1. Organisation of work amid measures to prevent COVID-19 spread
The University continues its operation in the existing format through 16 August 2020. Since 29 July the University Scientific Library has been open by prior registration to University visitors, teachers, research fellows, and administrative staff (Order No 6896/1 dated 24 July 2020 ‘Amendments to...’). A temporary procedure for all visitors to access the University museum collection was also approved. Now the Dmitri Mendeleev Museum and Archives and the Vladimir Nabokov Museum are operating according to a temporary timetable; the University is going to reopen access to its other collections in the near future (Museums of St Petersburg University reopen to visitors). The number of visitors inside the museum is strictly limited (5 or 10 visitors maximum depending on the museum indoor area).
2. The Institute for Cognitive Studies
University Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya addressed a proposal to Rector Nikolay Kropachev to establish the Institute for Cognitive Research at the University. The University has been developing this cross-disciplinary research area since 2007 on the basis of the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies, that deals with cognition, thinking, perception, and other brain mechanisms and complex behaviours. Today the Laboratory staff are linguists, neurophysiologists, and experimental psychologists. The Laboratory capacities are essential to implement the main educational master’s bilingual programme in ‘Cognitive Studies’ (Russian and English). Over the last three years the Laboratory research projects have received four grants: three from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research; and one from the Russian Science Foundation. From 2017 to 2019 the Laboratory staff published 21 papers in Scopus indexed journals.
Directors of institutes and faculty deans supported Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya. Her proposal was submitted to the University Academic Council for consideration.
3. Admission to the University
Admission to comprehensive education programmes (Academic Gymnasium named after Dmitry Faddeev at St Petersburg University) is over. On 7 August 2020 Admission Resolutions were issued to admit 197 students to the Gymnasium.
Admission to comprehensive vocational education programmes is still under way (the University Medical College, and the University College of Physical Training and Sports, Economics and Technology). 114 applications have currently been received, which shows 10% growth compared with 2019.
21,268 applicants had submitted applications to bachelor’s and specialist’s programmes by 10 August 2020. This is 25% less than the number of applications received by the same date last year.
Entrance exams to master’s programmes, subsequent appeals and exhibitions of student works are over. On 7 August 2020 ranking lists of successfully admitted applicants were published on the St Petersburg University Admissions Office portal; consents for admission are accepted until 14 August.
Entrance exams to Aspirantura programmes are under way. Ranking lists will be published on 17 August 2020.
Applications to clinical residency programmes are accepted until 11 August 2020.
On 8 August 2020 the competition for extra quotas allocated by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation for foreign nationals was concluded. Lists of applicants recommended for admission to St Petersburg University were submitted to the Ministry.
Last week the Council of St Petersburg and Leningrad Region Rectors held its regular meeting to share preliminary results for the 2020 admission campaign in the city and region.
This year city and regional universities have allocated 30,543 state-funded quotas for applicants to bachelor’s and specialist’s programmes (those include 2016 quotas by St Petersburg University, i.e. under 7%). These quotas attracted 161,000 applications (including 49,509 received by St Petersburg University, i.e. over 30 %), compared to total 374,000 applications received by city and regional universities in 2019 (those include 41,607 submitted to St Petersburg University, i.e. under 12 %).
City and regional universities have attracted less than 1,000 applications by winners and prize-holders of School Olympiads approved by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, i.e. 25 % less than in 2019. Those include 409 applications submitted to St Petersburg University, i.e. over 40% of all applications submitted by winners of School Olympiads, who are eligible for admission without entrance exams (compared with 389 applications received by St Petersburg University in 2019, i.e. under 10% of the total number).
Moreover, this year city and regional universities received some 9,000 applications from foreign nationals, i.e. 11 % less than in 2019. St Petersburg University, however, has outperformed with 5,000 applications submitted by foreign nationals, which is 35 % more than in 2019. The increase in the number of foreign applicants wishing to study in St Petersburg University was significant. It prompted the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation to allocate extra quotas to ensure admission of foreign nationals to St Petersburg University.
Many universities demonstrate a decrease in competition. For instance, the admission campaign monitoring results presented to the Council of St Petersburg and Leningrad Region Rectors show that in 2019 the competition in Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University was 16.58 applications per quota, dropping down to 5.54 in 2020; in St Petersburg Mining University the competition has fallen from 10.8 in 2019 to 3.19 in 2020.
St Petersburg University also shared information with the Council of Rectors on the dynamics of admitted master’s and aspirantura applicants who have completed a previous degree at other universities. In 2010 non-University degree applicants to master’s programmes accounted for some 17% versus some 30% in 2014 and 70% in 2020 respectively. For Aspirantura programmes, those accounted 5% of all applicants in 2010 compared with 22% in 2014 and some 50% in 2020.
Over the last week applicants and their parents submitted over 100 enquiries to the Virtual Reception on a broad range of admission-related issues, in particular those regarding reliability of IT systems, applicant portfolio competition, credits for individual achievements, admission of winners and prize holders of School Olympiads, as well as an array of issues regarding master’s programmes, admission appeals, and many other. All enquiries submitted to the Virtual Reception are responded to with timely resolutions; if the substance an appeal is valid, the resolution is ruled in favour of the applicant.
4. Preparations for the new academic year
Preparations for the new academic year are underway in accordance with the COVID-19 prevention measures approved by the Chief Sanitary Doctor of Russia on 29 July 2020, see above.
On 1 September 2020 St Petersburg University resumes its academic process to satisfy the outlined requirements of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor). 90 % of the teaching workload has already been distributed. The final changes will be introduced to ensure that teachers aged over 65 or having chronic conditions are not allowed to work offline. The timetable for the autumn semester is being drafted to comply with this principle.
5. The list of University online courses that will be implemented in 2020 is approved
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic St Petersburg University online courses have become even more in demand. St Petersburg University students are not the only ones who are enrolled: students from other universities want to listen to lectures delivered by top St Petersburg University teachers (‘Online courses of St Petersburg University attract students from all over Russia’; ‘ St Petersburg University online course in Japanese enters the world’s top 20 most popular courses’; ‘Exclusive St Petersburg University online course in neurolinguistics supervised by Tatiana Chernigovskaya is now available in Russian’).
Despite the epidemiological situation, the University is continuously monitoring and analysing the demand for courses to identify the most promising areas that require extra training and new online courses.
The results of these efforts were formulated in the Resolution dated 24 July outlining 65 topics for St Petersburg online courses to be developed in 2020. Overall, 92 courses are currently implemented including 35 in foreign languages.
In 2019 the performance plan included 64 courses compared with 36 in 2018.
The list includes: online courses proposed by the academic staff and selected in competition; courses to be implemented as part of grant-supported research; and online courses that expand the range of general university subjects lectured remotely.
6. Results of the public discussion to outline requirements for bidders to provide goods, works, and services to St Petersburg University
Over the past years, the University has been consistently improving efficiency and transparency of its procurement procedures. Public monitoring by University students, student communities, and individuals who do not belong to the University is among the tools to boost efficiency throughout the bidding process. In January 2020, Leonid Ivanov, Chairman of the Trade Union of University Workers, suggested that representatives of companies that participated in similar bids over the past years be engaged in open public discussions held in the run-up for new bids. They would consider potential flaws in the bidding terms, and elusive or unjustifiably stringent requirements for bidders (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 27January 2020).
Such a round table – an unparalleled one for St Petersburg University and Russia – was held in the first quarter of 2020 to consider the bidding terms for occupational medical check-ups among St Petersburg University staff (St Petersburg University hosted a round table on procurement). The results of the event exceeded organisers’ expectations. A broad range of participants was indeed impressive representing both public educational organisations (North-WestPublic Health Research Center) and private organisations (MedPlus, Integrated Medical Center, and others). The participants held a vibrant discussion and changed opinions on various issues: from rules and regulations to the most efficient bidding criteria. Meanwhile, health care providers were informed about the University demands and procurement plans. In the follow-up this allows to optimise the procurement system and enhance its transparency. Moreover, such public discussions are a practical tool to avoid potential bidders’ claims produced by misunderstanding, biased formulation of procurement requirements, or bidding and auction procedures.
A few more round tables are scheduled for before the end of the year. During the initial stages, if necessary, directors and deans can submit proposals to Mikhail Kudilinsky, Vice-Rector for Economic Development of St Petersburg University, to consider procurement in such format.
7. Recognition incentives for academic staff
Further to the decision of St Petersburg University Rector Nikolay Kropachev, over the past years incentives have also been paid to members of the academic staff in August in order to recognise their achievements in the previous academic year (Minutes of the Rector’s meetings dated 10 August 2015, 17 October 2016, 14 August 2017, 13 August 2018, 05 August 2019).
Deans were tasked to identify members of their academic staff for recognition. Although incentives for specific criteria are granted by the resolutions of dedicated vice rectors, heads of academic subdivisions may also submit their suggestions for vice rectors to consider in their decision making.
8. Organising the Rector’s meeting in MS Teams
Senior Vice-Rector Elena Chernova reported that the next Rector’s meeting will be held via a new software platform – MS Teams. Preliminary connection check-up will be scheduled.