Minutes of the Rector's Meeting

No. 516
14.03.2022

    International activities of St Petersburg University

    In the past few weeks, the University has received a number of letters (mainly from European partners) about the suspension of cooperation with St Petersburg University in the framework of their national directives on the temporary freezing of academic relations and contacts with Russian universities. The largest number of these letters came from universities and organisations in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden.

    Today, due to the current international situation, it is important to focus on ongoing cooperation with foreign partners. Moreover, it is advisable to focus on the University’s partners in the countries that have not introduced restrictive measures against Russia, said Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs. Thus, in terms of the implementation of academic mobility programmes and research projects, such partners may include leading universities in China, Brazil, Mexico, Serbia, Iran, Qatar, Turkey, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt, Bahrain, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and CIS countries to name just a few.

    Sergey Andryushin recalled that short-term mobility programmes for academic staff at St Petersburg University were suspended in the spring of 2020 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An up-to-date list of partner universities is currently being formed to organise competitive procedures for participation in the interuniversity exchange.

    The Deputy Rector for International Affairs at the meeting said about:

    • the dynamics of the number of incoming and outgoing visits to St Petersburg University from 2006 to 2021 under international agreements
    • the dynamics of international incoming and outgoing mobility at St Petersburg University from 2006 to 2021

    Thus, from 2006 to 2019, there was a steady and significant increase in the number of international mobility of academic staff. In 2020, there was a sharp decline in mobility, entirely due to the restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection. Starting from mid-March 2020, all incoming and outgoing international visits to the University were impossible due to the closure of borders and the ban on foreign business trips for the University staff.

    Sergey Andryushin also said that in 2021, St Petersburg University signed or extended 114 new agreements of various types with international organisations, including 16 academic and research exchange protocols and 25 student exchange protocols. In 2021, new universities were added to the list of the University partners:

    • Brazil: the Federal University of Maranhão
    • UK: the University of Chichester
    • Italy: the University for Foreigners of Siena
    • Qatar: Qatar University; Hamid Bin Khalifa University
    • Malaysia: UCSI University
    • Croatia: the University of Rijeka
    • India: Mody University of Science and Technology
    • UK: the University of Edinburgh
    • Greece: the University of Piraeus

    An analysis of the pace of concluding international agreements with international organisations from 2017 to 2021 shows a fairly stable trend with a slight increase in 2017–2019. The decline in the number of international agreements concluded in 2020-2021 is also due to the consequences of the spread of the coronavirus infection, which contributed to a general decrease in the intensity of international processes and the physical limitation of the possibility of signing documents during the lockdown periods in partner organisations.

    Number of agreements concluded with international organisations

    In mid-2021, the European Commission announced the modernisation of the existing version of the Erasmus + KA 107 programme and its transformation into the Erasmus + KA 171 programme. Its primary goals are to involve new target groups, including participants with disabilities, and new forms of cooperation, focusing on digitalisation of education and the introduction of "green" technologies and practices in all projects. As of 8 February 2022, about 50 proposals were sent to St Petersburg University to jointly submit an application for participation in the updated version of the project. Presumably, the final number of supported projects can be announced in July 2022. So far, there have been no official notifications about the exclusion of Russia from the programme.

    In 2021, 456 international students completed inclusive education at St Petersburg University, said Sergey Andryushin. In 2021, the indicators of outgoing student mobility were higher than in 2020 (521 of St Petersburg University students). Due to the epidemic circumstances, many partner universities have provided the opportunity to study online, and 57 students from St Petersburg University did so.

    A decline in student mobility has been observed over the past two years (since March 2020) against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions. Universities in a number of countries have not accepted exchange students from spring 2020 to the present (Japan, China, the USA, Latin America). On average, over the past years, the volume of internships in these countries of the total amounted to about 20%.

    The University implements academic mobility programmes for students with more than 200 international partner universities. At the moment, official confirmation of the suspension of cooperation has been received from 50 partners. The vast majority of partners continue to implement programmes in the current semester but have notified the possibility of suspending mobility programmes from the autumn of the 2022/23 academic year. All commitments (including the financial ones) are being fulfilled this semester.

    Currently, about 200 students of St Petersburg University are abroad. Information support was organised for them (telegram chat, and a survey about their encountered problems to name just a few.). According to the information received from the students, they did not experience any problems at the host universities. On the contrary, students note the maximum support of the administration of universities abroad. The main difficulties are related to the work of bank cards and international flights.

    In the spring semester at St Petersburg University, international students who arrived for inclusive education (more than 300 people) decided to return to their universities in about 80% of cases. Only a few students from European universities and students from Japan, Korea, Turkey, Belarus, and the Russian Federation continued to study at the University. Most of the departed students expressed their desire to continue their studies online (unless a foreign university decided to cancel their studies).

    Today, the teaching and learning process is partially or wholly suspended in six degree programmes out of the 14 double degree programmes with foreign partner universities at the initiative of foreign colleagues as official notifications. The implementation of joint programmes with the universities of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and China continues in the usual manner. For a number of suspended programmes, some formats of interaction are maintained (defences of graduation projects are planned, enrolment is planned for the 2022/23 academic year). Most partners continue to implement programmes in the current semester, but suspend programmes from the autumn of the 2022/23 academic year.

    Sergey Andryushin also emphasised that the University’s representative offices opened in the Republic of Korea, China, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Turkey continue their work (Active work of St Petersburg University’s representative offices is well underway). Currently, at the initiative of the German side, the activities of the representative office in Berlin have been suspended, in other countries all planned events are taking place in accordance with the approved plan. For example, the first cycle of online lectures on joint Russian-Greek history was recently completed at the Greek office of St Petersburg University, attended by more than 100 students, and classes as part of a non-degree programme in translation. Additionally, at the end of February, state testing in Russian as a foreign language was held in various cities of Greece. In the House of Russia in Barcelona, where the Spanish representative office of St Petersburg University is located, it is planned to hold the Summer Piano and Vocal School with the participation of St Petersburg University academic staff, classes in Russian as a foreign language and language testing in the near future. In Spain, the Open Doors Day of the University will be held, during which future applicants will be told about the admissions process, school and student competitions and other intellectual competitions.

    As of February 2022, St Petersburg University was a member of 22 international organisations. Only two organisations have received notifications of a change in the relationship format: Coimbra Group Universities and CERN. Cooperation within the framework of our membership in international professional associations in other cases is carried out as usual. As certain events are held, publications are published and other events are covered on the official portal of the University.

    To date, at the initiative of partners, the following joint degree programmes have been suspended: POMOR, three master’s programmes with the Sorbonne; a programme with the Technische Universität Ilmenau.

    Currently, cases of suspension of cooperation by the University’s partners are being analysed from the point of view of contractual obligations. In case of their violation and the costs incurred, the University will present claims to such partners and demand reimbursement of the incurred costs.

    Organisation of the work of the branch of St Petersburg University in the Republic of Uzbekistan

    As part of the implementation of the roadmap for opening a branch of St Petersburg University in Tashkent (Republic of Uzbekistan), work was carried out to prepare for the opening of a branch in September 2022 (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 24 January 2022). According to Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, as part of the first admission campaign, the branch will enrol applicants for the master’s programme of St Petersburg University ‘International Relations in the Post-Soviet Space’, which will be implemented according to the double degree programmes with the Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies. In the future, the list of programmes will be expanded to include such areas as philology, economics, and biomedicine. In the branch of St Petersburg University in Tashkent, non-degree programmes will also be implemented for both students and academic staff of Uzbek universities, representatives of state authorities and the business community of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

    The following work is currently underway:

    • approved and ready for approval the draft Regulations in the branch
    • selected and approved the candidacy of the head of the branch
    • completed the preparation of a package of documents for registration of a branch in the Republic of Uzbekistan
    • work is being completed on the preparation of documents for obtaining a licence from the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) to carry out educational activities in a branch of St Petersburg University
    • work was organised to develop a double degree master’s programme in partnership with TSUOS "International Entrepreneurship"

    Meeting of the Coordinating Council for research and development in medical science

    On 10 March 2022, the first meeting of the Coordinating Council for research and development in medical science was held, which was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and scientific and educational organisations subordinate to the Government of the Russian Federation. This Council under the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation was established in February 2022 to implement the strategic initiative for the socio-economic development of the Russian Federation until 2030 "Medical Science for Humans", which has already become an independent federal project. The meeting was attended by Professor Piotr Yablonsky, Member of the Coordinating Council, Vice-Rector for Medical Activities of St Petersburg University, Director of the St Petersburg Research Institute of Phthisiopulmonology, and Chief Specialist of Thoracic surgery of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.

    Within the framework of the federal project "Medical Science for Humans", it is planned to increase the efficiency and practical output of research and development in the interests of medicine and health care, the results of which should be used in developing specific drugs, medical devices, methods, methods of prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation in real life. The meeting considered approaches to implementing a set of measures aimed at a systematic solution of existing problems in the field of medical science management and increasing its effectiveness (Presentation).

    At the Rector’s meeting, Piotr Yablonsky said that the Coordinating Council would consolidate the efforts of not only medical, but also non-core institutions to solve the identified problems, and would help the developers of the public sector to broadcast and commercialise their developments in the field of medical science. It is important that St Petersburg University specialists participate in this work. A list of scientific developments of the University scientists has been compiled, which can be presented at the Russia-wide showcase of promising areas of development. Directors and deans are instructed to submit proposals to supplement this list. After discussion at the meeting, it was decided to include their developments not only narrowly medical, but also interdisciplinary (regarding the legal regulation of medical projects, and their financial support to name just a few).

    The rules of exercising the powers of establishing legal entities by Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University were approved

    For the first time, the issues related to establishing legal entities within the research and educational complex of the University were raised by the Dean and the members of the Academic Council at the Faculty of Law in 1998. At that time, this proposal was supported neither by the heads of the majority of the subdivisions nor by the University management. Moreover, the Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Academic Council were accused of the desire to "withdraw from the University" and the intention "to destroy the University". After that, on 31 August 1999, Nikolay Kropachev, Dean of the Faculty of Law, was fired (Order No 669/1 dated 30 August 1999 "On relieving Nikolay Kropachev, Dean of the Faculty of Law and the special faculty on advance training in legal sciences at St Petersburg University of his duties"; A Fresh Start: Transparent Enrolment; Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 25 July 2011).

    In 2008, the requests to the candidate for the Rector’s position included expanding the independence of the subdivisions at St Petersburg University. Immediately after the elections, the new Rector took the relevant measures. A possibility to establish legal entities included in the research and educational complex of the University allowed for creating conditions for greater independence and responsibility of the University subdivisions.

    According to Yury Penov, Deputy Rector for Legal Affairs, the first results were fast to arrive. Following the changes introduced into Federal Law № 259-FZ dated 10 November 2009 "On Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University" and into specific provisions of the Federal Law № 272-FZ dated 29 December 2012 "On education in the Russian Federation" (Federal Law No 332-FZ dated 2 July 2021), St Petersburg University was granted a possibility to establish legal entities within the research and educational complex of the University. At the same time, the legal entities within St Petersburg University will have the same advantages, rights and benefits as the University, including the right to teach following own standards, the right to grant own state diplomas and the right to hold defences following own rules.

    Since 2010, the University has regularly attempted to put this option into practice. To do so, the University is required at least to have the procedure of establishing such legal entities within the research and educational complexes of the relevant universities approved by the Government of the Russian Federation.

    The next step of St Petersburg University in establishing legal entities within the research educational complex of the University is related to joining the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies to St Petersburg University (2014-2016). St Petersburg University has refused to include the Clinic as a standard subdivision within the University structure for several years. Persistent requests of the University administration to include the Clinic as an independent legal entity did not succeed.

    In autumn of 2020, following the inquiry of the Administration of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation implemented the order of the President of the Russian Federation to draft a procedure of establishing legal entities. The draft stated that the founder of the established legal entities within the research and educational complex of universities should be not St Petersburg University but the Ministry of Science and Higher Education itself. The Ministry limited the functions of St Petersburg University on managing the new University of Liberal Arts and Sciences only to approving the assignment of the Rector for this legal entity. At the same time, other authorities were granted to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation. According to the lawyers of St Petersburg University, this draft did not correspond to the requirements of the Russian legislation. The fact that St Petersburg University has no authority as the founder in relation to the University of Liberal Arts and Sciences similar to any other legal entity established and functioning in this way (for example, the Graduate School of Management, the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies of St Petersburg University, and Students’ campus of St Petersburg University to name just a few) excluded the possibility for such university and legal entities to be considered a part of St Petersburg University and, thus, deprived of the opportunity to grant a diploma of St Petersburg University upon graduation and enjoy the rights provided by St Petersburg University by Federal Law dated 10 November 2009.

    An expanded conclusion on the draft of the Ministry was prepared and sent to the Government of the Russian Federation and the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation. In conclusion, apart from the comments to the draft of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, a number of proposals was made. According to the Administration of St Petersburg University, the implementations of these proposals will enable the University to establish legal entities within the research and educational complex of St Petersburg University. It was proposed to introduce changes into Federal Law No 259-FZ "On Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University", namely: the powers of the founder of legal entities included in the research and educational complex of Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University as well as the powers of the property owner assigned or subject to assignment to such legal entities will be performed by Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University’, respectively, on behalf of the Russian Federation. Only after the position of the University was supported by Andrei Fursenko, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation, St Petersburg University had a real chance to solve the issue.

    Much depended on the elaboration of the issue in the Presidential Directorate for Science and Education Policy (Inna Bilenkina, Head of the Directorate). The issue was elaborated in detail by one of the most influential lawyers in the sphere of education and science of the Russian Federation — Yulia Linskaya, Deputy Chief of the Directorate.

    At the end of December 2020, the President of the Russian Federation gave a task to Mikhail Mishustin, Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, ‘to introduce changes to Federal Law No 259-FZ dated 10 November 2009 "On Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University" providing that the powers of the founder of legal entities within the research and educational complex of Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University’, as well as the powers of the federal property owner assigned or subject to assignment to such legal entities, shall be performed by Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University, respectively, on behalf of the Russian Federation in the order established by the Government of the Russian Federation.’

    On 5 February 2022, the Government of the Russian Federation issued Order No 115 ‘On approving the Rules of exercising the powers of the founder of legal entities within the research and educational complexes and the powers of the owner of the federal property of such legal entities by the Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education "Lomonosov Moscow State University" and the Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education "St Petersburg State University"’. These rules describe the practical procedure of exercising the powers of the founder of legal entities by Lomonosov Moscow State University and St Petersburg University, as well as the powers of the owner of the federal property of such legal entities.

    The participants of the Rector’s meeting noted that they can proceed to implement the order. There were plans to establish the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies, the Graduate School of Management, and other subdivisions as independent legal entities within St Petersburg University.

    Concluding civil law contracts to provide the teaching and learning process

    Based on and in view of implementing the schedule of preparing for the 2022/2023 academic year approved by Order № 13239/1 dated 39 December 2021, a procedure of preparing a task order to procure teaching services to provide for the main teaching and learning process was developed. According to this procedure, the Head of the Academic Programmes Office organises the preparation of task orders based on the proposals from directors and deans.

    According to Elvira Zeletdinova, Vice-Rector for Teaching Methods, directors and deans should provide the Head of the Educational Programmes Department with the information on potential executors under the independent contractor agreements that have not been in labour and(or) civil-law relations with St Petersburg University.

    From 1 June 2022 to 30 June 202, the Head of the Educational Programmes Department shall arrange for sending task order drafts to the Head of the Contract Service and the Vice-Rector for Human Resources to conclude civil law contracts taking into account the anticipated workload for a specific executor and excluding repetitive procurement of teaching services from the same executor.

    Thus, a task order to procure teaching services will be completed before 30 June 2022, allowing the timetable to be formed within the stated period.

    Current issues with organising the teaching and learning process

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

    According to the majority of the academic and research subdivisions, the classes are delivered following the timetable in due order.

    The Dean of the Faculty of Economics received an inquiry from a student, who studies at St Petersburg University on the double degree programme and who is currently located at a university in Germany. The students reported that the university in Germany took the decision to suspend relations with Russian universities. However, St Petersburg University has not yet received an official notice from the foreign university. The expediency of returning the student to St Petersburg is being discussed taking into account the necessity to protect the student from pressure on the part of the representatives of the foreign university. According to Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities, such actions on the part of the foreign university can be considered as a unilateral violation of the current agreement with St Petersburg University. After a comprehensive analysis of the situation and the terms of the agreements, a reciprocal action will be determined. Marina Lavrikova underscored that education and science are the spheres that should not be affected by politics and the existing cooperation agreement in these spheres should be completed.

    Besides, according to the Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Economics, postgraduate students reported that they were not able to receive a certificate of completing the studies within the INTPART international project (International Partnerships for Excellent Education, Research and Innovation). Project organisers informed postgraduate students of St Petersburg University that they can continue to attend classes, but will not receive a certificate as well as the funding for a trip to France. Marina Lavrikova noted that these actions can also be considered as a unilateral refusal to complete the terms of the current international agreement. The reaction to this situation will also be determined upon a comprehensive analysis of the agreement.

    The participants of the Rector’s meeting discussed other refusals from some foreign universities, for example, to perform their duties on enrolling the students of St Petersburg University on full-time programmes. Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Director of the Institute for Cognitive Studies, said that her colleagues at the University also receive similar refusals to have their research articles (that have already passed the review stage) published in international journals. The Rector asked to send such refusals to the Deputy Rector for Legal Affairs and the Deputy Rector for International Affairs. All refusals will be analysed. The Rector gave a task to the Deputy Rector for Legal Affairs and the Deputy Rector for International Affairs to conduct the analysis.

    The Dean of the School of International Relations received an inquiry from fourth-year students on organising additional consultations in "English" discipline to prepare for the final state assessment. Upon considering the inquiry and based on the proposal from the Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages, the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities took the decision that the teachers of the staff team at the Faculty of Foreign Languages will organise additional consultations on the final state assessment in the English language within the subgroups, in which the students studied for 3.5 years. The time of classes will be confirmed individually with the assigned teacher in each group.

    Several international students submitted requests to transfer them to a remote format with the use of information and communication technologies. Foreign citizens that have to stay outside the Russian Federation will study in a remote format if no technical difficulties occur. Following a relevant request, an academic leave or a personal timetable will be provided for those foreign students, who cannot continue their studies at the University for objective reasons. Marina Lavrikova underscored that St Petersburg University will help all the students that experience difficulties due to the current circumstances, but want to continue their studies at the University.

    The information on the academic activity did not arrive from the heads of the Institute of Pedagogy, the Institute for Cognitive Studies, the Graduate School of Management, the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes, the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty, the Faculty of Biology, the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies, and the Medical College.

    The meetings with the representatives of the student councils were not held by some heads of subdivisions, while many subdivisions held such meetings.

    At the meetings, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, the Director of the Institute of History, the Acting Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Physics, the Dean of the Faculty of Sociology discussed introducing changes into the teaching and learning format with the students.

    At the meeting with the students, the Dean of the Faculty of Law discussed a gradual transition to the classroom format. An additional interim assessment will take place starting 14 March 2022 in the classroom format.

    The Director of the Institute of History informed the students about a partial removal of the anti-pandemic restrictive measures. The classes will be delivered with the use of information and communication technologies by 28 March 2022 and in a hybrid format — after 28 March 2022.

    At the meeting with the Dean of the Faculty of Philology, the representatives of the Student Council said that some students experience difficulties with arriving in St Petersburg by 14 March 2022, when a hybrid format should start. Out-of-town and international students do not always have a possibility to arrive by the stated time due to the massive cancellation of flights by air companies. The dean clarified that the classes will be delivered according to the timetable with a temporary use of a hybrid mode combining classroom mode with a distant mode with the use of information and communication technologies.

    At the meetings with the students, the Director of the Institute of Chemistry, the Director of the Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication (the minutes of the meeting have not been made and provided for publication), the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, the Director of the Institute of Earth Sciences discussed the measures of supporting the students from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic and Ukraine (The University is ready to support all students; Marina Lavrikova: ‘St Petersburg University is ready to help everyone who wants to study at the University’).

    The students met with the Administration of the College of Physical Training and Sports, Economics and Technology (the minutes have not been made a published), the Faculty of Foreign Languages and the Faculty of Psychology.

    The information on the interaction with the Student Councils was not received from the management of the Graduate School of Management, the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes, the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics, the Faculty of Biology, the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Medical Technologies, the Medical College.

    Emails containing false information about a special military operation, insults and threats to the students and staff of the University

    Since 24 February, employees of St Petersburg University have received numerous emails from unidentified persons to their corporate email addresses containing false information about the operations of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in conducting a special military operation to protect the population of Donbass. The messages, in most cases, contain offensive language or direct threats to students and staff.

    Many students and staff received messages containing threats. Lyudmila Gromova, Honorary Professor of St Petersburg University, and Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, have received the highest number of threats. Unfortunately, threats are also posted on blogs. For example, one of the blogs contains direct threats against Aleksandr Babich, and other university students and staff who signed a letter of support for a special military operation.

    Responding to information about threats received by deans and directors, the Rector has taken the decision to modify the established procedure for reviewing draft disciplinary orders concerning the application of administrative measures. Now meetings with students will be held not by the Rector, Dean and Head of the Legal Clinic of St Petersburg University (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 12 December 2011; Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 19 December 2011), but by the Vice-Rector for Legal Affairs and the Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, who have already been instructed by the Rector. The Rector also asked Alla Shaboltas, Dean of the Faculty of Psychology, and Sergei Belov, Dean of the Faculty of Law, to attend such meetings. The deans have given their consent.

    Dmitry Gryaznov, Acting Deputy Rector for Security, told the participants that every fact of threats received by University students and staff, as well as threats posted on the Internet (for example, blog comments), is reported to law enforcement agencies to initiate a procedural investigation and hold the person responsible for such threats liable under the current legislation of the Russian Federation (including the removal of the blogs).

    To ensure that law enforcement authorities immediately prevent persons distributing false information about the activities of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Russian Armed Forces in carrying out a special military operation to protect the population of Donbass, and insulting remarks or threats against the students and staff of the University, Dmitry Gryaznov asked the participants to report such facts to zrb@spbu.ru forwarding the received message.

    Disciplinary measures against students

    Following the information received from the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region regarding students brought to administrative responsibility under various articles of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, higher education institutions in St Petersburg apply disciplinary measures to students. Each higher education institution has its own procedure concerning their application. The Paediatric University, for example, decided to expel students: ’The St Petersburg State Paediatric Medical University held the Rector’s meeting. The participants reviewed the personal files of students who had taken part in unauthorised, illegal actions, were detained by law enforcement agencies and brought to administrative responsibility. Due to malicious violations of the Charter and internal regulations of the Pediatric University, and behaviour incompatible with the high reputation of a doctor and a medical student, to Committee took the decision on expulsion’.

    St Petersburg University also has a procedure for imposing and removing disciplinary measures against students in accordance with the Procedure for Disciplinary Measures in accordance with Order of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation № 185 dated 15 March 2013. The students were requested to provide written explanations regarding their violation of the legislation of the Russian Federation and local regulations of the University. Most of the students have already submitted their explanations. Based on the collected materials and explanations received from students, the University prepared draft orders for disciplinary measures in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation, which were then sent to the Student Council of St Petersburg University.

    A few days later, the draft orders for disciplinary measures against two students were withdrawn from the Student Council following the information from the law enforcement agencies that no administrative responsibility had been applied to these students and that administrative cases against them had been dismissed. Consequently, there were no grounds for disciplinary measures.

    Also, during meetings with students against whom draft orders for disciplinary measures had been prepared and sent to the Student Council, it was found that all of them had either already appealed or intended to appeal against the decisions on administrative offences.

    In view of these circumstances, it has been decided not to take a final decision on the imposition of a disciplinary sanction in each case until an appeal has been examined by the court. Given the delays in receiving information from students on appeals against decisions to impose administrative sanctions, the preparation of the draft order shall be preceded by a committee meeting (involving the Vice-Rector for Legal Affairs, the Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, the Dean of the Faculty of Psychology and the Dean of the Faculty of Law), where students can present all the information they have about the circumstances of the incident and inform about the appeal against the decision, their intention to do so, or the results of their appeal.

    At the same time, as previously reported, the courts do not have to and do not provide the University with information on their decisions. Therefore, students whose appeals have been satisfied by the court shall submit the relevant information individually and in a timely manner to the University.

    However, personal accounts of some individuals have published false and misleading information on this issue. In particular, they claim that the draft order has been withdrawn following a student’s interview with the mass media. Students have already raised questions in connection with the dissemination of this false information (one of such questions has been answered in the Virtual Reception).

    In this regard, Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions, once again reminded that reliable information is published on the official website of St Petersburg University. He also voiced his concern about the recent dissemination of inaccurate and sometimes deliberately false information about the life and activities of the University on the personal websites of individuals as well as in some media sources.

    Start-up projects as a term paper and a graduation project

    In 2018, in order to encourage students to participate in the SPbU Start-up contests for interdisciplinary projects of undergraduate and postgraduate students, St Petersburg University has introduced the possibility of completing a graduation project in the form of a start-up into the Academic Regulations of the University.

    Elvira Zeletdinova, Vice-Rector for Teaching Methods, informed of a separate order that had been issued to provide for the entrepreneurial achievements of the University students (Order No 6853/1 dated 12 July 2018). The Order has been amended and supplemented annually to increase the attractiveness of developing start-up projects for the students.

    For example, in the 2019/20 academic year, the range of persons who could defend their graduation projects in the form of a start-up was expanded. It included not only the winners of the start-up contests but also all participants of the team-finalists. Since 2020/21, it is also possible to submit a start-up project as a term paper.

    The first defence of graduation projects in the form of a start-up took place during the State Final Assessment in 2019. This practice was continued in 2020 and 2021 (for more information, see the table in the Appendix).

    For a start-up project to qualify as a term paper or a graduation project during the State Final Assessment, it should satisfy the following conditions.

    1. A start-up project shall involve innovative, research-based, original, knowledge-intensive or commercially viable business models created by a student(s) of St Petersburg University as part of a start-up contest
    2. The start-up contest shall be held by St Petersburg University, or a higher education institution ranked in the top 300 in the international rankings: the Moscow International University Ranking "The Three University Missions", Academic Ranking of World Universities, The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings or equivalent rankings , in accordance with the regulations published on the official website in the information and telecommunication network "Internet"
    3. The start-up project shall be conducted as part of a competition held in the same academic year or no earlier than one academic year before submitting the term paper or the graduation project
    4. The selection round of the finalist teams shall be held no later than fourteen calendar days before the closing date for submission of the term paper or graduation project in accordance with the procedure established by St Petersburg University
    5. The evaluation of the start-up projects submitted by the participants shall be conducted by an expert council or other collegial body and shall include potential investors
    6. To present a start-up as a term paper or a graduation project, a student should be a member of a finalist team, participate in educational seminars, workshops, and other events (exhibitions, conferences, and open days to name just a few) organised within the competition. They should develop the concept of a start-up project, prepare a presentation and business plan, fulfil other competition requirements and participate in the final round of the competition
    7. It is also necessary to establish a relevant educational and methodological commission for the enlarged group of specialities and areas of training to determine whether the topic of the start-up project corresponds to the training area/speciality of the student’s academic programme

    According to the latter condition, the members of the finalist teams who have completed a bachelor’s programme cannot submit their start-up project as a graduation project when studying for a master’s programme.

    Improvement of the competition rules has been repeatedly discussed at Rector’s meetings (Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 28 February 2022; Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 3 September 2018; and Minutes of the Rector’s meeting dated 16 November 2020 to name just a few) and referred to the Student Council for comments and suggestions.

    Deans and directors are instructed to discuss the rules of the competition with the student scientific societies of institutes and faculties by 30 March 2022.

    Meetings between heads of academic and research subdivisions, and students from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine

    Following the instructions of the Rector to discuss measures to support citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine given at the Rector’s meeting dated 28 February 2022, directors of institutes and faculty deans held online meetings with students from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, and Ukraine from 28 February to 4 March. The meetings, during which the students were invited to discuss individual and general support measures, were attended by the deputy heads of Academic Offices and deputy heads of the Department for Youth Affairs.

    During these meetings, the students were informed about the assistance offered by the University (psychological, legal, and financial support) and asked questions they were concerned about, said Aleksandr Babich, Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Admissions. More information on the support measures is available on the website of the University: ’The University is ready to support all students’.

    The University provides humanitarian assistance to refugees from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic and Ukraine. It also supports students who had to interrupt their studies at foreign universities to continue their studies at St Petersburg universities. More information is available on the website of St Petersburg University.

    Students from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic and Ukraine may contact the Department for Youth Affairs at urm@spbu.ru or by direct mail to the deputy heads of the Department for Youth Affairs responsible for their area of study. The information is available on the website of the Department for Youth Affairs.

    DDoS attacks on the resources of St Petersburg University

    The information resources of St Petersburg University have been targeted by a series of DDoS attacks over the past two weeks.

    Sergey Sevryukov, Head of the Information Technology Service, informed about the most powerful surge on 10 March: the official website of St Petersburg University (spbu.ru) was under heavy attack since 10am.

    According to the specialists of the Information Technology Service, a targeted attack on the University’s servers continued for more than 13 hours. The attack resumed around 7am on 11 March, and the website suffered new outages. Tens of thousands of IP addresses from various countries and regions (including the USA, Poland and Ukraine) participated in the attack.

    At the moment, all University resources are functioning effectively, and the attack has been repelled. The specialists of the Information Technology Service are working hard to prevent such attacks and improve response and countermeasures. Sergey Sevryukov stressed, however, that the task of improving personal and collective qualifications in the field of information security remains crucial. To improve employees’ competence in this area, the Information Technology Service, together with the recently established Information Security Department, is preparing instructions and recommendations on protecting systems and data. The instructions will soon be made available to the University staff.