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.

Among the founders and initiators of the Global MOOC Alliance are the three largest online educational platforms (XuetangX, Thai MOOC and edX) and universities that are actively engaged in designing and using massive open online courses. XuetangX is the world’s largest Chinese national online educational platform, hosting over 3,100 online courses with more than 228 million participants. As for edX, it is one of the world’s largest online open-source platforms, founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in May 2012. It currently hosts over 2,800 online courses with an audience of 100 million students. Learning management systems built on the open-source platform service Open edX are very popular and are used to support the teaching and learning process. St Petersburg University’s own online education platform is also based on Open edX technology. Thai MOOC is a project of Thailand Cyber University, which has brought together more than 100 partners to present 472 online courses.

The founding universities are the leaders in online education in their regions. This includes Cornell University, one of the best known universities in the United States and a member of the Ivy League; Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which is ranked 11th in the world and 3rd in Asia in the QS World University Rankings 2020; Politecnico di Milano (the Polytechnic University of Milan), which in 2019 was ranked 16th in the world among technical universities according to the Top Universities Ranking (which is compiled by Times Higher Education) and, according to the number of online courses, is currently in second place among European universities that are partners on the Coursera platform; the University of Nairobi in Kenya, which ranks among the top ten universities in Africa and is the leader of online education in the African region, having initiated the creation of an African online educational platform; and the University of Toronto in Canada, which, according to The Times, is the leader in Canadian higher education, and whose online course ‘Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19’, presented on Coursera’s largest international online platform, is among the most popular in Canada (with almost 140,000 people registered), while another course, ‘Learning to Program: The Fundamentals’, also on the Coursera platform, made it into the top 100 courses of 2020 (with more than 220,000 people registered).

St Petersburg University Rector Nikolay Kropachev, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, briefed participants in the first Global MOOC Conference on the University’s experience in the development of online education, both before the COVID-19 pandemic and after it began, when it was able to quickly adapt to the new conditions and maintain its standards of teaching at the highest level. The Rector noted the University’s key takeaways from this experience.

On the one hand, by using information and communication technologies during the pandemic, e-learning makes it possible to take full advantage of the knowledge, experience, talent and creative potential of academic staff. On the other hand, it enables the advancements of e-learning to be introduced into the academic activities. E-learning does not and cannot disavow the quality of university education.

St Petersburg University Rector Nikolay Kropachev

‘The pandemic has shown how much the academic community needs cooperation (‘Nikolay Kropachev, Sergei Belov and Yulia Linskaya Propose Strengthening Cooperation in the System of Higher Education’). The academic community around the world needs to expand national and international collaboration, the insufficient level of which was highlighted by the pandemic. Especially we need to consolidate our efforts in relation to e-learning. As a result, we are delighted to be part of the Global MOOC Alliance. This organisation will definitely be at the heart of the success of international collaboration and implementation of the state-of-the-art pedagogical technologies and practices,’ said Nikolay Kropachev.

He also noted that St Petersburg University has a longstanding relationship with China: among our partners, there are more than 50 organisations from the PRC and 50 companies with Chinese capital. The list of our partners includes the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, Tsinghua University, Pekin University, Fudan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, the Huawei Technology Company and many other organisations. The Rector expressed confidence that the Global MOOC Alliance will be an effective platform for us to continue cooperating with our Chinese partners, something that no external factors, including the pandemic, can bring to a halt.

The Chinese Minister of Education, Chen Baosheng, noted that the PRC is today’s world leader in the number of MOOCs, with more than 30 large online platforms offering 34,000 online courses. There are 540 million students enrolled in these courses, and this is the largest audience for online courses in the world. Chen Baosheng stressed that, in setting up the Global MOOC Alliance s, one of the objectives was to expand the access to Chinese educational products. The Minister added that another aim of this alliance was to increase the availability of knowledge and the global development of lifelong learning. ‘Education,’ he said, ‘is no longer the privilege of classrooms and books. They have been supplanted by huge arrays of knowledge on the Internet, which provide many more opportunities for learning.’

One of the initiators of the MOOC Alliance and one of the organisers of the Conference, Tsinghua University, is a long-time partner of St Petersburg University. Qiu Yong, the President of Tsinghua University, noted that today’s educational organisations need to promote openness. ‘More openness means relief from physical boundaries, technical restrictions, and identity constraints, enabling more high-quality educational resources to be shared with learners around the world in a more convenient and effective manner. Universities with more openness will achieve equity in education on a larger scale, promote lifelong education with more effectiveness, and advance exchanges and cooperation among the global society and mankind with an inclusive humane sentiment and a broader vision for school management,’ said Qiu Yong.

The UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini, also noted the importance of developing online education to widen the access to knowledge. She stressed that the principles of inclusion, equity and quality must come to the fore, and every learning platform or resource should serve these principles. At the same time, she made the point that education cannot go fully online, and the pandemic, surprising as it may seem, has proven that. ‘Let’s be honest: we have learned one important lesson from the pandemic — students need their teacher. Interaction between people and live communication remain at the heart of the teaching and learning process. We must develop a new type of relationship. It should involve technology, teachers and students to avoid falling into the «digital divide» and falling out of step with the times. Teachers should develop their professional skills in this direction and look for new ways to deal with such challenges.’

All participants in the first Global Conference of the Alliance supported the adoption of the 2020 Beijing Declaration on MOOC Development. One of the goals of the MOOC Alliance is to form a global community interested in the exchange of quality educational resources. The Alliance will promote MOOCs and best teaching practices in online education, as well as develop international cooperation between leaders in the field of innovative educational technologies. The Global MOOC Alliance will also help its members achieve one of the United Nations sustainable development goals: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. (‘St Petersburg State University is a co-founder and first representative of Russia in the Global MOOC Alliance’).

It was remarked at the Rector’s Meeting that our University is rightfully considered to be a leader in the field of online education: the University has initiated the Russian National Educational Online Platform ‘Open Education’. Today, the University ranks number one in terms of the courses available on this platform and the number of students. There are 146 courses out of the total of 663. The total number of students on the platform is 7 million, while the number of students of the University’s online courses on the national platform is about 2 million..

Additionally, the University is ranked first among European universities in the number of online courses on the international educational platform Coursera with 130 courses. It is third in the world after Google Cloud (USA) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA). Two years ago, St Petersburg University became the first and remains the only Russian university whose online courses are hosted on the largest Chinese platform XuetangX.

The participants in the meeting spoke about how the Modern Digital Educational Environment is a priority project in Russian education. And about how today online education offers different courses for different universities and different students. Our challenge at St Petersburg University is to develop online courses that are so good they will be sought after not only in Russia but also on the market of learning services in other countries. The directors and the deans were instructed to guide the University’s academic staff in their development of these courses so that they take into account not only the interests of Russian universities but also those of other countries.

2. St Petersburg University’s positions in the RUR Subject Rankings

In as little as one year, St Petersburg University has risen in the Round University Ranking (RUR) Subject Rankings a full 87 positions in the humanities, in one fell swoop, and taken 91st place in the world, moving from the Golden League into the Diamond League. The University has also improved its position in the social sciences, going from the 255th spot on the list of rankings to the 222nd.

The Round University Ranking is an international rating of universities that has been published since 2010 by the Moscow agency RUR, based on data provided by the Clarivate Analytics Company (institutional data, data from a survey of experts and data about publication activity on the Web of Science). The rating evaluates the performance of more than 1,000 leading universities according to four lines of activity: teaching; research; international diversity; and financial sustainability.. What is more, each of the indicators is given equal weight within a group. The effectiveness of the world’s leading universities is assessed according to six consolidated subject areas: the Humanities, the Life Sciences, the Medical Sciences, the Natural Sciences, the Technical Sciences and the Social Sciences (‘St Petersburg University is among the world top 100 universities in the Round University Ranking (RUR) in the humanities’ ).

In the 2020 subject ratings, St Petersburg University occupies the following positions:

  • in the Humanities: 91st place (2nd place in Russia out of 53 universities (moving up 87 positions by 2019)
  • in the Social Sciences: 222nd place (2nd place in Russia out of 57 universities (moving up 33 positions by 2019)
  • in the Life Sciences: 192nd place (2nd place in Russia out of 46 universities (moving up 27 positions by 2019)
  • in the Technical Sciences: 226th place (2nd place in Russia out of 66 universities (moving up 9 positions by 2019)
  • in the Natural Sciences: 286th place (6th place in Russia out of 57 universities (moving down 41 positions by 2019)
  • in the Medical Sciences: 401st place (7th place in Russia out of 25 universities (moving down 152 positions by 2019)

Not all the leading universities in the Russian Federation participate in the Clarivate Analytics surveys, and therefore they are not all represented in the ranking.

It was brought to everybody’s attention that such a sharp improvement in the rankings as in the Humanities shows how important it is to present accurate information to the ranking agency. The challenge in front of us all is to hold on to the positions that we have won. The directors and the deans were instructed to come up with concise plans of action so that we can devise an overall strategy for the University (which should include the internationalisation of our activities and the development of tools to increase the transparency and openness).

3. The bioinformatics team at St Petersburg University is among the ‘Heroes of the Year’

The team from the Center for Algorithmic Biotechnology at St Petersburg University (led by Pavel Pevzner and Alla Lapidus) has been recognised by the special project Heroes of the Year — Energetic People. This project is a story, told through interviews, about events that took place during what was a force-majeure year. The editors of RBK Petersburg find heroes that offer solutions to respond to the challenge of the epidemic, to the lockdown, to the uncertainty, and discuss these decisions with our business community, our partners, and RBK’s audience. The site of the project highlights the importance of bioinformatics at St Petersburg University, which, in a short period of time, has created a number of programmes for decoding virus genomes. It also enumerates the positions of business leaders, who assess the significance of the University’s decisions from the perspective of the business community.

It was stressed at the meeting how important it is to prepare media support for research in a timely fashion. It was noted that, aside from their undisputed scientific achievements, the staff at the Center for Algorithmic Biotechnology laboratory were the authors of the first online course at St Petersburg University. There is a clear need to quickly provide material about the work of the research teams to promote basic and applied research. The Bioinformatics Team not only conducts outstanding research, but they also regularly provide material about the laboratory to the Public Relations Department for release to the media. The directors and the deans were instructed to focus more intently on working with all of the research teams to come up with popular-scientific materials on the activities of the researchers and the laboratories.

4. The nomenclature of the academic programmes for which academic degrees are awarded is under discussion

A draft decree of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation ‘On the approval of the nomenclature of academic programmes for which degrees are awarded’ has been prepared. A new nomenclature of academic programmes for which degrees are awarded is being proposed: a number of former programmes have been excluded, others have been altered, and new ones have been included. According to the developers, measures have been taken to consolidate the nomenclature, to create conditions for training and to conduct research on an interdisciplinary basis. Until 14 December, public debate on the draft decree was held on the federal portal for projects involving statutes and regulations.

According to a new decree, which will come into force on 1 July 2022, a new nomenclature for academic programmes will be put into effect. Dissertation committees, whose authority is at odds with the nomenclature, will cease operations starting on the same day.

The participants in the Rector’s Meeting noted a number of contradictions in the draft decree prepared by the Ministry of Education and Science. They also saw a need to make substantial adjustments in each subject area (which would be done by local experts) and to develop a consolidated St Petersburg University position on this issue. The directors and the deans were instructed to submit proposals to the Vice-Rector for Research to adjust the nomenclature of academic programmes for which degrees are awarded and to express their opinion on the relevance of changes in the actual state of affairs during the public debate on the federal portal of draft normative legal acts.

5. Results of the Young Scholars Competition

The candidates for 2020 have been selected in the competition for the granting of subsidies to individuals under 35 years of age who are young scholars and young candidates of science in higher educational establishments and institutions affiliated with government departments and the Russian Academy of Sciences that are located in St Petersburg. This year, 339 applications were received (122 from young scholars and 217 from young candidates of science), and 264 of them have been approved. The maximum amount of the subsidy is 100,000 roubles for young scholars and 150,000 roubles for young candidates of science.

A total of 25 applications were submitted from St Petersburg University, of which 21 have been approved and are in the running for the grant (2 from young scholars and 19 from young candidates of science). It would seem that the percentage of approved applications is high, but in terms of both the number of applications submitted and those that have been approved, we are in fourth place, behind three other city universities: Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University (with 37 out of 51 applications approved), Saint Petersburg Mining University (33 out of 40) and ITMO University (33 out of 55).

It was noted at the meeting that among the applications from St Petersburg University, there is not a single one from young scholars and young candidates of science in a number of fields: history, sociology, economics, psychology, pedagogy, informatics and earth sciences. It was stressed that the departments of the institutes and the faculties do not do enough work with young scholars. It was also noted that the application process has been simplified. To confirm how much research they have carried out, grant recipients need to submit a report that they have published only two papers a year. In addition, the University provides quarterly bonuses to the winners of academic competitions. Now, when the directors, deans, and academic advisors make appeals for financial support for young scholars, they will be obliged to ask them how many academic competitions they have participated in and how many they have won.

It was also pointed out that some members of the academic staff have refused to participate as experts in this and some other regional and all-Russian competitions. The reasons for such refusals will be analysed. The participants in the meeting reported that when experts from federal academic foundations are invited to participate in competitions, if they refuse, they are required to explain why. It was proposed that a similar entry be included in the documentation of the citywide academic competitions. An appropriate proposal will be sent by the Vice-Rector for Research to the Vice-Governor in charge of the competition.

6. St Petersburg University is the most sought-after Russian university among international students

For the third year in a row, St Petersburg University has become the most popular Russian University among foreign students (‘St Petersburg University: the most popular Russian university among international students). This was announced at a recent meeting by Pavel Shevtsov, Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) (Presentation of Pavel Shevtsov ‘On the role of Rossotrudnichestvo in the export of education’). As part of competitive selection conducted by Rossotrudnichestvo in 2020, 16,620 international students manifested a desire to enrol at St Petersburg University. By way of comparison, 13,905 foreign nationals expressed a wish to study at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), 10,939 at the Kazan (Volga) Federal University, 6,950 at Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University and 6,614 at the Higher School of Economics (the last two, as can be seen, did not even cross the 10,000 threshold).

Information about the number of acceptances is also posted on the Rossotrudnichestvo website.

St Petersburg University’s popularity among international applicants was taken into consideration in the allocation of quotas for 2020. Factoring in the number of admissions in 2019, the Ministry of Education and Science increased the number of places for our University in 2020 by 13 percent. At the same time (taking into account the additional places that were meted out last summer), the increase compared to 2019 was almost 200 percent. It should be pointed out that the competition by way of Rossotrudnichestvo at St Petersburg University was 50 applicants per place, at the Higher School of Economics, 26, and at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, 10.

The participants in the meeting said that the teaching load for academic staff working with internationals students has increased substantially this year due to the astronomical enrolment of foreign applicants. Everybody was reminded how important it is to prepare for these new conditions ahead of time, which includes the calculation of the teaching load and the use of the classrooms, and to take measures in order to regulate them.

7. Organisation of the learning process

In the past week, the Virtual Reception has received 36 appeals from teachers and from students and their parents (of which 18 were about academic issues), and the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Teaching Methods has received another 18 through her email. These included questions about transfers and reinstatements, the handling of different documents, the receipt of status certificates, the ECTS grading scale, academic leaves and other topics.

One teacher writes to the Virtual Reception that in the Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 23 November mention is made of ‘weekly consultations during which it is possible to get answers to questions about current issues, to discuss the preparation of term papers, graduation papers and various student projects, and to get the assistance you need to solve problems’. These consultations are now included in the timetable. On the whole, in his opinion, the idea is an excellent one, since it gives a kind of framework for the relationship between teacher and student. But at the same time, questions remain about teachers’ obligations. As he sees it, consultations might be seen by students as additional classes in the subject taught by this teacher.

It was explained at the meeting that consultations are not additional classes. Decree No 301of the Ministry of Education and Science of 5 April 2017 establishes the procedure for carrying out educational activities, by which it is specified that working with students includes both group and individual consultations, guidance with term papers and graduation projects, and supervision of students’ self-study. These kinds of work are mentioned alongside the teaching of classes. On the basis of information provided by the directors and deans, a schedule of teachers’ consultations has been drawn up. Students can see it in their personal accounts (based on information reflected in the Electronic Timetable) and can ask teachers questions at that time and get answers to them.

Another question in the Virtual Reception comes from a student who has to take two pass/fail examinations for online courses using the Examus system. She is worried that she might have to sign a consent form to have her personal data processed. It was explained at the meeting that Examus is a well-known proctoring service on the Open Education platform that provides the measures that are essential to protect private data. Before taking a pass-fail examination and being subject to the proctoring procedure, every student consents to have their personal data processed. This consent is necessary to ensure that the online video recording of the examination can be stored for as long as it is needed to identify and resolve any problems that might arise during the examination.

There are two options: the consent can be given directly to Examus, or it will be transmitted through the consolidated information received by the academic offices, similar to the consent given by all students at the time of admission to the University (this consent has been given by students at St Petersburg University since 2010 so that they have access to electronic systems). The student, however, needs to report their decision to the relevant academic office. If they do not consent to the use of the Examus system, they will not have access to the proctoring service and consequently will not be able to undergo the final assessment in this online course and receive a pass for the discipline. It was once again noted that a student can undergo a midterm assessment in one of the classroom buildings at St Petersburg University or use an equipped classroom in one of the halls of residence.

8. The holding of University-wide conferences

On 24-25 December, University-wide conferences will be held in all fields of study in which research is conducted at St Petersburg University. This will allow us to take stock of the research that has been carried out over the past year. These conferences are open, on a first-priority basis, to academic and research supervisors of doctoral students and research supervisors of master’s and doctoral programmes who, in accordance with the educational standards, are obliged to annually submit the results of their research for peer review at national and international conferences.

9. The activities of the Euler International Mathematical Institute

In August 2019, a project of the Euler International Mathematical Institute (EIMI) was announced as one of four winners of a contest for the creation of international world-class centres. This contest took place as part of a national project to promote research. It was set up at a consortium of St Petersburg University and the St Petersburg Department of the V.A. Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (PDMI RAS) (Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting dated 2 September 2019; Results of the Meeting of the St Petersburg University Academic Council dated 28 October 2019, the Scholarly Paper section).

Roman Bessonov, the coordinator of EIMI, reported that there are more than 70 members on the staff at the Institute, 90 percent of whom are under the age of 39. The staffing of the Institute is open to all, and it is highly competitive. One of the goals of the Institute is to encourage young people to become researchers. To this end, they have started up a programme to attract postdocs and leading young researchers, who come here from all over the world to carry out research and to teach. During the competition, 149 applications were submitted, the selection took place in 3 stages, and there were only 12 winners. Many of them had participated in competitions at other research centres, but EIMI was their first choice.

This year, six seminars of different types are being held online, which will offer beginning researchers an opportunity to present their best results to an international audience. There is, for example, a weekly seminar (the Seminar in Spectral Theory and Related Topics), in which more than half of the speakers are researchers from Austria, England, Greece, Denmark, the USA, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Russian research centres. There is also the Number Theory Seminar, which is organised by guest researchers, who complement the basic course of lectures. And a seminar in low-dimensional topology, initiated, organised and conducted by students who have won beginning research positions at the centre.

In November and December, two big online schools are also being held, each with more than 200 participants from Russia, Germany, France, Sweden, England, Israel, Norway, the USA, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, China and India, the majority of whom are young researchers. The Randomness Online School brings together prominent researchers, whose names alone can attract large audiences. One of its goals is to prepare for EIMI’s New Trends in Mathematical Stochastics programme to be held in 2021. And the objective of the Analysis, Probability and Mathematical Physics School is to attract external candidates to EIMI’s doctoral programmes. In this school, the lecturers give out tasks related to their courses in different fields of mathematics and evaluate the participants’ solutions.

The Institute also has a popular science programme to promote mathematics and attract talented schoolchildren to the University’s academic programmes in the field of mathematics. As part of this programme, videos for a wide audience have been made of some of the best lectures from the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, and any schoolchild can watch them. In addition, the Physics and Mathematics Club at PDMI RAS has organised an open lecturers’ room for mathematics students at various levels and a seminar, Industrial Mathematics, with the active participation of the Institute’s staff involved in applied mathematical problems (Presentation by Roman Bessonov).

10. The experience of working with students in MS Teams

On 3 December, as part of the seminar Practices of Liberal Education, Denis Akhapkin, Associate Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in Languages and Literature , gave a presentation ‘Liberal Arts practices in distance learning: experience with MS Teams’ at St Petersburg University. At the Rector’s Meeting, he highlighted a number of features attributed to academic courses that use e-learning technologies. In particular, the effect of ‘conversations in the corridor’ between students and teachers is lost. It is therefore of the utmost importance that a system of support for asynchronous work, a carefully considered structuring of students’ self-study, be organised (Mr Akhapkin proposed a possible weekly schedule). It is necessary to come up with a venue for discussion, a series of repetitive tasks to be done between classes and a means of giving regular feedback to the teacher. Systematic written assignments facilitate a common understanding of the material, encourage its reinforcement (through repetition) and stimulate criticism of the ideas that are already in play and the generation of new ones.

Mr Akhapkin described some forms of working with students. These types of tasks are widely used in Liberal Arts interactive pedagogy for a traditional classroom setting. Many of them turn out to be not only possible but also more effective when used with e-learning technologies. He illustrated the principles behind these tasks in MS Teams, but they can be used in other platforms (Canvas, Moodle, etc.). He drew a number of conclusions about this work:

Denis Akhapkin’s Presentation

  • Most students react positively to such assignments and do them
  • Classes become more lively because students’ written work is used
  • The teacher sees when students do not understand the material and can devote more time to explaining it in class
  • Working with such tasks does not significantly increase the teacher’s workload

The participants in the meeting took an interest in these pedagogical practices and asked for more details, so that they could be applied in the different institutes and faculties. The Rector mandated that the opportunities offered by e-learning technologies to upgrade teaching and research at St Petersburg University should be discussed at the meetings of the academic committees.

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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