As proposed by the Rector of St Petersburg University Nikolay Korpachev, the meeting began with a moment of silence to mark the Day of Remembrance and Sorrow.
The participants of the meeting also held a moment of silence for Vataniar Saidovich Yagya, professor emeritus of St Petersburg University (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/pamyati-pochetnogo-professora-spbgu-vatanyara-saidovicha-yagi) and the deceased St Petersburg University student Egor Panshin.
The meeting was conducted as a video conference, and it addressed the following issues.
1. Management of the end-of-semester assessment
The University’s end-of-semester assessment is coming to a close. In the past week, the Virtual Reception has received 78 appeals from students and teachers, and Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods, has received another 25 through her corporate email. A third of them concerned the management of the assessment itself, including questions connected with the scheduling of exams for certain groups and the process of evaluating students’ knowledge during pass/fail tests and exams. All of them were expeditiously resolved either by the directors and deans, or by the Academic Affairs Department.
Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, spoke about an appeal from one young woman who is an exchange student at Korea University. She reported through the Virtual Reception that, due to the pandemic, her internship was going to end before she would be able to fly back to St Petersburg. Mr Andryushin took this up with the administration of Korea University, requesting that they extend her stay in a University dormitory until she is able to return to Russia. When, however, Korea University refused to let her stay in one of its dormitories after the exchange programme ended, the Representative Office of St Petersburg University in Seoul was brought into play, and the problem was resolved immediately: she will be housed in one of the dormitories at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
2. Management of the State Final Certification
Over the past week, 1,956 graduate qualification defences have been held, and they were carried out by 252 State Examination Boards. As a result, 1, 381 students received a mark of ‘excellent’; 470, a mark of ‘good’; 96, a mark of ‘satisfactory’; and 9, a mark of ‘unsatisfactory’ (five of them neither presented a graduation project nor showed up at the defence).
The state examinations have finished for the first graduating class in the programme Jurisprudence (with an In-Depth Study of the Chinese Language and Legal System). Four years ago, 56 students enrolled in this programme, and 44 of them passed the state exam (21 with a mark of ‘excellent’, 21 with a mark of ‘good’; and 2 with a mark of ‘satisfactory’).
The meeting also discussed the technical failure that forced forty law students to rewrite the third part of their state examination. The blame for this problem can be laid at the feet of the software provider (cloud services from Yandex). The directors and the deans noted that, during the whole time that the University has been in the distance learning mode, this is only the second global malfunction. The first was also caused by third parties, when, due to network faults in the Rostelekom system, there were glitches in the University’s network (https://spbu.ru/news-events/novosti/ob-avarii-na-setyah-rostelekom-i-posleduyushchem-pereboe-v-rabote-seti-spbgu). This testifies to the reliability of the services used during the end-of-semester assessment.
During this past week, 19 appeals have been filed. Two of them were upheld, and the students were granted a second defenсe. Examples of two appeals to the Virtual Reception were given: one student demanded that her mark be raised since both her research supervisor and the reviewer commended her work, and the other claimed that her graduation project had been underrated because her research supervisor was prejudiced against her. The directors and the deans stressed that students need to understand an important consideration: review and assessment of graduation projects are carried out by State Examination Boards, and the opinions of a student’s research supervisor, the reviewer and others (for example, colleagues in the department) may not coincide with the opinion of the board.
During the current exam period, 5,124 students have defended their graduation projects, and only 372 (less than 5 percent) have yet to do so. With this in mind, the participants in the meeting recalled all of the worries, fears and doubts that had been expressed by students and teachers at the beginning of exams and the State Final Examination. The directors and the deans were instructed to analyse the management of this end-of-semester assessment and then discuss the results with Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods.
3. The issuance of diplomas
A procedure has been drawn up for the issuance of diplomas at the University that will comply with the necessary anti-epidemic measures. A timetable has been established to issue diplomas to those graduates who are in St Petersburg and to deliver (send) the original documents to those who are outside the city limits (Executive Order No 5452/1 ‘Approval of the timetable and order…’dated 15 June 2020). Graduates will be sent instructions on how to obtain their diplomas this year.
4. Medicine and interdisciplinary research at St Petersburg University
On 22 June, a board meeting of the Russian Union of Rectors was held, and the focus was on the organisation of medical education in Russia. At this meeting, Petr Iablonskii, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine, gave a presentation on interdisciplinary research in the field of medicine and human health at St Petersburg University. (PRESENTATION)
The participants in the meeting wished a Happy Health Worker’s Day to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Petr Iablonskii, the Dean of the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies Iurii Shcherbuk, the Director of the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies of St Petersburg University Yury Fedotov and all of the University’s medical students.
5. From one hall of residence to another?
One student inquired through the Virtual Reception about the possibility of students moving from one hall of residence to another (REFER TO THE VIRTUAL RECEPTION FOR THE MATERIAL). The directors and the deans pointed out that this is not a relevant issue at the moment because of the anti-epidemic restrictions that have been imposed. They also noted that some out-of-town students are now in regions where there are unfavourable epidemiological situations, and any resettlement of students within the dormitory system might lead to the spread of disease.
6. Military training exercises
At the moment, there are 130 St Petersburg students who are in training at the military camp in Luga. Before leaving, they all underwent testing for the coronavirus and received negative results. Upon arrival at the camp, they were retested, and five of them came up positive. None of them, however, showed any symptoms.
The command of the military base decided to send the five students to the Luzhsky Military Hospital (Branch No 11 of Federal Military Clinical Hospital No 442 of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence). All of them feel fine. After 14 days in hospital, they will be given another test for coronavirus. The other students, who had had contact with them, are being quarantined in the military compound.
The participants in the meeting noted that as far back as in May there had been widespread appeals to the University administration from students and their parents to allow those students who were not prepared to undergo military training in June to postpone it until next year. The Rector had made such a request to the field-oriented leadership of the Ministry of Defence, as had those at the helm of some other universities. The requests, however, were all turned down. At this point, the Rector of St Petersburg University went all the way up to the top of the Ministry of Defence and submitted another request. After some negotiations, he received consent: the Ministry agreed to allow all St Petersburg University students who are supposed to go through military training this year to do so next year. All students have now been informed about such an option (https://guestbook.spbu.ru/vse-obrashcheniya/401-prorektory-spbgu/admission-education/15580-o-prokhozhdenii-voennykh-sborov-v-2020-godu.html), but so far, not one student has taken advantage of this opportunity.
7. A legal dispute with a former staff member
A court of third instance (cassation) has already rejected the appeal of former University employee Svetlana Uvarova against the decision of the Vasileostrovsky District Court of St Petersburg. In her claims, Ms Uvarova had initially asked to have her contract with the University extended, had tried to challenge the University’s right to announce a competition for an academic’s position, linking the position with the person of the holder of that position, and had challenged St Petersburg University’s right to introduce its own requirements and criteria on those who are vying for that position. In 2018, when her contract ran out, Ms Uvarova was dismissed, after which she took legal action. The participants in the meeting noted that the University’s competitive procedures for selecting research and teaching staff could not be more transparent, and the criteria are always known to all participants well in advance, which ensures equal terms for both current employees and outside candidates.