Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting

No. 513
28.02.2022

    Measures to support citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), and Ukraine

    By order of the Rector of St Petersburg University dated 26 February 2022, a special fund was set up to provide financial support to students who are in a difficult financial situation from the Donetsk’s People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine. To receive financial support, students may apply at urm@spbu.ru or at the email address of the deputy heads of the Department for Youth Affairs in the relevant areas of study. Detailed information is available on the web-page of the Department for Youth Affairs.

    During the meeting, it was also noted that St Petersburg University offers services of the Psychological Clinic and Legal Clinic where student who need psychological or legal advice can receive free legal assistance or psychological counselling. Detailed information on how to receive psychological assistance is available on the webpage of the Department for Youth Affairs.

    The St Petersburg branch of the Russian Red Cross Society is collecting humanitarian aid, and anyone who wants to can participate in this effort.  At the moment, the most important items being collected in St Petersburg are food, water, personal hygiene products, pillows and blankets.  More detailed information is available on the page of the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Red Cross.  In addition, an endowment account has been opened to support internally displaced persons.  Donations can be made on the home page of мывместе.рф or on the official website of the Russian Red Cross. 

    The directors of the institutes and the deans of the faculties at the University, in conjunction with the Academic Affairs Department and the Department for Youth Affairs, are advised to hold online meetings with students who are citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), and Ukraine to learn about each student in need of help and provide help to these students. 

    Meeting with the students who are planning to study abroad

    Due to the current international situation, an information meeting was held online with St Petersburg University students on 24 February. An information meeting has also been held with students who are planning to travel to other countries this spring under academic mobility programmes or are already studying at foreign partner universities.

    A total of around 150 students, who are planning on going to or are in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea and other countries, participated in the conversation.

    Irina Novikova, Dean of the School of International Relations, Aleksandr Kurochkin, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, and Veronika Koytova, Head of the International Academic Cooperation Department, gave the students advice on how to conduct themselves abroad in the face of increasing international tension. They reminded them that their main objective is to study and that they should resist the urge to become involved in any conflicts or give in to any provocations. Veronika Koytova, Head of the International Academic Cooperation Department, responded to students’ questions about current issues related to their studying and staying at St Petersburg University’s foreign partner universities. She also noted that the staff of the International Academic Cooperation Department is always ready to be contacted by students and, if necessary, to help them out.

    As Aleksandr Kurochkin said at the Rector's meeting, the students calmly, in a business-like manner, joined the discussion of issues that concern them (lack of direct flights, finances, and accommodation to name just a few). They are sure that the University will always help them.

    Measures to support Russian students in universities abroad

    St Petersburg University is also prepared to provide Russian students with an opportunity of transferring to the University in St Petersburg if they are having any difficulties in continuing their studies abroad.

    Applications will be accepted at spbu@spbu.ru, and the subject of the email should be ‘A transfer to St Petersburg University from a foreign university’. Applications can also be submitted via a form. More detailed information can be found in the section ‘Academic Activities’.

    Vaccination against COVID-19

    The meeting participants continued to discuss the process of vaccination against COVID-19. Over the past week, the overall number of students with vaccination, past disease certificates within the last six months or medical exemption certificates has increased by 0.18% (from 43.43 to 43.61%).

    The information on the students’ vaccination across the fields of study:

    Area of study

    Vaccinated

    As of 25 February 2022

    Biology

    54.04 %

    Asian and African Studies

    68.93 %

    School of Journalism and Mass Communication

    24.33 %

    Institute of History

    42.48 %

    Institute for Cognitive Studies

    44.44 %

    Institute of Earth Sciences

    48.54 %

    Institute of Pedagogy

    49.02 %

    Institute for Competition Development  and Antimonopoly Regulation

    91.67 %

    Institute of Philosophy

    44.67 %

    Institute of Chemistry

    69.92 %

    Arts

    42.58 %

    Mathematics and Computer Science

    50.84 %

    Mathematics and Mechanics

    45.4 %

    Medicine

    54.51 %

    Medical College

    60 %

    International Relations

    40.92 %

    Management

    43.05 %

    Political Science

    36.52 %

    Control Processes

    41.94 %

    Psychology

    43.11 %

    Liberal Arts and Sciences

    48.62 %

    Sociology

    36.01 %

    Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies

    44.51 %

    Physics

    55.96 %

    Physical Training (bachelor’s programme)

    76.19 %

    Physical Training (non-university level higher education,  excluding under age students)

    42.59 %

    Philology

    49.74 %

    Economics

    29.5 %

    Law

    35.61 %

    Total

    43.61 %

    Growth

    0.18 %

    The information on the vaccination of research and academic staff at the faculties and institutes:

    Subdivision

    Total

    Vaccinated

    Antibodies

    Medical exemption

    % as of 18 February 2022

    % as of 25 February 2022

    Academic Gymnasium

    81

    57

    6

    6

    85.2 %

    85.2 %

    Faculty of Biology

    329

    279

    20

    6

    92.7 %

    92.7 %

    Military Training Centre

    34

    29

    3

    2

    100 %

    100 %

    Faculty of Asian and African Studies

    150

    128

    9

    10

    98 %

    98 %

    Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication

    119

    89

    13

    10

    94.1 %

    94.1 %

    Graduate School of Management

    89

    69

    8

    5

    92.1 %

    92.1 %

    Institute of Earth Sciences

    249

    223

    13

    4

    96.4 %

    96.4 %

    Institute of History

    141

    121

    6

    5

    93.6 %

    93.6 %

    Institute for Cognitive Studies

    14

    12

    1

    1

    100 %

    100 %

    Institute of Pedagogy

    7

    7

    0

    0

    100 %

    100 %

    Institute for Competition Development  and Antimonopoly Regulation

    9

    6

    2

    1

    100 %

    100 %

    Institute of Philosophy

    130

    111

    10

    9

    100 %

    100 %

    Institute of Chemistry

    264

    242

    14

    8

    100 %

    100 %

    Department of Physical Training and Sports

    53

    41

    5

    7

    100 %

    100 %

    College of Physical Training and Sports, Economics and Technology

    78

    59

    8

    7

    94.9 %

    94.9 %

    Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty

    328

    258

    24

    4

    87.2 %

    87.2 %

    Medical College

    23

    19

    2

    1

    95.7 %

    95.7 %

    Faculty of Medicine

    320

    246

    21

    7

    85.6 %

    85.6 %

    Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes

    209

    148

    19

    9

    84.2 %

    84.2 %

    Faculty of Foreign Languages

    298

    213

    28

    17

    86.2 %

    86.6 %

    Faculty of Arts

    104

    88

    6

    4

    94.2 %

    94.2 %

    Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science

    122

    100

    3

    2

    86.1 %

    86.1 %

    School of International Relations

    120

    92

    7

    16

    95.8 %

    95.8 %

    Faculty of Political Science

    42

    35

    5

    0

    95.2 %

    95.2 %

    Faculty of Psychology

    169

    130

    15

    8

    90.5 %

    90.5 %

    Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

    88

    76

    3

    1

    90.9 %

    90.9 %

    Faculty of Sociology

    90

    70

    6

    4

    88.9 %

    88.9 %

    Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies

    90

    54

    17

    2

    81.1 %

    81.1 %

    Faculty of Physics

    435

    359

    33

    6

    91.5 %

    91.5 %

    Faculty of Philology

    456

    357

    45

    21

    92.3 %

    92.8 %

    Faculty of Economics

    167

    133

    12

    8

    91.6 %

    91.6 %

    Faculty of Law

    153

    116

    19

    5

    91.5 %

    91.5 %

    Total

    4,961

    3,967

    383

    196

    91.6 %

    91.6 %

    As of 25 February, the percentage of vaccinated teachers exceeded 80% in all academic and research subdivisions and 90% in the majority of subdivisions.  The overall number of the University staff vaccinated against COVID-19 exceeded 90% already in December. 

    Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, reminded that in order to shift to in-person classes, the number of vaccinated academic staff shall exceed 80% and the number of vaccinate students shall exceed 40%. Over the past week, the number of subdivisions has not increased. Currently, there are 24 subdivisions that can discuss the shift to in-person classes.

    The heads of academic and research subdivisions shall continue explaining the need for vaccination to staff and students. 

    Format of the teaching and learning process

    Taking into account the proportion of students who were vaccinated or had COVID-19 in the relevant areas of study and taking into account the proposals of the heads of academic and research subdivisions, there was issued Order No 1589/1 'On amendments to the Order No 'On the validity of the Order No 7991/1 “On the format of the teaching and learning process in the 2021/22 academic year” dated 13 August 2021 in the period from 11 February 2022’ dated 24 February 2022.  According to Order, the teaching and learning process in Journalism, Economics, and Law shall be implemented using information and telecommunication technologies until 21 March 2022, and the teaching and learning process in Liberal Arts and Sciences shall be implemented in a blended format from 28 February 2022.

    The teaching and learning process in other areas of study is implemented as it was previously established (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 7 February 2022).

    International students who are forced to leave Russia due to the requirements of the states of which they are citizens will be given the opportunity to continue their education remotely.

    Current issues with organising the teaching and learning process

    Over the past week, the St Petersburg University Virtual Reception has received eight enquiries addressed to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, with another ten enquiries registered in the catalogue of student applications.

    The enquiries varies in topics, including: transfer to  government-funded places  at St Petersburg University; clarification of the Order dated 21 January 2022 No 349/1 'On the validity of the Order dated 13 August 2021 No 7991/1 “On the format of the teaching and learning process in the 2021/22 academic year” in the period from 24 January 2022' ; accelerated degree programmes at St Petersburg University ; format of the teaching and learning process.

    According to information from the heads of most academic and research subdivisions, classes are delivered according to the timetable in the prescribed manner. Information about the teaching and learning process was not received from the heads of the Faculty of Arts, the Graduate School of Management, the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technology, and the Medical College.

    Some heads did not hold meetings with representatives of student councils over the past week, but such meetings took place in some of the divisions.

    At the meeting of the Dean of the School of International Relations with representatives of the Student Council, the transition to a blended learning format from 28 February 2022 was discussed in relation to the fact that the indicator of 40% of vaccinated students had been achieved. Moreover, in the first semester the teaching and learning process in two first-year groups, where international students prevailed, was carried out using information and communication technologies. Currently, the teaching and learning process in only one group will be carried out using information and communication technologies. One of the groups, due to the high percentage of vaccinated students and the arrival of some international students in St Petersburg, is switching to a hybrid format of education.

    At the meetings of the heads of the Institute of Chemistry, the Faculty of Medicine, the Institute of Philosophy, and the Faculty of Biology with representatives of student councils, the issue of using encryption technologies during the interim assessment was discussed. Encryption will ensure that we can exclude subjective factors in assessing the academic achievements of students and it will also increase the credibility of the grades given to students during the interim assessment. However, according to members of the Student Council of the Faculty of Biology, students have no reason to doubt the objectivity of assessment by academic staff.

    Current issues of organising the teaching and learning process were discussed at meetings with members of student councils and heads of the Institute of Chemistry, the Institute of History, the Faculty of Philology, the Faculty of Political Science, the School of International Relations, the Faculty of Biology, and the Institute of Philosophy.

    Meetings were held with representatives of the student councils of the deans of the Faculty of Physics, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Economics.

    Information about organising meetings with student councils was not received from the heads of the Faculty of Arts, the Graduate School of Management, and the Medical College.

    Regulations on project activities of students at St Petersburg University approved

    In accordance with the instructions of the Rector and in order to develop the project activities of the students of the University Order No 1276/1 dated 17 February 2022 approved the Regulations on the project activities of the University students.

    The Regulations define the basic principles for organising project activities for students at St Petersburg University. Project activities of students can be organised in the relevant forms: a practice-oriented project, a research project, internship as participation in the work of a project team or a research laboratory, an exhibition project, and development of a start-up project to name just a few.

    In order to increase student engagement in education and research, cross-disciplinary and interpersonal interaction between students in various areas of academic programmes, the University offers competitions of projects (for example, the contest of interdisciplinary knowledge-intensive start-up projects ‘Start Up SPbU’). Their aim is to develop original, science-driven and/or socially oriented commercially promising projects.

    Customers of projects can be: the University; organisations-partners of the University; organisations which are engaged in carrying out practices; the Endowment Fund of St Petersburg University; and small innovative enterprise (SIE) of St Petersburg University to name just a few. Project participants can be the University students and staff. Persons external to the University may also act as participants.

    The results of project activities (including those achieved during start-up projects) of students can be taken into account as a term paper or graduation project, as part of training in the disciplines (modules) of the academic programme or practices.

    Since 2018, St Petersburg University has been actively engaged in work to support the achievements of students who participate in project activities. On 12 July 2018, Order No 6853/1 ‘On Accounting for the Entrepreneurial Achievements of St Petersburg University Students’ was issued. Later, in order to increase the attractiveness of the development of projects for the University students, changes and additions were made to this Order. In the 2019/20 academic year, the categories of students who can defend the graduation projects in the form of a start-up project was expanded: not only the winners of the start-up project contest, but also all participants in the final round. In the 2020/21 academic year, it is possible to consider a start-up project not only as a graduation project, but also as a term paper.

    The first defences of graduation projects in the form of start-up projects took place in 2019. In 2020 and 2021 this practice was continued: since 2019, the defence of graduation projects in the form of start-up projects has been held in the areas of Management, Applied Mathematics and Informatics, Chemistry, Economics, Medicine, Asian and African Studies, Biology at various levels of education (bachelor’s, master’s, specialist’s levels).

    The heads of academic and research subdivisions were instructed to intensify support for project initiatives of students and academic staff, to stimulate the use of the format for the preparation of various projects by students in educational, scientific and extracurricular activities. The basis for the further development of the project work of students is the long-term and successful experience of the start-up project contest at St Petersburg University.

    Opening a branch of St Petersburg University in Gatchina in the Leningrad Region

    For several years, St Petersburg University has been implementing the master’s academic programme ‘Condensed matter physics at mega-class research facilities’, the master’s academic programme ‘Physics’ with blocks of disciplines ‘Neutron and synchrotron physics’ and ‘Nuclear physics’. As Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods, said the implementation of these programmes involves close cooperation between St Petersburg University and the National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’ – B.P. Konstantinov Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute that is located in Gatchina in organising internships for students, teaching a number of basic disciplines at the site of the Institute, conducting research, completing graduation projects under the supervision of academic staff of the National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’ - B.P. Konstantinov Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute.

    Based on the results of a discussion between Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, and Mikhail Kovalchuk, President of the National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’, Dean of the Faculty of Physics of the University, it was decided to apply to Alexander Drozdenko, Governor of the Leningrad Region, with a proposal to establish a branch of St Petersburg University in Gatchina, the Leningrad Region. The opening of the branch of St Petersburg University in Gatchina will contribute to the implementation of the Federal Scientific and Technical Programme for the Development of Synchrotron and Neutron Research and Research Infrastructure, which particularly focuses on personnel training.

    The opening of the branch will allow solving infrastructural and logistical problems in relation to organising training programmes and joint scientific projects, intensifying cooperation between St Petersburg University and the National Research Centre, improving the quality of training for physics students, and implementing academic programmes in other areas of study, such as chemistry, and biology to name just a few in the branch. It is important that the project will expand the possibilities of multidisciplinary training of specialists for further work at the National Research Centre ‘Kurchatov Institute’ in various areas of research.

    The opening of the branch will also help increase admission to academic programmes, primarily at the master’s level, by targeting applicants from countries and regions that are building or operating mega-class research facilities. These regions include, in particular, the Far Eastern Federal District, and among the countries abroad is Belarus.

    To prepare for the opening of the branch of St Petersburg University in the Leningrad Region, a working group will be created and headed by Aleksey Titov, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Physics of St Petersburg University. Directors and deans were instructed to submit proposals on candidates for the working group, on possible classes on the premises of the branch.

    Creating the educational platform of St Petersburg University

    The work on creating an own educational platform of St Petersburg University has completed following the Rector’s order of 14 August 2019. Currently, the employees of the Centre of E-Learning Development at St Petersburg University work on completing the tests on putting the platform into commercial operation and increasing the workload. Today uninterrupted operation of the platform can be provided for 1,000 - 1,200 students at the same time. This indicator will increase by 8 to 10 times by the end of this academic year (St Petersburg University is putting its own online educational platform into commercial operation).

    According to Vladimir Starostenko, Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development, the platform will allow the University to implement not only online courses of St Petersburg University that are currently offered in external educational resources like the Coursera international platform and the Open Education national platform, but also academic programmes (degree and non-degree) implemented in a remote format. 

    The platform supports the functions required for comprehensive education in a remote format. Currently, it features Zoom to hold video conferences, the Examus invigilation service, external services (Google Docs), chats to interact with teachers and students as well as other standard tools provided by the Learning Management System (Ims).

    A resource for online testing sessions by the Language Testing Centre has also been created as part of the platform. In part, it uses technological solutions of the online educational platform. The platform for holding test by the Language Testing Centre was registered by the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property at the beginning of 2021 (computer software registration certificate No 2021611615 dated 2 February 2021, rights holder – St Petersburg University).

    In 2021, the platform held over 16,000 testing sessions in testing Russian as a foreign language for over 3,000 international citizens. Additionally, the mechanism of sending and storing the responses was improved in July 2021.

    On 27 February, a testing session in Russian as a foreign language was completed in the Representative Office of St Petersburg University in Thessaloniki, Greece. Over 50 people took part in the session willing to test their knowledge at the levels from А1 to В1. Most of them were Greek students studying Russian at universities or planning to use it at work. Despite the international situation, the session went well (St Petersburg University conducts testing in Russian as a foreign language in Greece).

    Vladimir Starostenko noted that according to the plan, additional work should be completed by the end of the new academic year to provide full-scale operation of the platform, increasing the throughput capacity, securing uninterrupted operation and ability to withstand high loads with multiple users of the resource. In particular, the work on scaling the platform will be performed to provide full-scale technical support of the platform and additional services as soon as possible.

    Due to the threat of switching off international software, the question of connecting national analogues providing services of video conference and webinars (for example, webinar.ru, pruffme.com) has been considered since the end of last year.

    The administrator working desks will be equipped with modern computer technology with increased power capacity in order to secure uninterrupted performance of the platform and administrative support for the increased number of users (up to 10,000 to 12,000 users simultaneously).  

    Planned events on improving the reputation level of St Petersburg University

    Following the Rector's order, the directors of institutes and deans of faculties analysed the information on the place of St Petersburg University in   the RUR World Reputation Rankings and made proposals on the events in the staff teams aimed at increasing the reputation level of St Petersburg University (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 30 November 2021). According to Ivan Grigoriev, Advisor at the Rector’s Office, 155 proposals were sent by the heads of subdivisions.

    The proposals were consolidated into 37 groups and presented as ‘generalised’ events with the titles reflecting the essence of the proposals independent on specific wording.   Some wording was borrowed from the submitted proposals since they reflect the essence. The list of suggested events with the number of submitted proposals on every event is listed in Table 1 (see Table 1).

    According to the directors of institutes and deans of faculties, the following events are highly desirable:

    • increasing the citation rate by inviting the research and academic staff to publish their work in highly rated journals – events 1 and 2 (13 proposals)
    • developing the portfolio of academic programmes and online courses – events 14, 15, 16,17 (13 proposals)
    • organising participation in conferences of high research level – event 4 (12 proposals)
    • Holding high-impact research and educational events also with international participation at St Petersburg University – events 5 (12 proposals)
    • Increasing the number of productive researchers including through increasing the quantity and quality of doctoral students, attracting young motivated scientists, adjusting competition requirements, admitting international researchers, developing academic mobility and inviting interns from other organisations – events 9, 10, 12, 13, 21, 24 (10 proposals)
    • implementing research projects and publications together with partners – event 3 (8 proposals)
    • increasing the number of publications in indexed journals accounting for the quality of these publications – events 8, 33 and 34 (8 proposals)
    • distributing the information about the results achieved by the research and academic staff at St Petersburg University in a highly professional manner – events 18 and 22 (8 proposals)

    Ivan Grigoriev noted that all events suggested by the directors of institutes and deans of faculties can be included into the specific plans of events taking into account the specifics of each staff team. Some of the suggested events are already implemented at the level of the University, for example, within the University digital transformation (events 28, 29, 35) or as part of the St Petersburg University Strategic Plan 2030 (event 32). In this regard, participation of the research and academic staff in implementing the relevant events can increase their effect.

    Since the proposed events will be implemented in the staff teams taking into account their special nature, the implementation time and format will differ. In this regard, a unified system of indicators reflecting the individual content and efficiency will be introduced to control the implementation of the Rector’s order. The list of indicators has been proposed (see Table 2).

    The information on completing a part of these indicators can be collected in a centralised manner. In other cases, the directors of academic and research subdivisions should provide a standardised report on the results of implementing the events on increasing the reputation level of St Petersburg University in the staff teams reflecting the achievements of the staff on the remaining indicators.  

    Once the methodology of monitoring the indicators and their dynamics is created, it will be possible to form a ranking of the research staff teams on increasing the reputation level of St Petersburg University taking into account the quantitative characteristics and special nature of the staff teams.

    Procedure of assigning bonuses for publication activity

    Within the framework of the events increasing the citation rate of publications by the research and academic staff in the mid-term, special attention is given to the quality of research publications. Among other things, it is allowed to reconsider minimal qualification requirements to the candidates for the positions of research and academic staff, structure of the liabilities in employment contracts and the transition to calculating bonuses for publication activity. 

    Vladimir Eremeev, Vice-Rector for Human Resources, gave an example: in the 2021/2022 academic year, minimal qualification requirements to the candidates for the position of Assistant Lecturer and Assistant Professor in the number of publications in WoS CC and Scopus are not determined in 21 staff teams. It will be gradually changed in the course of the subsequent competition campaigns both in the quantitative and qualitative indicators.

    The requirements on the quality of publications in the part of the specific citation rate indicator are imposed only on the candidates seeking position in the Institute of Chemistry.  Analogous practice will be developed in other staff teams.

    In the part of labour duties, Vladimir Eremeev noted that over 70 % of employment contracts contain quantitative liabilities on publications specifically in WoS CC and Scopus, however, in the majority of cases the citation rate indicator is either defined by the wording ‘in journals with non-zero impact factor’ or not defined at all.  Only 10 % of employment contracts specify impact characteristic of the journal in one way or another: ‘publications in journals with the impact factor exceeding 2.0 or ‘publications in journals with the cumulative impact factor exceeding 1.5’. Now this practice will be widely used.

    Together with the development of minimal qualification requirements and liabilities, the order of assigning bonuses for publication activity will be adjusted, which will stimulate publication activity for most highly rated journals.  As a result, bonuses will be granted only in case of performing publication activity beyond the requirements of the employment contract and with the characteristics exceeding the minimal qualification requirements.

    The adjustments in calculating bonuses for publication activity have been proposed:

    • paragraph 2 should feature the following additional sections:
      ‘2. 4. 8. Points for research impact of the journal shall not be granted if the worker has not completed the requirements of the employment contract in the part of research impact of the journal, in which the paper is published, or if the research impact of the journal fails to exceed the level determined by the minimal qualification requirements at the moment of assigning bonuses.’
    • paragraph 3 should feature the following additional sections:
      ‘3.4. Bonuses provided by paragraph 1.3.3 of the present Procedure shall not be assigned if the value of the citation indicator (mostly from FWCI and CNCI) calculated in accordance with paragraph 3.2 of the present Procedure is less than 1.
      3.5. Bonuses provided by paragraph 1.3.4 of the present Procedure shall not be assigned if the value of the citation indicator (mostly from FWCI and CNCI) calculated in accordance with paragraph 3.3 of the present Procedure is less than 1.
      3.6. When calculating bonuses provided by paragraph 1.3.3. and paragraph 1.3.4 of the present Procedure, the value of a point should not exceed 20’.

    In the current version of the Order on the procedure of assigning bonuses for publication activity in paragraph 2.3 describing the order of calculating points for publishing the research results, it is stated that the points are not assigned if the worker has not met the requirements on the number of publications provided by the employment contract. The proposed wording in paragraph 2.4.8 offers the same principle of material incentive, when bonuses are directly related to fulfilling the requirements of the employment contract. Newly introduced paragraphs 3.4 and 3.5 secure bonuses only for the publications with the citation rate (taking into account the short-term and mid-term impact) not lower than the average in the relevant field of the journal.

    Vladimir Eremeev noted that limiting standards related to the completion of the employment contract requirements by the worker shall be used in calculation only if the requirements on the number of publications (only those indexed in WoS CC and Scopus) or research impact (quartile or impact factor) of the scientific journal is included into the employment contract with the worker. 

    The same holds good for the minimal qualification requirements on the positions introduced depending on the position of the research and academic staff in each staff team taking into account the opinion of the director of the institute or the dean of the faculty.  The relevant restriction in bonuses for research impact of the journal will be applied from the moment of approving the level of minimal research impact of the journal for the workers taking specific positions in specific staff teams. Before establishing the minimal qualification requirements, this restriction shall not be applied.

    The Vice Rector for Human Resources and the Vice Rector for Research have taken a decision to introduce changes into the order on the procedure of calculating bonuses for publication activity by 15 March 2022 as well as prepare and approve the list of minimal qualification requirements on various positions taking into account the impact of journals by the end of 2022 upon the discussion with the heads of academic and research subdivisions.

    On the activity of the dissertation councils of St Petersburg University

    The first defence of the dissertation for a research  degree following the rules established by St Petersburg University took place on 17 January 2017 (The Unprecedented Viva – the First One in Russia Conducted According to SPbU’s Own Requirements). It has been five years since then. The participants of the Rector's meeting discussed what has been done during this time period.

    Yury Penov, Deputy Rector for Legal Affairs, shared the history of this issue. In 2013, the tradition of granting the degree of St Petersburg University was restored after over 100 years (A Fresh Start: the degrees of St Petersburg University – past and present). The first 13 dissertation defences for a research degree of the Candidate of Physics and Mathematics, Biology, and Geology were held following the new rules of granting the Candidate's degree on behalf of St Petersburg University (PhD SPbSU). Since 2013, the results of defending dissertations at St Petersburg University following internal rules were acknowledged by research and academic institutions of the world except Russia.

    In 2015, proposals on the plan of events to transit to the system of university degrees in the Russian Federation were prepared for the Presidential Administration.

    The Federal Law ‘On introducing changes into Article 4 of the Federal Law “On science and the state scientific and technical policy”’ was published in 2016. According to this law, two leading universities in Russia – St Petersburg University and Lomonosov Moscow State University – received the right to hold dissertation defences following internal rules and grant research degrees of the Candidate of Sciences acknowledged by the state. The diploma confirming the degree granted by St Petersburg University gives the rights analogous to the holders of diplomas issued by the Higher Assessment Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia.

    In 2016, an open public discussion of the internal dissertation defence rules was conducted. It generated over 11,000 views and 500 responses and comments with over 50 reactions coming from representatives of external organisations. A technological platform was developed to hold the defences as well as store and access the video records.  By-law No 6821 of St Petersburg University ‘On the procedure of granting degrees at St Petersburg University’ dated 1 September 2016 was issued.  In 2017, a public discussion was held and the form of the diploma for the Candidate of Sciences and Doctor of Sciences was approved. The first dissertation defence following the internal rules of St Petersburg University was held (The Unprecedented Viva – the First One in Russia Conducted According to SPbU’s Own Requirements).

    Aleksandr Gnetov, Academic Secretary of the Academic Council at St Petersburg University, said that as of 27 February 2022, 456 dissertations have been defended with 68 candidates seeking the degree of Doctor of Sciences and 338 candidates seeking the degree of the Candidate of Sciences. The date of defence has been assigned or is being assigned for the subsequent 86 defences. 64 applicants are currently preparing the paperwork to submit the dissertations for defence, 17 applicants are studying the rules of preparing the paperwork for the defence and receiving advice (see Figure 1:  the number of defences per year).

     Yury Penov enumerated the main indicators for the system of granting research degrees at St Petersburg University:

    • higher criteria for the dissertations accepted for defences for a research degree
    • higher qualification of the members of the dissertation councils within the research field – the councils should consist of the best specialists on the topic of the defence  
    • wider possibilities for the participation of scientific community in evaluating every dissertation research

    This approach to organising dissertation defences allows for determining the ‘strongest’ and most highly qualified applicants.

    The applicants seeking academic degrees have minimal ‘paperwork’ load, which enables them to direct their intellectual and time resource at research rather than at drafting supporting documentation and providing certificates.  For example, the requirement on providing published summary of the dissertation, positive review from an organisation and other requirements were cancelled.   

    A similar approach enabled applicants to significantly reduce the defence cycle (see ‘Comparative table...’) in comparison to the dissertation defence system of the Higher Assessment Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

    The system of legal regulation of the scientific assessment that had been developed at St Petersburg University before 2017 and significantly improved since then was introduced at St Petersburg University. For example, the key provision on research attestation including the life cycle of a temporary dissertation council created for each dissertation has been developed and is being improved.  Yury Penov noted that when developing the regulation system, they made it a point and successfully used all authority secured by provisions 127-FZ to St Petersburg University as a pilot organisation.

    The quality of the legal regulatory system developed for research attestation at St Petersburg University, implementation of this system within the format of the dissertation defence life cycle, meticulous work of the internal control system – all of that resulted in zero appeals or claims on invalid granting of research degrees by the dissertation council addressed to St Petersburg University or to the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, which led to cancellation of the research degree granted by the dissertation council at St Petersburg University. In other words, no research degrees granted following the internal rules of St Petersburg University were cancelled within the stated five-year period.

    Yury Penov reminded that every five years St Petersburg University provides a report to the Federal Information System on the State Research Attestation – a distributed infrastructure of hardware and software tools providing for the collection, processing and storage of information (approved by Governmental Order No 1035 on 18 November 2013). In this report, St Petersburg University lists all the complaints and other inquiries received by St Petersburg University that correspond to the requirements of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science of the Russian Federation in terms of content and topic, that could serve as a basis to cancel the decision of the dissertation councils. The report also includes the information on the appeals.   

    Within the five-year period, the number of complaints amounted to 12: nine complaints from claimant Violetta Khabibulina, three complaints about the dissertation by Apollinariia Avrutina by claimant Arzu Sadykhova.  The complaints of the claimants were not satisfied. These decisions were inspected and approved by the staff of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

    One appeal was received by St Petersburg University during the five-year period.  Namely, following the appeal from Viktor Vorobev (incoming No 01-20-B-152 dated 18 January 2019) on the decision of the Dissertation Council at St Petersburg University 023.18.2937 dated 19 October 2018 on granting the research degree of the Doctor of Political Science in speciality 23.00.02 ‘Political Institutions, Processes and Technologies’ by Natalia Mikhalchenkova in accordance with Order of Senior Vice Rector No 6821/1 dated 1 September 2016 ‘On the order of assigning research degrees at St Petersburg University’, an appeal committee was created. The Appeal Committee held a session and took the decision to refuse Mr Vorobev in satisfying the appeal. This decision of the Appeal Committee was inspected and approved by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

    However, these are not all complaints about the system of state scientific assessment considered by St Petersburg University. There were complaints that provided no grounding for the declared violations and no specific examples of illegal actions to name just a few. For example, starting 2017, claimant Ms Khabibulina submitted over 130 complaints about the work of the state scientific assessment of St Petersburg University (registered at the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) ‘Delo’). About one half of these complaints were directed to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science of the Russian Federation and inspected by the workers of the Ministry in terms of validity.  The stated complaints were recognised invalid.

    Within the framework of the scientific assessment system at St Petersburg University, the approach to the reputation responsibility of the dissertation council members was changed fundamentally. Non-personal shared responsibility for the final assessment of the dissertation research quality was replaced by personal responsibility, when the council members hold open personal vote motivating their assessment or decision.  

    It is discussed separately, when dissertation council members can change their opinion or assessment published in the form of a written review on the website of St Petersburg University following the presentation and research discussion with the applicant.

    New forms of administrative and technical support of research attestation at St Petersburg University were developed and integrated. For example, the procedure of defending doctoral dissertations based on the collection of works and the procedure of remote interactive defence mode were developed and integrated.

     Yury Penov paid attention to the importance of using interactive mode. It can be characterised by three words: reliability, functionality, and elegance. There is no need to spend financial, time, emotional and psychological resources on arriving to the place of defence. Personal work schedule of the council member is barely violated. In this case, participation in the dissertation council work takes about two hours from the regular work at the usual work desk.  

    Applicants seeking research degrees also experience benefits of using this dissertation defence mode. If an applicant is not able to arrive to the place of defence due to closed borders as a result of the pandemic or other reasons, he or she can defend their dissertation at home (in case of reliable Internet connection).

    An important component of the research attestation system at St Petersburg University was developed and integrated: providing a possibility to expand the scientific community, which not only increased the quality of assessment of the dissertation research, but also contributed to expanding scientific contacts and discussions between researchers. For example, the number of foreign countries represented by the research council members increased in 2017-2021 from 16 to 32 and the number of international organisations employing those specialists increased from 28 to 95.

    If we turn to the defence system of the Higher Assessment Committee, the number of dissertation council members working at the organisation that hosts the dissertation council should exceed 50% of the Dissertation Council. In the dissertation defence system at St Petersburg University, a dissertation council should contain at least one or two representatives of St Petersburg University. Other members can be external experts in the field of the dissertation whether they work at St Petersburg University, Lomonosov Moscow State University or Harvard University. 

    This approach often raised a question why the diploma on the research degree is granted on the part of St Petersburg University. What is the responsibility of St Petersburg University in this case and what is the input of St Petersburg University into the research attestation if the majority of the dissertation council members are not workers or specialists of St Petersburg University?  The answer is simple: the key word is the research potential of specialists. If the best specialists in the field of the dissertation are concentrated at St Petersburg University, then the Council will consist of them only. If they are ‘spread’ around countries and continents, then the task of St Petersburg University is to assemble high quality, public and open process of the defence as well as to guarantee full compliance with the procedure and high requirements to the qualification of the applicant and their dissertation research following the rules developed and approved at St Petersburg University.   

    Special attention was directed at providing publicity and openness to the state scientific assessment:

    • all documents related to the defence are published on the website of St Petersburg University on the applicant’s page, in particular, the text of the dissertation in Russian and English;
    • the applicant’s page can be accessed instantly by any employer, who holds the diploma on the research degree, via a QR code on the diploma;
    • every meeting of the Dissertation Council on every defence is broadcast in two languages: English and Russian 
    • any specialist from any place, where they can connect to the Internet, can ask the applicant a question on the research part of the dissertation via the electronic system and receive an answer of the applicant online before the final voting following the results of the defence.  

    The number of scientific specialities, in which St Petersburg University accepts dissertations for the degree of the Doctor of Sciences and the Candidate of Sciences has significantly increased in comparison to previous years: since 2016, the number of scientific specialities has increased from 134 to 163.  

    The ‘research range’ of the dissertations accepted for defence in various research fields reflected in the passports of scientific specialities has significantly expanded: the number of scientific specialities has increased from 87 to 114. 

    A comparison of the percentage of defended dissertations in the fields of science at the present moment and in 2016 is presented (in the Higher Assessment Committee system  – see Figures 2 and 3): 

    • physical and mathematical science continue to dominate 
    • percentage of dissertations in philosophy has significantly decreased
    • the sphere of psychology, geology and mineralogy has shown significant growth

    In the past 5 years, the number of countries, from which the seekers of research degrees defended their work at St Petersburg University, has significantly increased: from 4 to 27 countries. In many cases, international PhD and doctoral students are attracted to defend dissertation for research degrees at St Petersburg University due to the open and clear procedure of forming dissertation councils, which makes it clear for international academic community and create prerequisites for a more objective assessment of the dissertation quality. 

    The near-term plans of developing the research attestation system at St Petersburg University include improving the criteria that the dissertation should meet and the quality of the defended dissertation.