested for work to the actual number of visits to all staff who have less than 50% attendance;
- to increase the number of working days for academic staff with attendance above 50%.
The meeting participants noted that due to the fact that the workers who were granted admission did not use it or used part of the time granted (for example, one day out of five), the other part of the staff was unable to access the facilities. There was a waiting list of those who wished to gain access. To do so, the access to the premises of the Research Park had to be arranged even on weekends. Unfortunately, only two staff members who applied for admission on those days took advantage of this opportunity.
8. Renovation and improvement of premises of the University military training centre
Two years ago, the University was inspected by a commission of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation to check the organisation of the educational process and the facilities of the Faculty of Military Training. As a result of this inspection, the University was instructed to bring the existing infrastructure for military training in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Defence. Failure to comply with these requirements could have resulted in the closure of the Faculty. Consequently, the University had to start work on the relocation of all equipment of the Faculty, which was scattered over different University buildings, to one location. These works have now been completed.
In 2018–2019, departments and equipment of the Faculty of Military Training of the University were located at several sites in different parts of the city. In 2018, it was decided to allocate a single place for the future deployment of the Faculty of Military Training in the premises of the former training and experimentation plant in the building at 31a Botanicheskaia Street. A capital repair project of this building was developed to accommodate the Facility (administration, training rooms, equipment). The project was approved by the government expert review panel (the cost of implementation – 143 million roubles).
A covered shed for equipment was constructed in the building of St Petersburg University at 31b Botanicheskaia Street by the staff of the Chief Engineer's Office. The building also hosted three small shops, which were repaired, and heated classrooms. Military training equipment was moved from the building at 2 Astronomicheskaia Street to the inner courtyard at 31 Botanicheskaia Street to a covered shed. The renovated premises house training facilities and training equipment.
The combat facilities and training equipment have been moved from the inner open courtyard at 35 Universitetskii Prospect to the closed inner courtyard at 31 Botanicheskaia Street. A place for practical training of cadets has also been arranged. The work has been fully completed and accepted by representatives of the military training centre on 11 June 2020.
Meeting participants noted that there are only 93 military training centres in Russia that operate under the control of the Ministry of Defence. Non-degree programmes implemented by the staff of the military training centre of St Petersburg University provide significant advantages for the University graduates. If they are called to military service, they will be awarded the rank of sergeant or officer.
9. The decision of the City Court on the appeal by Lukas Latz
Lukas Latz, an exchange student from the Federal Republic of Germany, enrolled in the bachelor’s degree programme in linguistics, was expelled from St Petersburg University by Order No 7192/3 of 13 June 2019 in compliance with subparagraph "g", paragraph 51 of the Charter of St Petersburg University and the Protocol on Student Exchange between St Petersburg State University and the Free University of Berlin of 20 November 2018: (https://guestbook.spbu.ru/prorektory-spbgu/lavrikova-marina-yurevna/13806-o-prichinakh-otchisleniya-studenta.html).
Exchange students are bound by the rules of the host university and the laws of the host country. Any violation of these rules or laws may constitute grounds for early expulsion from the host university. Lucas Latz arrived in Russia on a study visa and not on a work visa (the purpose of his stay was to study), but was actually working as a journalist, which was in violation of immigration laws. As a result, he was twice held administratively liable by the decision of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for St Petersburg and Leningrad region (protocols No 1298 and No. 1299 of May 28, 2019).
The student filed a claim to the court in autumn 2019. Vasileostrovsky District Court of St Petersburg refused to satisfy his claim. The Saint Petersburg City Court recently rejected the appeal of Lucas Latz. The University was found to have acted in compliance with the law.
It was noted that in the summer of 2019 the media widely discussed the expulsion of Lucas Latz from St Petersburg University. They focused mainly on the assumptions about the political motives, rather than on the violation of Russian legislation. Meanwhile, some students of St Petersburg State University pointed out that they had never seen Lucas Laz in classes at the University. Russian exchange students in European countries are strictly obliged not only to comply with the laws of their host country, but also to attend classes.