SRSPU Rector Talks on Benefits of Global Engineering Certification

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Following the order of Nicholas II, the first higher educational institution in the southern part of the Russian Empire was established in 1907. An interesting fact — it was initially part of the Warsaw University of Technology; started operating in the late 19th century with the backup of the emperor. Some student unrest took place during 1905–1906, with the teaching staff sent off to Novocherkassk to later become employees of the new institute. Whilst some decided to return to their homeland, the others stayed and continued their work for the brand new institution.

The first group of students consisted of 150 people. Currently, over 15,000 students are studying at Platov South-Russian State Polytechnic University (SRSPU).

Over the years of the university's existence, the institution has graduated 150,000+ professionals. They work in various fields, such as oil & gas engineering, chemical technology, ecology and industrial safety, IT, and power engineering. The university has become the centre for the innovation-driven growth of the whole region.

Yuri Razoryonov, SRSPU's Rector, talked about the university's role in developing the major industries of Rostov Oblast and the overall demand for engineering education in the region.

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SRSPU is a member of the Nedra Consortium, which unites universities that produce specialists for the mineral and raw materials complex. What prospects does it open for you?

An important motive for SRSPU (NPI) to join the consortium is the development of scientific and methodological cooperation with partner universities, the exchange of experience and the development of network educational programs and the organisation of joint research groups with colleagues from St. Petersburg Mining University, Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, Tomsk Polytechnic University and Industrial University of Tyumen.

How do you see the consortium's mechanism of influence on the formation of state policy in the education system?

Considering the duration of the educational cycle in the context of rapidly developing technologies, the quality of engineers' training directly depends on the scope and level of scientific research carried out at the university. Joint implementation of research and innovation projects by the members of the Nedra Consortium will, on the one hand, make it possible to train highly qualified specialists needed by the domestic business and, on the other hand, will serve as the basis for re-equipping industry with import-substituting technologies. Systematic cooperation between universities and industry is a defining element of state scientific and educational policy.

Which professions are in peak demand today?

Every year we see an increase in the demand for applicants to technical education programmes. In some fields, the competition reaches five people per place. Among the most popular specialities are mining and oil production, power engineering and mechanical engineering. IT courses are becoming more and more popular every year. Thanks to the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, the admission quotas for engineering training areas are increasing, which promotes the accessibility of quality engineering education.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the law stipulating mandatory pre-defence of theses and dissertations in postgraduate studies. The share of PhD students who have finalised their thesis papers fell to 18 % in the last years. What percentage do you have, and what are you doing to attract talented young people to science?

Conducting pre-defences is not only crucial for increasing the scientific potential of the university. First and foremost, it is helpful for the PhD students themselves. To increase motivation among students to get more involved in science, we are developing and expanding laboratory facilities, introducing scientific work into the educational process so that everyone can try themselves in this exciting field. As for postgraduate students, we widely use the system of grants - both publicly available external and internal university grants. These measures increase the percentage of theses and dissertations defended by postgraduate students on time. In 2019, the rate was 33%, while in 2020, it will be 45%.

What kind of developments are the university engaged in today? To what extent are they in demand from business (specific examples of integrating science and production)?

At SRSPU, we are developing the creation and use of polymers from biomass. Complex high-molecular-weight compounds with specific properties can be synthesised from "platform" molecules. For instance, they can extract heavy metal ions from mining waste or industrial effluents.

In general, research and development at our university are carried out in the following areas: automated and robotic systems, including those for the production of composite materials, simulators for personnel training, including the use of VR and AR technologies, installations and electrical equipment for power and autonomous systems.

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One of the projects we are implementing is the creation, together with Gidrostroy, of a modern microtunnel boring machine. We have produced and tested a sample of import-substituting tunnelling equipment that our scientists developed using intelligent control systems. One of its potential applications is to operationalise the cities' underground space.

At Gazpromneft's request, we are working on a method to produce oils and motor fuels from various carbon-containing materials.

Rostov region has always been famous for coal mining: by 1990, almost 150 thousand miners were working in mines and preparation plants. What are the current successes of the coal industry in the region? What is your opinion on the long-term development of the global energy industry?

The Rostov Region is the most significant fuel and energy base of Southern Russia. Currently, its reserves suitable for development are about 285 million tons. In addition, there are ten prospective areas, with resources exceeding 545 million tons. The deposits are characterised by their high depth and low thickness, which determines the objectives of regional coal production. These include reaching a fundamentally new level of efficiency, safety, and profitability in coal mining and creating new technologies for processing coal into products with high added value. It is also necessary to address environmental protection issues, such as developing technology to recover by-product minerals from coal mining wastes.

In terms of trends in the use of coal in the global energy balance, the continued decline in the use of coal in Europe (as part of the ongoing "gas pause") should be noted. However, in my opinion, its potential as an essential raw material remains stably high in the medium term.

Rostov Oblast, for example, accounts for almost a quarter of Russia's anthracite production, the world's best coal in terms of caloric content. It is actively used in the metallurgy and production of building materials. It meets the needs of the population and industrial enterprises in our region and country and other countries.

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What companies do the graduates find employment in? Can they find high-paid work in the region? How often do they go to work in Moscow, St Petersburg and abroad?

Graduates of our University are employed in the largest enterprises in the engineering, energy, oil and gas, defence and other country sectors. These include such companies as EuroChem MCC, Rosseti, Transmashholding, RusHydro, Gazprom and Lukoil. Employers in the Rostov region that actively accept our graduates are Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Plant, Novocherkassk SDPP, Rostselmash, Southern Coal Company and Donskoy Stone.

According to statistics, our descendants build careers in 72 out of 85 regions of Russia: from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, in Surgut and Yamal, in Siberia and the Kola Peninsula, in the North Caucasus and Chukotka.

Today, there is a discussion about creating a unified system of certification of mineral sector specialists with the participation of the International Competence Centre under the auspices of UNESCO. When can this international practice be implemented in Russia? And who has a priority need for it?

All companies operating in the mineral resource complex, including those on international markets, are interested in it. For universities, introducing international certification of specialists is an excellent opportunity to "synchronise our watches" with our foreign colleagues, exchange experiences, and improve the quality of education. I think that soon this practice will become permanent. However, it is essential that in the pursuit of Western training standards, we do not lose the best traditions of the domestic mining industry.

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In November 2020, Nikolay Shulginov, a graduate of SRSPU who majored in the electrical supply of industrial enterprises and cities, became Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation. Who else of the university's outstanding graduates can you name?

We observe the professional successes of all our graduates. We are proud of their achievements; we set their activities as an example for the younger generations of polytechnic engineers. Among them is Mikhail Mil, one of the founders of the Soviet helicopter industry; Leonid Smirnov, Chairman of the State Defense Engineering Committee of the USSR Council of Ministers; and Viktor Glushkov, who led the development of the USSR's first personal computer, the Mir-1.

Today, our graduates hold managerial positions in many major companies in the energy, engineering and defence sectors.

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Today, the University structure includes seven faculties, ten research institutes and design bureaus, two engineering centres, the most powerful data processing centre in the region, and four base departments and laboratories of the Russian Academy of Sciences.