The University Rector Nikolay Kropachev suggested observing a minute of silence in tribute to the death of Vladislav Golikov, a University student (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/pamyati-vladislava-golikova).
On 15 June 2020 the Rector’s meeting was held in videoconference format. The agenda was as follows:
1. Measures to prevent COVID-19 spread
The existing self-isolation will not be lifted from 15 to 28 June 2020. Only academic staff working at Resource Centres of the University Research Parks are allowed to access the premises (but no more than 300 individuals daily) (Order No 5382/1 ‘On Measure to prevent…’ dated 13 June 2020).
2. Drafting the St Petersburg University development programme
Drafting of the St Petersburg University development programme until 2030 is in its final stage. The draft programme agreed with Russian authorities in due manner shall be presented to the Office of the Russian Federation Government by 20 September 2020.
The draft of the University development programme has been regularly discussed in different formats: at Rector’s meetings; and among members of the University Academic Board and the St Petersburg University Collegium of Honorary Professors (https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/materialy-rektorskogo-soveshchaniya-418#p5). Some institutes and faculties have already prepared proposals. It should be noted that the Graduate School of Management (Director Olga Dergunova, Deputy President and Chairman of VTB Bank Management Board) and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Dean Aleksei Kudrin, Chief of the Government Accountability Office of the Russian Federation) were the most proactive. Deans and directors were tasked to discuss the draft programme with their teams and submit proposals within two weeks.
3. Organisation of the interim assessment
The meeting delegates noted that the examination period has passed its halfway point: most tests and over half of exams are over. During the last week, Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods, received a total of 49 enquiries from students and teachers through the Virtual Reception (including 26 enquiries regarding the educational process set-up). There were questions regarding the issue of transcripts, visa and passport services for foreign students, and invigilating in online learning. The meeting delegates also focused on the proposal of a mathematical student to use invigilated interim assessment, as well as final assessment https://guestbook.spbu.ru/prorektory-spbgu/lavrikova-marina-yurevna/15565-ob-ispol-zovanii-sistemy-proktoringa-pri-provedenii-zachetov-i-ekzamenov.html. She claimed that some students demonstrate academic dishonesty (cheat) at on-line tests and exams; this is evident through a drop in the number of failures in one specific subject.
The meeting delegates noted that the University is committed to promoting fair and responsible attitudes to online learning among both students and teachers. Directors and deans were tasked to submit proposals regarding the scope of invigilating: which classes, interim and final tests, and exams require invigilating.
4. Organisation of the final assessment
During the last week: the University held 1,471 defences of graduationprojects; 212 State Examination Boards were operating; 1,137 students received ‘excellent’ grades, 294 – ‘good’, 36 – ‘satisfactory’, and 4 students failed (master students of History, Mathematics and Mechanics, Political Studies, and Economics).
During the last week, 15 appeals were submitted. One of them was satisfied: investigation found out that due to a failure, the plagiarism detection system mistakenly demonstrated an abnormal amount of inaccurate borrowings.
5. Organising the Commencement Ceremony
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Art. 108 of the Education Law has been amended, granting the legal power of the original diploma to scanned copies. All University diplomas are registered with the FRDO system (the Federal Roster of Education Documents). Employers and universities can verify original St Petersburg University diplomas by diploma identification number and graduate’s full name.
All directors and deans unanimously decided to cancel in-person commencement ceremonies, even if the ban on public events is lifted. The meeting delegates noted that over 70% of University students are non-St Petersburg residents; currently, most of them are staying outside St Petersburg and are unable to come to the city due to restrictions (some of them reported the situation to the Virtual Reception). Moreover, experts claim that the COVID-19 pandemic still remains a challenge; it is therefore not worth placing the health of graduates and teachers at high risk.
Delivery of diplomas to graduates is still pending. In the coming days, a dedicated schedule will be available to hand diplomas to graduates who are staying in the city or to deliver hard copies of diplomas (by mail) to those staying outside St Petersburg.
6. Organising competitions to recruit academic and teaching staff at St Petersburg University
Despite the current challenges, St Petersburg University is successfully running competitions to recruit academic and teaching staff without the violation of any formalities. The information about competitions, requirements and information about applicants is published on the University website for access by the public in conformity with the regulation. Relevant academic boards hold online meetings to consider applicants’ portfolios and select the winners.
Meanwhile, the Rector’s meeting noted that the transition to online learning format allowed competitors and staff to better scrutinise information submitted by applicants and available for access by the public. Questions and complaints are submitted daily to the Virtual Reception or corporate email. The type of complaints include: inaccuracies in the list of applicant’s publications; applicant’s failure to contribute to the project grant, though the applicant is formally registered as a member of the research team without actually doing any work under this project; verification of competitor’s doctoral diploma; and whether the university received the required amount of funding under the research grant, delivered by the applicant’s team. The meeting delegates noted that some other Russian universities have reported similar trends; however, this shall not impact the internal processes, since the University policies have always been ultimately transparent.
Vladimir Eremeev, Vice Rector for Human Resources, reported that the University has started to integrate the Cryptoveche e-voting system to conduct secret voting at meetings of the University Academic Board and institute or faculty academic boards (https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/materialy-rektorskogo-soveshchaniya-429#p5). Academic boards of the Institute of Chemistry and the Faculty of Physics will be the first to try the e-voting system this week (on 16 June 2020).
7. Meeting of St Petersburg University Academic Board is rescheduled
Igor Gorlinsky, Vice President of the University Academic Council, reported that the regular Academic Council meeting scheduled for 29 June 2020 is rescheduled to 25 June 2020. The meeting is going to take place in videoconference format using integrated e-voting systems.
8. Election of the University Academic Council
On 23 September 2020, the current mandate comes to an end of the University Academic Council, elected on 21 September 2015 by the St Petersburg University Conference of academic and teaching staff, other workers, and students: (https://spbu.ru/openuniversity/documents/sostav-uchenogo-soveta-spbgu).
Therefore, a regular St Petersburg University Conference of academic and teaching staff, other workers, and students is scheduled for 21 September 2020. On 25 June 2020 the University Academic Council is going to formulate the election procedure of the conference delegates.
The Rector’s meeting noted that academic and teaching staff have the right to nominate themselves to the University Academic Council (https://spbu.ru/news-events/krupnym-planom/osnovnye-prava-nauchno-pedagogicheskih-rabotnikov-sankt-peterburgskogo). Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya and Professor Robert Evarestov suggested introducing extra criteria for self-nominated members of academic and teaching staff (at least seven years of teaching experience and St Petersburg University as the main employer).
9. ‘Horizon’ Healthcare Resort is shut down
The meeting delegates reported that the University had to shut down the ‘Horizon’ healthcare resort. The facility was acquired by the University in 2007 (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/dolgaya-doroga-k-gorizontu). It offered accommodation and leisure facilities to students from 1 June to 31 August.
Investigation found out that all buildings on the Horizon Resort premises (5 dormitories and refectory) were constructed in 1983 with major design flaws. Further operation of the facility could be dangerous considering: the location of the facility in an active seismic zone; the severe wear of the structure; and absence of advanced protection against fire and terrorism amid the stringent anti-epidemic requirements. The meeting delegates noted that given the pandemic, students are unlikely to arrive in summer 2020. The break-down in operation could give time to look for solutions to redesign the facility in the future. For instance, it was suggested to set-up lightweight modular structures that the University is already actively operating at other premises.
10. St Petersburg University in the QS ranking
St Petersburg University has been ranked 225 in QS World University Rankings 2021, an authoritative ranking of the world’s best universities, published by the British company Quacquarelli Symonds. The university has improved its ranking by 9 positions compared with last year (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/spbgu-vnov-podnyalsya-v-reytinge-luchshih-universitetov-mira-qs-world-university).