The Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University is celebrating its 250th anniversary. On the eve of this event, the British rating agency Times Higher Education (THE) included it in the top 100 best higher education institutions in the world in terms of financial income from the implementation of its research activities in production per employee. This is a clear indication that the university lives not so much on budgetary allocations as on independently earned funds.
For every ruble from the budget there are at least two received from customers. They are invested, first of all, in the modernisation of instrumentation and laboratory facilities and infrastructure, as well as in the construction of new facilities. According to Rector Vladimir Litvinenko, investment in its own development is a prerequisite, without which it is impossible to train competent young specialists for the domestic industry and retain strong teachers, even with high salaries.
"Our task is to create a favourable scientific and educational environment in which students would feel comfortable to accumulate knowledge and faculty would feel comfortable to generate and relay it. It is not only about stylishly decorated classrooms and halls, but, first of all, about a set of conditions and factors aimed at ergonomics. This includes the availability of equipment necessary for classes, canteens where you can eat delicious food, and dormitories, which today are not buildings from the last century with one washroom for the whole floor, but modern academic complexes of studios. This is of great importance for the training of highly qualified engineers and the formation of a new generation of technical intelligentsia," emphasised Vladimir Litvinenko.
It is enough to walk through the corridors of the university to realise how effectively the money received for the implementation of the results of the research activities of Gornyy's scientists in industry "works". It is not customary to make this public here, as we are talking about "everyday life" and not about any breakthroughs, but an outside observer, of course, has a lot to marvel at.
The figures are also shocking. According to the results of the last year, if we start counting from the beginning of the century, 140 thousand square metres of buildings and structures were put into operation at the university from scratch. In addition, 132 thousand square metres were reconstructed to meet the development objectives. In total, this is 90 per cent of the total area of the higher education institution.
For example, by the beginning of the academic year 2015/16, the university commissioned several new facilities on Vasilievsky Island. In particular, a whole academic building on Maly Prospect, where I and II year students are currently taking classes, as well as the Gorny multifunctional complex (with a congress hall with a capacity of up to 1,500 people and twelve breakout rooms for small and medium-sized group meetings). For 8 years now, prestigious international forums have been held there, attended by high-profile politicians, economists, scientists, engineers and top managers of flagship Russian and foreign companies.
Over the last 10 years, the university has opened six new dormitories, as they became much more in demand after the introduction of the USE in Russia and, as a consequence, an increase in the number of non-resident students. All of them are built in accordance with a new concept that incorporates the best international trends and solutions. The next two (the term "last" is not appropriate here) buildings are no longer just rooms with a bathroom in each of them, but full-fledged comfortable studio flats with their own kitchens and all the furniture necessary for rest and study.
In addition, students now have at their disposal ultramodern sports and gyms, where both scheduled physical education classes, those that are on the schedule, and extracurricular classes are held. That is, every student of a St. Petersburg university can come there at any time convenient for him and, importantly, to train for free. Either on their own or under the guidance of an experienced instructor.
As for the modernisation of the material base, over the last three years, several new structural units equipped with the latest technology have appeared at the Mining University. For example, German furniture optimal for research was purchased for the Scientific Centre for Problems of Processing of Mineral and Technogenic Resources. It minimises the need for employees conducting experiments or analysing the obtained data to move from one location to another, which significantly saves their time.
All the equipment needed for research is at hand. These include high-precision microscopes, sockets, the number of which has increased significantly thanks to new electrical panels, and laboratory glassware stored at arm's length in special niches or on shelves. Flow and exhaust ventilation, internal sewerage to collect liquid waste, emergency equipment - shower units for eye and skin washing, sanitisers, and so on. Some of this list may seem like trifles, but in fact all of this forms the very environment that the rector is talking about.
Another new laboratory, "Development of Gas and Gas Condensate Wells", opened at the Arctic Science Centre of the Mining University about a year and a half ago, is also equipped with everything necessary for conducting profile research. For example, there is a Systemtechnik GHA-350B unit, which was assembled jointly with German colleagues and allows us to conduct experiments of the highest level. This includes such areas as extracting methane from gas hydrates in natural conditions, as well as increasing the efficiency of thermodynamic and kinetic inhibitors of hydrate formation, which are in high demand in the gas industry.
All the premises of the St. Petersburg university - classrooms, corridors, staircases and lifts - look like you are looking at a festive picture. Therefore, it is quite difficult to choose any of them to give an example of high-quality reconstruction. Especially since new and newly renovated spaces appear here almost every month. Students even joke that their "alma mater" is the embodiment of the saying that "renovation cannot be finished, but only suspended".
But perhaps one of the most interesting facilities was the assembly hall of the St. Petersburg Mining University, which has 450 seats. During the works, the builders improved its appearance, equipped it with the most modern telecommunication equipment and completely renewed all engineering communications there: heating, ventilation and power supply.
Among the technological novelties: an automatic sliding curtain, a booth for simultaneous interpretation in two foreign languages, a huge LED screen measuring 8.3 by 4.8 metres and a modern acoustic system. Total area of the facility: 835 square metres.
The most surprising thing is that no one is going to stop here. This year it is planned to build another 35 thousand "squares", and by the end of 2026 - more than 140 thousand. As the rector explained, the anniversary is not a reason to rest on your laurels, enjoying the work done, but rather a starting point, which, like starting blocks for runners, should help the representatives of the first technical university of Russia to take a good pace from the very first metres of the distance. The next finish line, which, no doubt, will be followed by others, is 2026. It will be 250 years since the first graduation of Russian mining engineers, when, in fact, higher technical education in our country was born.
"Our 250th anniversary will be the starting point in a series of large-scale events initiated by the Mining University, including those related to the opening of new infrastructure facilities. Their purpose is to emphasise the significance of the mineral and raw materials complex for increasing the sustainability of Russia's social and economic development and preserving its sovereignty. Today it is very important to emphasise this to the public, as well as the tasks that we will all have to solve in the near future. Not only the academic and business community, the executive and legislative authorities, but the entire society, as we are talking about the issues that are the cornerstone for improving the quality of life of each of us. Such as the need to improve the training of engineering personnel for industrial enterprises, as well as to create and improve the efficiency of technologies demanded by mining and processing industries," said Vladimir Litvinenko.
He also explained that at the meeting of the Organising Committee for the preparation and celebration of the anniversary of St. Petersburg Mining University, which took place in August under the chairmanship of Valentina Matvienko, "emphasis was placed not on celebrations, but on the development of the university." This included the need to implement the pilot project to improve higher technical education in Russia, the decree on the launch of which was signed by Vladimir Putin in spring.
Speaking about Gorny's infrastructure projects that were discussed at the meeting and are to be put into practice within the next three years, among the most significant is the creation of the Russian-Chinese Mineral Resources University, one of the buildings of which will be built in St. Petersburg, on Vasilievsky Island. This complex with an area of more than 120 thousand square metres will unite under its roof administrative, scientific, educational and residential premises. The aim is to integrate the efforts of the two states aimed at training competent personnel and creating new technologies for the mineral sector.
The work of the St. Petersburg university in the construction of dormitories, including new large projects that have already been launched, the total area of which exceeds 60 thousand square metres, was also highly appreciated at this meeting. If we talk in general about the major events that St. Petersburg University plans to organise over the next three years, it is, first of all, the International Mining Congress with the participation of at least 15,000 delegates from all continents of our planet
"Regardless of the areas in which we work, be it improving the quality of the educational process, scientific experiments, integration with foreign and Russian partners, construction or modernisation of infrastructure, our goal is always the same: to preserve Russia's sovereignty and contribute to the prosperity of our country. We have everything we need for this: both the subsoil, rich in natural resources, and intellectual capital. But in order to realise this potential, to make it work with maximum efficiency for our common development, for increasing the sustainability of the national economy, two conditions must be met. Firstly, to ensure the continuity of generations in industry, i.e. to put on stream the training of competent young specialists, and, secondly, to guarantee technological independence. These were the principles that guided our founder Catherine II when she signed the decree on the establishment of the Mining University 250 years ago. And it is these principles that guide us," summarised Vladimir Litvinenko.