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 pandemic, The 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.