Minutes of the Rector's Meeting

No. 515

    Opening of humanitarian aid centres at St Petersburg University

    Humanitarian aid reception points for refugees from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Ukraine were opened at St Petersburg University as part of the #MYVMESTE project, organised by the Volunteer Centre of St Petersburg University .

    Humanitarian aid is accepted at the following addresses:

    • Offices 2-6, 2nd floor, 13b Universitetskaya Embarkment
    • Offices 10-11, 6 Birzhevaya Line, Vasilyevsky Island
    • Office 4329. 28 Universitetsky Prospect, Peterhof

    Reception of humanitarian aid is carried out according to the schedule:

    Monday, Wednesday, Friday — from 10am to 5pm

    Tuesday, Thursday — from 2pm to 8pm

    Detailed information on what is accepted as humanitarian aid can be found on the webpage of the Department for Youth Affairs.

    Not only the University students and staff, but also everyone who wants to help can visit the #MYVMESTE humanitarian aid reception centre at St Petersburg University to make contributions. The collected humanitarian aid will be transferred to the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Red Cross.

    Organising training in universities for participants in the special military operation

    Among the important measures to support military personnel, law enforcement officers and special operations forces are opportunities to receive higher education and to pursue advanced training programmes.

    Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, prepared a draft appeal of the Rector to Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, with a proposal to initiate amendments to the Federal Law No 273-FZ ‘On Education in the Russian Federation’ dated 29 December 2012 to provide social support for participants in the special military operation of the Russian Federation to protect the population of Donbass. The letter proposes to provide participants in the special military operation of the Russian Federation to protect the population of Donbass and their children with additional opportunities to exercise their right to higher education.

    It is proposed to supplement the law ‘On Education in the Russian Federation’ with provisions which provide the right to the participants in the special military operation of the Russian Federation to protect the population of Donbass and their children:

    • to enrol in bachelor’s and specialist’s programmes without having to take entrance examinations
    • to receive free of charge a second or subsequent higher education of the level they have gained, if they have a higher education

    Aleksandr Babich’s proposal was supported by all participants of the meeting. The letter was sent to the Minister of Science and Higher Education, to the Government of the Russian Federation, to the State Duma, and to the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

    Providing assistance to students from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine

    The Psychological Clinic at St Petersburg University is ready to assist students who have arrived at St Petersburg University and other universities in St Petersburg and the North-Western Federal District as part of the academic transfer from higher education institutions of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine.

    The St Petersburg University Psychological Clinic will provide assistance to these students with no waiting time, and individual crisis counselling will also be carried out (The University is ready to support all students).

    In the near future, a Help Line will start working: a group of volunteers has already been recruited, and training has begun.

    On behalf of the Rector of St Petersburg University, the Head of the Psychological Clinic at St Petersburg University will take part in meetings with students who will transfer to St Petersburg University from higher education institutions of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic and Ukraine to discuss current issues and possible support measures.

    According to Alla Shaboltas, Dean of the Faculty of Psychology at St Petersburg University, as there is a need to provide operational support in the adaptation and support of students who arrive at the universities in St Petersburg from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine, psychologists at St Petersburg University and their colleagues from other universities in St Petersburg are ready to combine their efforts and resources in providing highly qualified psychological assistance. In this regard, the Rector of St Petersburg University sent an appeal to the heads of educational organisations of higher education in St Petersburg with a proposal to provide assistance and methodological support.

    Saving data, shifting to using other platforms for organising the teaching, learning and scientific processes, and extracurricular activities

    The Information Technology Service are completing a comparison and evaluation of services and software that could replace the currently operated foreign services ZOOM, MS Teams, and Google for Education to name just a few in case they are no longer available for use. Additionally, a backup copy of data from those cloud storages that were previously used and continue to be used by the University students has been obtained, and options for organising access to this data are being worked out.

    The products developed by the long-term partners of St Petersburg University are considered: Yandex, VK (Mail.ru Group), and Sberbank to name jusy a few, and other promising companies — for example, Pruffme, TrueConf, Webinar.Ru, and companies developing office applications P7, My Office. From the time when these products were developed and especially due to the pandemic, the quality of the products of these companies has increased significantly, proposals for the digital transformation of St Petersburg University have been formed that are equal to foreign ones.

    The University students can actively assist in testing and choosing Russian solutions by reporting their participation, methodological recommendations, experience in using communication and collaboration tools (both foreign and Russian manufacturers). To that end, it is necessary to send proposals to: digital@it.spbu.ru .

    The participants of the Rector’s meeting discussed the possibilities of using new services and software products for organising online meetings, meetings of directors and deans with heads of departments, and student representatives. Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, reminded that now many meetings can and should be held in person.

    Current issues with organising the teaching and learning process

    Over the past week, the Virtual Reception received 11 enquiries addressed to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities. Additionally, 13 enquiries were registered in the student enquiry register.

    The enquiries were on various topics: shift to a remote working format for a member of academic staff; transfer to the government-funded places.

    According to information from the heads of most academic and research subdivisions, classes are delivered according to the timetable in the prescribed manner.

    Taking into account the Decree No 163 of the Government of St Petersburg dated 2 March 2022 ‘On amendments to the Decree No 121 dated 13 March 2020, taking into account the results of the Rector’s meeting dated 3 March 2022, and taking into account Paragraph 3 of the Order No 1871/1 ‘On the easing of restrictions caused by the need to comply with measures to combat the spread of a new coronavirus infection (COVID-19)’ dated 4 March 2022, there was issued Order No 1893/1 ‘On the effect of Order No 7991/1 «On the classes in the 2021/22 academic year» dated 13 August 2021 in the period from 7 March 2022’ dated 03/04/2022. Following the proposals of the heads of the academic and research subdivisions at the University, Order stipulates the format of the teaching and learning process and interim assessment for the degree programmes from 7 March 2022. In most cases, the heads of the academic and research subdivisions proposed a mixed learning format, with the number of in-person classes gradually increasing, which will be reflected in the electronic timetable. The time periods for implementing the changes introduced are based on the need for academic staff and students to prepare in advance to shift to in-person classes. Attention is drawn to the fact that for students who, for objective reasons, will not be able to stay in Russia, the teaching and learning process will be organised using information and communication technologies.

    The Dean of the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty received an enquiry submitted by a student with a request to revise the grade obtained in the re-take of the exam in the discipline ‘Algebra and Number Theory’ of the Assessment Committee. According to the student: the time and place of the retake were not observed, which differed from those stated in the timetable; at the retake, according to the student, strangers were present, and there were complaints about the lectures. Following to the enquiry, an inspection was organised. The student will be informed about the results.

    Some heads of subdivisions did not hold meetings with students and representatives of student councils over the past week, while many subdivisions held such meetings.

    At the meetings of the heads of the Faculty of Political Science, the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes, the Faculty of Sociology, the Faculty of Biology, the Faculty of Philology, the Faculty of Foreign Languages, the Medical College, the College of Physical Culture and Sports, Economics and Technology, students discussed changes to the format of the teaching and learning process in connection with easing some of the anti-epidemic restrictions.

    Sergei Belov, Dean of the Faculty of Law, asked why initially lectures were planned for law students in full-time format, but then these classes were not included in the timetable, presumably due to the recommendations of the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) (according to the Academic Office, it was impossible to conduct classes in the same room for different study groups). The Rector asked the Senior Vice-Rector to contact the Rospotrebnadzor and clarify information about the current anti-epidemic measures. After some time, Elena Chernova reported that the strict restrictions of the Rospotrebnadzor were lifted, only restrictions on the maximum number of participants in mass events (100 people) remained, the use of personal protective measures (masks) and regular disinfection of premises was retained.

    At the meetings, the deans of the Faculty of Foreign Languages, the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes, the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, the School of International Relations, the Faculty of Psychology, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies, the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Philology, the Faculty of Physics, the Faculty of Economics, and directors of the Institute of History, the Institute of Earth Sciences, the Institute of Philosophy and the Institute of Chemistry at St Petersburg University discussed with students measures to support students from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic and Ukraine (The University is ready to support all students).

    The Dean of the School of International Relations received an enquiry submitted by an international student who is currently in St Petersburg, but the government of his country recommended that citizens urgently leave the territory of the Russian Federation. However, the student is interested in continuing his studies at St Petersburg University, so he applied for a distance learning format. As previously reported, in such cases, students will be given the opportunity to continue their education remotely.

    Current issues of organising the teaching and learning process were discussed at meetings with members of student councils, heads of the Faculty of Physics, the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes, the Faculty of Sociology, the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty, the Institute of Earth Sciences, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Institute of History, the Faculty of Philology, and the Institute of Philosophy.

    The participants of the meeting drew attention to the fact that some representatives of student councils, after meetings with directors and deans, begin to distribute incorrect information among students (which is easily found out when checking the protocols or communicating with other meeting participants). Based on the results of the meeting, it was decided to continue to involve directors and deans in regular meetings with not only representatives of student councils, but also other representatives of students (for example, heads of courses and groups) in order to provide information in a prompt and widespread manner among students.

    Consequences of providing false documents on temporary disability by students

    In the recent years, the number of false documents provided by students, namely, temporary disability certificates, has significantly decreased at the University. St Petersburg University has issued relevant regulatory acts, developed mechanisms of inspecting the certificates and assigned competent personnel to perform such inspections. Students are regularly informed about the consequences of providing fake certificates.

    According to Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities, the University has approved and integrated the Regulation on checking the documents provided by applicants and students at St Petersburg University (Order of Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions No 8087/1 dated 18 August 2021).

    The staff of academic offices at St Petersburg University inspect the documents provided by students and explain the unacceptability and consequences of forging the relevant document.

    The students are informed about it orally before submitting the application with the relevant official documents. When accepting the application, the students have to confirm with a check mark that they have received the relevant information.

    Every student providing an academic office with the documents that grant certain rights or release from duties is explained that if the document authenticity is not confirmed by the issuing authority, the student will be expelled from St Petersburg University according to sub-paragraph ‘з’, article 51 of St Petersburg University Charter. Every student is also informed that according to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (part 3, article 327 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), persons are liable for prosecution for acquiring, storing, transporting with the goal of using or selling or using manifestly fake official documents granting rights or releasing from liabilities, namely, punishment in the form of personal restraint for up to one year or compulsory work for up to one year, or imprisonment for up to one year.

    Also, according to paragraph 9 of Attachment No 1 to order No 5951/1 dated 2 June 2021 ‘On the procedure of holding the interim assessment of students studying in degree programmes of higher education and secondary vocational training’: ‘If a student applies for a personal timetable of taking examinations and tests according to Attachment No 6 to the present Order due to temporary disability confirmed by a temporary disability certificate for the period of taking or resitting tests or examinations, the head of the academic office provides for the following: registration of the certificate in the registration book for temporary disability certificates of students (the form of this certificate is approved in Attachment No 5 to the present Order), forwarding a request to confirm the validity of the certificate (work incapacity certificate) to the medical institution (on the next working day after the day of providing the certificate), preparing a draft of the order on providing a personal timetable for taking tests and examination during three working days after providing the certificate, storing the application, certificate and validity confirmation request and response from the medical institution.’

    According to paragraph 10 of the Order: ‘If the medical institution replies to the request that the relevant document (temporary disability or work incapacity certificate) has not been issued, the student is subject to expulsion for providing a fake document (certificate).’

    Thus, according to the legislation of the Russian Federation, every student, who provides false documents, is requested to provide written explanation. A disciplinary action is considered and requests are prepared to be sent to the law enforcement authorities to perform inspections and take relevant response measures on the fact of providing fake documents.

    Within the goal of increasing legal literacy of the University students, the information on the state facts and consequences of document falsification is provided to the University staff and students by means of relevant publications at the University resources. The issues of false medical certificates and expulsion are regularly considered at the Rector’s meetings and published in the relevant Rector’s minutes.

    From January 2018 to February 2022, 63 cases of providing false documents have been registered, in particular, certificates of temporary disability: in 2018 — 34, in 2019 — 10, in 2020 — 10, in 2021 — 4, in January-February 2022 — 5. Following the results of the inspections established by the University, all students providing false certificates were expelled without the right to reinstatement.

    Students of St Petersburg studying at Tsinghua University

    Due to the cooperation within the framework of the Global MOOC Alliance (St Petersburg University is a co-founder and the first representative of Russia within the Global MOOC Alliance, Participants of the Global MOOC Alliance discuss the prospects and plans for future) and long standing partnership between St Petersburg University and Tsinghua University, online education for the students of St Petersburg University at the courses of Tsinghua University was organised in a remote synchronous format in the spring term of the 2020/2021 academic year and the autumn term of the 2021/2022 academic year.

    According to Vladimir Starostenko, Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development, the courses proposed by Tsinghua University in the spring term covered a broad range of relevant disciplines. The students of St Petersburg University were particularly interested in such disciplines as ‘Probability and Stochastic Processes’, ‘Fundamentals of Computer Graphics ‘, ‘Introduction to Distributed Systems’, ‘Introduction to Big Data Systems’, ‘Real Estate Market Analysis’, and ‘Behavioural Economics’ to name just a few. In the spring term of the 2020/2021 academic year, the following courses were proposed by the teachers of Tsinghua University: ‘Introduction to Decision Making’, ‘Macroeconomics. Intermediate Level’, ‘Chinese Studies: Industry, Culture, Society’, and ‘Processes and Methods of Project Management on Software Development’ to name just a few.

    Following the application process, over 150 students of St Petersburg University were enrolled into the courses at Tsinghua University as non-degree students or with a possibility of credit transfer.

    At the beginning of the spring term of the 2021/2022 academic year, joint work on admitting the students of St Petersburg University to the courses at Tsinghua University was organised. As a result, Chinese colleagues enrolled 88 students into the following courses:

    1. Behavioural Economics (6)
    2. Brief Introduction to Psychology (7)
    3. Comparative and International education (1)
    4. Confucius and His Criticism (1)
    5. Corporate Finance (7)
    6. Deep-Learning (1)
    7. Ecology in Chinese Traditional Culture (1)
    8. Electromagnetic Field and Wave (1)
    9. English for Doctoral Students (3)
    10. Ethics in the Global Age (1)
    11. Experimental Economics (3)
    12. Fundamentals of Logic (1)
    13. Fundamentals of Computer Graphics (1)
    14. Game Theory (2)
    15. General Relativity Theory (2)
    16. Government and Politics in China (14)
    17. International Economics (5)
    18. Developing and Managing International Projects on Cooperation in the Sphere of Environment (1)
    19. International Macroeconomic Theory and Politics (9)
    20. Introduction to Cognitive Science (1)
    21. Modern Western Philosophy (5)
    22. Natural Language Processing (1)
    23. Probability and Random Processes (1)
    24. Public Diplomacy: Global and Comparative Perspective (7)
    25. Selected Topics in History of Contemporary Architecture and Urban Studies in China (2)
    26. Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship (2)
    27. Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design (2)

    The course on ‘Government and Politics in China’ was the most popular course selected by bachelor’s and master’s students of several different fields.

    If completed successfully, 27 students can get transcripts with the academic results acknowledged by St Petersburg University. The rest of students are enrolled as non-degree students.

    When discussing the procedure of acknowledging online courses, periods of studies and internships at international universities, the question of implementing cooperation agreements with the universities of Europe, the USA, Japan and Korea naturally arises. The Rector gave a task to Sergey Andryushin to prepare the information on the implementation of cooperation agreements with international universities, research institutions and foundations for the Rector’s meeting.

    Organising free access to online courses of St Petersburg University for the users of Coursera platform

    On 4 March, Coursera international learning platform announced its decision to suspend cooperation with Russian universities and limit access to their content. At the moment, the platform features 198 online courses and 20 specialities of St Petersburg University with almost one million learners. It should be emphasised that St Petersburg University takes the first place in the number of courses among the universities of Europe and is among the top five in the world.

    In this regard, the Administration of St Petersburg University took the decision to duplicate the courses featured on the Coursera platform on the own learning platform of St Petersburg University and on the Open Education platform. It was also decided to allow for the Coursera users to continue their studies on the own online platform of St Petersburg University and on the national Open Education platform featuring over 160 online courses by St Petersburg University (the first place in Russia). Currently, the content is being transferred (Coursera platform users can take online courses of St Petersburg University on the St Petersburg University platform and on the Open Education platform).

    According to Vladimir Starostenko, Director of the Centre of E-Learning Development, within the framework of supporting the students from the Lugansk People’s Republic, the Donetsk People’s Republic and Ukraine, who wanted to take online courses of St Petersburg University as well as other international students that failed to complete their studies on Coursera platform, St Petersburg University took the decision to provide free access to these users, since distributing knowledge is the major mission of the University. To get free access, a motivation letter and a special form should be submitted through the website of St Petersburg University.

    Online courses open new opportunities in education. Directors and deans should provide proposals on organising summer and winter schools in various fields of study (arts, natural sciences, history, and politics to name just a few) with the participation of international students.

    Work of representative offices of St Petersburg University

    Currently, all representative offices of St Petersburg University continue their operation (Active work of St Petersburg University’s representative offices is well underway). According to Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, the activity of the Representative Office in Berlin was suspended following the initiative of the German side. In other countries the events are held in accordance with the approved timetable (representative offices of St Petersburg University operate in the Republic of Korea, China, Spain, Greece, Italy and Turkey). Thus, in particular, the Representative Office in Spain has the following plan:

    • holding a summer school of piano and singing with the participation of teachers from St Petersburg University
    • holding an open day of St Petersburg University in Spain (presentation of the University, how to enter the University, intellectual competitions, Olympiads, and competitions to name just a few)
    • delivering classes of Russian as a foreign language and language testing in Russian as a foreign language

    The list of events can be viewed in the attached document (Order No 1212/1 dated 15 February 2022).

    Directors and deans should provide proposals on implementing the enumerated and other projects for the active use of the University representative office platforms abroad.

    St Petersburg University teaches Russian to the citizens of the Republic of Zimbabwe

    Following the initiative of the Rector, the work on expanding cooperation with African partners was organised at St Petersburg University. One of these directions is teaching Russian as a foreign language to the citizens of the Republic of Zimbabwe. To implement this proposal, the University management held talks with the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Zimbabwe.

    As a result, in February 2021, an ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Zimbabwe turned to St Petersburg University with a request to organise free courses of Russian as a foreign language to the citizens of the Republic of Zimbabwe. To implement the Rector’s order, the following work was organised: administrative and teaching staff was attracted, an academic programme was developed and study materials were selected, students were enrolled.

    On 6 May 2021, the first academic course was launched for 50 citizens of the Republic of Zimbabwe (the students were attracted with the help of the Embassy and a partner organisation — Zimbabwe Institute of Diplomacy). Classes of two academic hours were held in a distant format twice a week. The programme of the course is aimed at acquiring the elementary level of Russian (A1). The course was completed in January 2022.

    In November 2021, a second group of students started their studies at an intensive course in parallel with the first group. Classes were delivered till February 2022. The second group of students included members of the Zimbabwe Youth Council, staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, staff of the Zimbabwe TV channels and graduates of Soviet universities with an elementary or basic level of Russian. Motivated students of the first group joined the group of graduates. The audience of the second group is over 200 people. To provide for the studies of the second group of students, St Petersburg University received a grant in the form of subsidies from the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation.

    Moreover, in 2021, over 100 students of two courses took remote state tests in Russian as a foreign language for A1 level and received a relevant certificate.

    Starting 14 March, the third group will study till the end of 2022 (St Petersburg University successfully continues to teach Russian to citizens of Zimbabwe). The main audience of the course are university students of Zimbabwe and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Over 500 students will start their studies in this group. As previously, classes of two academic hours will be delivered in a remote format twice a week.

    According to Dmitry Ptyushkin, Director of the Language Testing Centre at St Petersburg University, apart from taking the course, the students will take part in other events of St Petersburg University including information meetings on history and culture of Russia organised by the University. Moreover, in 2021, several dozen citizens of Zimbabwe submitted documents through the Embassy to study at St Petersburg University at the Preparatory Department with further interest to be enrolled in bachelor’s programmes at St Petersburg University.

    Dmitry Ptyushkin noted that this project of St Petersburg University in Zimbabwe is the first project of a Russian university in this country in the last 30 years since the collapse of the USSR. After lifting the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe, in-person studies will be organised on the basis of the Zimbabwe Institute of Diplomacy. Currently, four candidates living in this country have been selected to take courses of advanced professional training at St Petersburg University and further in-person teaching within the framework of the project. It seems especially reasonable, since Internet connection in Zimbabwe is unstable, which may prevent many interested students from studying and taking final assessment.

    The experience of holding this project is considered positive. Taking into account the demand in such classes, it seems possible to scale the project and organise similar courses in other African countries.

    Besides, to support the third group of students in 2022, it is planned to apply for a grant from the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. Currently, the project is funded from extra-budgetary resources of St Petersburg University.

    Professional development of the employees of St Petersburg University

    Until 2019, professional training for the employees of St Petersburg University was organised on a voluntary basis and was not centrally planned. During the period from 2014 to 2018, approximately 800 people participated in professional training annually. Since 2019, applications for professional training of the employees of St Petersburg University have been collected on a centralised basis upon submission by the directors, deans, and heads of structural subdivisions

    Vladimir Eremeev, Vice-Rector for Human Resources, reported that in 2019, 2193 applications were received and approved. They included 1,391 applications from academic staff (29% of all academic staff) and 802 applications from administrative staff (13% of non-academic staff). Following these applications, a total of 1,717 persons were trained (919 members of academic staff and 798 members of administrative staff). For various reasons (inconvenient timetable, on-the-job training during working hours, and during examination period to name just a few), 74 people (3% of the total number of participants) declined participation in professional development programmes (57 members of academic staff and 17 members of other personnel).

    In 2019, the University had no mechanism for organising training for the University’s employees on additional educational programmes, there was no established procedure for enrolling in additional educational programmes of St Petersburg University, nor a procedure for granting discounts on tuition fees. Consequently, as the required non-degree programmes were not available, 402 people were unable to undergo training.

    In 2020, the approval of the ‘Regulations on fees reductions for employees of St Petersburg University attending non-degree programmes of St Petersburg University’ made it possible to grant tuition discounts to University’s employees, including full exemption from fees for those who have been commissioned to undertake professional training by their employer.

    In 2020, due to the planned accreditation procedure, a total of 7,444 people were trained (4,414 academic staff and 3,030 non-academic staff), of whom 2,773 were fully exempt from payment. Nevertheless, 246 employees were not able to complete the training for various reasons (non-degree programme was not launched, and the employment relationship with the employee was terminated to name just a few).

    Until 2021, professional training for the employees of St Petersburg University, necessary for them to qualify for work, pass regular knowledge tests, and maintain the relevant level of knowledge and competencies (normative training), had been carried out upon application from employees. Heads of subdivisions had to submit requests for professional training to the Human Resources Department, and these requests had been processed on a ’first come, first served’ basis. Performance audits have revealed that heads of subdivisions were not always aware of which employees should be trained and what they should be trained on. Supervision of training in electrical permits, permits for working at heights, and permits for working with pressure vessels to name just a few. was generally well established. Many other areas of professional training were overlooked by both department heads and the Human Resources Department.

    In February 2021, the University approved the ’Regulations on normative training of the employees of St Petersburg University’ (Order No 810/1 dated 2 February 2021). In March 2021 the Human Resources Department collected information on a wide range of competences to be achieved in the course of normative training. In 2021, 2 439 employees raised their qualifications in accordance with the professional development plan.

    Besides the training programmes included in the professional development plan, the Human Resources Department ensured training upon special assignments issued by the executives of St Petersburg University. During this period, a total of 1042 people were trained in excess of the plan, including in the areas of information technology, business communication, project management and other priority areas.

    Over the last two years, the University has made a major effort to organise professional development for the academic staff. Particular mention should be made of the relaunch of professional training in foreign languages. After a five-year break, 589 people had a chance to improve their knowledge of English.

    Since autumn 2022, the minimum qualification criteria for academic positions include the requirement of a certificate of advanced training obtained within the last three years, in information technology, teaching methodology or in a specific subject area.

    Launch of an update of the English-language website of St Petersburg University

    The staff of the Public Relations Department have been working on updating the English-language website of St Petersburg University since November 2021. This effort also involved the staff of the Faculty of Foreign Languages, the Head of the Marketing Department and the staff of the University Information Technology Service.

    The updated version was launched on 28 February and is available on english.spbu.ru.

    The main feature that distinguishes the new version from the old one is its visual presentation: the design of the English-language website now repeats that of the Russian-language version. It also incorporates a number of essential technical solutions which were earlier available only on the Russian website: for example, the website now has a mobile version and a version for the visually impaired. The sections on admissions and learning activities have been completely redesigned and restructured to include a full catalogue of academic programmes in English (similar to the Russian version), and relevant filters for the target audience.

    In the near future, the Chinese-language version of the website will also be updated to mirror the Russian and English-language versions.

    Comments and suggestions for further development of the website can be sent to the Public Relations Department: pro@spbu.ru.

    Court ruling on a lawsuit against a citizen for spreading false information about St Petersburg University on the Internet

    Since 2008, a person known as ’A. Smurov’ has been posting negative comments about St Petersburg University on his page on VKontakte. His comments included, for example, the following statements: ’St Petersburg University, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor’s Office have been acting in collusion and hiding data on the incidents with students on the premises of the University’, ’St Petersburg University hides data on students who died on the premises of the University’, ’There are cases of alcoholism among teachers and students’, ’The University is corrupt, and its graduates are corruptionists’, ’Scientists at St Petersburg University are not doing research, they are just wasting money’, and ’There is little/no education at St Petersburg University to name just a few’, ‘Graduates are wretched, immoral, stupid’... In the last year alone, more than 400 messages have been posted and read by over 700,000 people.

    Allegedly, the negative comments made by a citizen were triggered by the fact that his son, a student of St Petersburg University, died after the explosion of a World War II mine found not far from the campus of St Petersburg University.

    Yury Penov, Deputy Rector for Legal Affairs, informed of the decision to file a lawsuit to the court. By the time the lawsuit was initiated, there has already been a precedent of accepting and reviewing such claims in arbitration tribunals in defence of the reputation of state educational and research institutions, including the lawsuit brought by the Almazov National Medical Research Centre against Ms Shakurskaia. The court brought a decision in favour of the claimant after St Petersburg University filed a claim against Mr Smurov.

    It was therefore decided to take the case to an arbitration court. The problem was complicated by the fact that there was no information about ’A. Smurov’ other than the application for admission, which was available in his son’s personal file and contained the surname, first and patronymic names of the father (Aleksandr Nikolayevich Smurov) and mother of the applicant, together with the applicant’s address. However, the address of Aleksandr N. Smurov, whose place of residence and work appeared to be in a different federal region, Volgograd, was not specified.

    The lawsuit was therefore brought against Aleksandr N. Smurov before the Arbitration Court of the Astrakhan Region, the last known place of residence of his son. The court was then requested to establish the defendant’s place of residence through the Ministry of Internal Affairs in order to send him the procedural documents.

    The court hearings were held in the absence of the parties. St Petersburg University did not receive any response from the defendant to the statement of claim, but it could be inferred from the content of the judicial acts that the defendant had filed a motion to transfer the case to the court of general jurisdiction. The court denied the defendant’s claim to transfer the case to a court of general jurisdiction since, by the time the case had been heard, there was an effective decision of the Arbitration Court of St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region regarding the claim against Ms Shakurskaia and the ruling 13 AAS on Ms Shakurskaia’s complaint, which confirmed the powers of the arbitration courts to hear such cases.

    Following the decision of the Astrakhan Regional Court of Arbitration dated 2 March 2022, the claim of St Petersburg University was satisfied in full. The court ruled:

    • to recognise as untrue and discrediting the business reputation of St Petersburg University the information contained in the comments by Aleksandr N. Smurov on his webpage: https://vk.соm/
    • to oblige Aleksandr N. Smurov to refute, within seven days of the effective date of the court decision, the information (comments) that are false and defamatory to the business reputation of St Petersburg University, by posting comments on the webpage: https://vk.com/, stating that the previously distributed information was false, and making a reference to the court’s decision
    • to oblige Aleksandr N. Smurov to remove, within seven days of the effective date of the court decision, the information (comments) which the court found to be false and discrediting to the business reputation of St Petersburg University, from his webpage: https://vk.com/.

    The participants proposed further use of the judicial mechanisms to protect the interests of St Petersburg University against persons spreading false information about the University on the Internet.

    Work of the Medical College

    St Petersburg University Medical College was founded by a decision of the Academic Council of St Petersburg University in November 2006. It is the first educational subdivision in a classical university that implements professional educational programmes with advanced training in ’Nursing’. The period of study is 3 years and 10 months, with an average achievement grade of 4.7 (the average grade for St Petersburg colleges is 4.3). Students come from 60 regions of Russia, as well as from Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other foreign countries.

    Anna Germer, Director of the Medical College, reported on the changes that have been proposed for the Medical College in all fields of work in 2021. The ’Transformation’ programme is tentatively set to run until 2025, with the possibility of prolongation. The changes are aimed at improving the teaching and learning process, which will allow the College to reach a new level in complying with the quality standards in secondary professional education and the high standards of the St Petersburg University (Presentation).

    Revision of the non-university level higher education degree programme ‘Nursing’ included not only updating curricula and syllabi in accordance with the Federal State Educational Standard, but also renewing educational and methodological documentation, modifying programmes of practical training and introducing changes in the work of the Admissions Committee during the admissions process.

    The reforms have also concerned the academic staff of the College. Several faculty members have improved their qualifications and new academic staff have been recruited, including practising specialists with higher education in nursing. Almost all faculty members in professional modules attend additional training courses in the basics of nursing to gain a better understanding of the specifics of secondary professional education. Professional cycles have been assigned in accordance with the qualifications of the academic staff.

    The number of clinics has also increased. Some contracts have been renewed and new ones concluded to provide the full range of nursing services.

    The main emphasis in modernising the teaching and learning process has been put on practical training. The scope and quality of practical training have been increased and redistributed across modules, with practical skills to be taught in clusters. The College has also introduced additional training in nursing manipulation using simulation equipment. The use of clinics for practical training, in addition to clinical residency programmes, was a major development, increasing time for working with patients and improving professional competencies (e.g. working in specialised wards).

    During the implementation of the transformation plan, the College has developed closer cooperation with the academic staff of other subdivisions of St Petersburg University. Together with the Resource educational centre of high medical technologies ’The Centre of Medical Accreditations’, the College has purchased simulation equipment to build students’ professional skills, participate in the Worldskills movement for young professionals, and hold professional contests. This equipment is available not only to the college students, but also to the students in Medicine and Dentistry.

    There are also initiatives on developing non-degree programmes. The Medical College currently offers a programme ‘Palliative Nursing’ (first session scheduled for 14 March 2022). There are several other programmes underway, with the programme for nursing assistants undergoing licensing process. One of the problems encountered by the College is the shortage of academic staff for teaching the non-university level higher education degree programme ‘Nursing’ and non-degree programmes.

    Another important development in 2022/23 will be the implementation of a new academic programme ‘Nursing’ with a study period of 2 years 10 months and the launch of a new bachelor’s programme in Nursing (also offered in English). Plans for the 2022/23 academic year also include raising awareness of the College’s programmes, organising the Olympiad in First Aid for schoolchildren together with the staff from the Department of Basics of Medical Knowledge of St Petersburg University and the Dzhanelidze Research Institute of Emergency Medicine; conducting programmes initiated by the student’s scientific society; cooperation with the Republic of Karelia and implementation of St Petersburg University Strategic Plan 2021–2030.

    The participants noted that it was the first time in 15 years that the development of the Medical College had been discussed at a Rector’s meeting. Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Director of the Institute for Cognitive Studies at St Petersburg University, stressed the importance of training nurses at a classical university and offered her support to the College. Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, emphasised that the University should employ all of its resources to meet the challenges of developing the College (increasing admissions, recruiting new staff, using new facilities, and introducing new educational programmes to name just a few). The instructions have been issued to the relevant officials of St Petersburg University.