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).
The new Academic Council consists of 144 members. The previous one was elected in September 2015 and consisted of 131 members. Now there are 13 more members because, over the past five years, new academic subdivisions have been created at the University. These are the Faculty of Foreign Languages, the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, the Institute of Pedagogy, and the Institute for Cognitive Studies. The teams of these new subdivisions now have their representatives in the University Academic Council.
The composition of the Academic Council has been renewed by more than a third. It has 51 new members (35%). 127 people were elected by the conference. 17 members were included by virtue of office (the Rector, seven Vice-Rectors, and nine directors of institutes). Among the members of the Academic Council there are 103 men (72%) and 41 women (28%). The Academic Council includes 13 academicians, corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russian Academy of Education, and two professors of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The rest of the members are: 86 professors; 32 associate professors; six representatives of the University Student Council; and representatives of the University Council of Young Scientists, primary trade union organisation of University employees, trade union organisation of students and postgraduate students of St Petersburg University (one representative from each organisation).
Currently, the formation of standing committees of the Academic Council (scientific, teaching methodology and legal committees) is underway.
2. Mandatory psychiatric examination of University employees
In response to questions sent to the Virtual Reception, it was reported at the meeting that the State Labour Inspectorate regularly checked higher education institutions for compliance with labour laws. For example, a few years ago, the State Labour Inspectorate checked St Petersburg Electrotechnical University 'LETI', and, based on the results of the inspection, issued an order to conduct a mandatory psychiatric examination of all teachers. The administration of this university not only established this process, but also included a certificate of passing a psychiatric examination in the documentation required to participate in the competition for academic positions.
In November 2019, the State Labour Inspectorate also carried out an inspection at St Petersburg University. It was also ordered to conduct a mandatory psychiatric examination of all teachers at the University. The prescription is based on Decree No 377 of the Council of Ministers – the Government of the Russian Federation dated 28 April 1993. It sets forth that teaching work is a type of professional activity associated with the influence of adverse production factors. Mandatory psychiatric examination should be carried out at least once every five years.
In the context of epidemiological restrictions, the solution of procedural issues of organising such examination was only partially suspended or extended, but not cancelled. This made it possible to select on a competitive basis a provider of psychiatric examination services by the end of September 2020, sign a contract with them, issue an appropriate order, and develop a schedule.
The current 'coronavirus' situation and the need to comply with the relevant recommendations of Rospotrebnadzor in terms of preventing the spread of infection imply minimisation of contacts between people and minimisation of their movement, but not stopping work processes and mobility in St Petersburg. In this case, psychiatric examination for the University employees is organised in the safest way: a separate room, a schedule of individual visits, with the examination time lasting 5–7 minutes.
If a University employee included in the current schedule of psychiatric examination cannot visit a specialist at the specified time for objective reasons, the University Labour Protection Department should be informed about that on an individual basis, in order to change the schedule of the visit without cancelling the examination.
Other questions, such as, for example, the need to obtain a printed copy of the referral or the possibility of providing information about a psychiatric examination previously conducted on an initiative basis or by referral from another employer, should also be addressed to University Labour Protection Department specialists. They will try to find the best solution for each University employee.
The meeting participants touched upon the need for additional psychiatric examination for those University employees who had already passed it to obtain, for example, a driver's licence. The Rector instructed the employees in charge to find out if there was such an opportunity.
3. Regulations for admission to postgraduate studies
Pursuant to Procedures for Admission to Postgraduate Programmes for Training Research and Teaching Staff approved by the Decree of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation No 13 as of 12 January 2017, the Regulations for Admission to St Petersburg University Postgraduate Programmes in 2021 have been approved. Within the framework of the competition for the distribution of admission quotas, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science allocated 432 government-funded places for admission to the University's postgraduate programmes. For all programmes, the competitive selection of documents is held in the form of a portfolio (except for the programmes 'Advanced Mathematics' and 'Economics and Management'). For the admissions test in foreign languages, the list of international language certificates accepted by the University has been expanded (Procedure for crediting the results of international foreign language tests).
The meeting participants discussed various proposals on amendments to the said regulations for admission, such as the ratio of the share of the influence of the results of the admission test in the speciality and the foreign language test. The directors and the deans were instructed to send their proposals related to admissions syllabi improvement.
4. Organisation of the teaching and learning process
Over the past week, the Virtual Reception received 63 appeals from teachers, students and their parents. 10 of them were related to various teaching and learning issues.13 appeals were sent to the e-mail of the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods. Among other things, there were questions about non-degree programmes and online courses at St Petersburg University. The 'Chinese for Beginners' course is extremely popular. For example, parents of third and seventh grade school students ask if their children who are taking this online course can get a certificate. They were told that schoolchildren may also take tests (regardless of their age). Upon identification, prior to the proctoring procedure, they must present their birth certificate instead of a passport.
All directors and deans continue to regularly interact with the student councils and send regular weekly reports on academic work and work with the student councils. The meeting participants also considered questions addressed to Elena Chernova and Marina Lavrikova by Alla Shaboltas, Dean of the Faculty of Psychology, Irina Novikova, Dean of the School of International Relations and Sergei Dudnik, Director of the Institute of Philosophy.
There was a discussion about online anatomy classes being organised for an additional group of international students enrolled in the 'Clinical Psychology' programme. The lecturer is now being looked for by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Bachelor students of the School of International Relations said the current length of their lunch break was not enough for them. Therefore, a change in their schedule is being discussed. Students of philosophy had problems with classroom equipment for organising combined classes. They were successfully solved. The analysis has also shown that the proposals of the participants of the previous Rector's meeting to unite students into one group for classes in elective disciplines (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 05 October 2020) have already been implemented at nine academic subdivisions of the University.
Some students also complain about the unstable work of the Internet at the University halls of residence. It happened due to students' using the services of third-party providers. Wire access to the Internet served by University specialists is available there, which works reliably and smoothly.
For the organisation of combined classes and additional equipment of classrooms, additional funds have been allocated. Laptops as part of mobile classrooms for academic staff are being purchased, as well as wide angle webcams for rooms where classes are organised using hybrid technology. After installing them, students learning online (earlier they could not always see the board with the teacher's explanations) will be able to fully participate in the class, just like students in the classroom. The purchase will be made before the end of the calendar year.
5. The 'greenest' university in Russia
Various environmental practices and resource-saving technologies are being steadily introduced at the University, which is a member of the Association of Green Universities of Russia (SPbU entered Association of Green Universities in Russia). The following is implemented at the University:
- the Green Campus model is used – the concept of creating an eco-oriented environment
- regular environmental projects and programmes aimed at reducing the 'ecological footprint' of the University and protecting the environment
- with the active participation of University students, a separate waste collection system has been created on the territory of the University; new eco-points are constantly being opened (an interactive map of eco-points)
- students participate in waste paper collection campaigns, hold bio fairs and volunteer clean-ups in the Botanical Garden of the University
- the University trains highly qualified specialists in the field of ecology and nature management
In 2019–2020, the University took part in the environmental programme 'School of Recycling: Electronics’. It was attended by the 18 largest universities in Russia. They handed over 182 tons of e-waste for processing. St Petersburg University was the winner, with 96 tons of electronic waste, i.e. more than all the other universities! (St Petersburg University recognised as undisputed leader in separate collection of e-waste). The second place was shared by Moscow State University of Civil Engineering and Ivanovo State University; the third by Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and Peoples' Friendship University of Russia. On 7 September 2020, Moscow hosted an awards ceremony for the winners of the environmental programme organised by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Russia and the non-profit organisation 'Sustainable Use of Natural Resources Foundation'. As the winner, St Petersburg University received a diploma and a gift from Samsung Electronics – an interactive flipchart. According to the developer, this is not just an 'office easel', it is an interactive display that stimulates the productivity and efficiency of teamwork. With it, meetings can be held anywhere and any time.
It was noted at the meeting that, within the framework of the programme for the disposal of various types of waste, the University annually transfers the following electronic waste for recycling: monitors, computers, office equipment, telephones and other equipment that lost their consumer properties and have been decommissioned. In 2019, the University spent 350,000 roubles on such events. In the summer of 2020, a gratuitous contract for the disposal of e-waste was signed with the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources Foundation. The contract was signed within the framework of the open-ended campaign 'School of Recycling: Electronics', which had been in effect since 2016 at schools and since 2020 had reached the level of Russian universities. In 2020, recycling events at the University were held free of charge.
6. Preparation of proposals for supplementing the University Code of Ethics
The working group on the preparation of proposals for supplementing the University Code of Ethics with provisions governing corporate ethics continues its work (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 23 December 2019 and 25 May 2020). The chairperson of the working group Professor Alla Shaboltas, Dean of the Faculty of Psychology, spoke about the results of the group's activities. She noted that the current University Code of Conduct defines all the basic foundations of ethical relationships at the University. At the same time, the Code requires a more detailed specification for a clearer understanding of the ethical norms of life of our University by its students and staff. In particular, there was a proposal to identify and prescribe the inadmissibility of certain specific unethical forms of behaviour.
7. University videos
With the onset of the pandemic, University students and staff started requesting a video postcard about St Petersburg and the University. Applicants and students from other cities and countries would then be able to see how the University was living, and they could feel the atmosphere of the Northern Capital and the oldest university in Russia.
The meeting participants were shown a video postcard about St Petersburg University, as well as the video 'Medicine at St Petersburg University: Science and Education'. All videos are available on the official YouTube channel of the University.
The directors and the deans were instructed to send proposals on the topics and possible content of other videos about the University for example: 'St Petersburg University as a pedagogical university' and 'St Petersburg University as a sports university'.