Skip to main content

Higher education reform discussed in Tatarstan

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО «Татнефть»

Almost a year after the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed on May 12, 2023 a decree on improving the system of higher education, the purpose of which is to "qualitatively improve the process of personnel training to meet the long-term needs of various sectors of the national economy", a seminar-meeting "Personnel support of technological sovereignty" was held in Almetyevsk, in the south-east of the Republic of Tatarstan.

Why here? The city, which is average by Russian standards - 170 thousand inhabitants - dates back to the 18th century. Today it is a constant winner of competitions for the title of "The Most Improved City of Russia", and really amazes with the cleanliness of its streets. As well as high-tech buildings. Sometimes you get the feeling that you are somewhere in the center of Finland.

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"
Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"
Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

This is largely due to the fact that the headquarters of Tatneft is located here. The city bears the unofficial name of the "oil capital of Tatarstan", and on the basis of Almetyevsk Oil University, in its modern and highly functional buildings there are laboratories of the "Higher School of Oil" - a project that represents a real synergy of education and production.

Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад
Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад
Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад

The problem with the implementation of the presidential decree is the lack of real interest in the model of its implementation proposed by the pilot universities, both among the media and the academic community. After all, in two years the whole country will switch to the new form of education, and by that time both laws and bylaws, as well as modernized curricula of higher education institutions should be ready.

There is much to discuss and argue about. There are also examples to follow. For example, at Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University, first-year students have already completely abandoned the two-tier system (Bachelor's plus Master's degree) in favor of a new unified engineering education of 6 years. That is why at the opening of the plenary discussion Valery Falkov, the head of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, called the rector of the first technical university in Russia the head of an organization capable of presenting a well-developed concept for the implementation of the Decree. And that is why the three-day seminar began with an hour-long lecture by Vladimir Litvinenko, who detailed the goals and objectives of the reform, as well as the mechanism of its implementation:

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

"The mission of the university as a "thing in itself", imposed on us thirty years ago by the West, which, by the way, it is trying to get away from today, is absolutely meaningless. Higher education should solve state tasks and be aimed, first of all, at providing personnel for technological sovereignty. That is, the emergence in the country of a sufficient number of professionals capable of ensuring the continuity of generations in production and science. We need to completely abandon the concept of "international division of labor", where we were assigned only the function of a "gas station", while deep processing "fell on the heavy shoulders of the Western "partners", into whose pockets all the super-profits went. This will be possible in case of restoration and reformatting of the domestic school of training and motivation of engineers capable of providing breakthrough development of the economy on the basis of the unique resource base," emphasized Vladimir Litvinenko.

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

As part of the report, the rector presented a detailed mechanism of modernization of higher technical education, including the functioning, goals and objectives of postgraduate studies. The hall, consisting of teachers and scientists of Tatarstan universities, industrialists, businessmen and officials, as if on cue raised tablets and phones in order to take pictures of the schemes proposed for use in the six-year study plan:

Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад

It starts with the "Core" - a common module of fundamental disciplines consisting of 13 general education and 12 general technical subjects, including the "Basic Scientific Competence" program. It takes the first 2 years to complete and has, among other things, one of the most important goals - to eliminate the shortcomings and gaps in school education.

During the next 4 years, young people study specialized disciplines, depending on the specific area of training, including obtained additional professional competences in IT, management, economics of production, familiarization with its technological chain. They have to choose 8 out of 260 existing courses and take them one by one during the whole training period.

The pilot project also provides for the revival of the mentoring institute, as well as a significant increase in both familiarization and production practices.

During his speech Vladimir Litvinenko also paid much attention to postgraduate studies.

In conclusion, the Rector of Mining elaborated on the problem of total digitalization as an unsuccessful substitute for analog thinking:

"The computer and the smartphone are not gods. They are fountain pens that help you write faster. But today they turn children into digital addicts, seeking knowledge not by talking to experts and analyzing their statements, but on the Internet. Teenagers click a button and are satisfied with the information obtained, without being able to evaluate its adequacy and without seeking to do so. As a result, they cannot solve an elementary technological case, or even answer a question if there are no answer options attached to it. Obviously, this trend must be broken, and here all hope is for teachers to understand this task.

The panel discussion, which followed Vladimir Litvinenko's emotional speech, showed not only a lively, but without any exaggeration, a sustained interest in reorienting the vector of the engineering education system.

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education, cited statistics on the staff shortage:

"Today there are 628 thousand budgetary places in domestic universities. Forty percent are engineering specialties. At the same time, there is a shortage of engineers"

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

The head of the Republic of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, reacted to this with a joke: "Give this money to companies, they will quickly find recipients and fill the vacancies." However, the essence of the problem of the head, who was brought up in the old school, is more than seriously concerned.

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

"We have a refining volume of 23 million tons of oil alone for KAMAZ in Naberezhnye Chelny, and for helicopter pilots. As you can see, everyone needs engineers. Today's problems are both a shortage of engineers and low qualifications. Six engineering schools have been established in the Republic in five universities. Few people realize that the training of a lawyer requires only a teacher and a classroom, while the training of an engineer requires a laboratory and a training ground, plus the synergy of secondary vocational education, higher education and production. We in the Republic are concerned about the problem discussed here and are certainly ready to participate in legislative initiatives on this topic," Rustam Minnikhanov assured those present.

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

Nail Maganov, General Director of PJSC TATNEFT, spoke about his methods of personnel training:

"The task is to increase the intellectual potential of the company. Engineers are integrators on the edge of possibility, not on the edge of survival. We thought about who the Engineer 2036 is. And started reeling back through the years. Today the company starts training "future employees" from kindergarten. Next is the school. Here, programs are implemented to identify and develop competencies and skills of children. There are already hundreds of such programs in the Republic. Next is secondary vocational education. A person comes to university prepared and motivated. This is a whole educational ecosystem of advanced education and personal development, which covers children of all ages. It requires expenses, but no development is possible without it. At present, TATNEFT considers the development of this ecosystem as a social investment and a contribution to the future. And, of course, it is ready to transfer the experience to the whole country".

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО «Татнефть» / Общеобразовательная школа в Альметьевске

A small addition. Next to the TATNEFT office there is a public space "Almet". Here, in addition to the library and museum, there is a huge hall of the interactive cognitive center "Almetrika", where children can playfully solve puzzles on the laws of nature with the help of "living" exhibits. The place is popular and, importantly, free of charge.

Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад
Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад

We can testify that the Prince Filipe Science Museum in Valencia, Spain, which is designed to fulfill similar functions, is somewhat inferior in terms of equipment. And admission there costs 8.70 euros.

Альметьевск
© Пресс-служба ПАО "Татнефть"

Denis Rozhentsev, General Director of OOO LUKOIL Engineering, elaborated on the role of additional competencies in education based on the experience of building unmanned offshore platforms with remote control from ships or shore. A graduate of St. Petersburg Mining University proposed a new in-demand term "hybrid engineer". However, even this is not enough. The demand from job seekers is for teamwork, i.e. interdisciplinarity and multifunctionality.

Альметьевск
©

Givi Nadareishvili, Deputy Director General for Science at NAMI FSUE, raised the topic of student distribution, complaining about the problem of staff shortage. He noted that today, even at his institute, which is a leader in the field of automotive engineering among scientific organizations, graduates are not very willing to work, and universities are not interested in organizing internships.

However, Valery Falkov proposed to change the term "distribution" to the term "employment", emphasizing that today the "student market" is triumphing, not the "employer market". And the basis of the proposal, even in the conditions of constant growth of state expenditures on the functioning of higher education, is the motivation of young people - interesting work and financial encouragement. By the way, the head of Tatarstan, in response to this remark, proposed to give a graduate after employment in his specialty, the right to a preferential mortgage. This "legal instrument" caused applause in the hall.

Альметьевск
© Форпост Северо-Запад

There were many thoughts and suggestions. But the point is not even about them. The point is that the remaining two years are not a time for hesitation, but a time for movement. In Tatarstan, the presidential decree is perceived both as a guide to action and as assistance in the efforts that are already underway. Here they are ready and are already realizing their vision of the national education system. But it is obvious that nothing will happen without a unified state center for regulating higher education, just as nothing will happen without transparent criteria of university efficiency, the most important of which is the percentage of employment in the specialty of its graduates.