Excerpts from transcript of meeting with students at the Mining University
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, congratulations on yesterday’s holiday, the day we traditionally celebrate as Students Day.
It was a pleasure to be shown around your university. You have plenty to be proud of here of course. I think that you all see and understand this for yourselves. The level of your professors and teachers, the university’s equipment, and the whole way the teaching process is organised are all things you can be proud of.
It is good to see that we have universities of this level in the engineering field. This is particularly important for Russia. It is important in any country of course, but especially for Russia with its immense territory and mineral resources. This is excellent to see and I congratulate you on this.
Response: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: I thought today was an ordinary day, but you are still celebrating the holiday.
First Vice-Rector of the Mining University Natalia Pashkevich: The latest round of exams has just ended and the break has begun. The postgraduates have come back from their internships. The students have just finished their exams and so they have reasons to celebrate.
Today, the board of trustees and the FosAgro Company handed over a new student dormitory building to us.
Rector of the Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko: What’s more, a programme totalling nearly 800 million rubles provided by companies taking an active part in its implementation has been approved for this year.
Last year, we took possession of 50,000 square metres, the construction of which was funded by extra-budgetary sources, by companies. For every ruble spent, we earn 1.2 rubles for the budget.
Many postgraduates have returned from internships and presented their reports today.
Natalia Pashkevich: They were in Germany, France and Poland.
Vladimir Putin: You have a big programme of work.
Natalia Pashkevich: Yes, we do. We are working with the Finns on a double-diploma programme, and with the French, the Germans, and the Austrians.
Vladimir Putin: The rector spoke about this. You are working in the interests of Russian companies, and in foreign companies’ interests too?
Natalia Pashkevich: In foreign companies’ interest too. The Austrians, French and Canadians have all taken on our graduates.
Vladimir Litvinenko: But they do come back to Russia, Mr President. For example, we have graduates who are going to Norway and returning home again.
Natalia Pashkevich: Many of our graduates are working in companies’ representative offices here in Russia.
Vladimir Litvinenko: These ones were in Houston, for example.
Response: We were happy to come back.
Vladimir Putin: Where were you, at what institution?
Response: At Houston College of Technology. We did a general internship there, attended lectures and visited companies so as to pass on the knowledge to our own students, improve our training and maybe bring back some innovations and latest developments.
Vladimir Putin: This should continue because our education system needs to be an organic part of the global education system. This is the only way to maintain our level, get a sense of what our partners are doing, develop the main areas ourselves and exchange information. This is all very important and should continue. We will do this of course.
Natalia Pashkevich: We also have best practices.
Question: Mr President, I am a postgraduate student at the department of oil and gas storage and transportation. You probably know that just over a year ago, our institute celebrated its 240th anniversary and our colleagues and partners, including from abroad, congratulated us. We spoke about our successes in Antarctica: for example, the famous Vostok Lake.
Vladimir Putin: We just visited a laboratory where the experts told us about what is happening there.
Question: Yes. We also spoke about new discoveries, oil and gas deposits, and the high level of training of our personnel. Incidentally, this was very clear during our internships in America. My question is as follows: it seems our media are not covering the successes of our scientists enough, and this is true not just of the Mining University’s anniversary, but of the overall achievements by Russian scientists. In your opinion, how can we promote our science?
Vladimir Putin: I agree with you; we need to discuss this more often and more specifically, in order to promote it and attract talented young people to engage in science. We even have a special direction in one of our state programmes, “Promoting Science,” and we have experts who are working on this very issue. I believe it was in 2010, that a group of people who are working in this very area received the State Prize. But, of course, it is insufficient. I think it is not enough. Sadly, as you know, few people probably even know about your institute, although overall, we can be quite proud of this university and we need to demonstrate it as an example.
Natalia Pashkevich: Many people know about it.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, but certainly not everyone, I can assure you. So our colleague is right: we need to talk about this more frequently and with more focus and professionalism, to motivate people to get an education, to develop, to do research. We will try to work on it.
Question: Mr President, our university holds first place in judo.
Vladimir Putin: I walked by and saw the banner, but I think I saw karate as well.
Question: For two decades, our university has held first place in judo among St Petersburg’s universities. Over the last three years, our university has been in first place in all sports among St Petersburg’s universities.
My question – or rather, suggestion – is as follows: we have an excellent gym for martial arts and propose holding a judo tournament among all the universities within the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. Would you attend such a tournament?
Vladimir Putin: As a participants or a judge? I was the university champion of Leningrad.
Natalia Pashkevich: We have a photo: the 1975 team.
Vladimir Putin: Is a university tournament being held now?
Natalia Pashkevich: Yes, of course, the university tournament and the city tournament.
Vladimir Putin: Very well. I am simply unfamiliar with your base. I will certainly talk it over with the Federation, they will get in touch with your club and discuss it, why not? I will talk with the Minister as well, it’s a good idea. If your base meets the requirements, we will certainly hold a tournament there. Good luck to you. Do you practice it?
Vladimir Putin: Have you been doing it for long?
Reply: Fourteen years.
Vladimir Putin: Wow, that’s a long time. What are your results?
Reply: Master of sports.
Natalia Pashkevich: He’s just being too shy. He is the Northwest champion.
Vladimir Putin: I wish you success.
Question: Mr President, the Education and Science Ministry had a federal targeted programme called “Human Resources” through 2014.
Vladimir Putin: “Scientific-Pedagogical Human Resources.”
Reply: Yes. This this programme provided competitive grants to graduate students and young researchers which, in turn, allowed us to boost our research activity. Can you please tell us whether similar programmes are planned for the coming years?
Vladimir Putin: This programme was in effect for five years. Overall, we channelled a significant amount of money here through the programme, somewhere around 85 billion rubles. 85 billion is a lot. And when it was completed, we created the Russian Scientific Fund and the money went there. So the Russian Scientific Fund is working on this, it has a whole programme to support young researchers. Presidential Aide Andrei Fursenko is here; he essentially runs the fund. Mr Fursenko, how much of the fund’s money is earmarked to support young researchers?
Andrei Fursenko: Nearly all those projects specify that there should be active participation by young people; it is one of the main requirements to all the projects.
Vladimir Putin: We have made provisions in the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Russian Humanitarian Scientific Fund to allocate resources for supporting young researchers.
Question: A question about further training for graduates, mining engineers in particular, who have completed studies at our university. It is known that our educational programmes to train mining engineers involve deeper professional training than baccalaureate mining programmes at foreign universities.
Vladimir Putin: I like how you say “it is known.” That is true, I agree with you.
Question: At the same time, it is known that the post-university training is better abroad. In other words, they have organisations authorised to accredit educational programmes and award titles (such as “professional engineers”), which are recognised worldwide; thus, a person can engage in further professional development. Our university is currently doing the groundwork to award such titles. An association of mining engineers is being created in Russia for this purpose, and certification council experts are being trained. And so I would like to know, what do you think about it?
Vladimir Putin: I see it as a very positive thing. Moreover, you may not see that we are creating a whole system for these types of qualifications through the Government; the Government received relevant instructions. Recently, we discussed practically the same issue at the Council for Science. The Government, together with the Academy of Sciences, the Presidential Council for Science and employers’ associations are developing a whole system for post-university training and accreditation. This is exceedingly important. To make things clear, a person must receive something like a professional passport so that employers understand whom they are dealing with. It is true, you are right – this is not developed enough in Russia, but it must certainly be done.
Reply: I helped my professor hold classes on professional development, and for me personally, this communication with the manufacturers means a lot. At least I know how things truly stand now.
Vladimir Putin: They are more interested in this than anyone, but strangely enough, it was hard to get things going. We talked about this extensively, but did fairly little. Nevertheless, I think that in the last year, this issue got off the ground. We will certainly continue developing this project.
Question: Mr President, a question concerning Antarctica. I am studying Lake Vostok in Antarctica. Indeed, my research advisor, Nikolai Vasilyev, discovered this lake. We marked an important event yesterday: the penetration into Lake Vostok. However, along with all these positive developments, the station infrastructure is outdated and requires significant modernisation. Could the Russian Government take measures to restore and upgrade this station?
Vladimir Putin: We have met with colleagues when the work had just begun; they came to the White House when I was Prime Minister and we discussed it and allocated a certain amount of money, but I suppose this was insufficient. We will see what else we can do. I know the work is extensive, very interesting and important. They also told me that it was difficult to determine how long the surface of the lake was isolated from the surface of the rest of the planet – perhaps millions of years. Of course, these studies are extremely important. We will see what else we can do.
Question: Mr President, Donetsk National Technical University has been the Mining University’s partner for many years now. We have friends there, students who are taking part in our annual international forum and competition, Problems of Mineral Resource Use. Sadly, because of the events in Ukraine, they have hardly been able to study of late.
Vladimir Putin: Classes have stopped there?
Response: When there is bombing, the classes get cancelled, then they start again, but there is not really any proper teaching process going on there at the moment. The students in Donetsk place their hopes on your personal help and we and the Donetsk students all want to thank you for the great attention you have been giving these matters. Would you be able to help the students in Donetsk? Perhaps it’s possible to do something.
Vladimir Putin: This is a very painful issue you have brought up here, one that concerns the serious and tragic events in Ukraine. Essentially, a civil war is underway there. I think that many in Ukraine understand this very well now.
Regrettably, the government in Kiev has refused to take the road of a peaceful settlement and does not want to resolve the problem through political means. First they used the law enforcement agencies, then the security services, and then the army. Later, when they ran up against resistance, they suspended military operations, but sadly, they only used the temporary peace to regroup and then start their operations again. They are pursuing these operations again now. Thousands of people have already been killed. This is certainly a real tragedy.
We often speak of the ‘Ukrainian army’, but who is doing the fighting there in reality? Yes, in part it is official armed forces units, but a substantial part of those doing the fighting come from the so-called volunteer nationalist battalions. Essentially, this is not an army but is a foreign legion, in this particular case, a NATO foreign legion, which is not pursuing Ukraine’s national interests of course. They have completely different goals, related to achieving their geopolitical aim of containing Russia, and this is absolutely not in the Ukrainian people’s national interests.
Unfortunately though, we have the situation we see before us now. We need to help the people there. Incidentally, many people are trying to get out of being called up for duty. Some are trying to come here to Russia and wait things out a while here, and they are right to do this because there, they are simply being sent as cannon fodder to face the bullets. The problem is though, that under the new law, Ukrainian citizens cannot spend more than 30 days at a time in Russia. So they go back home and get caught and sent off again to face the bullets. We will therefore probably make some changes. Within the law’s provisions, we could increase the amount of time certain categories of people, above all people of conscript age, can stay in Russia.
Regarding your question, of course we need to help the students. We would have to ask the rector about the possibilities, but you could make use of distance learning technology, invite them here for internships, and simply come up with a support system for them.
Vladimir Litvinenko: We would be able to take up to 1,000 students here for six months or a year at least, but there would be issues to sort out with the Ministry and the Government, so close coordination would be needed.
Vladimir Putin: I will definitely talk to them.
Vladimir Litvinenko: I know that the South Russian State Polytechnic University in Novocherkassk could take students and has the needed dormitory facilities and so forth. We could take them at least temporarily.
Vladimir Putin: Last year, we allocated… (Addressing Presidential Aide Andrei Fursenko) How many places in our universities did we allocate to students from Ukraine last year? We allocated additional budget-subsidised places in 18 Russian universities. Your partners from the Donetsk institute could of course get support from your university, one of our country’s top universities. Let’s think about how to go about it. We do need to help the students.