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.

The University formed a commission to further discuss these suggestions. As suggested by the heads of the academic and research divisions, the commission includes the following members: members of the University Academic Council  and members representing nine academic and research divisions in medicine and health at the University. Among them are members from the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies, Faculty of Biology, Faculty of Psychology, Faculty of Sociology, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Physics, Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics, and Institute of Chemistry. The commission will focus on discussing both the suggestions offered by Dr Fedotov and more general issues relating to ensuring effective collaboration between the University's divisions in Medicine and other areas to improve the efficiency and quality of research and education in biomedicine and human health. These are the results of discussing the suggestions offered by Dr Yury Fedotov at the meetings of the Academic Council of the Faculty of Medicine and the Academic Council of the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies. The meeting of the commission is scheduled for this week.

2. Death of a student from the People's Republic of China

The members of the Rector's meeting stood for a minute’s silence for Wang Tieguanyin, who originally came from the People's Republic of China and studied at the University. She died from a bodily disease in a hospital in St Petersburg. The University has managed to connect with her family to support her relatives in obtaining all necessary documents to visit St Petersburg. The University promptly applied to the Chinese Consulate-General in St Petersburg to support her brother in obtaining a visa following a special procedure. The University is continuing to cooperate with the hospital to get the necessary documents for repatriation. The University will give every support to her brother during his visit to St Petersburg.

3. Organisation of teaching and learning

Over the last week, the Virtual Reception received 47 enquiries from academic staff, students and their parents, with 28 enquiries relating to academic issues. In addition, 17 enquiries were submitted to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods through the University email service, including 12 enquiries relating to academic issues. Among the enquiries were those concerning issuing notes, providing access to the University's online courses, winter holidays, readmission and transferring, and student exchange. Some of the enquiries were related to changing the mode of delivery.

Some of the enquiries submitted to the Virtual Reception must be satisfied promptly. For example, an enquiry has been received from the mother of a philology student. It said that one of the courses within the academic programme had not been delivered for a certain period of time. The inspection revealed that the lecturer had been ill. Although the head of the department was aware of the situation, nevertheless he failed to forward this information to the relevant administrative divisions. Therefore, there was no substituting or rescheduling. The course had not been delivered during three weeks. The student and her group fellows were informed that all the lessons would be delivered in due course. Yet they were scheduled at additional hours. Rescheduling will cause difficulties for the students, which could be avoided if the lessons had been delivered at the initially scheduled time. The Rector asked Mr Vladimir Eremeev to obtain information as to why the head of the department had failed to forward the information to the Academic Department.

An enquiry has been submitted from a student of intra-extramural form of study that he and his group fellows had not been informed that the resit examination had been scheduled for 12 October. Yet this information could be found in the online timetable. As they did not have information on the date of the resit, they were all absent. They all got 'failure to appear'. Consequently, they have to take the resit examination in front the commission. The student thinks it is unfair and asks for the case to be investigated (Additional assessment session for law students of intra-extramural form of study).

An international student in mathematics has recently transferred from another university. He started to attend lessons in distance mode in mid-October. He was told that the assessments would be held in the nearest future and he had some difficulties in learning the material. The video is of poor quality as is the sound quality. What is written on the board is also difficult to see in the distance mode. The Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics Aleksandr Razov helped to connect the lecturer. The video streaming was improved and the lecturer sent all the materials to the student.

It was noted at the meeting that each situation must be processed on a case-by-case basis and the decisions should be made separately, each according to the facts of the particular situation.

Besides, it is time to appoint research supervisors for postgraduate students, including international students. The deans and directors are asked to inform the research supervisors as to what information they should provide to the students and how defending the final graduation project differs from defending the candidate dissertation. The aim of pursuing the study at the postgraduate level is to prepare a research work. Defending a final graduation project in due course is obligatory as is defending the candidate dissertation. The students should first defend the final graduation project and then a candidate dissertation in front of the Dissertation Council.

All directors and deans continue regular meetings with the student councils of the academic subdivisions and report weekly on how the learning process is organised and what work is done with the students and student councils. The report from the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences Sergei Ivanov failed to be submitted.

4. New members of the Praesidium of the University Student Council elected

The University's student councils are given a wide range of rights. The University United Student Council was formed in 2011, while its Praesidium that acts as a standing executive committee was formed in spring 2012 (The University Student Council and the rights of students: from past to present). Each spring the Praesidium chooses new members through the election process. In spring 2020, due to the pandemic, voting through a secret ballot was far from being possible to organise. The term of the Praesidium was subsequently extended. On 23 October, the Praesidium elected its new members for the eighth time. The Student Council's meeting discussed the candidates and elected the members by secret ballot. Artem Miasnikov, who also serves as the chairperson of the Student Council of the Faculty of Psychology, is elected Chairperson of the University Student Council. Mikhail Martin, Chairperson of the Student Council of the Institute of History, is elected Deputy Chairperson, while Mikhail Mochalov, Chairperson of the Student Council of the Institute of Earth Sciences, is elected secretary of the University Student Council.

5. Benefits for those who take part in Olympiads for students and in professional competitions

An overview has been provided of the range of benefits to or in respect of applicants to the master’s and postgraduate  academic programmes offered by the University in 2021. They must have won or have been awarded a prize at the student Olympiads, professional competitions, or other projects held within the president platform 'Russia is Land of Opportunity'. This includes the Russia-wide student Olympiad 'I am Professional' that is among the top projects. The University acts as an organiser in two areas: Linguistics and Literature Studies and Law; and a co-organiser in another 12 areas of study. The fourth season was announced to start (Student Olympiad 'I am Professional'. The start of a new season in 2020/21).

Winning intellectual and creative competitions is regarded as an individual achievement that can add 5 and up to 100 points to the admissions results. Yet the applicant must score at least 65 points for the entrance examination when applying to master’s or postgraduate  programmes. This year, 73 applicants scored additional points and therefore ranked higher in the overall rankings.

Besides, winning intellectual and creative competitions will provide benefits to students in settling into the student accommodation, choosing the candidates for the Rector's scholarships, and offering a place in the University's recreation centre (The projects of the platform 'Russia is Land of Opportunity').

6. Results and outcomes of developing and launching the University's online courses

During previous years, the University has moved to the forefront of Russian online education. In April, it ranked first in terms of the number of the courses offered on the Russian National Open Education Platform (St Petersburg University becomes the leading university in the number of online courses on the Open edX platform). Today, the University offers 146 online courses on the Russian National Open Education Platform.

The University offers 103 online courses on the Coursera. This makes the University on a par with the world's top ten companies. Among them are Google, University of Michigan, University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania, University of California, and Johns Hopkins University. They are the top institutions that offer the highest number of courses on the Coursera.

In the spring term, the number of students of the online courses tripled and reached over 430,000. The total number of students of online courses offered by the University increased over 1.52 million and equalled 22% of the total number of students who use the Russian National Open Education Platform (The University's online courses becoming more and more popular during the pandemicThe number of students taking online courses at St Petersburg University has exceeded 1,000,000).

An overview has been provided of the results of implementing the financial plan to develop and launch online courses this year. Among the most popular courses are Neurolinguistics, Russian as a Foreign Language A1, Japanese Language, Chinese for Beginners, Quantum Computing, and Financial Literacy. Each week, there is an increase of up to 500 new students who register for these courses. The University has signed over 30 network agreements and is holding negotiations with other institutions to teach their students in groups of 500 and up to 1,000 students in each.

The revenues from the courses are increasing. Some of them have already covered the development costs. Among the courses that generate high profit are Efficient Manager and Russian as a Foreign Language A1, to name but a few.

Increased demand for online courses and yielding financial gain lead to delivering better online education. The University is successfully implementing its social mission of spreading education by providing its courses and certification to students across Russia. Since mid-March, students from as many as 89 education institutions have completed the online courses offered by the University. Upon recommendations from the administrative staff of 66 Russian universities, as many as 13,000 students and lecturers were enrolled on the online courses offered by the University. Moreover, students from another 23 education institutions registered for the courses individually.

Now, the University is reopening access to its educational resources. As many as 146 online courses on the Russian National Open Education Platform are free. To be enrolled on the course, students need to register for the course by filling in the registration form. The University will help obtain a free certificate on successful completion of the course and support transferring credits between institutions.

Offering the online courses can implicitly benefit the University as well. This will build up the unrivalled reputation of the lecturers and researchers, and attract new students from across the world to the master’s and postgraduate  programmes at the University.

The activities undertaken by Ekaterina Babeluk, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, Extracurricular Affairs and Methodological Support, were identified as the key driver in developing and delivering the online courses. In March 2017, she initiated and opened the Centre of E-Learning Development. The Centre had its own infrastructure that enabled developing online courses on a large scale. In addition, the members of the meeting paid attention to the primary role of the lecturers who developed and made online courses popular and continued to work at the forefront even during the pandemic.

7. The 2020 open monograph competition results announced

According to the results of the 2020 open monograph competition, the ranked list of monographs to be submitted for publication by the Publishing House of the University has been announced (Order No 9432/1 dated 22 October 2020). The ranked list includes 20 works that underwent double-blind peer review by external and internal experts. Among these works are ten monographs that are recommended to be published in the Publishing House of the University; two works recommended to be published in the international publishing houses affiliated with the University; and eight works recommended to be published if financial support is provided. First in the ranked list is the monograph Psychological framework for HIV prevention by Professor Alla Shaboltas.

8. Results of the survey among the University's administrative staff on remote working

The results of the survey among the University's administrative staff on remote working have been announced. It was held from 1 to 12 June. The survey included 45 University administrative divisions and departments, including top-level and middle-level managers as well as non-managerial employees.

The survey showed that the overwhelming majority, 82%, think that COVID-19 is dangerous, and 79% think that all the measures introduced by the University in its response to the pandemic are reasonable. The vast majority, 93%, think that shifting towards remote working is reasonable. The majority of the surveyed employees, 74%, have moved to remote working, while 22% of the respondents reported that, while working in a virtual setting, occasionally worked on-site when needed.

Remote working and distance learning enable more active use of the information systems and other digital technologies (Zoom, MS Teams, and Discord to name but a few) than before the pandemic. The majority of the surveyed employees, 75%, experienced no difficulties in using the information systems while working remotely. Over two thirds knew that they could contact the University Information Technology Service if any technical problem arose, with 57% contacting the Service. Yet about 20% of the respondents reported that they had no idea as to what division to contact if they had faced a problem, with 14% of the respondents saying they had not been well informed. The most frequently asked question submitted to the University Information Technology Service was how to gain remote access to the University services: remote desktop, information systems, and databases. The results of the survey showed that MS Teams should be used as the main information system in organising distance learning at the University.

Key questions were included in the survey. One of them gave a better understanding of whether moving online could result in poor communication and how the employees interacted with each other. Remote working can pose difficulties for performance management as managers cannot check on what their team is doing as they would normally happen on-site. Some working issues cannot be solved during a phone call or by communicating with the employees from the next room. Yet the survey showed that remote working did not cause any serious problems.

Non-managerial employees reported that they could contact 94% of the top-level managers and 82% of the middle-level managers at any time, including evening time, weekends, and holidays, while in fact 0% of the top-level managers and 15% of the middle-level managers were accessible only during working hours. The top-level managers could contact 82% of the middle-level managers and 76% of the non-managerial employees at any time, including evening time, weekends, and holidays. While only 16% of the middle-level managers and 23% of the non-managerial employees were accessible only during their working hours.

The survey showed that 33% of the managers and 54% of the non-managerial employees reported that while working remotely they had more time to perform their duties and functions as a result of more efficient time management and delegation of duties. The results of the survey identified a trend that the more managerial duties they had, the more comfortable remote working was.

As reported by 34% of the respondents, the most serious difficulties were related to not being able to access the archives, form sheets, record books, and seals. In fact, 29% of the respondents reported that working at home was not a comfortable working environment or there were no necessary devices at hand (multi-function devices, the second monitor and so on). 14% of the respondents reported that they experienced difficulties due to having to accommodate family needs.

Remote working had little or no impact on communicating between colleagues from different departments. The overwhelming majority, 86%, said that they communicated by using a wide variety of communication channels, including email services, telephoning, messaging, Zoom, and others. Yet there were some difficulties in the communication between the administrative staff, 32%, and students. 42% of the respondents from the administrative staff said that they had difficulties in communicating with the academic staff.

The majority of the surveyed employees opted for continuing to work remotely. Only 16% of the respondents were not satisfied with having to work remotely. The most popular mode of working, 55%, was combining remote working with occasional working on-site when needed.

The results of this survey and other surveys, including those among the academic staff and students, were taken into consideration when adopting the decision to shift towards remote working and distance learning in September.

9. What agreements have to be provided in order to participate in the competitions to fill academic positions

Among the qualification requirements that must be satisfied when applying to fill the relevant position is 'the number of the grants (agreements) that the candidate participated in as a head or an executive manager'.

Each year, the University issues an order which explains this requirement. According to the order issued this year, the list of activities for what the grant (agreement) can be referenced is supplemented by the recommendations suggested by the deans and directors:

  • expert evaluations carried out upon the task delegated by the Director of the University Centre of  Expert Advice;
  • creating online courses as an author of the course or a head of the group of authors;
  • undertaking research work or research and development work with financial support received from the University or external organisations as ordered by the University;
  • agreements on organising and carrying out the research events, including small-scale research events, with financial support provided by the external organisations.

The activities listed above shall be regarded as the grants (agreements) in which the candidate acts as a head or an executive manager. No requirements for the amount of financial support are applied as stipulated by the (Order No 9380/1 dated 21 October 2020 'On explaining the agreements on preparing for organising the competitions for filling academic positions in the 2020/21 academic year').

10. Decisions of the Ethics Committee

The Chairperson of the Collegia of University Honoured Professors Nikolay Bogomazov reported about the decisions relating to discussing the submitted enquiries to and adopted by the Ethics Committee.

  • The University received a letter that reported the decision adopted by the DFG Joint Committee in relation to the behaviour of Dr Brukhin, Deputy Director of the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics. As reported by the DFG, Dr Brukhin, in his expert evaluation report on the application submitted to the DFG, used the work of another author without permission, credit, or acknowledgment: Vladimir Brukhin and Ramamurthy Baskar, Evolutionary and ecological role of apomixis and asexual reproduction, The International Journal of Plant Reproductive Biology 11 (1) Jan., 2019, pp. 70-83. The Vice-Rector for Research Sergey Mikushev informed the DFG that he had applied to the University Ethics Committee. Dr Brukhin quitted the job without waiting for the decision to be adopted by the University Ethics Committee and was subsequently hired as a head of the laboratory at the ITMO University. The members of the meeting were unanimous in their decision that this information on the unfair conduct of Dr Brukhin should be sent to the DFG, Russian Science Foundation, Russian Foundation for Basic Research, and Rector of the ITMO University.
  • An enquiry has been submitted from the Editorial Board of the online journal. The enquiry concerned a former student who had experienced harassment from a University Professor (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 14 September 2020 and 30 September 2020). In response to the University appeal, the law enforcement authorities performed an investigation. No evidence of violation was found. 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 lecturer and the reputation of the University (Decision of the Ethics Committee dated 13 February 2013). Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, reported that the decision adopted by the Ethics Committee would be included in Daria Valeeva's profile. This information will be automatically transferred to the graduate's personal account and accessible via the QR-code. If a duplication of the diploma is issued, it will also have the QR-code.
  • Students reported that posts had been published by a lecturer in the social network concerning insults about other people's ethnic descent and confession, displaying images of banned Nazi symbols and racist statements. These publications have become available to a wide audience. This information formed the basis for a statement sent by Deputy Rector for Security Elena Sharygina to law enforcement authorities (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 05 October 2020). The Ethics Committee decided to postpone discussing the case until receiving the reply from the law enforcement authorities.
  • An enquiry has been submitted by Ivan Nikiforov. Having no affiliation with the University, he reported about an associate professor in Asian and African Studies insulting students in the social network. During the meeting held by the Ethics Committee to discuss the case, Associate Professor Somkina regrettably explained that she had been extremely indignant as the students had failed to prepare for the lesson. Taking into account the positive personal assessment report of Associate Professor Somkina provided by the Faculty of Asian and African Studies, the Ethics Committee drew a conclusion to avoid taking any disciplinary action against Associate Professor Somkina.

The decisions adopted by the Ethics Committee will be published on the  University's website before 6 November 2020.

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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