In 2023, for the first time since our country joined the Bologna Process, the number of budgetary places in the first year of specialization at the Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University was higher than at the bachelor's level - 982 versus 940. These are the interim results of the reform of higher education, which started in Russia on the initiative of President Vladimir Putin.
However, the university management did not stop there and, without waiting for the next admission campaign, decided to make one more significant step towards the improvement of the engineering training process. All first-year undergraduate students were offered to sign additional agreements to the contracts with the Mining University and transfer to the basic higher education programs for a period of 5.5 years.
As Rector Vladimir Litvinenko stated during the traditional meeting with first-year students, "in two or three years, the bachelor's degree in technical universities will disappear". This is almost inevitable, because its curricula do not suit either employers, the academic community, or the students themselves, who do not have time in 4 years to get the whole set of knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career.
"I count on you to support our endeavors aimed, first of all, at solving state tasks. One of them is to train a pleiad of competent young specialists capable of ensuring a generational change in the industry. At the same time, all those transformations that are taking place today at our university and will be then realized nationwide are obviously useful for each of you personally. Even today, a bachelor's degree is of little value to employers, and soon it will become a worthless piece of paper. Its holders will not be expected to work in the workplace. We offer you to sharply increase your competitiveness in the future by obtaining a full-fledged basic higher technical education within five and a half years," Vladimir Litvinenko addressed the students.
The proposal is, to put it bluntly, unexpected and interesting. But how did the young men and women who enrolled in bachelor's degree programs perceive it? Were they embarrassed by the need to spend an additional year and a half in order to receive a document of higher education?
Ksenia Belova came to St. Petersburg from Kamyshin and entered the specialty "Land Management and Cadastre". She says that she chose Gorny primarily because its partners include almost all of Russia's flagship companies, which means that the choice of potential employers will be a priori rich.
"It is no secret that the current system of higher education in our country is built in such a way that there are basically no many areas of training at the specialty. So the only way to get this or that profession, including becoming a cadastral engineer, which is what I aspire to, is to enroll in a bachelor's program. The problem is that its curricula allocate minimal time for industrial practice, during which you can find a future job. Therefore, when I learned about the rector's proposal, I didn't think for a second," says Ksenia Belova.
She is not at all embarrassed by the one and a half year extension of the study period, as well as another first-year student Alexandra Kramarenko, studying in the profile "Technosphere Safety". She is sure that it is the specialization that will open before her "more career roads to a bright future".
"During five and a half years we will have time to get both basic, fundamental education and narrowly focused, in our specific profile. This is practically impossible at the bachelor's level, there is simply not enough time for this. As for the increase in the term of study, I was planning to enter the master's program after the bachelor's degree anyway, otherwise it is almost impossible to get a prestigious and highly paid job. So it turns out that I, on the contrary, save half a year," explained Alexandra Kramarenko.
Vladislav Steblyak from the Faculty of Mineral Processing said that he thought about transferring to the basic higher education program on Knowledge Day, after Vladimir Litvinenko's speech at the "solemn ceremony". He asked his older comrades and realized: the rector was absolutely right, the value of a four-year education is not great.
"The experience of undergraduate graduates is that they have trouble finding employment. I don't want that for myself. Obviously, when entering the university, each of us sets a certain goal: to graduate as a specialist with adequate conditions at the start and prospects for career growth. I am sure that an extra year and a half of study will contribute to this. First of all, because while studying I will be able to familiarize myself with real production processes at enterprises and better understand where exactly I would like to work in the future," Vladislav Steblyak believes.
Alisa Pavlova is from Belgorod and is studying specialization in "Informatics and Computer Science". She plans to connect her life with programming, as she has a "mathematical mind". Like her fellow students, she wants to transfer to specialization.
"When I entered the university, I realized that 100% I will not stop at the bachelor's degree, because, in my opinion, it is an unfinished higher education. And I plan to become a demanded and competitive specialist. Therefore, in any case, I would go to a master's program. But there is a certain nuisance here. On the one hand, I am not afraid of competition, but on the other hand, the state allocates significantly fewer places for master's programs than for bachelor's programs. So, you understand, it's extra nerves. Therefore, when the university offered me to transfer to a specialization and, in fact, saved me from unnecessary exams after 4 years, I naturally agreed. It would be strange not to take advantage of such an opportunity," Alisa Pavlova argued her decision.
Igor Fokin came to St. Petersburg from Samara. He admits that when he was an applicant, he "simply didn't fully understand where he should go". Therefore, he saw the prospect of getting a basic engineering education as a big plus, because "it will be repaid a hundredfold in the future".
"For me the priority is Gazprom, I would like to work in a company of this level. But it is clear that this is the dream of many of my peers, and I am well aware that on the way to my goal I will need to beat them to the competition. A specialist diploma obtained at the Mining University will be my obvious advantage, as it has a completely different weight and is an indicator of a completely different level of training," Igor Fokin believes.
Mikhail Zhuravlevlev is a student of the Mining Faculty, he is from Sevastopol. Like many of his peers, he dreams of being employed by Gazprom. One of the advantages of enrolling in the oldest technical university in Russia is not only the high level of the educational process, but also the opportunity to participate in events such as job fairs of major energy companies. This includes various subsidiaries of the world's leading producer of blue fuel.
"Bachelor's graduates are less competitive in the marketplace than those who have studied longer. An engineering degree will give me much more opportunities, both to build a career and to bring maximum benefit to the country at my workplace. This is no less important than personal growth, because our own well-being and the well-being of our loved ones depends on what kind of state we will be living in 10 or 20 years from now, whether it will retain its sovereignty, whether it will be able to cope with the challenges it faces," says Mikhail Zhuravlevlev.
It is no secret that studying is very hard work, requiring high self-organization and diligence. It is clear that not all young people possess these qualities and are ready to sacrifice some momentary interests for the sake of future self-realization in the labor market. However, those who "chew the granite of science" not in words, but in deed, become in the future highly demanded specialists, quite capable of rising on the "social elevator" to the status of a top manager.
"I realize that young people often look for easier paths in life, follow the path of least resistance. Therefore, they go to universities where they can study less, where they are less demanding, to programs that require a minimum period of study. If it were possible to get a diploma not in four years, but in two, I think there would be people willing to do just that. But we are training specialists who will be entrusted with expensive technological chains and production facilities in the future. The price of one well, for example, is millions of dollars, it employs only three people, and only one engineer manages the process. The responsibility of our graduate is colossal. If he or she does not fulfill his or her duties professionally, the consequences can be very serious. I am impressed by the fact that students overwhelmingly understand this logic and support our decisions made in the process of improving the system of personnel training for the national economy. There is no doubt that persistence in gaining knowledge and skills will definitely help them in the future," summarized Vladimir Litvinenko.
It should be reminded that in 2023 a record number of applications from applicants was submitted to St. Petersburg Mining University, which is one of the six participants of the pilot project to reform higher education - it exceeded 40 thousand. For comparison: in previous years, this indicator varied between 33-35 thousand.