1. St Petersburg University in ARWU-2020 ranking
The ARWU-2020 university ranking, that reflects statistics for 2019, has been published. St Petersburg University is the only Russian organisation recognised for in the Highly Cited Researchers criterion (Researchers from St Petersburg University are listed as the most cited scientists in the world).
In this group the University is represented by three luminary scientists: Gennady Leonov, Nikolay Kuznetsov, and Raul Gainetdinov who are registered with St Petersburg University as their primary affiliation. The University was therefore awarded an extra 12 points, which raised its ranking by dozens of positions as the common graph shows. The University Administration is committed to seeing more high citation researchers among the University academic staff, as well as to support already employed high citation researchers.
The ranking of high citation researchers itself has undergone significant transformations recently. For instance, in contrast to 2019, this year publications of large collaborations (e.g. ALICE etc.) are not going to count.
2. Admission to St Petersburg University
By now, Admission Resolutions for comprehensive education programmes (Academic Gymnasium named after Dmitry Faddeev at St Petersburg University) have been issued. This year 197 applicants were admitted to the Gymnasium.
On 15 August 2020 application of documents to comprehensive vocational education programmes (the University Medical College, and the University College of Physical Training and Sports, Economics and Technology) was closed. The last admission exam for these programmes is scheduled for 18 August. 2020 shows a 36% increase in the number of applicants to these programmes compared with 2019. In 2019 vocational education programmes attracted 1020 applicants in contrast to 1601 in 2020. Meanwhile, the total increase in the number of applicants to comprehensive vocational education programmes in Russia stood at 6.3 % last year (the Russian Federal State Statistics Service reported).
Applicants are still submitting their Unified State Exam results for admission to bachelor’s and specialist’s programmes. Universities of St Petersburg and the Leningrad region have experienced a 40% reduction in the number of bachelor’s and specialist’s applicants compared with 2019. St Petersburg University, in contrast, has seen a 30 % increase in the number of such applicants this year (16,909 applications were submitted in 2019 compared with 23,924 in 2020). Documents and applications are received until 18 August for government-funded quotas or 26 August for fee-paying quotas respectively.
Admission exams for Aspirantura programmes have finished; on 17 August applicants ranking lists were published.
Applications to Clinical Residency programmes were accepted until 11 August. The number of applicants has increased by 12 % compared with 2019 (1,270 applicants in 2019 – 1,443 in 2020).
On 17 August 2020 Admission Resolutions for full-time master’s programmes were issued. This year over 6,000 undergraduates applied to master’s programmes at St Petersburg University, which is 20% more than in 2019 (5,296 in 2019 – 6,248 in 2020). Meanwhile, the total number of undergraduates to master’s programmes in Russia dropped by 7% last year (the Russian Federal State Statistics Service reported).
Such a significant increase in the number of master’s applicants is explained by the high popularity of St Petersburg University academic programmes. Admission exams format is a criterion that matters to applicants: admission exams 2020 were held entirely online. Applicants were able to take admission exams without having to travel to St Petersburg. Notably, admission exams to most master’s programmes at St Petersburg University are organised as a portfolio competition based on supporting documents.
Almost 60 % of admitted applicants are graduates of other universities; in 2019 those accounted for 52 % of all admissions. The annual increase in the number of applicants from other universities is supported by an open and transparent admission procedure at St Petersburg University (Admission is transparent), as well as the demand for university education.
Remarkably, master’s programmes have seen over 400 fee-paying admissions, which is 15 % more than in 2019.
3. Operation at St Petersburg University on follow-up to the Resolution of the Government of St Petersburg
On 14 August the Government of St Petersburg published Resolution No 616 'Amendments to Resolution of the Government of St Petersburg No 121 dated 13 March 2020’. It eliminated a number of constraints imposed on organisations operating in St Petersburg. Greater relaxation of restrictions was also provided to establishments of higher education. In the follow-up to the new regulation, St Petersburg University issued Resolution No 7270/1 dated 15 August 2020 to incorporate the Amendments into the University operation. Provided that measures to counter the COVID-19 pandemic are observed, the back-office, administration, and maintenance staff are returning back to offline work. Heads of subdivisions are requested to provide offline work resumption schedules. Follow-up regulations will be issued based on these provisions.
The next 15 days until 1 September are going to see intensive efforts to prepare for the start of the academic year amid COVID-19 spread prevention measures.
4. Preparations for the new academic year
In the run-up for the new academic year Elena Chernova, Senior Vice-Rector, and Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, held a meeting with the Board of the Student Council of St Petersburg University and representatives of the International Students Club. At the meeting students were informed about the set-up of the academic process in autumn semester 2020/21 considering all the measures to counter the pandemic. The students were told that wearing masks is strictly mandatory on St Petersburg University premises. Moreover, representatives of the Student Council were asked to assist in distributing masks among all students. Currently, the University is procuring personal protective equipment, including non-disposable masks to be handed out to all students. In the event of not wearing a mask, classes in a particular room may be stopped.
It is worth noting that ‘Resolution No 6991/1 – Implementation of recommendations for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prevention in higher educational establishments – dated 3 August 2020’ was issued to comply with the requirements put forward by the Chief Sanitary Doctor of Russia. Considering the requirements stipulated in the regulation, and the discussions held at the Rector’s meeting on 3 August 2020, directors and deans were tasked to submit proposals regarding the organisation of the academic process in the autumn semester 2020/21. Over 400 programmes across all levels of education were to be considered. The most relevant proposals are as follows:
- lectures delivered by teachers aged over 65 or those with chronic conditions shall be delivered in remote mode;
- all classes that are not held in lecture theatres (i.e. do not bring together more than one academic group of students) shall take place in regular classrooms;
- every academic group of students shall be assigned a particular classroom, except classes in laboratories where specific equipment is required;
- lectures in lecture theatres, as well as other classes bringing together different academic groups of students (including electives) shall be delivered in remote mode;
- for individual academic programmes where classes are attended by one single group of students, age or health condition constraints are not applicable to teachers (e.g. bachelor’s in astronomy, education in art and performance etc.); lectures and classes shall be delivered in regular classrooms;
- classes in foreign languages, including Russian as a foreign language for international students, shall be delivered in remote mode;
- weather permitting, physical training shall be held mostly outdoors; later such classes shall be held at University facilities that comply with the COVID-19 prevention requirements issued by the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor);
- to enhance social distancing among University students in classroom door areas and in lounges and corridors during breaks, as well as at snack points, a revised academic timetable with shifted start times for classes and longer breaks is suggested;
- the academic timetable is still pending; it will include the so-called days in-office for classes held in traditional offline format, as well as days allocated for online classes only.
Other suggestions will be considered for every particular academic programme.
International students who will be unable to travel back to the Russian Federation by the beginning of the academic semester shall attend classes remotely.
5. Ensuring academic mobility in the autumn semester 2020/21
Recently, a few dozen enquiries have been received from students who have successfully passed the spring competition for an extra degree abroad at partner universities of St Petersburg University. In total, some 200 students of St Petersburg University have won the competition with partner universities located in various countries and amid different epidemiological situation. Despite the Resolution of the Russian Federation Government dated 6 June 2020 permitting educational travel abroad, it is nevertheless unclear whether this regulation covers double degrees. The enquiries have been formulated and submitted to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation and Rospotrebnadzor authorities. The main question is whether St Petersburg University students are permitted to travel abroad to participate in double degree programmes provided that the partner universities give consent to accept such students. At present, the University is submitting enquiries with partner universities to clarify their acceptance conditions for St Petersburg University students amid COVID-19 constraints.
6. Digital labour records
In the light of amended labour regulations, labour records in hard copy are no longer the most valid source of information on occupational employment. As an employer, since 1 January 2020 St Petersburg University shall record and store labour history records in digital format to be transmitted to the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation via secured communication lines.
Until 31 December 2020 employees can file standard requests with the Human Resources Office to either maintain their labour records in hard copy or transfer this data into digital format. The latter implies that the hard copy is completed and handed out to the employee. If an employee fails to submit such a request for some or other reason, labour records will be maintained both in traditional (on paper) and digital format. Meanwhile, as of 1 January 2021, recruited employees without a labour record history will have their records maintained in digital format only.
7. St Petersburg University is included in the list of medical organisations that are entitled to perform clinical and (or) clinical and laboratory trials (research) of medical devices in compliance with the rules, enforced under the decision of the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission dated 12 February 2016
On 10 July 2020 the Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare included St Petersburg University in the list of medical organisations that are entitled to perform clinical and (or) clinical and laboratory trials (research) of medical devices in compliance with the rules, enforced under the decision of the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission dated 12 February 2016. St Petersburg University is now among the 11 organisations of Russia that have been granted such permission and the second one in St Petersburg (the other one entitled to perform research under the new rules is the Almazov National Medical Research Centre). This has empowered St Petersburg University scientists specialising in various disciplines with cutting edge opportunities for the long term. It has also opened up prospects to participate in international collaborations.