1. A representative office of St Petersburg University at the University for Foreigners of Siena

A week ago, a representative office of St Petersburg University was opened in Siena, Italy. The office is housed at the University for Foreigners of Siena, a partner of St Petersburg University. This is the sixth foreign representative office of St Petersburg University and the second in Europe. The University uses its representative offices to organise various events, such as lectures, seminars, conferences, roundtable discussions, exhibitions of students' creative works, and joint competitions. The efficiency of the representative offices is reflected in the positions occupied by the University in the rankings, especially in such an indicator as internationalisation. Therefore, it is very important to organise the activities of the representative offices by filling their work with particular content. In this regard, Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, asked the meeting participants to submit proposals on the activities that could be organised at the new representative office in Italy.

In the near future, it is planned to open new representative offices in Germany and Afghanistan, as well as a second office in the Republic of Korea.

2. The victory of the University projects in the international competition 'Russia and Germany: Scientific and Educational Bridges'

On 15 September, the closing ceremony of the Russian–German Year of Scientific and Educational Partnerships took place. The ceremony honoured the winners of the open international competition 'Russia and Germany: Scientific and Educational Bridges', organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany. During the competition, several dozen projects were selected. A total of 28 Russian and German universities took part in it. St Petersburg University was awarded three prizes: three joint projects implemented by the University were distinguished, which is the best result among all the participating universities. The Ural Federal University was awarded two prizes, while the rest of the Russian participants received one award each. On the German part, only three universities received two awards each, and all of the others – only one. The winners are: the Centre for German and European Studies (CGES), a joint project of St Petersburg University and Bielefeld University; the German–Russian Interdisciplinary Science Centre G-RISC, a joint project of St Petersburg University and the Free University of Berlin; and the project ‘International Collaborative Research Centre TRR160: Coherent manipulation of interacting spin excitations in tailored semiconductors’ implemented by St Petersburg University jointly with the Ioffe Institute of Physics and Technology and the Technical University of Dortmund.

3. Answers to questions in the Virtual Reception about the organisation of the teaching and learning process

Over the past week, the Virtual Reception received 98 applications from students and teachers. 43 of them were related to various teaching and learning issues. These include questions from international students, who are told how to get involved in the learning process in each field of study.

When answering the questions of the meeting participants, Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, explained that various types of feedback were provided to international students who still could not come to St Petersburg University to study. A University Telegram channel and a chat bot have been launched for international students, so they could ask their questions, get answers and discuss any current issues related to the teaching and learning process organisation. The staff of the academic offices and the Office for International Academic Cooperation are monitoring the chatrooms and answer questions. The most frequent ones are about the possibility of online connection to classes in a particular subject. In most cases (more than 90%), the issue is resolved or alternative ways of getting students 'involved' are found (to provide them with an audio recording of the class, for example).

One of the enquiries in the Virtual Reception contained a question about the possibility for University students to attend other students' online classes. The meeting participants were reminded that such status as a non-degree student existed at the University, so any student of our University, if they wish, may attend any class in any academic programme and at any building of the University, if there was an organisational and technical opportunity for that (for example, a sufficient number of seats in a particular classroom). There really is such a practice. Therefore, a positive answer was given to the above-mentioned question about the attendance of online classes as a non-degree student. To be provided such opportunity, the student should apply to the head of the relevant academic office with an appropriate statement, and they will be given such an opportunity if technologies allow.

There were also questions about online training. Sergei Belov, Dean of the Faculty of Law, spoke about the questions asked by the students of the 'Fundamentals of Constitutional Law' course. There is an online course that is recommended for them at the Russian National Open edX Platform. The University teaching and learning process actively uses online courses, including those implemented within the framework of the Coursera for Campus project. This project continues, and University students have free access to online courses on the Coursera platform. As a partner of this programme, the University has an unlimited number of licences. All students must register by 31 October 2020 and complete their studies by the end of the calendar year. The University also provided students of other higher education institutions with free access to the University online courses hosted on this platform.

As decided in the spring of 2020, in order to organise free access to online courses on the Russian National Open edX Platform and Coursera for the University students, the director of the institute or the dean of the faculty must agree to include the recommended online course into the appropriate list of online courses, whose learning outcomes may be credited within the framework of the student's academic programme. The issued certificate can be used for credit transfer either of the whole discipline or of a part thereof. As happened in the last academic semester, the receipt of the above information from the director or the dean by the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods is the basis for preparing documents for the educational platform. After that, students have the opportunity not only to study free of charge but also to be issued a certificate.

Some of the questions in the Virtual Reception were related to changing the mode of the classes. Remarkably, there even were opposing requests among such appeals: some students wanted to preserve classroom-based training while others wanted the classes to be transferred online. Students of one of the master's programmes in sociology appealed to the Virtual Reception with a proposal to switch to the distance mode completely, and, after a comprehensive study of their particular case, that idea was supported. What mattered was that it was a small second-year group and the courses planned in their curriculum for the autumn semester of that academic year could well be conducted online.

Students of one of the master's programmes in law, 'Legal Protection of Economic Competition', were worried that they believed they were enrolled in an academic programme that was implemented at the Department of Competition Protection. Yet, a short time ago, the department was reorganised as the FAS Institute. The students asked what would be written in their diplomas and what the transformation of their department into an institute meant for them. The students were told that the structural changes had nothing to do with changing the essence of the academic programme. The academic staff involved in the implementation of academic programmes at St Petersburg University are either employed by or have civil law relations with St Petersburg University as a legal entity, not with a particular faculty, which is its subdivision. Thus, neither the creation nor reorganisation of University subdivisions changes the operation of academic programmes. The students were enrolled in the programme (not the academic department) and they will be trained in this programme. The students study at the University, not at the faculty or at the academic department (Why there are no 'classes at the faculty'?). Their educational credentials will specify: they have completed their studies at St Petersburg University; level of education – master's degree; qualification – master; main field of study – Law; and the name of the academic programme – 'Legal Protection of Economic Competition'.

Attention was also drawn to the fact that not all the directors and the deans had sent their weekly reports on academic work and work with student councils (there were no reports from the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, the Director of the Medical College, and the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science).

The heads of several academic subdivisions have analysed the information provided to them by student council members during their regular meetings.

The conversation between Dean Sergei Belov and the Student Council of the Faculty of Law contained questions about classroom-based and online learning: how will they study further? The Dean explained they all had to follow the class schedule. If the epidemiological situation changes, the format of the classes may change and the schedule will also be changed. It is impossible to predict in advance any changes in the epidemiological situation in Russia and in St Petersburg.

Irina Novikova, Dean of the School of International Relations said that during the first week of September there were dozens of appeals devoted to how the learning process would be organised. Remarkably, during the second week there were no questions. International students are well informed about the learning process at St Petersburg University. Positive feedback is received from them: being abroad at the moment, they feel like a part of the University student community. Irina Novikova noted that the main difficulties were associated with a sharp increase in the enrolment of international students this year: about 300 students were enrolled in the bachelor's programmes and about the same number – in the master's and postgraduate programmes. The issues related to the creation of additional training groups are resolved daily in close cooperation of the Dean and with the core members of the faculty student council. The meeting participants noted that the growth in the number of students at the School of International Relations was the largest at the University, even more than that at the Faculty of Philology. And the number of teachers is much smaller.

The second set of issues is related to foreign language teaching. Initially, it was decided to conduct many classes online. But then, at the suggestion of the student council, it was decided to make the teaching of some languages ​​(Turkish and Chinese) partially classroom-based, so that the students of the School of International Relations would acquire the necessary skills. There is not a total transition to the classroom-based mode, only partial.

Vladimir Kazakov, Dean of the Faculty of Philology, noted that some teachers were stressed by the fact that on one day they had both online and on-campus classes. They found it difficult to switch over from one mode to the other. Yet, in the schedule, these two formats of classes are most often planned for different days. He also said that international students, who spoke Russian or studied it, either joined online classes or watched a broadcast organised for them from the classroom. There were no complaints from the faculty student council. Yet, students are paying attention to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections and to the fact that the classes of some groups are being transferred to the online mode.

When answering the questions of the directors and the deans, Senior Vice-Rector Elena Chernova highlighted that the University administration was informed of the equipment required for classrooms. The necessary applications were formed and submitted, and funds were raised. Such applications are sent to a single addressee, the head of the University Information Technology Service. Moreover, the available funds have already been used to retrofit a number of classrooms located at 11 Universitetskaya Embankment. The economic feasibility of retrofitting all classrooms is highly questionable. These problems are resolved through scheduling. Optimal solutions for the equipment of each building where the teaching and learning process is organised have been made. The purchase will be made before the end of the calendar year.

4. COVID-19 enquiries in the Virtual Reception

Students ask questions about COVID-19 in the Virtual Reception. For example, 'for what reason my course mate was forced to self-isolate'. It was explained at the meeting that if a student or an employee showed any signs of coronavirus infection (or in case of a contact with infected persons), the University organised self-isolation of students accommodated at the University halls of residence. Together with them, those who lived with them must be self-isolated, too. This is done to ensure the safety of others. Then a University-organised test for COVID-19 is carried out. Self-isolation is maintained until the test results are received. In this case, the learning process is organised online.

If the test is negative, the self-isolation regime is removed and students are allowed to attend classes. Classes either continue to be organised online, or return to the on-campus mode. That will depend on the results of tests of the students who have been on self-isolation in places of residence outside the University halls of residence, as well as the results of tests of the teacher who lectured in this group. If the tests of students are positive, they are hospitalised for treatment in specialised hospitals of St Petersburg. The meeting participants noted that the information in the media about the self-isolated University students had been distorted. When the isolated students were to be tested for coronavirus, not all of them could be found at the self-isolation site. Yet, they were found later and the test was done. The test results have recently been received, and they are all negative. The self-isolation regime has been removed for these students.

It was also noted that the University has formed a team of volunteers (Since the beginning of the pandemic, over a hundred University seniors receive assistance from the University volunteers). Self-isolated students can also turn to them for help (The University volunteers are ready to help students). They are helped and supported by the employees of the University halls of residence.

5. Once again about influenza vaccination

It has already been reported that St Petersburg University approved a schedule of influenza vaccination in the premises of the University in 16/18 7th Line of Vasilyevsky Island and 20 Korablestroitelei Street. The schedule was negotiated with Polyclinic No 3, so that the employees and students could use this opportunity to get vaccinated near their place of residence, study and work (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 14 September 2020). The administration of Polyclinic No 3 allocated a vaccine limit for the University: 330 vaccinations at each point. Yet, only 33 University employees showed up there during the first week (instead of the expected 660). The polyclinic curtailed its activities, having considered it ineffective to spend the doctors' working time. The University staff were offered to be vaccinated either in their district polyclinics or in two polyclinics of the Vasileostrovsky District located in the 3rd Line of Vasilyevsky Island and 64 Zheleznovodskaya Street. The vaccination will take place with a general queue, since there are many people who want to be vaccinated.

During the meeting, Rector Nikolay Kropachev and Leonid Ivanov, Chairperson of the University Trade Union Committee, approved a proposal to introduce an additional clause in the collective agreement: the University grants one extra day to the annual vacation for an employee who will get vaccinated against influenza.

6. Organisation of classes in the online mode

There are inquiries in the Virtual Reception from teachers who encounter difficulties with connecting to the Internet and conducting classes in the online mode. It was explained that there was an option to connect to the Internet via a SIM card (at a reduced rate). Or the teacher can conduct online classes using a specially equipped room (PC room) in one of the University buildings closest to the teacher's place of residence. There is no need to invite students there. To do this, the teacher should fill out an application form and agree on the room for the classes.

7. On the inadmissibility of violating the procedure for organising on-campus events at the University

It has already been reported that all mass extracurricular events at the University have been either cancelled, or postponed until 1 January 2021, or rescheduled to later dates (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 14 September 2020). These include mass extracurricular events organised at the initiative of students if the number of participants exceeds 30.

A recent case was discussed, when on the night of 19–20 September, students held an unauthorised public event in the Peterhof campus, behind the building of the Palace of Culture and Science. There were over 500 participants. Due to prompt action taken by the employees of the University Security Department in cooperation with the Peterhof law enforcement forces, any potential adverse effects of that event were prevented. Information about the actions of the first- and second-year students was sent to Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, for him to take appropriate measures of both an educational nature and disciplinary action.

It was noted that such events were definitely inadequate and unacceptable. They contradict the bylaws of St Petersburg University, in particular, those related to compliance with the requirements of Rospotrebnadzor (ban on holding public events, social distancing, face mask mandate, etc.).

8. On fake medical certificates

On 14 September, a letter was received from Yu.V. Lukin, Deputy Head of the Inquiry Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Vasileostrovsky District of St Petersburg, about the need to organise additional work aimed at raising students' awareness of the legal consequences of submitting documents confirming the facts of their temporary disability that were not issued by medical organisations or were issued in violation of the established procedures.

The letter states that the University has developed an algorithm to suppress such crimes, which makes it possible to identify all false certificates of disability. However, it is stated in the letter, 'Unfortunately, the position of the University is not always judgemental in relation to persons who used forged documents. A number of students who have submitted forged documents are expelled from St Petersburg University immediately, without waiting for the initiation of a criminal case, while some students continue to study even after the initiation of a criminal case.' It is concluded that 'such an ambiguous position of the University administration, with its examples being immediately disseminated among the student body of the educational institution, gives students a reasonable hope that if they submit a forged document, the issue of possible expulsion will be decided in their favour'.

Deputy Rector for Security Elena Sharygina considers this requirement to be justified. She asked the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods to continue expelling students in such cases, strictly and timely, informing not only her but also the students. She also considers it appropriate that Marina Lavrikova, in order to prevent such offences, should remind students of the consequences of their illegal actions before the beginning of each assessment period, for example, within the framework of Rector's meetings, as well as through student councils.

9. On the reported violations

At the meeting, particular appeals of citizens, including University students and staff, were considered. These appeals were related to violations committed by one or another University employee that could be classified as crimes or administrative offenses. The University redirects every such appeal to law enforcement authorities on the same or the next day. During 2019–2020, there were 15 appeals of that kind. In each case, inspections were carried out, and in 12 cases out of 15 the law enforcement authorities reported that the actions of the University employees did not show signs of any offense, so there were no grounds for initiating any proceedings. In three cases, the law enforcement authorities continue their investigation, as the University has filed complaints about the results and completeness of the previous inspections.

A recent appeal to the University from the editorial office of an online journal about alleged harassment of a former student by a University professor (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 14 September 2020) was also mentioned. According to the statement of St Petersburg University, the law enforcement authorities performed an investigation that showed that there was no evidence of violation. Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, appealed to the University Ethics Committee with a request to investigate the actions of the University graduate disseminating information affecting the reputation of the teacher and the reputation of the University.

10. Results of an open tender for research and development within the framework of the capital construction project 'Design and Construction of Facilities in the Area of St Petersburg University Development'

The results of an open tender for research and development within the framework of the capital construction project 'Design and Construction of Facilities in the Area of St Petersburg University Development' have been summed up. Anyone could participate in the tender. Information about the tender was sent to the top management of companies that designed large educational facilities in the Russian Federation. The tender was won by the Studio 44 Architectural Bureau that designed, among other projects, Sirius Educational Centre in Sochi. Studio 44 was the only company that took part in the tender; there were no other applications. In early October, the University will sign a 430 million rouble contract with Studio 44.

The design stage will be completed by December 2021. The contractor needs to design the following facilities: educational buildings; educational and laboratory buildings; an observatory; an academic gymnasium building; the research unit of a scientific and technological medical complex; a library; a central refectory with a student club; and utility and administrative premises. Landscaping and public amenities, as well as the engineering infrastructure should also be designed. The working groups created at the University last autumn (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 23 September 2019) will be able to monitor the progress of the design work. The construction stage is planned for the period from 2022 to 2028.

It was noted at the meeting that the task for the project was formulated with respect to the proposals of the University students and staff. These include: construction of an observatory; staircases and passages as broad as possible; convenient elevators; passages between the buildings; etc. (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated: 30 September 2019; 07 October 2019; 14 October 2019; and 21 October 2019). The Virtual Reception receives questions about 'huge' administrative areas, although in fact these areas are ten times smaller (only 5–6 thousand square metres). The rest of the premises in the administrative building will be occupied by the Scientific Library, the Archive Depository, catering premises, student leisure rooms, etc.

When answering the questions of the meeting participants, Mikhail Kudilinsky, Vice-Rector for Economic Development, reported that the University had established the maximum possible bank guarantee for the fulfilment of obligations under the contract – 30% of the project cost (not the usual 10–15%). That will protect the project from possible violations by the organisation that won the tender.

Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting

A brief report of the Rector’s Meeting dated 15 March

1. Current issues related to organisation of the teaching and learning process

Last week, the Virtual Reception received 21 enquiries from students and teachers addressed to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods. These included 7 enquires on teaching and methodology. 11 enquiries were sent to the email of the Vice-Rector. They exclude the enquiries on the University reorganisation (see paragraph 2 below). The most urgent issues were addressed in detail. They will be published in the full report of the Rector’s Meeting.

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A brief report of the Rector’s Meeting dated 10 March 2021

The participants of the meeting observed a moment of silence in memory of the University Professor Emeritus Evgeny Veremey.

1. Current issues related to organisation of the teaching and learning process

Last week, the Virtual Reception received 45 enquiries from students and teachers addressed to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods. Nine enquiries were sent to the e-mail of the Vice-Rector. The most urgent issues were addressed in detail. They will be published in the full report of the Rector’s Meeting.

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A brief report of the Rector’s Meeting dated 20 February 2021

1. The format of training sessions from 1 March 2021

The Rector’s meeting addressed the proposals of the heads of academic and research departments on the format of training sessions from 1 March 2021. The following decisions were made taking into account the experience of organising the teaching and learning process with the use of information and communication technologies and the need to comply with the Recommendations for the prevention of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in educational institutions of higher education, approved by the Chief State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation on 29 July 2020.

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A brief report of the Rector’s Meeting dated 22 January 2021

1. Current issues with organising the academic process

Last week, the Virtual Reception received 35 enquiries from students and teachers including 23 enquiries on academic issues addressed to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods. Seven enquiries were sent to the e-mail of the Vice-Rector. The most urgent issues were addressed in detail. They will be published in the full report of the Rector’s Meeting (The quality of the heating system in hall of residence No 18;St Petersburg University branch in Tashkent;Competition for funding to cover participation in student olympiads, intellectual contests, conferences and other scientific events in 2021;  Imposing disciplinary liability).

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 14 December 2020

1. St Petersburg University is a co-founder and the sole Russian representative in the Global Alliance of Massive Open Online Courses

The Global MOOC Alliance is a non-commercial partnership of higher educational institutions, online educational platforms and international non-profit organisations initiated by the UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education (UNESCO IITE) and Tsinghua University (PRC). Its creation was officially announced in Beijing at the global online conference ‘Learning Revolution and Higher Education Transformation’, which took place on 9-11 December 2020. St Petersburg University’s participation in the founding of the Global MOOC Alliance is a great honour and gives us worldwide recognition in the field of online education.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 7 December 2020

As proposed by the Rector, the meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of Professor Igor Froyanov.

1. About a meeting with Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation

On 2 December, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko met with the heads of the following organisations, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government: Moscow State University, St Petersburg University, Kurchatov Institute, the Higher School of Economics, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and the University of Economics. St Petersburg University Rector Nikolay Kropachev and Vice-Rector for Research Sergey Mikushev participated in the meeting, during which the work of the Situation Centre of the Government of the Russian Federation and new approaches to contemporary digital management were demonstrated. Two lines of development were highlighted in the work of the Centre: teams of professionals, ad hoc groups of experts and government officials, who are engaged in dealing with particular tasks, and an approach to work predicated on the principle of co-working.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 30 November 2020

1. The Second International Congress of the Russian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science

On 27-29 November, the Second International Congress of the Russian Society for History and Philosophy of Science was held at St Petersburg University. The main areas of history and the philosophy of science that are presented in Russia were considered, as were new, emerging areas of research that are just beginning to develop in our country. Emphasis was placed on a discussion of issues involving the interplay between philosophical, academic and technological research and society from both contemporary and historical perspectives. These included the relationship between the goals of academic activity and significant public objectives, the place of scholarly expertise in relevant public discussions and the ability of scholarship to meet the fundamental challenges of our time. More than 400 Russian and over 50 foreign scholars (from such countries as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Germany) took part in 14 panel discussions and 9 roundtables.

It was noted at the Rector’s Meeting that St Petersburg University was more and more frequently the organiser or co-organiser of international scholarly events, and this helps to promote the University’s image.

2. The All-Russian Academic Conference — Theology in the Field of Education and Scholarship: Challenges and Solutions

On 25-26 November, the All-Russian Academic Conference — Theology in the Field of Education and Scholarship: Challenges and Solutions was held at St Petersburg University. It included three roundtables, which took place on 25 November. The conference was organised with the support of the Association of Leading Universities (ALU).

On 26 November, a plenary session was held by videoconference, and it was opened by Nikolay Kropachev, the Rector of St Petersburg University, Chairman of the ALU and a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, President of the Scientific-Education Theological Association and Rector of the Theological Institute of Postgraduate Studies of the Russian Orthodox Church, also delivered a welcoming address. The following representatives of different faiths participated in a discussion of complex theological issues: Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar; Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of St Petersburg and the North-West Region of Russia and Mufti of the Cathedral Mosque of St Petersburg Ravil Khazrat Pancheev; Rector of the St Petersburg Theological Academy Bishop Siluan of Peterhof, Chairman of the Council on Islamic Education, and Rector of the Russian Islamic Institute Rafik Mukhametshin — along with their secular colleagues, theologians and scholars. The materials of the conference will be published in the journal Issues of Theology, which is published by St Petersburg University and the Theological Institute of Postgraduate Studies.

3. Organisation of the teaching and learning process

In the past week, the Virtual Reception has received 29 appeals from teachers and from students and their parents (of which 11 were about academic issues), and the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods has received another 22 through her email. These included questions about transfers and reinstatements, the time period and the timetable for resitting exams, the awarding of scholarships, and also about requests for certificates and duplicate documents.

There was a question in the Virtual Reception from a student who wanted to know about advance notice for the resitting of exams. Students are informed about the schedule for resitting exams two weeks before the first pass/fail or graded exam. These exams are held throughout the entire semester, especially for those students who have been given their own schedule for classwork. The student was asking why they had been notified only four days before a pass/fail German exam. It was explained at the meeting that, according to University regulations, a student must be informed about the date and time of a resitting (as part of an additional period of exams) three calendar days prior to their first pass/fail exam and one week prior to a graded exam. So, in this case, the rules had been observed.

All of the directors and deans continue to be in regular contact with the teachers and the student councils of the academic and research departments. To wit, the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Sergei Ivanov, passed along a question that he had been asked during a meeting with the faculty’s student council about the proctoring system that is used for exams in online courses. The same question was recently raised by biology students (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 2 November 2020’). It was reported at the meeting that the Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development at St Petersburg University, Vladimir Starostenko, is prepared to hold separate meetings with students from different academic programmes in order to explain everything, to answer questions and to remove all of the students’ apprehensions about what is for them a new procedure. The heads of the academic and research departments are requested to organise such meetings (as needed).

There were a number of complaints about the operation of technical equipment and software, the first one being that when working in MS Teams, there are problems with the sound and with the screen sharing function (students do not see what the teacher is demonstrating on the screen). It was explained that problems with the sound can arise from the use of cloud-based distant learning platforms, a poor Internet connection and equipment specifications (from both teachers and students, who may be connecting up from different devices and from different corners of the earth). Should problems arise, it is recommended to use the audio-conference mode, which is less demanding when it comes to the Internet connection and the features of the computers being used. The screen sharing system is standard for such platforms as MS Teams and Zoom, and problems may come about because the teacher has been poorly trained to work with the system.

Just as a reminder, an ever-expanding collection of instructions and methodological materials is being published on the St Petersburg University portal. Recordings will soon be published there of educational webinars, in which many of the University’s teachers participated.

There was another complaint about the use of MS Teams. For forty minutes, one teacher kept getting the same response from the programme: ‘An error has occurred. Try again in a few minutes.’ They were forced to set up a conference in Zoom on the spot. A number of teachers have noted that the MS Teams programme does not run on the departmental computers and does not have the capacity of home laptops and desktop computers. There are also problems with managing students’ work in seminars, and the interface is not user-friendly.

There are such problems on a number of computers in different buildings that did not use to be used to conduct classes with multimedia software and equipment and may not meet MS Teams requirements in a number of ways. In response to requests from the directors and deans, and also from the heads of departments, the equipment is being selectively upgraded, taking into account the reserves of equipment on hand and what can be assembled from different places. In addition, comprehensive upgrading and re-equipping are being carried out: 75 PCs have been purchased to refresh the computer fleet (on average, 3 computers per faculty) and 120 laptops for the academic staff (on average, 5 laptops for each faculty). Consideration is being given to meting out an additional 260 laptops for this purpose (11 per institute or faculty).

A third complaint had to do with the choice of platforms: despite the 40-minute time limit for free accounts, some teachers feel that Zoom is more convenient than MS Teams. It was explained that the MS Teams and Zoom programmes serve different purposes. MS Teams is integrated into the St Petersburg University corporate environment (with user accounts, user groups, which are formed according to the year of study, and course teams), with the possibility of automatic recording and storage of meetings, file allocation, etc. Zoom is a platform for audio-visual meetings, which is easier to use because it does not offer the possibility of creating student groups. It also does not provide automatic storage of recordings (once finished, they have to be manually transferred to special resources).

In a fourth complaint, students reported that in a St Petersburg University hall of residence in the Nevsky District (at 27/1 Solidarnosti Prospect) access to the Internet is often cut off. The students asked for measures to be taken. In response, it was explained to them that, according to the monitoring system, the port load at this particular hall of residence was 20 percent. The last transmission interruption at this hall of residence was on 25 September at 15.21 and it lasted for 28 minutes (during a power outage).

The main problems and complaints of Internet users are related to the functioning of personal equipment. A considerable number of students use their own Wi-Fi routers, to which users are connected that are not registered with the IT Division. As a result, personal equipment may malfunction and load speed may decrease. An analysis of students’ appeals to the Virtual Reception shows that, as a rule, it is students that are not registered as subscribers who complain about a poor Internet connection and, as it turns out, those who have paid for the Internet have no complaints at all.

And there was a fifth complaint: ‘Unfortunately, there were also some rather unfruitful contacts with the IT Division.’ The head of a department reported that in one session with MS Teams, it turned out that he was not able to enter a programme, which ‘gave’ him the following explanation: ‘You have not been granted access either because your organisation has not set up an account or your password is invalid.’ He tried to deal with it on his own, but to no avail, so he tried to call, using the specified phone number, but couldn’t get through. In the end, he wrote to the support service.

As it turned out, he himself had changed the password on 28-29 September (there is an entry in the logs of the authorisation system). It should be noted that login passwords for all systems (one single account is used) are the same. Having recalled the right password, he was able to get into MS Teams. His appeal had been recorded by the technical support helpline (the written request had not been recorded). The technical support desk, however, has no information about user passwords and is unable (without proof of a user’s identity) to quickly and remotely reset a password. Since the problem had been resolved by the user himself and there had been no further appeals, the request for a new password was dropped because the deadline had already passed. In response to the request, a face-to-face meeting was held with him, for the purpose of consultation and for adjustment of the equipment. A decision was made to update the computer, which was in one of the classrooms of the Mendeleev Centre, so that the staff in this department could work more effectively in MS Teams.

4. Misconduct and disciplinary action

Information about violations of internal labour regulations comes from different sources, both from an analysis of the records of visits by officials, deans and directors with representatives of student councils and trade unions and from appeals received through the Virtual Reception, by e-mail, or by other means.

For example, on 12 November, a first-year student appealed to the Senior ViceRector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods in reference to several instances when classes taught by Valentin Starikov, an assistant lecturer in the Department of the Theory and History of Sociology, got late starts (later than they were supposed to according to the timetable). These facts were confirmed by an investigation. In an explanatory letter, the teacher admitted to these late starts, attributing them to ‘technical constraints and problems with Internet (online) access’, and committed himself to conducting additional classes (seminars) in the course, The History of Sociology, at dates and times agreed to by the students. When considering disciplinary action against an employee of the University, the following factors are weighed: the presence or absence of malicious intent, the degree of guilt, the proportionality of the punishment to the gravity of the offence, the circumstances in which it was committed and the person’s work ethic. Taking into account that there had been no previous complaints about Assistant Lecturer Starikov’s observance of the labour regulations, and that he enjoyed a generally favourable reputation, the decision was made to limit his punishment to a warning that henceforth such offenses would be impermissible.

It was pointed out at the meeting that over the past three months, 27 violations have been reported, for each of which an investigation has been conducted and disciplinary measures have been taken (as a comparison, during the same period in 2019, there were 12 violations). This year, the most frequent infraction was nonobservance of the mask requirement (ten reprimands), followed by smoking in undesignated areas (three associate professors in the Faculty of Philology — Olga Blinova, Anastasiia Ryko and Suren Takhtadzian), and also disorderly conduct and security violations. To be more precise, research engineer Boichenko gave her pass to another person so that they could enter the University, IT Division engineer Siukalov broke the rules by taking equipment out of a University building, and Professor Sergei Maksimov of the Institute of Earth Sciences, while driving into the courtyard of 33 10th Line, completely demolished one wing of the gate and, in so doing, caused damage to the University.

5. The Personal Digital Certificates Project becomes a reality

In 2018, as part of the National Technological Initiative of Russia, the Distributed Ledger Technologies Centre was established at St Petersburg University (‘Results of the Meeting of the Academic Council of St Petersburg University dated 24 June 2019’). The Centre is engaged in research and applied engineering design, and also in teaching and learning. Accordingly, in two years, six non-degree programmes, five online courses and three master’s programmes (in Physics and Mathematics, Economics and Political Science) have been created.

Recently, the latest in a series of events was held on the Autonomous Nonprofit Organisation platform, the University of National Technology Initiative 2035. The information posted there about the St Petersburg University academic programmes, designed by expert teachers at the Distributed Ledger Technologies Centre, was sought after. The government pays for the instruction given in these courses in the form of personal digital certificates, the purpose being to create competencies in the digital economy among Russians. Seventeen students received such certificates, and ten of them went through the training. In this way, St Petersburg University became a participant in the Personal Digital Certificates Project (which is part of another project: Personnel for the Digital Economy). These opportunities will expand.

6. St Petersburg University students are among the winners of the Samsung IT Academy Inter-University Student Project Contest 2020

Two years ago, St Petersburg University signed an agreement of strategic partnership with Samsung Electronics. The two parties subsequently signed another agreement to launch the Samsung IT Academy project at the University (‘The Rector of St Petersburg University and the President of Samsung Headquarters have signed a cooperation agreement’). Our students have since become participants in Samsung projects.

Recently, the work of St Petersburg University students from three academic programmes in applied mathematics, ‘A System for the Monitoring of Crowding Levels in Suburban Trains’, reached the finals of the Samsung IT Academy InterUniversity Student Project Contest 2020 and was one of the top three projects in the Internet of Things section. The finals were held on 11 November, 2020, and the St Petersburg University team (Aleksandra Gavrilova, Nikita Antonov and Aleksandr Timofeev) took second place. There is a system that monitors for vacant seats that is already operational in London’s suburban trains, and such a system is soon to be set up for the first time in our country. It will have a convenient interface based on a mobile communications system.

7. St Petersburg University’s agreement with the VTB Bank

A charitable donation agreement has been concluded between St Petersburg University and the VTB Bank. Construction works will be carried out to install a fence on the University’s Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus along SanktPetersburgskoe Shosse and also to improve travel on the road. The grounds (including nine halls of residence and academic buildings) will be re-landscaped so that by the beginning of the next academic year we will have a well-protected campus. The meeting noted the role that Olga Dergunova, Director of the St Petersburg University Graduate School of Management, had played in concluding the contract with the VTB Bank.

8. University experts participate in formulating a conception for the scientific and technological development of St Petersburg

During the course of the year 2020, leading experts from St Petersburg University were invited to take part in efforts to come up with a draft Conception for the Scientific and Technological Development of St Petersburg up until 2030 (CSTD), which is under the direction of Vice-Governor of St Petersburg Vladimir Kniaginin. Among them are Professor Sergei Tunik, Dean of the Faculty of Biology Academician Igor Tikhonovich, and Director of the Institute of Pedagogy Elena Kazakova. In their reports, it is noted that a great deal was done in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Research and Innovation Infrastructure working groups to come up with proposals for sections of the future CSTD. Even so, almost none of the proposals were included in the final version.

On 26 November, at a meeting of the Governor of St Petersburg’s Science and Technology Council, the draft Conception for the Scientific and Technological Development of St Petersburg up until 2030 was presented. All the members of the Council, who had been included in the list of speakers, endorsed the proposed version. After that, first Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and then Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the Saint Petersburg Mining University, took the floor. Mr Kropachev drew the attention of the Governor and the members of the Council to several important areas of scientific and technological development in St Petersburg, as they are described in the current version of the CSTD. He pointed out that although the authors of the conception believe that these will be the driving force behind the further development of the city and deserve support, they do not take into account the substantial contributions of the team from St Petersburg University. He cited, as an example, that when it comes to research and development in the social sciences and the humanities, mention should be made of the role played by the St Petersburg University institutes in these fields, as they have traditionally been a key source in our region for the grooming of brainpower — for the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences as well — and the generation of research in this field. He also drew attention to the valuable contributions of the social sciences and the humanities to the city’s development and to the necessity of involving the socio-humanities divisions of St Petersburg University in the CSTD project as among the pivotal organisational structures that would form its backbone.

In a similar vein, for the life sciences, he noted the role of the St Petersburg University Institute of Translational Biomedicine, whose director, Raul Gainetdinov, is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world. The Rector proposed that the Institute, one of the leaders in its field, should be a key player in the CSTD project, as, along with the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies, it would have a profound effect on scientific and technological achievements in the region, elevating them to a global level. The Rector of the Mining University said that he supported Mr Kropachev’s proposals and noted other shortcomings in the conception.

The chairman of the Council, Governor of St Petersburg Alexander Beglov, requested that the criticism be taken into account. He pointed out that there is a similar conception of scientific and technological development being prepared in the Leningrad Region. A working group, representing the governments of the two regions, will attempt to revise and harmonise the two documents, taking into account that they are one big megalopolis, and with due consideration to the recommendations made by St Petersburg University.

It was noted at the Rector’s Meeting that, while preparing the conception for the scientific and technological development of St Petersburg, the University experts and the members of the working groups had not reacted promptly enough to the results of the group discussions. And it was stressed that when they serve on such committees, St Petersburg University experts should not only champion their own positions on the issues under discussion but also defend the interests of the University.

9. Publication of information about teachers on the St Petersburg University portal

A question came in to the Virtual Reception from a person who is not employed by the University concerning the publication of information on the St Petersburg University portal about teachers at the Faddeev Academic Gymnasium, which provides a comprehensive secondary education. He did not find information about some teachers (their level of education, qualifications and work experience), but found, he said, information about teachers who apparently are no longer employed there. It was reported at the meeting that Rosobrnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science) had approved the requirements for the layout of the official website of this educational organisation and the format in which it presented information. These requirements will take effect on 1 January 2021. On the St Petersburg University portal, full information about teachers will be made known to the public in accordance with the requirements. The volume of information on the University portal is constantly growing, and the University requirements exceed those of Rosobrnadzor (for example, information about a teacher’s publication activity and their participation in obtaining grants is included). At the moment, there is no uniform standard, so this information is posted in different ways on the pages of the academic and research departments of the University, and monitoring of how it is posted and updated is carried out manually by the staff of the institutes and the faculties.

It was also noted that the list of full-time teachers at the University who have classes with the schoolchildren at the Academic Gymnasium, especially after the temporary move to Peterhof, has undergone some changes. In any case, the missing information was gathered, and the page on the site of the Academic Gymnasium was brought in line with the requirements of Rosobrnadzor, which was reported to the person who had appealed to the Virtual Reception.

10. Reporting on holding positions in the national or local civil service

When the University concludes a labour contract, or an independent contractor agreement, with an individual who holds or has held during the past two years a position in the national or local civil service that is included on a list of positions established by statutes and regulations of the Russian Federation, that individual is obliged to inform the personnel department. The staff of the personnel department, in turn, are obliged to request and obtain permission to document this individual’s relationship with the University according to the place of their national or local civil service, as provided for in article 12, paragraphs 2 and 4, of the Federal Act of 25 December 2008, 273-FZ, On Counteracting Corruption, and parts 2 and 3 of article 64.1 of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation.

To ensure that the University and the individual in question comply with this requirement, in the text of labour contracts and independent contractor agreements with natural persons for the performance of work or the rendering of services, a clause is included prescribing the filling in of the relevant document, in which the candidate notes whether they have or have not held a position in the national or local civil service over the past two years.

11. Competition for the 2021 awards of the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of education

The Inter-Departmental Council for the Government of the Russian Federation awards in education has announced a competition for the 2021 awards. Works that are compliant with the list of requirements are being accepted in person from the authors, or from their proxies, at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, and are also being posted by the authors on the Правпремии.рф website until 10 February 2021. Students are asked to send their works to the address of Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It is important to note that, in order to meet all procedural requirements, the deadline for applications is 18 December 2020. The announcement of the competition — along with the list, examples and requirements — is available on the site. Works that breach the requirements of the competition will not be accepted. Information about the possibility of applying for the competition will be sent to the students’ email addresses.

12. The first batch of University badges

After a discussion about the issuance of the University breast badges (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 5 October 2020), the directors of the institutes and the deans of the faculties were asked to give their opinions. In the end, a decision was taken to issue a first, trial batch of badges, after which a marketing study will be conducted to determine which of them catch the fancy of alumni and members of the University community.

Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 23 November 2020

1. Events held in the memory of Lyudmila Verbitskaya

St Petersburg University held the International Philological Conference in Memory of Professor Lyudmila Verbitskaya from 26 to 24 November 2020 (St Petersburg University opened a free open access to a book Let’s talk correctly! by Lyudmila Verbitskaya). The conference brought together over 1,100 scholars and researchers. This is twice more than last year as the conference was held in a distance mode.

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Minutes of the Rector's Meeting dated 16 November 2020

1. Organisation of teaching and learning

Last week, 73 enquiries from teachers as well as students and their parents, including 31 enquiries on academic issues, were sent to the Virtual Reception. 21 enquiries were sent to the email of Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, including 19 enquiries on academic issues. The enquiries included requests for certificates and document copies, and questions on student residence and information systems’ work.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 6 November 2020

1. The conference of the work groups on ‘Politics and International Relations’ and ‘Economics, Trade and Resources’ of the KRD Forum

On 5 November 2020, a strategic conference of the work groups on ‘Politics and International Relations’ and ‘Economics, Trade and Resources’ of the Korea–Russia Dialogue Forum took place at St Petersburg University. The conference was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia. The event was held online.  

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 2 November 2020

1. Organisation of the learning process

Last week, 35 enquiries from teachers as well as students and their parents including 7 enquiries on academic issues were sent to the Virtual Reception. 16 enquiries were sent to the e-mail of Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods including 13 enquiries on academic issues. The enquiries included requests for certificates and other documents, questions on the procedures of transfer and reinstatement, financial aid requests, etc.  

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 26 October 2020

1. The commission for discussing the suggestions offered by Dr Yury Fedotov

Dr Yury Fedotov, Senior Vice-Rector for Medical Care and Director of the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies at St Petersburg University, applied to the University's Rector to open a department of postgraduate medical education and to set up an academic council of the Pirogov Clinic. The aim is to improve the quality and efficiency of education and research carried out in the Clinic. The Clinic has 16 Doctors of Sciences and 70 Candidates of Sciences (Medicine). These suggestions were discussed by the Academic Council of the Faculty of Medicine and the Academic Council of the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 19 October 2020

1. The University has five winners of the RSF - DFG joint competition for grants

The results of the fifth joint competition for grants from the Russian Science Foundation and German Research Foundation (DFG) have been announced. The competition was held within the priority field of research 'Fundamental Research and Exploratory Research by International Research Collaboration Teams'. Among the competition winners are 18 projects, including 5 projects proposed by scientists and scholars from the University. Three scientists work in the natural sciences and two in the humanities: A. Timoshkin, M. Vinarski, A. Saraev, L. Moskovkin, A. Filyushkin. The amount of each grant is six million roubles to be allocated annually. The implementation period of the research project is within 2021–2023 (The Russian Science Foundation will support 18 joint Russian–German projects). Our University has the best results among all research and educational institutions across Russia. No other institution has won more than one grant.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 12 October 2020

1. New members of the University Academic Council elected

On 21 September 2020, at a conference of research and teaching staff, a new University Academic Council was elected for a five-year period along with representatives of other categories of workers and students (Conference on the election of a new Academic Council of St Petersburg University).

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 5 October 2020

1. Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Taking into account the revised version of the Resolution of the Government of St Petersburg No 121 'On Measures to Counteract the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in St Petersburg' dated 13 March 2020, additional measures the University should take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were discussed at this Rector's meeting. All University employees working under civil law contracts and not participating in the technological processes necessary for the life of the University are transferred to the online mode of work. The same mode is maintained for academic staff aged 65+ and employees with chronic diseases.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 30 September 2020

1. A representative office of St Petersburg University at the University for Foreigners of Siena

A week ago, a representative office of St Petersburg University was opened in Siena, Italy. The office is housed at the University for Foreigners of Siena, a partner of St Petersburg University. This is the sixth foreign representative office of St Petersburg University and the second in Europe. The University uses its representative offices to organise various events, such as lectures, seminars, conferences, roundtable discussions, exhibitions of students' creative works, and joint competitions. The efficiency of the representative offices is reflected in the positions occupied by the University in the rankings, especially in such an indicator as internationalisation. Therefore, it is very important to organise the activities of the representative offices by filling their work with particular content. In this regard, Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, asked the meeting participants to submit proposals on the activities that could be organised at the new representative office in Italy.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 14 September 2020

1. Influenza vaccination campaign

This year earlier than ever St Petersburg University has started the seasonal influenza mass vaccination. Influenza vaccination is the responsibility of territorial healthcare authorities. The University Rector addressed enquiries to concerned vice-governors to deploy mobile vaccination points on University campuses in Vasileostrovsky and Petrodvortsovy districts, so that students and staff could benefit from getting a vaccine near their homes, work or study place. The enquiry is still to be considered. Without further ado, the University approved the student vaccination schedule with Outpatient Clinic No 3 and its administration; vaccination points will be set up inside University buildings at 16/18 7th Line, Vasilyevsky Island. The vaccination schedule for another point at 35 Universitetsky prospect is pending approval with St Nikolas Hospital administration. Vaccination schedules will be tailored to the academic timetable and posted on the University website.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 7 September 2020

1. The results of the meeting of the Council for Governmental Support of the Creation and Development of World-Class Research Centres carrying out research and development in the priority areas of science and technology – the world-class research centre 'Agrotechnologies of the Future'

On 28 August, a meeting was held of the Council for Governmental Support of the Creation and Development of World-Class Research Centres carrying out research and development in the priority areas of science and technology. It was chaired by Tatyana Golikova, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. The meeting summed up the results of the competitive selection. Valery Falkov announced that 60 applications had been received in 2020 (St Petersburg University was presented in four applications). 11 out of 60 applications were selected for face-to-face consideration featuring presentation of charts.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 24 August 2020

1. Preparation for the new academic year

This year the academic timetable is the most crucial challenge of all the preparation efforts, considering that it must comply with all the COVID-19 spread prevention measures and requirements. Currently, the timetable for the 2020/2021 academic year is 70% ready and reflects the proposals submitted by deans and directors.

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Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 17 August 2020

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.

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