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Vladimir Litvinenko: “State policy in higher education is on the agenda”

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This year, the St. Petersburg Mining University's curriculum included the basic scientific competency "Philosophy of Science." This is a unique educational program in which students will learn how to select the topic and object of research, justify the methodology of research, prove its validity, work with databases that are used to search for highly cited publications, and acquire many other knowledge and skills necessary for young scientists. Another innovation is a significant change in the requirements for the master's thesis, which now consists of three sections, each of which will be evaluated separately.

How do such initiatives promote the growth of our intellectual capital, creation of breakthrough technologies and intensification of socio-economic development of Russia as a whole? For answers to these and other questions, the Forpost turned to Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the country's oldest technical university.

- Vladimir Stefanovich, this year it was announced that Russian higher education is withdrawing from the Bologna process. On the one hand, the two-tier system of higher education has had many critics, and this development is more of a positive scenario for our country. But on the other hand, it is not quite clear in which direction we are going to move and which mechanisms to use in order to raise the quality level of our graduates. In your opinion, what should be the vector of development?

- The "rejection of the Bologna Agreement" does raise a great many questions. But when answering them, in addition to the shortcomings of this system, which are obvious, we should take into account the depth of the problems associated with the capabilities of higher education, as well as its lack of a coherent doctrine aimed at solving public problems. The established traditions, evolutionary approach and global qualitative changes that have occurred in recent years in the sphere of personnel training do not meet the demands of business. And this is felt in the industry sectors of our mineral resource complex, which is experiencing a shortage of highly qualified engineers.

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Weakening of the level of methodological scientific-philosophical training of scientific-pedagogical personnel and their professional lagging behind the dynamics of global technological progress against the background of a sharp increase in requirements to the competences of mining engineers working with raw material resources as natural capital, creates a threat of technological backwardness of Russia.

The "Bologna agreement" introduced a serious disproportion in the structure of student enrollment in the specialized areas of training, which led to a large shortage of qualified engineers with the knowledge necessary for the development of our unique mineral and raw material sector. But our Soviet engineering school has always been strong in this respect. Blind copying of Western templates increased the risks of deformation of students' consciousness and reduction of their intellectual potential.

We should not just talk about the problems of higher education, but about the threats to the preservation of our country's civilizational identity. Russian youth under the influence of liberal ideology is rapidly forming new values, which leads to the generation of a number of worldview problems. Such as crisis of historical consciousness and its "hollywoodization", destruction of continuity of historical memory, reduction of motivation to work, spread of extremist ideologies and separatist ethnic mythology, creation of positive migration motivation, departure from traditional domestic school pedagogy.

Today there is no understanding at the legislative level that the Ministry and the Minister personally is the sole federal center of state regulation of the entire process of our education, including the compilation of threshold requirements for educational standards, the development of academic mobility and is a response to the challenges of the labor market. There is no market mechanism for developing proposals for the Ministry, although in all progressive countries this function is entrusted to the professional communities of universities and employers in specialized areas of training.


The most urgent problem requiring an urgent solution today is the lack of flexibility of universities to the demands of the labor market and the need for individualization of education as an integral part of this process. The long overdue transformation of the higher education system should follow the evolutionary path, with the obligatory fixation at the legislative level of a number of fundamental provisions.

Firstly, the above-mentioned approaches to changing the state regulation of higher education in the Russian Federation, taking into account the tasks of the state. Secondly, preservation of the two-level system with priority introduction of the specialty in those directions of training where it is necessary from the point of view of the state needs. Thirdly, the introduction, beginning this year, of the practice of flexible and transparent planning of admission targets (taking into account the previous postulate) and their mandatory approval by the Federation Council and the State Duma.

It should be taken into account that the prosperous nation of this century will be the one that creates the most effective system of school and university education without "blind copying". Reforming the educational system, it should be remembered that this is the foundation and tool for the most effective development of the intellectual and spiritual personality of young citizens of Russia.

- Should the transformation of the higher education system take into account the strategic tasks facing our country, such as the development of the Arctic region? After all, this mega-project will require a huge number of professional engineers?

- Of course. Already now more than 80% of natural gas and almost a fifth of all Russian oil is produced in the Arctic Circle. The potential of the region is enormous, not only in terms of raw material base, but also in terms of logistics. Investments provided for the development of transport infrastructure and the development of major fields, such as the Kruzenshtern and Tambey fields, amount to trillions of rubles. In order to efficiently and effectively utilize these funds it is of course necessary to have qualified personnel. Their training is a state task which requires an adequate strategy.

Газпром Добыча Ямбург
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The raw material, enclave type of socio-economic development of the northern territories has no alternative. But now, unfortunately, this most important factor is not reflected in the state policy of training engineers for the Russian economy. Realistic and professional assessment of the situation, search for answers to the challenges of our time are necessary conditions for sustainable development of our country, whose economy critically depends on the state of the mineral and raw material complex and resource base.

Due to the fact that our economy is based on the exploitation of mineral and raw material potential, it is necessary to pay increased attention to its reproduction and the creation within the country of long technological chains of processing in order to produce direct consumption products from hydrocarbons, ore and non-metallic raw materials. This is, after all, the goal of the state - to get the maximum rent from the extracted resources. But how can this be achieved? Today we see an obvious disproportion between the need to develop the industry and the necessary staffing. It can be eliminated only if a number of urgent tasks are solved. And, first of all, the task of forming an appropriate educational environment.

Unfortunately, many problems hinder this process. They include: the erosion of motivators to acquire knowledge, the fall of the prestige of scientific and pedagogical activities, which complicates the selection of personnel, the spread of anti-scientific theories and approaches, the decline in the popularity of reading, the crisis of book culture, which was replaced by the Internet and social networks, information in which has much lower threshold of reliability.

We and society as a whole are facing very serious challenges that cannot be met without a clear understanding of the problems of staff training and methods of solving them. Professional communities, the state, and public organizations, despite the complexity of this task, must solve it by creating favorable conditions for the education of engineers who are ready for self-realization in a competitive environment and who are nurtured in the spirit of patriotism.

Философия науки
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- Let's return to St. Petersburg Mining University's new core competency "Philosophy of Science," which has become mandatory for first-year master's students, and other innovations. How will they improve the effectiveness of the same Arctic projects?

- Unfortunately, today almost no one knows what the requirements are for a master's thesis. Including the active supporters of the two-tier system of education, who work in the Ministry and approved them themselves. In fact, this is a truncated version of the requirements for the graduate research paper of a graduate student. There is neither a technology nor an economics section, as there is for students in the specialist program. In fact, all graduate students are cadres for science, not for production. But not all of them will go on to postgraduate studies, most of them will and should build their careers in companies.

Our economy is industrializing, it requires the integration of scientific and engineering knowledge. If masters do not have this combination, if they do not have the competences necessary for business, do not understand production processes, then it is a clear inflection in the direction of neoliberal ideology, and it should be urgently corrected. Our President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, has clearly defined engineering education as equivalent to the development of the national economy. The Mining University took this public statement as a guide to action.

Our master's thesis will now include scientific, technical and economic sections, each of which is evaluated separately. And first-year studies will begin with a 320-hour program of basic scientific competence. Those who have already received a certificate in its theoretical section during their undergraduate studies (and, starting next year, it will be a prerequisite for admission to the master's program) will naturally improve their knowledge and skills in the laboratories as a master researcher.

The rest, upon completion of the course, will have to defend the reports on the profile of their scientific research using scientific review and the results obtained during laboratory experiments at the Council for the Preparation of Scientific-Pedagogical Personnel.

Философия науки
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- How do students themselves perceive the new requirements? And what number of undergraduates do you think would be optimal for the university?

- Most are well aware that the innovations will make them more competitive in the labor market. In the future, they will be able to get interesting jobs and become financially self-sufficient people. Last year, when the basic scientific competence "Philosophy of Science" was not yet mandatory, we offered those who wished to take its theoretical course on a voluntary basis. There were quite a lot of students: 238.

As for the optimal number of students, we plan to admit about three times as many people to the master's program as to the postgraduate program. This is necessary to create a competitive environment and professional growth of future scientific-pedagogical or scientific-engineering personnel.

- It turns out that the mission of the master's program at St. Petersburg Mining University has undergone significant changes. Can something similar be said about the graduate school?

- The main mission of graduate school is to ensure the scientific and technological sovereignty of the country's economy by graduating graduates with the status of "Researcher" and "Research Educator" for the university itself and the specialized universities. In order to obtain this high qualification it is necessary not just to graduate from graduate school, but to master two professional competencies - pedagogical and scientific.

The threshold requirements for the first of these to qualify for the certificate "Professional Educator" is the successful completion of the entire educational program, as well as the availability of practical teaching experience as a trainee assistant for at least 100 hours with a positive conclusion of the teaching and methodological council of the faculty. And for the second - the presence of new scientific knowledge obtained in the laboratory and in the production, the publication of at least 2 scientific articles in highly rated journals and at least 2 citations by other authors, and most importantly - the presence of a successful defense of the thesis for the degree of candidate of sciences.

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Only with the final attestation of pedagogical competence and a defended dissertation does the qualification committee award a graduate with the appropriate qualification of "Researcher" or "Researcher Educator" with the issuance of a diploma.

- How difficult is it to enter graduate school at St. Petersburg Mining University, and what qualities must a candidate have in order to qualify?

- In order to be admitted, you must first of all have an interest and aptitude for science. And serious preparatory work should begin at least in the 3rd year of a bachelor's or specialist's degree. A prerequisite, as I have already mentioned, must be participation in the Philosophy of Science project. In addition to the theoretical course, it also requires participation in practical laboratory research, a paper co-authored with a scientist who is engaged in similar research, and published in a highly ranked journal, and at least 3 citations.

If all these requirements are met, the qualifying committee issues an invaluable certificate for the future graduate student. Its owner is a candidate for a place in our graduate school. Over the past eight years there has been a lot of systematic work to improve its quality.

горный университет
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First, five world-class research centers have been established at the university. Their mission is to have full-time scientists, specialized laboratories with modern equipment and furniture, and to create an environment of trust for joint scientific experiments by students, graduate students, and research and teaching staff.

Secondly, the system of final requirements for graduate students has been changed and indicators of intermediate evaluation have been specified. But the main thing is personnel, developed to ensure replenishment of the scientific and pedagogical community at the expense of talented young people. Today, the scientific supervisors of graduate students are mostly professors and associate professors of science. The steps taken allow us to be optimistic about the future, which largely depends on whether we can put on stream the training of competent scientific and pedagogical and scientific-engineering staff.

The deficit of scientific-pedagogical personnel, especially in the youth segment, ready and capable to carry out the task of training engineers of higher qualification, their patriotic and spiritual upbringing is an extremely urgent problem, which can be eliminated only in case of correct and professional state regulation. The potential of domestic higher education is sufficient to change the situation for the better, but it also requires mobilizing society to direct its inertia towards the growth of the spiritual and moral state of society. Only in this case will we get a sufficient number of competent personnel, which Russia needs to implement plans related to the new industrialization of the domestic economy.

Горный университет
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