Russia's oldest technical university became the first higher education institution in our country to launch a pilot project to improve the higher education system, which was initiated by President Vladimir Putin. The main goal of the curriculum transformation is to move away from graduating bachelors and focus on training young specialists who are in high demand in the real sector of the national economy.
An equally urgent task is to bring the training of scientific and pedagogical personnel to a new level. That is, young people who aspire to professional self-realization as researchers or teachers of the highest category. For its effective implementation in Empress Catherine II St. Petersburg Mining University this year was created the Institute of Specialized and Professional Education. This structure is designed to ensure painless adaptation of graduates of Master's or Specialization courses in postgraduate studies.
"The guarantee of sustainability of socio-economic development of any country is its ability to create conditions for the succession of generations in production, as well as in science and teaching. The challenges that Russia faces today have made it clear: in order to preserve and strengthen the sovereignty of our state, it is necessary to constantly work on increasing the efficiency of strategic technologies, creating breakthrough innovations, and creating a pool of competent young engineers. The success of this mission directly depends on the availability of a cadre of competent scientists and teachers in specific modules of disciplines," explained the relevance of the changes made by Rector of Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko.
Many of the ideas that formed the basis of the current concept were formulated even before the coronavirus pandemic. Among them, for example, is the decision on the necessity to defend a thesis within the term of study. As we know, for many years this condition was for some reason not compulsory for graduating from graduate school, and many young people refused to write a PhD, preferring to take an easier path in life.
Obviously, such a choice reduced the level of their competence, did not allow them to fully realize their potential and, as a consequence, had a negative impact on the solution of the most important state task. But this was probably the point of the transformation of educational standards that the West imposed on us after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Mining University has always strived to create an environment in which strong scientists and teachers - the real intellectual elite of the country - can be raised and, as far as possible, has introduced progressive methods into the curriculum. Now, thanks to the President's decision, the university has developed and approved a single unified strategy, which is now being implemented. The results of this work, without any exaggeration, will determine the future development trend of the entire system of higher education in Russia. After all, in two and a half years this experience should be spread throughout the country.
What do young people think about the modernization of postgraduate education? Are young men and women who dream of a scientific or pedagogical career ready to fulfill the requirements that are now imposed on them at Mining University? And what changes in the curricula do they consider the most useful for them?
According to Ekaterina Lushina, who is a first-year student in the specialty "Enrichment of Mineral Resources", a very important innovation of recent years, which was originally an elective, but has now become part of the compulsory program, is the basic scientific competence "History and Philosophy of Science". Familiarization with it begins in the Master's degree program or in the senior courses of the specialization program. And during the first semester of postgraduate studies, the intensity of mastering this program increases dramatically.
It includes such disciplines as "Methods of experimentation", "Quality and reliability of research", "Methods and tools of scientific analysis", "Assessment of uncertainty and simplifications in research", "Patenting" and a number of others. The total duration of theoretical classes is over a thousand credit hours.
"At the initial stage of becoming a scientist it is very important to form an understanding of research methodologies, i.e. ways of conducting research, approaches to the order of their planning and organization. It is no less important to learn to find and analyze publications of domestic and foreign authors on the topic of your scientific interests, to acquire competence in the field of creating your own articles based on the results of laboratory experiments. This is the foundation without which it is impossible to move on. Another plus is in-depth study of foreign languages. For example, I chose Chinese," says Ekaterina Lushina.
She specified that at the end of the first semester she, as well as all her colleagues, will have to pass certification at the Scientific Council, which will allow her to receive the status of "postgraduate researcher". Then she will start to develop the methodology of her future research, as well as to carry out theoretical and laboratory studies, which will last until the fifth semester. Publication of their results in cited publications is foreseen at the end of the first, second and third years of study.
Alina Evsyukova is studying at the second year of postgraduate program in the direction of "Geotechnologies. Mining Machines". After graduation, she plans to stay at the university and work here as a teacher. She believes that the changes that have taken place in the curricula have made it possible to find a balance between pedagogical and scientific competencies, which creates conditions not only for the professional growth of young people, but also for their all-round development.
The theoretical disciplines that are studied in the first semester include, for example, "Ethics of Communication and Behavior in Society", "Psychology", "Rhetoric", "Educational and Mentoring Work with Students". From 36 to 72 hours are allocated for each of them. Another 360 hours are spent on specialty subjects. In addition, in the second semester, all graduate students necessarily receive practical pedagogical skills in the volume of 108 hours.
"We prepare methodological manuals and attend the pairs of their supervisor-mentor, which gives us the opportunity to emphasize certain features of teaching, to understand how the educational process should ideally look like. After that we are certified by the Council on Pedagogical Competencies and in case of success we receive certificates of "Assistant Trainees". This gives us the right to the so-called minimum departmental load, i.e. to conduct classes independently," says Alina Evsyukova.
Maxim Limanov is already in his fourth year of study. As an important element of the new concept for him personally, he calls the change in the order of preliminary defense of the candidate's thesis. If previously it was held at the department, now - on the interdisciplinary council. It would seem to be nothing significant, but in fact this decision can seriously improve the quality of dissertations.
"Teachers from your department will always be more loyal to you, because you have known each other for a long time, they understand your real level and can turn a blind eye to something. On the one hand this is good, but on the other hand it is much better if you are pointed out possible mistakes before the official defense, and you will have time to correct them. This will allow you to create a better quality product and avoid unnecessary complications," Maxim Limanov explained.
He also specified that in order to receive a document on the completion of postgraduate studies, i.e. a diploma of professional qualification "Teacher-researcher", the final decisions of the Pedagogical Competence Council and the Scientific Council, which also conduct semester control of academic progress, are required. In addition, a positive assessment of the level of knowledge of the disciplines in the specialty must be made by the subject examination board.
The final point, as already mentioned above, is the defense of the candidate's thesis at a specialized thesis council. Preparation for it begins in the second year and consists in the personal experience of obtaining new knowledge in the course of experiments. This is the main task of each graduate student, on the solution of which most of the time allocated for the formation of scientific competencies is allocated.
All these and other decisions taken in the process of modernization of the system of training of scientific and pedagogical personnel are aimed, first of all, at creating a competitive environment where the best can prove themselves and become in-demand specialists. Even those young men and women who have not managed to win the right to study in postgraduate programs at the expense of the budget, but are able to reveal their potential in the future, are given a chance for professional growth. This year, for example, Rector Vladimir Litvinenko provided 5 grants for this category of graduates. Valeria Shtertser received one of them.
"Studying at the master's program, I was actively engaged in research, had the status of an assistant scientist. Among my scientific interests is improving the efficiency of technology for creating metal powders and products based on them. This is an extremely relevant direction, as steel produced in this way is much more resistant to corrosion, various external influences and loads. I am very glad that I got an opportunity to continue my postgraduate studies, I hope that I will be able to establish myself as a scientist and contribute to the development of the domestic metallurgical industry", - said the postgraduate student.
Konstantin Ushinsky, the founder of the scientific approach to pedagogy, said that "the art of upbringing seems familiar and understandable to almost everyone". But in reality it is "an art, and at that the art is not easy". To master it, as the classicist believed, you can only if you "forever invent, try, improve and improve".
By the way, it was Ushinsky who first called moral enlightenment and patriotic education an integral part of the educational process. This thesis, among others, formed the basis of the new methodology of training of scientific and pedagogical personnel in the postgraduate program of the St. Petersburg Mining University of Empress Catherine II. The realization of this project and its further scaling up to the whole of Russia will undoubtedly strengthen the sovereignty of our country and will allow us to find an answer to many challenges of today and tomorrow.