1. Measures to prevent COVID-19 spread
From 27 July to 16 August 2020 the University continues to operate in the existing mode. Since 29 July the University Scientific Library is open by prior registration to University visitors, teachers, research fellows, and administrative staff (Order No 6896/1 dated 24 July 2020 ‘Amendments to...’). The Dmitri Mendeleev Museum and the Vladimir Nabokov Museum are reopening their doors to visitors. The number of visitors inside the museum is strictly limited (5 visitors maximum).
2. Preparing halls of residence for the new academic year
As in previous years, the University has to prepare halls of residence for the new academic year. This task is becoming a greater challenge: 85% of residential stock needs renovation of a different complexity (from revamping to capital repair). St Petersburg University halls of residence (total 21) are located in three city districts: Vasileostrovsky, Petrodvortsovy and Nevsky. Additionally, 13,156 square metres of residential area (over 17%) has been decommissioned as unacceptable for residential purposes. During the last two years 1,030 beds (student places) have been decommissioned. The main reasons are inappropriate waterproofing of shower cabins, leaks, inappropriate wiring etc. Another 1,431 beds have to be decommissioned in the next two year, with yet another 4,500 beds being decommissioned in the following four years. The University may face a dramatic shortage of accommodation. Meanwhile, the amount of allocated public funds cannot cover the costs of large-scale repair works.
Regrettably, until 2008 most halls of residence were not subject to routine maintenance, for example halls of residence No 1, 2, 3 on 20 Korablestroiteley str. and halls of residence No 14, 15, 16 on Botanicheskaia str. (A Fresh Start). During the last five years St Petersburg University commissioned two halls of residence (960 and 1,000 beds) and another hall of residence for 650 beds (on Solidarnosty prospect). Hall of residence No 18 on the 8th Line, Vasilyevsky Island, underwent capital repair (after the outpatient clinic had moved out), now offering 65 comfortable beds. Capital repair documentation for halls of residence No 1, 2, 3 on 20 Korablestroiteley str. is ready; funds have been requested.
Annually, the University allocates roughly 8 to 12 million roubles obtained from non-budget sources to carry out the routine maintenance of halls of residence (some 120 to 150 beds are renovated annually). These financial resources, however, are insufficient. Currently, halls of residence need a 950 million rouble investment for emergency repairs only. The underlying cause is the poor condition of the residential stock resulting from wear and tear. Wear and tear affects 62% for residential stock and over 80% of utility systems. Moreover, some 70% of St Petersburg University buildings cannot be reconstructed as they are part of the historical and cultural heritage.
The meeting participants noted that in 1998 the University deans of three dedicated faculties (law, economics, and psychology) had addressed an official memo to the Rector. It warned that if public funds allocated to maintain University buildings were consistently shrinking, by 2006 buildings (including halls of residence) would have started to deteriorate. This is what we are facing. It was mentioned that the St Petersburg University development programme includes foreign student numbers as an important indicator (meanwhile, the quality of the halls of residence constrains its growth).
3. Admission to degree programmes at St Petersburg University
17July 2020 was the last day to submit documents and applications to degree programmes. Some 1,000 applications were received (equal to 2019) (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 20 July 2020).
20 July 2020 was the last day to submit documents and applications to master’s programmes. 6,300 applicants submitted 13,000 applications outperforming last year’s results (some 5,000 applicants).
Digital applications to master’s programmes have been accepted since 2 March. From March to June, however, on average three to four applications were received per week; most applications were received in July, with the largest number being received during the last two hours on 20 July. From 4pm to 6pm, over 2,000 master’s applicants downloaded their documents via Personal Accounts. Applicants are admitted to most University master’s programmes based on submitted documents (portfolio competition). For that reason, many applicants needed to download a basic set of documents (scanned copy of application, ID, and a diploma of education), as well as other bulky files of their portfolio to their Personal Account (e.g. audio- and video recordings, different PDF-files etc.). Therefore, the Applicant’s Personal Account system did not operate smoothly all the time. The Information Technology Service managed to restore normal operation promptly. Applicants who were downloading necessary documents within the admission deadline, but failed to do so due to system faults, were allowed to participate in the competition. The meeting attendees noted that at annual presentations of academic programmes, as well as during Doors Open Days applicants are urged not to delay the download of documents until the last day; year after year, however, most applicants would procrastinate until the last day, despite all kinds of risks.
Admission to bachelor’s and specialist’s programmes is still open (until 18 August for government funded quotas). The last day to submit documents and applications is 31 July for Aspirantura programmes, 11 August for clinical residency programmes, and 15 August for comprehensive vocational training. Currently, the number of submitted application is similar to last year.
The meeting participants considered the case of an applicant who had submitted falsified documents to apply to a master’s programme in journalism at St Petersburg University.
A representative of a cross regional public military patriotic youth organisation submitted a claim to the Virtual Reception that a university undergraduate could submit falsified documents to apply to a master’s programme at St Petersburg University. The claimant reported that the lady was assigned for practical training with the public organisation and, therefore, had access to corporate mail and some documents, including facsimile signatures of the Board and facsimile seal of the organisation. Meanwhile, the organisation was informed that a former trainee spoke about her plan to falsify documents to apply to master’s degree at St Petersburg University.
The inspection showed that the applicant had indeed submitted documents, signed by the President of the Board, to confirm her labour record with the said cross regional public military patriotic youth organisation, as well as a certificate, sealed and signed by the head of the organisation, to confirm her authorship of papers published in mass media. The organisation provided the following official response to the official enquiry addressed by St Petersburg University: no documents or certificates have ever been issued to the lady. This is proved by the outgoing document register. The applicant ended up with the poorest score (0 points). Moreover, the University passed the case to law enforcement authorities for legal investigation.
4. Organising cooperation with the University Student Council
The meeting participants highlighted the need to ensure regular remote meetings and ongoing cooperation with the University Student Council, as well as student councils of academic subdivisions. Direct outreach to representatives of student community and efficient consideration of long-standing issues will be continued in the new academic year. Faculty deans and directors of institutes will uphold traditional regular meetings with the student councils of academic subdivisions.
5. St Petersburg University identified areas of activity for its Advanced Research and Development Engineering Centre (a research engineering valley)
To streamline proposals (applications) to establish the Advanced Research and Development Engineering Centre (a research engineering valley), St Petersburg University produced a list of eight promising areas in research engineering. This list is based on enquiries submitted by prospective parties wishing to become project participants, as well as competencies of St Petersburg University research teams (Order No 2568 dated 17 July 2020)
The meeting attendees noted that the research engineering valley project is in its drafting stage and will be later modified. In case other partners wish to participate in the project to establish the St Petersburg University Advanced Research and Development Engineering Centre, they can submit their proposals to the Vice-Rector for Research.
6. Mendeleev Academic Cluster and its agenda
The University cooperates with a large number of partner organisations to perform its academic activities. A specific procedure was developed to streamline cooperation and identify the University’s goals and targets. A benchmark scale is introduced to analyse efficiency of agreements with partner organisations. One of such protocols is the recently approved certificate of the St Petersburg University Mendeleev Academic Cluster project (Order No 6870/1 ‘Project certificate approval…’ dated 23 July 2020). The project neither specifies all the partnership formats, nor eliminates existing formats of collaboration under effective agreements. Rather, the project is a package offer to consider at negotiations with potential partners.
For the forthcoming meetings, directors and deans should discuss the project certificate in order to be able to analyse the feasibility of the project in terms of the industry specific targets of University research teams. The task is to report whether the certificate is comprehensive enough to be used as benchmark for negotiations with partners to sign agreements or whether it needs revision.
7. Academic events 2021 in St Petersburg University (stage one)
For the fourth year the University hosts a competition of academic events (twice a year) financed from the University’s own resources. A ranking list of recommended academic events to be organised in 2021 was approved based on stage one results of St Petersburg University academic events contest (Resolution No 6840/1 ‘Approval of the ranking list…’ dated 22 July 2020).
The list of 53 academic events included a set of events scheduled to take place last year (but postponed until later). Such events were included without any preselection procedures. Additionally, the list included events without specified dates (the University can postpone these events for various reasons).
Directors and deans should submit proposals regarding viable online formats for large-scale academic events where they used to represent organisers. They also should propose existing best practices for mainstreaming. It is also recommended to put forward ideas regarding quality assessment of online events.
8. Contests of research projects and relevant procedures
Since 2010 resources have been allocated to University research projects exclusively on a competitive basis, judging by the results of expert assessment (Order No 2266/1 ‘Composition of the St Petersburg University Expert Commission’ dated 29 September 2010). Applications have been assessed by the most prominent researchers of St Petersburg University and other academic institutions, including research centres of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 09 April 2012). Additionally, a year ago preliminary expert assessment by the Russian Academy of Sciences was introduced on mandatory basis for all academic events organised by Russian universities and research centres.
Therefore, the Rector’s meeting discussed measures to prevent the conflict of interests, as well as the distribution of academic and administrative powers among the University staff. Members of St Petersburg University academic and teaching staff who participate in any other competition cannot be members of the Expert Commission of the academic events contest or assess projects submitted by contestants. In case such member of the University staff is appointed member of the Expert Commission, they must disclose the conflict of interests and resign from the Commission (Outcomes of the meeting of the St Petersburg University Academic Council dated 23 December 2019).
9. The Graduate School of Management at St Petersburg University shares its results for academic year 2019–2020
Traditionally, heads of the Graduate School of Management, St Petersburg University, produce the outcomes at the end of every academic year and present a report at a meeting of its Advisory Board. Konstantin Krotov, Head of the Graduate School of Management, shared the academic year 2019–2020 results (Presentation):
- the Graduate School of Management, St Petersburg University, has confirmed its title as an international business school of high level: its position in the world’s top rankings has improved. Now the School is running up for the final stage of AACSB accreditation (once accredited with AACSB, the Graduate School of Management will hold a ‘triple crown’ accreditation, which is held by less than 1% of the world’s top business schools);
- sustainable increase in the number of papers published with top ranking journals during the first quartile demonstrates the high level of research produced by the academics of the St Petersburg University business school;
- in emergency conditions the Graduate School of Management, St Petersburg University, was among Russia’s leaders to transfer its operation online in a fast and most efficient way;
- advisors and partners of the Graduate School of Management, St Petersburg University, have demonstrated proactive engagement in the School’s daily life;
- the current academic year has brought up new opportunities: now that the brand of the Graduate School of Management, St Petersburg University, has acquired stronger positions, the School is increasingly attractive for applicants to bachelor’s and master’s programmes, including foreign nationals.
Members of the meeting noted that the staff of the Graduate School of Management, St Petersburg University, proactively cooperate with potential employers and are engaged in various aspects of the School’s academic and teaching activity. The efforts of the business school staff to develop the School strategy were recognised as exceptional. The St Petersburg University Development Programme until 2030 undergoes regular revision.