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KSPEU Rector Talks about Future of Russian Energy Industry

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Kazan State Power Engineering University (KSPEU), one of Russia's 3 specialised power-engineering institutions, has a checkered past. It was founded as a stand-alone university in 1930, in the same year when the Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MPEI) was established. However, the university was shut down 3 years after that. It was reopened in 1968 as a branch of MPEI, and in 1999 it became an autonomous institution.

Today's KSPEU graduates fully meet the demands of the energy industry, which is about to go through a significant transformation. Average USE (Unified State Examination) results shown by university applicants have improved significantly. New scientific efforts have been undertaken.

University rector Edvard Abdullazyanov gave an interview to Forpost Press, in which he discussed the prospects of power-engineering education in Russia. He also talked about the university's green energy projects — wind farms and EV infrastructure.

The new dormitory opened on September 1 was one of five infrastructure facilities of the Ministry of Education and Science introduced for the new academic year. It is a perfect closing chord of the admission campaign. How do you assess its results?

Good quality education in today's conditions is impossible without comfortable accommodation. Indeed, the commissioning of a new, fourth dormitory is a big deal for our university. Thanks to the support of Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, the facility was included in 2017 in the federal target programme for the construction of student campuses, and the university received funding of half a billion roubles. Our new student house is a 21-storey "candle" with a magnificent view of the Kremlin and the Kazanka - it corresponds to the comfort level of a four-star plus hotel. It is the second dormitory that the university has delivered in the last five years.

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As for the evaluation of the current admission campaign, I think it was successful. Compared to last year, the number of applications increased by 11%, which allowed us to conduct the admission process in a single phase and do without additional enrollment.

Several factors played a role here:

  • The merging of online and offline formats during the admission campaign.
  • The expansion of support projects for applicants and students.
  • The agreement with the state to increase the admissions quotas.

So, while last year we were able to admit 866 full-time students to the state-funded bachelor's degree programmes, this year we have 1,045. The average USE score of KSPEU applicants rose to 73.3. It is gratifying to note that high school graduates with a 100th USE score in Russian and computer science applied to us.

The popular bachelor's degree programmes are Thermal Power Engineering and Heat Engineering, Electric Power Engineering and Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Computer Engineering and Applied Computer Science. In 2021, we recruited students for budget-funded places for the first time in the new programmes Electric and Unmanned Vehicles and Design, Operation and Reconstruction of Buildings and Structures in the field of training Nuclear Power Plants: Design, Operation and Engineering.

More and more voices are being heard worldwide about the prospect of thermal power plants closing soon. KSPEU is directly related to this most crucial area, so our readers are interested in your assessment of the current situation and prospects. In what direction should the energy sector development provide the country's economy with cost-competitive and environmentally acceptable resources?

The Republic of Tatarstan belongs to the regions with priority heat and electricity generation in the combined cycle. The republic's thermal power plants are modernising their capacities, actively participating in the federal program Сapacity Delivery Agreements (CDA) to attract investment in the renovation of power plants. But by and large, we believe that the energy sector should move in two directions - modernisation of existing capacities and development of new energy sources. That's why KSPEU has developed a vector of action aimed at research in the field of alternative energy.

The university's scientists, commissioned by the Government of the Republic of Tatarstan, have monitored promising sites to identify wind potential. A year ago, meteorological masts were installed in three districts of the republic, the data from which were remotely recorded and processed at KSPEU every day. As a result, three sites were selected for the construction of wind farms. The results of the studies have already been handed over to the companies that will implement the project.

Own innovative developments allowed KSPEU to be the first among Russian universities to introduce wind measurement theory into the educational process, which has already been tested in practice - at the Renewable Energy Sources Department.

Another promising area of development is hydrogen energy. Our university is building up competencies in this area. In 2020, at the target request of KAMAZ (Kama Automobile Plant), we recruited the first group of masters in the Hydrogen Technology programme, and this year - for the bachelor's degree. There are plans to conduct educational activities and research and development activities in this area.

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Shortly after the Government of the Russian Federation approved the concept for the development of electric vehicle production, a meeting of electric vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure representatives was held at the university. Can you tell us about specific projects in this industry where the university's employees are involved, and domestic manufacturers can catch up with global leaders?

Despite its rich hydrocarbon reserves, Russia cannot ignore the fact that the primary energy consumer - transport - has started to actively gain momentum in the movement to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. In August 2021, the Russian government issued its long-awaited decree No. 2290-r on the concept of developing the production and use of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in Russia until 2030. This decision has been awaited by electric car manufacturers, charging stations and public organisations of electric car drivers.

Tatarstan was one of the first regions in the Russian Federation to address issues related to electric transport and charging infrastructure. Thus, since February 2021, the "Programme for Development of Charging Infrastructure in the Republic of Tatarstan" has already been implemented. According to this document, KSPEU is entrusted with creating a training and scientific laboratory base for the design, diagnostics of charging stations and electric vehicles, training specialists in their operation, and consolidating producers of charging stations and electric cars solving scientific and technical problems.

Our university has many years of experience in training specialists in the field of electric vehicles. We are the first in Russia to recruit two groups of students already this year for the new undergraduate educational programme Electric and Unmanned Transport. Next year, we plan to open a new master's programme, Designing Electrical Equipment for Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure.

Today, the university actively cooperates with several manufacturers of charging stations in Tatarstan and other regions of Russia. Researchers of the Department of Electrical Power Supply of Industrial Enterprises have developed mobile charging complexes with an integrated electricity storage system. They can be moved over any distance using special containers on wheels and can charge an electric vehicle in 20-30 minutes in the most remote from the infrastructure.

Our university hosted an extended meeting of the Scientific and Expert Council of the Federation Council Working Group on Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving, dedicated to developing electric transport and charging infrastructure. More than 130 people from 10 Russian regions - representatives of relevant ministries and agencies, developers and manufacturers of charging stations, electric cars, and information and communication companies - participated in the meeting in person alone. The representative composition of the panel session confirms the relevance of the topic for modern urban agglomerations.

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The intensification of research activities requires the improvement of postgraduate studies. According to Rosstat, out of 13957 graduate students of 2020 in the country as a whole, only 1245 people defended their dissertations. In other words, less than nine per cent of those who have completed postgraduate studies have received a PhD degree. The efficiency rate of Russian postgraduate education in the country as a total is decreasing. How relevant is this problem for KSPEU?

Overall, the efficiency of postgraduate education at Kazan State Power Engineering University is much higher than the median value in the country - 44%. We have achieved such a high level thanks to the successful work of the three doctoral dissertation councils. Over the last five years, KSPEU has increased the number of budgetary places in postgraduate study by a factor of 10.

A large-scale study commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Science has confirmed that total distance learning reduces the quality of higher education. This situation is especially acute in engineering fields. However, the question remains about the format and proportions of the use of online technologies at universities. How does KSPEU answer it?

The problem of advanced development of the education system based on information technology and creating a unified educational information environment in the country needs to be solved as soon as possible. But there is a contradiction: on the one hand, the flow of information, which students should perceive, is growing, and on the other hand, they often have low motivation for mastering this information. Therefore, the main task of informatisation of education is to turn modern technology into a resource that enhances its quality.

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Distance learning is not an end in itself. This tool should be used when it is more effective in meeting particular objectives of personalisation, intensification and improvement of the quality of learning. It should also be noted that the quality of distance learning depends to a large extent on the diligence of the student. Therefore, the process needs to be controlled through rigorous reporting and systematic feedback.

A significant advantage of online learning is the possibility to get higher education for people who are physically unable to get to the place of study, in particular those with disabilities. Also, this form of education is invaluable during quarantine measures and all sorts of force majeure. But in "peacetime", I believe the most effective is the full-time form of study, especially at a technical university. At the moment, at KSPEU, distance learning is implemented only for the senior students of the part-time form of education during the orientation session. Classes for first-year correspondence students and all full-time students, including international students, are held within the university's walls.