Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting

No. 510
07.02.2022

    Applications for the Government of St Petersburg Official Award named after Gennady Leonov are open 

    St Petersburg Committee for Science and Higher Education announced a competition for the Government of St Petersburg Official Award named after Gennady Leonov for prominent achievements in science and technology. In this list, the Government of St Petersburg Official Award named after St Petersburg University Professor Gennady Leonov was placed between the awards named after Zhores Alferov and Leonhard Euler (St Petersburg Committee for Science and Higher Education opened the application process for the award named after St Petersburg University mathematician Gennady Leonov).

    The award in the nomination ‘Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence’ named after Gennady Leonov, Dean of the  Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty at St Petersburg University, Laureate of the USSR State Prize, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was established following the initiative of scientists at St Petersburg University. Nikolay Kuznetsov, Professor of St Petersburg University and Head of the Department of Applied Cybernetics, addressed this proposal to the Governor of St Petersburg

    The award named after Gennady Leonov will be granted on an annual basis to the scientists of research institutions or universities in St Petersburg demonstrating prominent achievements in the field of science and technology without age limit.  Applications are accepted through 17 March 2022 (detailed information on the procedure of granting the award is available  on the website of the Committee for Science and Higher Education).

    At the Rector’s meeting, Professor Nikolay Kuznetsov emphasised that establishing the new award of the Government of St Petersburg named after Gennady Leonov, founder of the Department of Applied Cybernetics and Nikolay Kuznetsov’s teacher, marked a significant contribution of Gennady Leonov to the development of cybernetics and artificial intelligence. Control engineering was the main sphere of his research interests, while the main directions of research included the following: control of generators; attractors and dimensionality theory; stabilisation of controlled systems; issues of validating the first approximation in the resilience theory; theory of induction and electric machines.    

    Despite the fact that Gennady Leonov passed away in 2018, his name was included in the list of Highly Cited Researchers in the Web of Science Database in the field of interdisciplinary research in 2019, 2020 and 2021, together with Nikolay Kuznetsov, Head of the Department of Applied Cybernetics at St Petersburg University. On 2 February, Gennady Leonov would have celebrated celebrate his 75th anniversary.

    Applied research conference ‘Competition support: economic and legal mechanisms of providing for the balance of interests between production and consumption’

    On 4 February, the 5th International Conference ‘Competition support: economic and legal mechanisms of providing for the balance of interests between production and consumption’ took place. It was organised by St Petersburg University, the Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation, Jurist Publishing Group and Griboyedov Institute of International Law and Economics. This event generated keen interest and attracted the leading scientists, teachers and students of: St Petersburg University; Lomonosov Moscow State University; Higher School of Economics; Kutafin Moscow State Law University; MGIMO University; and other universities; as well as central management and regional offices of the Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation; judges of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation; Deputy Head of the relevant committee of the State Duma; practising lawyers; judges of the Eurasian Economic Union and representatives of the business community; the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation; and other domestic and international bodies and organisations.

    Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, gave a welcoming address to the conference participants.  He pointed out that competition in science should be closely considered, since the previous Year of Science and Technology in Russia had marked the beginning of a scientific decade determining the future of education. According to the Rector, the tasks of the Federal Antimonopoly Service today go beyond competition between different business entities. Similar violations are also common in the sphere of education. The Rector of St Petersburg University considered in depth the issue of honest competition, giving several specific examples: organising work in the resource sharing centres created with the use of budgetary funds, and organising access to online courses developed with the use of federal grants to name just a few. The Rector urged to pay attention to the organisations that have access to budgetary funds and then illegally limit access to public property under their management to staff and students of other public organisations.

    Maxim Shaskolsky, Head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service, immediately responded to the Rector’s proposal expressing confidence that his colleagues had already initiated a relevant case. According to him, the Federal Antimonopoly Service is strongly focused on supporting competition, which is confirmed by a number of important strategic documents of the federal level, including a national plan of developing competition and relevant road maps as well as the results obtained. It became possible to provide the users with discrimination-free access to postal services and heat supply. Intra-network and intra-bank roaming improvements resulted in dramatic savings. The prices for seven thousand names of medicinal products were reduced. The number of antimonopoly violations reduced twofold. Current priority tasks of the Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation include further improvement of the law enforcement practices in digital markets and in the work with aggregators.

    Anton Getta, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Safeguarding Competition in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, told the participants about the work of the Committee, expert councils of the Committee and other expert councils on competition protection in the Russian Federation. According to him, the main goal of joint activity of the Committee and the Federal Antimonopoly Service is developing competition, which should at least prevent the price boom caused by illegal monopoly agreements, if not reduce the prices. Due to joint work of the deputies, the Federal Antimonopoly Service and the People’s Front, it became possible to prevent violations in-state purchase contracts for 315 billion roubles and collect almost 0.5 billion roubles in fines from the offenders. The speaker also mentioned fruitful cooperation with the students of law and economics.

    Anton Getta agreed with the view previously expressed by Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, and suggested that the Rector should head a new expert council related to the field of science, the creation of which is being considered at the moment. All the conference participants were invited to actively engage in the work of the existing councils. Nikolay Kropachev thanked Anton Getta for the proposal, agreed with the need to create such a council and expressed readiness to take part in its work. 

    The following issues were also discussed at the conference: competition as a framework element of providing for the balance of interests between production and consumption, ‘market’ power’ and ‘bargaining power’ as factors affecting the state of competition in industry-specific markets. Experts considered the principles of implementing competition at commodity markets as well as economic and legal methods of determining if the product or industry is  cost-competitive. The participants shared the experience of challenging the acts in the sphere of competition issued by the Economic Commission for Europe in the court of the Eurasian Economic Union. The following areas of concern were also determined: competitive strategy of the economic entity, antimonopoly compliance as a tool of supporting competition, competitive potential of the state in the system of modern micro-economic ties, legal forms of unfair competition. 

    Following the conference results, the participants expressed gratitude to the discussion leaders, highly praising the conference organisation and indicating their intention to continue working on the issues, topics and directions related to stimulating and regulating competition. 

    Format of implementing academic disciplines in the spring term of the 2021/22 academic year

    The format of implementing academic disciplines at St Petersburg University starting 11 February 2022 will be determined by the order based on the proposals received from the heads of the academic and research subdivisions of the University. Taking into account that nine student teams across the subdivisions failed to reach the vaccination level of 40 %, the teaching and learning process in these subdivisions will be performed remotely with the use of information and communication technologies. At the same time, in 20 teams, where the percentage of vaccinated students exceeds 40 %, the format of studies may include in-person lessons.  

    The heads of the academic and research subdivisions provided their proposals on the format of academic classes starting 11 February 2022:

    Area of study

    Format

    Competition Development and Antimonopoly Regulation

    Hybrid format

    Physical Training (bachelor’s programme)

    Hybrid format

    Chemistry

    Hybrid format

    Asian and African Studies

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 20 February 2022

    Biology

    Hybrid format

    Physics

    Hybrid format

    Medicine

    Hybrid format

    Mathematics and Computer Science

    Hybrid format

    Pedagogy

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 15 March 2022

    Philology

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 12 March 2022

    Liberal Arts and Sciences

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 28 February 2022

    Earth Sciences

    Hybrid format

    Cognitive Studies

    Hybrid format

    Mathematics and Mechanics

    Hybrid format

    Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies

    Hybrid format

    Philosophy

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 14 March 2022

    Psychology

    Hybrid format

    History

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 14 March 2022

    Management

    Hybrid format

    Control Processes

    Hybrid format

    Medical College

    A hybrid format was proposed although the percentage of vaccinated students is still under 40%

    Physical Education (non-university level higher education, excluding out-of-age students)

    A hybrid format was proposed although the percentage of vaccinated students is still under 40%

    International Relations

    A hybrid format was proposed although the percentage of vaccinated students is still under 40%

    Sociology

    With the use of information and communication technologies

    Law

    With the use of information and communication technologies

    Political Science

    With the use of information and communication technologies

    Arts

    A hybrid format was proposed although the percentage of vaccinated students is still under 40%

    Economics

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 28 February 2022

    Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication

    With the use of information and communication technologies till 28 February 2022

    Foreign Languages

    With the use of information and communication technologies

    Current issues with organising the teaching and learning process

    Last week, the Virtual Reception received 15 enquiries addressed to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities. There were 11 enquiries registered in the student enquiry register.

    The enquiries covered various topics, including the following: distance  learning  at St Petersburg Universitythe possibility of transfer to St Petersburg University.

    Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities keeps receiving questions on the format of teaching and learning in the spring term of the 2021/22 academic year. At the beginning of the spring term of the 2021/22 academic year, the format of learning will be determined following the proposals submitted by the heads of the academic and research subdivisions of the University based on the percentage of vaccinated students, which  had been previously discussed at the Rector’s meetings.

    According to the information from the majority of the academic and research subdivisions, the winter interim assessment was implemented in due order following the timetable.  Currently, the students are on holidays till 10 February.

    The meetings with the representatives of the student councils were not held by some heads due to holiday time, while some subdivisions held such meetings.

    During the meeting with the Senior Deputy Dean at the Faculty of Economics, a representative of the Student Council enquired about the situation, when a student takes part in sport competitions as part of the team of St Petersburg University, but such sport competitions coincide with the time of resitting the exam. Such students should send a notice to the Academic Office with a request to provide them with an individual timetable of the interim assessment.

    At the Rector’s meeting, Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities, reminded that according to article 4.4.1 of the Academic regulation for the bachelor’s, master’s, specialist’s degree programmes and secondary vocational training at St Petersburg University approved by Order No 470/1 dated 29 January 2016,  in order to take tests (examinations) on the date different from the date stated in the timetable of the interim assessment, a student may be provided with a personal timetable of tests (examinations) due to the confirmed fact that during the interim assessment the student is away at the international, domestic, interregional sport competitions, training, contests, Olympiads and other extracurricular events, where such student represents the Russian Federation, St Petersburg and the University.

    It was discussed that the distance learning with the use of information and communication technologies will be in place at least till the end of the holidays. Then, the format of studies will be determined based on the proposals from the heads of the academic and research subdivisions taking into account the percentage of vaccinated students.

    The meetings with the Student Council representatives and the heads of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Minutes of the meeting with the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences dated 1 February 2022), the Faculty of Philology (Minutes of the meeting with the Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Philology at St Petersburg University and representatives of the Student Council dated 2 February 2022), the  Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty (Minutes of the meeting with the Dean of the  Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty dated 3 February 2022), the Institute of Earth Sciences (Minutes of the meeting with the Director of the Institute of Earth Sciences dated 1 February 2022) took place.

    A student's complaint against a teacher

    Mariana Shafrazian, a second-year student of the master’s programme ‘Diplomacy of the Russian Federation and Foreign States’, sent an enquiry to the Virtual Reception with a request to reconsider the result of the examination in the academic discipline ‘New Areas of Diplomacy’ and assess the actions of Dmitrii Levi, Associate Professor in the Department of European Studies at St Petersburg University. According to the student, the teacher ‘skipped classes’, gave excellent marks to the students, who had not attended classes, ‘gave a lower grade to an honours student intentionally and without a good reason’.  The enquiry also contained a request to have her examination work re-examined by other teachers, since according to Mariana Shafrazian, she ‘wrote an excellent paper, ... Gave correct answers with a good grounding and no mistakes’, while the ‘good’ grade received at the examination fails to correspond to her knowledge and examination work’.

    Following the order of Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities, Irina Novikova, Dean of the School of International Relations, organised an internal review. The Dean told the participants of the Rector’s meeting about the results of the review.

    1. The fact that Dmitrii Levi missed academic classes was not confirmed.  Some of the classes were transferred to different dates due to his emergency hospitalisation.  The discipline ‘New Areas of Diplomacy’ was taught by Associate Professor Dmitrii Levi in accordance with the curriculum and following the requirements of a hybrid format of studies introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the teacher compensated for the forced interruptions in the teaching and learning process caused by his hospitalisation as well as some technical issues by providing the students with permanent remote access to academic materials (videos of lectures) and organising an additional system of remote control in the form of reports-presentations.  During the term, the lectures were delivered online in the form of published video lectures and presentations together with the accompanying academic materials. Some lectures were given in the form of video files, and the students had an opportunity to view them at any time in the course of the term and not only during the hours provided by the timetable. It fully corresponded to the tasks of mastering the material on top of providing a possibility to watch lectures at any moment. The publication of video lectures protected the students from possible technical failures during online classes. The links to video lectures were published in the MS Teams software. The students filed no complaints about the access to lectures during the term demonstrating familiarity with the material during workshops. The workshops were held in the form of video conferences in the MS Teams system. The students, who took part in the workshops, worked on the lecture topics expanding their knowledge in addition to lecture materials.  Despite the efforts to improve technical conditions, there were technical failures at many online events, including short-term internet connection interruptions, microphone malfunctions, server issues and even a blackout.   All students supported their work at the workshop by submitting materials in the form of reports-presentations, which allowed for the teacher to assess the presentation in general even in case of interruptions for 2 or 3 minutes.  During the workshops, when monitoring the discussion and giving the floor to the students, the teacher had to control video and audio signal by switching off ‘extra’ voices to improve the traffic.  After students’ presentations, the teacher opened up the discussion for all participants.  
    2. The examination was organised and held in accordance with the curriculum specifying the requirements to the interim assessment and the system of grading, of which the students were informed in a timely manner.  The methodology of holding the examination and the results obtained by master’s programme student Mariana Shafrazian demonstrate objectivity and transparency of the assessment system used in the course of the interim assessment.     
    3. The examination work of Mariana Shafrazian was submitted for an additional assessment to Professor Stanislav Tkachenko, Head of the master’s programme ‘Diplomacy of the Russian Federation and Foreign States’ and prominent scholar in the field of new forms of diplomacy, who failed to find any reasons to give a higher grade. Moreover, Professor Tkachenko pointed out the fact that the final grade (‘good’) received by Mariana Shafrazian meets the minimal criteria for this grade.   
    4. The fact that Associate Professor Dmitrii Levi gave excellent grades to the students that had studied in student exchange programmes and had not attended the course, was also not confirmed. According to examination record list No 21-13-49103 dated 22 January 2022, the students who had been accepted for the course of study and attended classes were assessed and given a grade in this discipline. The students, who had failed to attend classes and take the examination, were reported as a ‘no-show’. Despite the opinion of Mariana Shafrazian, it is technically impossible for the teacher to give any grades to the students that are not included in the examination record list or are away on a student exchange programme.    
    5. In the complaint, Mariana Shafrazian mentioned that Associate Professor Dmitrii Levi could discriminate against her ‘due to her last name’. However, this statement is ungrounded and manifestly provocative.    

    During her presentation, Irina Novikova stated that recently, the students, who are unsatisfied with their grades, often try to use ‘national factor’ to exert pressure on teachers accusing them of discrimination on account of ethnic descent if inflated expectations of high grades meet objective assessment on the part of teachers. In this respect, Irina Novikova supported the proposal of Stanislav Tkachenko to transfer master's programmes in the field of ‘International Relations’ to the grading system, in which teachers do not use students’ names listing them in the examination record only in the form of their identification numbers (in case of St Petersburg University – st-number).  

    Irina Novikova also said that since the text of the enquiry also contains statements touching upon the reputation, honour and dignity of the teacher at St Petersburg University, they consider submitting it to the Ethics Committee of St Petersburg University.

    Preparation of online courses in 2021

    As of the beginning of 2022, St Petersburg University takes first place in the number of courses and span of the audience on the national platform ‘Open Education’. 162 courses of St Petersburg University out of 779 courses on the platform are in open access with over 2 million subscribers. On the Coursera platform, St Petersburg University takes first place in the number of published online courses among the universities in Europe and enters the top five among the global partner universities of Coursera. 192 online courses and 18 specialities of St Petersburg University are implemented here with a general number of users approaching 1 million people. St Petersburg University was the first among Russian universities to launch its courses in Chinese on the XuetangX platform and currently, 16 courses are implemented there. Moreover, St Petersburg University offers five courses on the Stepik platform actively developing its own platform. 

    According to Vladimir Starostenko, Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development at St Petersburg University, in 2021, 80 online courses were developed and currently, these courses are being published on the platforms.

    The national platform ‘Open Education’ has created a new service (online programmes) that allows for the courses or specialisations for various educational levels, including non-degree programmes to be published there. Today, the platform features 21  programmes, of which the majority are the programmes of St Petersburg University (15 programmes as of the beginning of 2022). Over 100 people completed the programmes of St Petersburg University at the ‘Open Education’ platform within three months upon launching the new service.

    With the growth of external audience in 2021, positive growth dynamics among students from regional universities that use online courses of St Petersburg University in the teaching and learning process has been noticed. In the autumn term, the number of universities – network partners increased. In 2018, the number of students studying under network agreements was about 1,200, in 2019 – a bit over 2,000, in 2020 – already 5,000 and in 2021 – over 8,000 students.

    The number of students in the online courses included in the teaching and learning  process at St Petersburg University is also constantly growing. In the 2019/20 academic year, over 10,500 tests were held in the disciplines implemented in the format of online courses, in the 2020/21 academic year – over 34,500 tests (almost threefold growth) and in the 2021/22 academic year – over 25,000 online tests have already been conducted (according to the forecast, about 50,000 assessments will be held).

    Within the framework of open competition at St Petersburg University on selecting pedagogic scenarios to develop online courses in 2022, 23 applications were submitted, including specific online courses and specialisations consisting of several online courses united by one topic. Following the results of the competition, three applications with the largest number of points were selected. The applications were additionally examined by the expert committee at St Petersburg University as well as by specialists of the international platform ‘Coursera’ to determine if they are relevant and highly demanded by the audience.  Following the results of the competition, two specialities and one online course will be included in the curriculum of 2022.

    Overall, it is planned to create over 50 online courses in various spheres of science including machine learning, foreign languages, economics, law, information technologies, and art to name just a few.

    Activity of the Association of Leading Universities and the Council of Rectors of the universities of the Northwestern Federal District in 2021

    Last year, the Association of Leading Universities held a series of round tables on various issues of education, science, and extracurricular activities to name just a few. It has become traditional to invite members of the Council of Rectors of the universities to participate in the events held by the Association. The Association always invites representatives of the federal executive authorities, the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor), and other regulatory bodies that formulate approaches and directly influence the educational and scientific sphere. Based on the results of the discussions, the Association and the Council of Rectors representing the higher education community develop and submit proposals and recommendations to the relevant authorities. The regular participants of the events express a great deal of interest in the discussion (the fact confirmed by the number of participants), as it raises sensitive issues, the answers to which should be jointly sought by representatives of universities, governing bodies, and other parties concerned.

    In 2021, the Association held nine events, attended by representatives of the university community, representatives of state authorities, deputy corps, representatives of business, public and other organisations. There were also 16 events held by member universities with the support of the Association and the Council of Rectors of the universities of the Northwestern Federal District.

    In 2021, the Association and the Council of Rectors of the universities of the Northwestern Federal District created seven working groups and one standing committee. The proposals developed by the groups were sent to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Federation Council and other governmental bodies. The Council of Rectors established a standing committee for inclusive education in the Northwestern Federal District. The first meeting of the Committee for Inclusive Education of the Council of Rectors to approve the committee’s action plan was held in December.

    The Council of Rectors, supported by the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Northwestern Federal District, held the fifth annual competition of open student projects 'Russia Aspiring to the Future'.

    The Council of Rectors and the Association are co-organisers of the All-Russian competition in Arts 'Peter the Great'/'Successors' for students studying in higher education programmes.

    The Association and the Council of Rectors have submitted the list of activities held in 2021 (Events 1). The information on the completed events (including reports and presentations by roundtable participants) and the action plan of the Association for 2022 are available on the official website of the organisation.

    There is also information on the events held by the universities with the support of the Association and the Council of Rectors (Events 2). Information on the events (including reports and presentations by roundtable participants) and the action plan of the Council of Rectors of the universities of the Northwestern Federal District for 2022 are available on the website of the Council of Rectors.

    Reports to the Russian Academy of Sciences on key research achievements related to national defence and security

    Under Article 7 of the Federal Law of the Russian Federation No 253-FZ 'On the Russian Academy of Sciences' dated 27 September 2013, the Russian Academy of Sciences shall submit annual reports to the President of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Russian Federation on the relevant and significant research by Russian scientists, in particular concerning the research in dual-use technologies in the field of national defence and security. In 2022, the Russian Academy of Sciences plans to prepare and publish the information materials on the 'Major research results in the field of national defence and security in 2021' listing the most significant achievements of fundamental, exploratory and applied research on topics related to national defence and security.

    Sergey Mikushev, Vice-Rector for Research, has informed the participants of the request from the Russian Academy of Sciences to submit the results of fundamental, exploratory and applied research on topics related to national defence and security to the Information and Analytical Centre 'Science' by 21 March. The report shall cover such areas of research as:

    • data management and control systems, telecommunication systems, cyber security
    • optics and quantum electronics
    • mechanics, aerodynamics, gas and hydrodynamics
    • navigation and control
    • radiophysics and radio electronics
    • nuclear physics, power engineering
    • special chemistry and materials science
    • biology, biotechnology, medicine and ecology
    • geophysics, oceanology and atmospheric physics
    • acoustics, hydroacoustics
    • economics, sociology and political science
    • counterterrorism methods and techniques
    • aerospace research and countermeasures in space, Earth aerospace research for defence and security

    Reports (no more than three pages per subject) should include the results of research conducted in 2021, including projects implemented as part of the state defence order or revenue-generating activities (grants, public and private contracts).

    Following the requirements of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the chairpersons of scientific commissions and heads of academic and research subdivisions shall prepare information materials by 1 March. The Vice-Rector for Research has sent the relevant instructions via Electronic Document Management System 'Delo'. St Petersburg University shall prepare the report to the Russian Academy of Sciences based on the reports submitted by 1 March.

    St Petersburg University and Germany: three centuries of relationships

    The participants have discussed the international activities conducted between the University and Germany over three centuries. Germany is a leader both in the number of joint projects with St Petersburg University and in the variety of formats and programmes of academic and research cooperation. This three hundred year partnership dates back to the foundation of the University ago and continues to the present day (Presentation).

    It can be illustrated by the following figures:

    • 55 partner universities and research organisations
    • 174 cooperation agreements with higher education institutions and research organisations in Germany
    • more than 2800 joint publications by research and academic staff of St Petersburg University in co-authorship with their colleagues from 204 research centres and universities of Germany from 2010 to 2020
    • more than 1,100 academic exchanges between St Petersburg University and the universities of Germany under academic mobility programmes from 2015 to 2020

    Over the past five years:

    • more than 310 students from Germany have attended academic programmes at St. Petersburg University
    • the number of academic programmes with a 'German' component has reached 345

    St Petersburg University runs six joint double-degree master’s programmes with German universities. Over 20 citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany are involved in the work of the councils of academic programmes of St Petersburg University. There are also several major research and educational projects implemented by the University in cooperation with German partners.

    Since 2001, civil associations of Russia and Germany have been participating in the Petersburg Dialogue Forum. St Petersburg University has been chosen as the expert platform for the forum. Representatives of the University are also regular participants in working group meetings, the annual conference of the Forum, and various satellite events involving Russian and German partners.

    In 2021, St Petersburg University established a representative office at the Freie Universität Berlin (St Petersburg University opens a representative office in Germany).

    Funding the participation of  St Petersburg University staff in conferences, symposia and other scientific events 

    Despite the anti-epidemic restrictions, St Petersburg University continues its intensive scientific research. Since research results require approbation at relevant scientific events (conferences, symposia, and roundtables to name just a few), the University shall call for applications for funding the participation of staff and students of the University in international scientific events to present the results of their research . Applications may be submitted for international scientific events held both online and offline (provided that no restrictions are imposed due to the introduction of anti-COVID-19 measures). However, it is necessary to recognise all risks related to possible local restrictions, cancellation and postponement of offline events, which shall be assumed by the applicant. If attending in-person, travel arrangements shall be made under the current regulations.

    The Order shall be published by 20 February 2022.

    Repeal of the expulsion order

    During the Rectors' meetings dated 20 September 2021, 4 October 2021, 1 November 2021, 8 November 2021 and 30 November 2021, the participants discussed the issue of the disciplinary liability of students who, on the night of 18-19 September 2021, violated the legislation of the Russian Federation, the internal regulations of St Petersburg University, including the rules on the observation of public order at night time and the prohibition of alcohol consumption on the premises  of the higher education institution, as well as the current anti-epidemic restrictions.

    The police filed reports on violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation and the local regulations of the University against the students who had committed violations. Based on these reports, police officers of Police Department No 85 of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Petrodvortsovy Вistrict of St Petersburg brought the students to administrative responsibility under the established procedure.

    In accordance with the current legislation, when choosing a disciplinary measure, the University shall take into account the gravity of the disciplinary offence, the reasons and circumstances under which it was committed, the previous behaviour of the student, his/her psychophysical and emotional state.

    The students were detained by the law enforcement officers and held liable for misdemeanours as defined by the Administrative Offence Code of the Russian Federation, namely: drinking alcohol in prohibited areas (Article 20.20); being drunk in public places (Article 20.21); disorderly conduct or violation of public order, showing disrespect for the society (Article 20.1); and insubordination to the lawful order of the police officer (Article 19.3)

    The meeting noted that the students had not contested the decision of the law enforcement bodies in due form at the time the penalty was being considered: no such information had been received either from the students or from the police representatives.

    Considering all the above circumstances, six students were subject to disciplinary action in the form of expulsion, and one student to a reprimand (How many students have been expelled from St Petersburg University for disorderly conduct?; Have the students violating public order been punished?).

    It was specifically noted that the administration should base its decision to impose disciplinary action on the decisions of the law enforcement bodies after the completion of the investigation and fact-finding procedure. The facts of the case and the decisions of the authorised bodies cannot be contested by the University unless such decisions are appealed or overturned by higher bodies or the court following the appeal submitted by the persons concerned, of which fact the students had been repeatedly informed.

    In 2021, during the Rector's Meeting, it was noted that if persons held liable believed that administrative penalties had been imposed on them wrongfully, they had the right to appeal the decision of law enforcement bodies in a higher authority or a court of law. Should a higher authority or a court overturn the decision of the law enforcement bodies on imposing administrative liability, the disciplinary measures may also be reviewed (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 8 November 2021).

    Last week the University received information that after a complaint submitted by one of the students who had been brought to administrative responsibility, the Head of the Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Petrodvortsovy District of St Petersburg had satisfied the appeal of the Prosecutor's Office of Petrodvortsovy District of St Petersburg against the decision on administrative offences under Article 20.20 (1) and Article 20.1 (1) of the Administrative Offence Code of the Russian Federation and suspended charges of administrative offence against the student (letter from the Prosecutor's Office of the Petrodvortsovy District of St Petersburg to the student dated 20 January 2022).

    Therefore, the order of expulsion dated 3 February 2022 has been repealed, and the student shall be admitted to studies, following an individual schedule.

    Rotation of executive secretaries

    The participants have discussed the interim results of the rotation of secretaries of the Department for documentation procedures responsible for the information and documentation support of the heads of the academic and research subdivisions. From September to December 2021, the secretaries were rotated in five academic subdivisions: the School of International Relations, the Faculty of Political Science, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Philology and the Institute of Philosophy.

    Laura Useinova, Head of the Administrative Control Department, informed the meeting that positive feedback had been received from Irina Novikova, Aleksandr Kurochkin, Danila Raskov and Mikhail Koryshev. Nikita Kuznetsov has submitted his comments, and the information will be available at the end of February 2022.

    Laura Useinova noted the positive effects of the rotation: the increase in the number of published minutes of meetings and discussions conducted by the Dean of the School of International Relations and the administration of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The contents of the meetings are now available to all students and staff of St Petersburg University, not only to a narrow circle of attendees. Since December 2021, the Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences has regularly met with representatives of the Trade Union of the academic and research subdivision, following the established requirements.

    Problems in supporting the activities of deans were discussed at the Rector's Meeting yet in 2013. The main issues were the remote location of assistants' workplaces (Minutes of the Rector's meeting dated 8 April 2013) and the time it took to submit documents to the deans for review. The introduction of the Electronic Document Management System 'Delo' has resolved the situation. However, work in a non-remote format requires a secretary's workstation to be located close to the director's/dean's office, since the director/dean may require immediate assistance in organising and keeping minutes of meetings, making calls and preparing materials.

    In the course of the rotation, it was revealed that the workplace of the secretary of the Department for documentation procedures, who provides support for the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was located on a different floor of the building from the reception area of the Dean of the Faculty. Certainly, in this setting, communication between the secretary and the Dean was not conducive. As a result, the functions of the Dean's secretary, for example, in organising the Head's meetings were sometimes carried out by the staff of the University Information Technology Service. The secretary of the Dean was not generally kept abreast of the events taking place at the Faculty. As a result, the faculty members had no or little information about the events that were taking place in the department, or the information was delayed. Currently, the issue of stationing the secretary of the Department for documentation procedures near the Dean's workplace has been resolved.

    In the course of the rotation of secretaries within five academic and research subdivisions, it has been discovered that the heads of some subdivisions have been assigning to the staff of the Department for documentation procedures the tasks that lie outside their core functions, such as preparing statements of services performed and payment statements on remuneration under independent contractor agreements. This directly contradicts the established procedure for processing such documents as set out in the Regulation on approving and concluding independent contractor agreements (Order No 8197/1 of 15 September 2020). It may raise questions as to the validity of the relevant contracts and payments. Information on this matter has been forwarded to the Vice-Rector for Human Resources.

    Overall, the staff rotation scheme has had a positive effect. Besides preparing employees to take over for their colleagues during temporary absences, it also allows them to acquire new practical experience and knowledge, to identify shortcomings in the work of the University staff, including the secretaries themselves, to assess their qualifications more accurately and to determine the appropriate remuneration scheme for their work.

    The participants also discussed other aspects of the secretary rotation scheme. Irina Novikova, Dean of the School of International Relations, said that the new secretary quickly adapted to the work schedule, got acquainted with the faculty members and was highly efficient in preparing minutes of the Dean's meetings with students and academic staff. Mikhail Erman, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, noted the high professionalism of the new secretary who has established a good rapport with the staff. Other speakers (Nikita Kuznetsov, Director of the Institute of Philosophy; Alexander Razov, Dean of the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty; Irina Balova, Director of the Institute of Chemistry) also gave a positive assessment of the rotation.

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