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.

During the presentation of the Centre and the work that it is involved in, alternative solutions to several different problems were used as illustrations. One example was the current status of supplemental pay at clinics for medical staff who are working today in the ‘red zone’. The analysis was based on fast-track data received directly from the systems of the organisations and the supervisory agencies that were being monitored. Based on this data, the average payments for each health worker were analysed and decisions were made. A second example focused on monitoring the construction of new clinics in the Russian provinces. Instead of querying the regional administrations, connections were made to video surveillance cameras at the sites where renovation or construction were supposed to be in progress, and a real picture was obtained. At those sites where there were none, cameras were installed in a day and construction began immediately!

In this way, experts can analyse primary digital data that they receive within a system model, and the new information allows government agencies to respond very quickly when dealing with a variety of problems.

It was noted at the Rector’s meeting that this is a new approach to information management that takes into account its accuracy, integrity and verifiability. Performance requirements are also important, and they should be measureable, attainable and verifiable. The activities of individuals and organsations will be evaluated using a ‘digital footprint’ and data from as many sources as possible. Such an approach will make it possible to detect instances of data corruption fairly quickly. Quality requirements and the objectivity of information will be enhanced. At our University, a similar approach to data management has been in effect for many years.

For example, as far back as the early 1990s, it was well known at the University that the staff of the natural science divisions in Peterhof (especially the research institutes) worked differently on different days. But nobody could explain what exactly was behind this. In 2010-2012, however, the Vice-Rectors for Mathematics, Mechanics, Control Processes, Physics and Chemistry Ilia Dementiev and Vladimir Eremeev (‘On the way to a unified university: Vice-Rectors for the areas of study’) simply requested the data for electricity consumption on different days in the buildings in Peterhof. It became clear at once how active the research and teaching staff were on each day of the week, and two obvious ‘working days’ were identified. This made it possible to decide how to distribute the equipment of the Research Park (‘Research Park: On the Road to the Future’) and to use the premises in Peterhof more effectively.

Until an extensive inventory of all the University halls of residence was carried out in 2011-2012 and an open database was established, it was not known exactly how many vacant and occupied places there were overall and how many there were in each specific hall of residence (‘Please vacate the premises!’ and ‘Students’ halls of residence: past and present’). This made it impossible to properly organise student accommodation and to increase the effective use of the halls of residence. In 2012, the 1C software module was put into operation, and the administrative staff in the halls of residence worked with it. And since 2014, an open service with an external interface has been in use at the University. It is universally accessible, so anybody can see how many vacancies there are.

Until a single and open database of classrooms was created in 2014-2015, they were constantly in short supply (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 12 May 2014’). Problems pertaining to the scheduling of classes were similarly addressed (2014-1015) (‘SPbU E-Services in Education: Past and Present ’), as were problems connected with access to and improved use of research equipment (since 2010) (‘Research Park: On the Road to the Future’), improved effectiveness of leasing out premises (since 2008) (‘Rental of University property: past and present’), improved operational efficiency of the Research Library (since 2011) (‘How we put an end to the chaos’), the organisation of museum activities and improved use of University collections in teaching and research (since 2011) (‘University museums: a triumphant leap from the past into the future, Part 1’ and ‘University museums: a triumphant leap from the past into the future, Part 2’), the publications of the academic and research staff (since 2015) (‘"Correction of errors" in RSCI ’) and increased efficacy of publishing (since 2016) (‘The University’s scholarly journals: from «homemade» to authoritative international publications’).

Following a discussion, the Vice-Rectors were instructed to assess how digitised the ongoing processes are in each of the subdivisions that are within their areas of responsibility, how prepared each of the University services is to present verified digital data on its work, and how prepared the staff are to work with this type of information. Our information-sharing system should comply with the principles and requirements of the digital economy. It was noted that the level of information integration of different services and divisions is still far from perfect, and the issue of digital literacy among the staff has not been fully resolved. What is more, expert assistance is needed to properly analyse the raw data of the organisations.

2. The University has been allocated funds from the Reserve Fund of the Government of the Russian Federation

In connection with the pandemic, additional funds were allocated to the chief administrators of federal budget funds (ministries and departments of the Russian Federation, along with state-financed institutions with dedicated federal government funding) by a government decree of 15 June 2020. It should be recalled that our University was given the status of chief administrator of federal funding in 2009 with the adoption of a special law on Moscow State University and St Petersburg State University. In June, the University received 148.6 million roubles to support educational activities and 37.7 million roubles to develop medical activities. This decision was based on sharply defined criteria used to evaluate universities that are chief administrators of federal funds.

According to the results of the monitoring of financial management carried out by the chief administrators of funds from the federal budget, in the past three years St Petersburg University has gone from 84th to 5th place in the rating of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation and has joined the AA+ group (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 8 June 2020’). The results of this monitoring are taken into consideration when decisions are made on the allocation of funds to ministries, departments and other chief administrators of federal funds.

The decision to allocate funds was also based on an efficiency audit of how effectively chief administrators used the federal government funding previously provided to them. Based on an analysis of decree No 3154-r of the Russian Federation, dated 28 November 2020, St Petersburg University was allocated 96 million roubles to support educational activities and 97.2 million roubles to develop medical activities. These funds may be used to pay academic and research staff, healthcare workers and staff involved in the arts and culture (the categories used in the monitoring). These funds will be disbursed before the end of the calendar year.

3. About organisation of the learning process

In the past week, the Virtual Reception has received 30 appeals from teachers and from students and their parents (of which 16 were about academic issues), and the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods has received another 15 by email. These included questions about the schedule for retaking exams and about the format of classes and the midterm assessments (for example: ‘About the midterm assessment and online classes’).

The Virtual Reception has also received appeals from students who complained to the St Petersburg University Ethics Committee about the improper behaviour of one teacher. This allegation is being reviewed by the Committee. The students believe that this teacher might unfairly assess their knowledge during a pass/fail and a graded exam and have asked that they be replaced by another teacher. It turns out that the teacher had classes with several groups. Classes in this subject, however, have already been completed for the autumn semester, and, according to the curriculum, the midterm assessment will be held during exams at the end of the spring semester. The students’ request for a replacement will be taken into account: another teacher will be appointed for the pass/fail and the graded exam, but not necessarily the one the students have requested. In this way, maximum objectivity will be ensured for these students during the midterm assessment.

At the last Rector’s meeting, on 30 November, in terms of the scheduling for resitting pass/fail and graded exams (both of which will be part of an additional exam period), it was reported that, according to University regulations, a student must be informed three calendar days prior to a pass/fail exam and one week prior to a graded exam (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 30 November 2020’). One undergraduate student wrote to the Virtual Reception that for a long time they were unable to learn when the resitting of a pass/fail exam would take place, and when they were finally informed (in the middle of the day on which the pass/fail exam was to be held), it was already too late. As a result, they missed the resitting. This happened, in their opinion, because they had been misinformed by the staff in the Academic Office. An investigation was conducted into the student’s appeal. It turned out that the date and time of the pass/fail exam had been posted in the electronic timetable in time, but the staff in the Academic Office had incorrectly advised the student. As a result, the student took the exam on another day, and disciplinary action will be taken against the staff of the Academic Office.

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 in order to recognise glitches in the academic process as soon as they arise. As an example, the Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies, Alexey Rodionov, read out a number of questions that had been put to him during a meeting with the faculty’s student council. One question concerned physical training classes. At the meeting, it came out that these classes are being held, but, in order to participate, students must first sign up for teams in individual sports, for sections. These activities are organised by physical training supervisors in each sport (teachers in the Department of Physical Culture). Physical training classes, provided for by the curriculum, are held in accordance with the timetable (as video lessons, theoretical classes on the MS Teams platform and other forms, depending on the sport). The directors and deans were reminded that all first-year students (including international students) should be assigned to different groups for physical training classes.

Another question from Asian and African Studies students was about the system of proctoring in online courses. The same question was asked recently by biology students (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 2 November 2020’) and by mathematics students (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 30 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 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 student council of the faculty about the use of the Examus proctoring system. Information about the possibility of using the Linux Information System when taking an exam with Examus proctoring was quickly verified. During testing of this software, no problems whatsoever have arisen. Mr Starostenko proposed that the faculty’s student council should be convened in an online video conference to give the students advice, to answer their questions and to assuage their concerns (as has already been done at the request of the deans of the Biology, Law and other faculties).

It was explained that there are limitations on the use of the Examus system during assessment procedures when mobile devices are used. The mobile communication format is intentionally not used in Examus proctoring from a methodological point of view, since it is possible with mobile devices to bypass a screen recording and to cheat (there is no way of verifying who is answering the questions).

Should problems arise in equipping students with personal computers or video cameras during a pass/fail or graded exam, the dean of the faculty, the director of the institute or the administration of the division should be contacted directly. In such situations, these issues are dealt with there and then: the student can take the exam or the assessment for an online course in an equipped classroom in one of the University’s teaching facilities or a hall of residence. To help students accessing the exam from a location in Russia outside St Petersburg, the University will find a way to use equipment in one of its partner universities. Facilities are available for international students either in university-based Russian language testing centres in different countries or at international partner universities. In any case (as it has been reported time and again), in a discipline in which there are technical problems in taking exams, it is possible to file a request for the exams to be set up outside the regular exam timetable. This request should be sent directly to the head of the Academic Office or the deputy administrator of the academic division in the relevant field.

There was yet another question from Asian and African Studies students about the working hours of their branch of the Scientific Library. It was explained that the Rector’s staff includes persons who are in high-risk groups (those who are either in the 65+ category or who suffer from chronic illnesses). In accordance with the recommendations of Rospotrebnadzor (the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing), they have been transferred to a remote work format. According to the data obtained during the past three weeks, the incidence of COVID-19 among the administrative staff is higher than among the academic and research staff. For this reason, the staff of the Scientific Library (including those who work in its faculty branches) take shifts, which ensures that the library is open to visitors. This takes into account that some staff members are ill. The students proposed that the working hours of the branch library be shifted so that it would open and close at later times. This proposal has already been put into effect. The directors and the deans were advised to consult with representatives of their student councils and find out what their students’ wishes were concerning the timetable of their branch of the library.

4. St Petersburg University online courses are at the top of Russian, European and world rankings

On 3 December, Coursera published its ranking of the most popular online courses for 2020 by country (Most Popular Courses by Country 2020). In the category ‘Most popular courses in Russia’, first place went to the St Petersburg University online course Neurolinguistics, authored by a team of contributors under the supervision of Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya. This course is offered in English.

Courses from other Russian universities were included in the ranking: ‘Python Programming Basics’ and ‘Economics for Non-Economists’, from the Higher School of Economics (2nd and 6th places, respectively); ‘Mathematics and Python for Data Analysis’, from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (8th place); ‘The Basics of Photography’, from Novosibirsk State University (9th place); and An Introduction to Machine Learning, from Yandex and the Higher School of Economics (10th place). There are also courses from foreign universities among the top ten most popular online courses in Russia: Learning How to Learn, from the University of San Diego; English for Career Development, from the University of Pennsylvania; The Science of Well-Being, from Yale University; and Machine Learning, from Stanford University.

A bit earlier, the largest international aggregator of online courses, Class Central, which regularly reviews the major trends in massive open online courses (MOOCs) and the statistics, had come out with its ranking of the most popular online courses in the world (The 100 Most Popular Free Online Courses), and it included two English-language courses from St Petersburg University. In the top 100 for 2020, our courses, Neurolinguistics (under the supervision of Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya) and Japanese for Beginners (under the supervision of Associate Professor Inga Ibrakhim) are in 29th and 31st places, respectively. The audience for these courses, which were launched on 26 March and 4 May, has already exceeded 50,000. Another Russian university, the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, is also represented in the ranking, with the course Diving in Python, which is in 63rd place.

It was noted that the presence of St Petersburg University online courses in international rankings is not an accident but the result of the systematic and concerted efforts of teams of professionals.

For a number of years (beginning in 2013), the Higher School of Economics had been the leader in online education. Last spring, however, St Petersburg University was able to turn the tide in its favour, to take over the leadership, and we are continuing to widen the gap. Students prefer our online courses, which are based on the latest advances from the top-ranked schools of thought and have been developed by the best teaching staff.

Since last spring, St Petersburg University has borne the palm on the national Open Education platform, on which 146 (out of 663) courses are currently posted. The Higher School of Economics is in second place, with 100 courses, and St Petersburg Polytechnic University is in third place, with 90. It should be pointed out that Polytechnic won the tender to set up the Regional Centre of Competencies in Online Education with funding of 22 million roubles. Other universities represented on the National Platform of Open Education (NPOE) — Moscow State University, along with Tomsk State University and Tyumen State University — have received similar grants, while St Petersburg University has absolutely no government support for the development of online courses.

St Petersburg University, however, now ranks first not only in the number of courses but also in the audience its courses reach: the number of participants in St Petersburg University online courses has already surpassed 1.7 million people. The Higher School of Economics is in second place, and St Petersburg Polytechnic University holds third place.

In December, thanks to the posting of a large amount of educational content, St Petersburg University was able to enter the top five among educational institutions posting online courses on the Coursera platform. By comparison, the absolute leader on Coursera — Google Cloud (USA) — offered 204 online courses. In second and third place were the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (148 courses) and the University of Colorado at Boulder (125 courses). As of 5 December, St Petersburg University had posted 122 online courses there and shared fourth place with the University of Pennsylvania. From among Russian universities, our closest competitor is the Higher School of Economics, which has posted 106 online courses on Coursera and is in ninth place.

The Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development at St Petersburg University, Vladimir Starostenko, noted that the audience for online courses is also growing steadily, with an increase of up to 1,500 participants a week for popular courses. The collaborative efforts of the teaching staff who are the authors of these courses and the team at the Centre are aimed at producing superior online courses in line with the latest developments in information technology and business practices.

Thanks to the persistence of the teams of authors, who have continued to work during the pandemic, St Petersburg University significantly expanded the range of its courses in the autumn of 2020. Many of the new courses represented genuine breakthroughs in the technology of online courses. Among them, The Computer Game Industry: Key Legal Problems (created by Vladislav Arkhipov) and Criminology (authored by Anna Gurinskaya), which were filmed in a completely new style, deserve special attention.

The Computer Game Industry: Key Legal Problems was filmed as a computer game, which the user plays as they go through the course, and Criminology, as a crash course. Both courses are already available on the Open Education platform and have been well received by the outside audience.

By means of illustration, as of 12 December 2020, 2,081 people had registered on the Online Education platform for The Computer Game Industry: Key Legal Problems. The author of the course, Doctor of Law and Associate Professor Vladislav Arkhipov, recently won the Digital Lawyer of the Year award, which is part of the Runet Prize 2020, in the special category of the Moscow Digital School, Best Teacher of Digital Law, for significant achievements in pedagogy and for putting into practice supplementary pre-professional programmes in the field of digital and information law. What tipped the scales in his favour was, in large part, the online courses that he has developed.

In addition to the growth in the audience, St Petersburg University online courses have shown good financial results. Financial projections were reported at the Rector’s Meeting at the end of October (‘Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 26 October 2020’). New data, based on the results of the fourth quarter, will be announced after we receive data from the platforms in February 2021.

In the near future, a contest will be announced on the St Petersburg University website in order to come up with new online courses in 2021, and more authors and groups of authors, inspired by the success of their colleagues, will be able to put forward their ideas to further expand the range of online offerings. The profitability of this undertaking and the payment of royalties from sales will provide an additional incentive for the creation of new St Petersburg University online courses, unique in form and content.

5. Two St Petersburg University projects have won megagrants

The results have been tallied for the eighth round of the competition for governmental support of research to be carried out under the supervision of leading scholars (megagrants of the Government of the Russian Federation). There were 465 bids from 222 organisations (of which 138 were universities and 84, research organisations). Based on a review of these documents by the Competition Commission of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, 49 bids were rejected and 416 were admitted to the competition (of which two were withdrawn by participants and were not considered by the Commission). In the end, there were 43 winning bids.

There were 11 bidders from St Petersburg University, and two of them received support for their projects:

  • Håkan Per Hedenmalm with the project Probabilistic Methods in Analysis: Point Processes, Operators and Spaces of Holomorphic Functions (field: mathematics; St Petersburg University contact: Professor Yurii Belov from the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences)
  • Evgenii Rozanov with the project Prediction of the State of the Ozone Layer Using Atmospheric Composition Modelling and Measurements (field: earth sciences and related environmental sciences; St Petersburg University contact: Professor Yurii Timofeev from the Department of Physics of Atmosphere)

The total amount of financing for each of the projects is 90 million roubles from the grant funds for the three years it will take to carry out the projects (2021-2023).

For the sake of comparison, statistics were provided at the meeting for bids from other universities that were approved and supported:

  • ITMO University (3 supported out of 11approved)
  • Tomsk Polytechnic University (2 out of 4)
  • Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (2 out of 5)
  • Kazan (Volga) Federal University (2 out of 5)
  • Tomsk State University (2 out of 14)
  • St Petersburg Electrotechnical University ‘LETI’ (1 out of 2)
  • Moscow State University (1 out of 5)
  • National University of Science and Technology MISIS (1 out of 8)
  • National Research University Higher School of Economics (0 out of 9)
  • Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University (0 out of 9)

The participants in the meeting applauded our winners, top-level researchers who will be in charge of the St Petersburg University research laboratories.

6. The bidding for Russian Science Foundation research infrastructure grants has closed

In August of this year, a competition was announced for Russian Science Foundation grants in connection with the initiative ‘Research Conducted on the Base of the Existing World Class Research Infrastructure’, which is part of a presidential programme of research projects carried out by leading scholars, some of whom are young. The call for applications closed on 15 October.

The results of this year’s call for applications were analysed at the meeting. This year, 1,346 applications were submitted. As a result, 189 infrastructure facilities (core facility centres and unique scientific facilities) based at 144 organisations are participating in the competition. In 2019, 1,458 applications were submitted, and 256 infrastructure facilities (core facility centres and unique scientific facilities) based at 192 organisations took part in the competition.

In this year’s competition, 25 applications have been submitted from St Petersburg University to carry out projects using various educational organisations, and ten of them will involve use of the University Research Park. In 2019, 28 applications were submitted from St Petersburg University to carry out projects using various educational organisations, and 12 of them involved use of the Research Park.

In terms of the number of applications filed, this year’s leaders among educational institutions are the following:

  • The Kurchatov Synchrotron Radiation Source, National Research Center ‘Kurchatov Institute’ (50 applications filed)
  • The St Petersburg University Research Park (49 applications)
  • Third and fourth places are shared by ’Human proteome’ Core Facility (the Institute of Biomedical Chemistry) and the Moscow State University Supercomputing Centre (33 applications)

In terms of the number of applications filed, the leaders in 2019 among educational institutions were the following:

  • St Petersburg University Research Park (44 applications)
  • The Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences (29 applications)
  • The Almazov Centre of Preclinical and Translational Research (28 applications)
  • The Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (27 applications)

In terms of the number of applications, Moscow State University is the leader with 69, and they break down as follows: the Moscow State University Supercomputing Centre (33 applications), the National Depository Bank of Living Systems (16 applications), the Accelerator Complex of the Institute of Nuclear Physics, Moscow State University (12 applications), the 3D Electron Microscopy Unique Scientific Facility (5 applications), and the Sub-diffraction Microscopy Core Facility Centre (3 applications).

The Kurchatov Institute is in second place with 58 applications, including 50 applications from the Kurchatov Synchrotron Radiation Source and 8 from the Neutron Research Complex on the premises of the IR-8 reactor. With 51 applications, Tomsk State University is in third place. This number includes 18 applications from the High-Performance Systems and Technologies Core Facility, 14 applications from the Research Library of Tomsk State University, 7 applications from the Mega-facility system of experimental bases located along the latitudinal gradient, 7 applications from the Tomsk Regional Core Facility Centre, and 5 applications from the Radiophysical Complex: High-Altitude Polarisation Lidar for Atmospheric Sensing and the Tomsk Ionospheric Station.

Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology is in fourth place with 50 applications, including 18 from the Advanced Imaging Core Facility, 16 from the BioImaging and Spectroscopy Core Facility and 16 from Genomics Core Facility. The St Petersburg University Research Park is in fifth place with 49 applications.

The Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University is in sixth place with 42 applications, including 25 from the Polytechnic Supercomputer Centre, 11 from the Computer Engineering Centre, 5 from the Information and Library Complex and one from the Laboratory of Aerodynamics and Heat Exchange.

It was noted at the meeting that what we are talking about at the moment is the applications that have been accepted. The results of the competition will be announced on 1 March 2021. There have been changes in the infrastructure portfolios provided by the leading organisations to external users, and this has resulted in additional applications. It makes sense for the University to re-evaluate its resources and activities and to identify elements of its research infrastructure that need to be reformatted in order to be able to present them to the wider academic community. It was suggested that the directors and deans review the applications that have been filed, assess the possibilities of the academic and research divisions and then make proposals based on unique elements of the research infrastructure.

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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