1. Meeting of the St Petersburg University Board of Trustees
On 15 July the St Petersburg University Board of Trustees held a meeting that was attended by President of the Board Dmitry Medvedev. The agenda was focused on the territorial development of St Petersburg University. Dmitry Medvedev noted that St Petersburg University has a fairly positive image in international university rankings. He highlighted that the University’s territorial development is bound to ensure future success of its students by establishing technical capacities for years to come. The full text of Dmitry Medvedev’s speech is available in the VKontakte official group of St Petersburg University.
St Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov shared the plans of the St Petersburg Government to construct a new metro line. One of the stations will be located on the newly developed territory of St Petersburg University.
2. Preparations for the new academic year
Preparations for the new academic year are underway. Teachers have completed self-registration for their academic subjects (applications for classes in the academic year 2020/2021 were submitted via ‘Teaching at St Petersburg University’ platform of the ‘Learning’ information system). Self-registration results were reported by members of the academic and teaching staff, heads of departments, heads of academic programmes, directors of institutes and faculty deans. Staff of the Academic Programmes Division are now issuing mandates to teachers and drafting the timetable. They are facing a challenge to issue mandates for 120,696 positions covering all academic subjects within the 2020-2021 curricula for all academic programmes. Only 5,324 positions were left unattended by the day of the meeting (roughly 4.5% teaching mandates). The staff of the Academic Programmes Division, directors and deans are handling these positions efficiently. Many of them are already assigned to teachers.
The pace of work has almost doubled compared with last year. The University is considering outsourcing part-time workers, recruiting independent teachers under civil law agreements, or inviting teachers from other University teams. The majority of directors and deans presented suggestions regarding outsourced adjunct teachers. It was noted that entering into civil law agreements takes a longer time because such contracts must be approved by the University Contract Service. Therefore, directors and deans were tasked to present relevant information to the Human Resources Department.
The participants of the meeting emphasised that this year’s workload has doubled. The university has to follow through the two versions of the academic timetable at the same time: for online / remote and offline classes. Notably, the list of teachers working online and offline may not be the same.
3. Admission to St Petersburg University
On 17 July admission to comprehensive degree programmes (Academic Gymnasium named after Dmitry Faddeev) was concluded. Some 1,000 applications were submitted (same as in 2019). Despite challenging epidemiological conditions, the number of applicants remained at last year's level. This suggests that the University’s comprehensive degree programmes are in high demand. It is worth saying that for the first time ever this year’s admission test was a competitive selection of documents (portfolios). Last year, admission exams included Russian, mathematics, and subjects of major interest. They were held in classrooms in St Petersburg. This year, however, admission tests are being held remotely based on competitive selection of applicants’ portfolios. Once admission results are available, the efficiency of such remote admission tests for comprehensive degree programmes will be investigated.
On 20 July admission to master's programmes was concluded. Over 13,000 applications were submitted (by over 6,000 applicants). Last year the number of applicants to master’s programmes stood at some 5,000.
Admission to bachelor’s / specialist’s programmes, vocational degree programmes, aspirantura and clinical residency programmes is still going on (deadlines were postponed by the Order of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation due to delayed Unified State Exams). 31 July is the last day to apply to aspirantura programmes. Applications to clinical residency programmes and vocational degree programmes are accepted until 11 August and 15 August respectively.
4. Military training exercises are over
In compliance with the Order of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, from 15 June to 18 July students on military reserve duty were in training at the St Petersburg University military camp.
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 leadership of the Ministry of Defence. After some negotiations, he received consent: the Ministry agreed to allow all St Petersburg University students who were supposed to go through military training this year to do so next year. All students were informed about such an option (Military training exercises in 2020), but so far not one student has taken advantage of this opportunity.
It was reported earlier (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 22 June 2020), that there were 130 St Petersburg students who were in training at the Luga military camp in Leningrad region. Before leaving, they all underwent testing for coronavirus and received negative results. Upon arrival at the camp, they were retested (first in the military doctor’s office and later in Rospotrebnadzor laboratory), and five of them came up positive.
The command of the military base decided to send the five students to the Luzhsky Military Hospital. The other students, who had had contact with them, were being quarantined in the military compound. Later nine more students came up positive for coronavirus. They were admitted to the Luzhsky Military Hospital too. After 14 days in hospital, they were given another test for coronavirus.
Now all of them feel fine. All students did well in military training exercises and passed the final exam.
5. Organisation of practical training
Arrangements for practical training opportunities in summer have been discussed intensively since March. Many directors and deans were inventive enough to either arrange practical training in remote format, or to find alternative solutions, or to postpone it until later in the academic year. Students of history, earth sciences / geography, and biology had to face exceptional challenges. For them fieldwork study visits to other regions of Russia are a regular tradition. This year, however, due to the pandemic, practical training in the summer was not an easy issue to solve.
The meeting participants addressed Directors of the Institute of History and the Institute of Earth Sciences, as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Biology to suggest formats for practical training during the summer before 23 July. Currently, the leadership has jointly decided to postpone some fieldwork study visits until later, as well as to transfer some other practical training classes into remote format. At present, due to the epidemiological setting and regulatory constraints, it is not possible to host classes for groups in the traditional format.
6. St Petersburg University launched a student survey
On 3 July a traditional student survey was launched to assess the quality of education at St Petersburg University. The survey is hosted on the platform of the University Centre for Sociological and Internet Research. The questions have been designed by University experts including sociologists, psychologists and political scientists. This year traditional questions were expanded with new questions on remote learning. Questions were sent to students’ corporate e-mails. They are also available by the link on the University website.
The results of this particular student survey will be further considered by directors of institutes, faculty deans, and staff of the Head Office for Academic Affairs and the Personnel Department.