President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Mau, September 2020 marks the Academy’s tenth anniversary. I would like to once again cordially congratulate you and your large 17,000-strong faculty.
Over the years, the Academy has evolved into a major personnel training centre. To the best of my knowledge over 200,000 people study here under various programmes. Consequently, this amounts to very substantial and serious work. And I would like to start our today’s conversation with this subject, namely, personnel training matters in the broadest sense of the word, including a personnel reserve.
Rector of the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Vladimir Mau: Mr President, First of all, thank you for this meeting and for your congratulations that we received on Sunday, September 20. The entire faculty asked me to thank you for these warm words.
Actually, the Academy was established in its current form ten years ago on your initiative. In this sense, we are ten years old. However, to be frank, as a scientist, I will say that the Institute of Red Professors, established in 1921 in Moscow and Petrograd, was our predecessor. In this sense, we are marking our tenth anniversary, and we will mark the 100th anniversary next year. The country’s leaders have signed the relevant documents.
Indeed, personnel training programmes are our main mandate. As you have said, we train over 200,000 people. This is happening despite the pandemic. We expected a certain crisis this year. About 180,000–190,000 enrolled last year, and we received 206,000 students in 2020. The distinguishing feature of the Academy – your Academy, the only Presidential Academy – is that the majority of its students are adults. They are not school graduates who want to earn a university degree because this is something prestigious. On the contrary, these people enrol here and see this as an investment in themselves and in the future of the country. This is investment, not a service, they invest time and money in themselves. It is hardly surprising that civil servants, entrepreneurs, athletes, including Olympic champions, and even cosmonauts study here and receive greater opportunities for using their skills and knowledge in various future activities.
Of course, our main mandate is to train personnel for state and municipal governance, more precisely, for the public authority system. By the way, this term, which appeared in the Constitution after the amendments, denotes much more precisely who we work with, whom we teach.
If we are referring to civil servants, about 50,000–60,000 of them study at the Academy every year. Thanks to your instructions and support, in close cooperation with the Presidential Executive Office, with the leadership of the Executive Office, we are now implementing unique flagship programmes for the entire public administration system. In fact, we are dealing with a reserve of management personnel for the civil service, for the municipal service. By the way, these programmes are not only intended for civil servants, we have quite a lot of people from the Federal Security Service, the Federal Guard Service and the National Guard.
Over the past five years, we have trained two deputy prime ministers, 12 federal ministers, nine of which are serving in the current Government of the Russian Federation; the Prosecutor General and two deputies have just graduated from the Academy, 36 acting regional heads, more than 110 deputy federal ministers. I will not list them all, although this is certainly a very important field of our work, and here we work both with the highest federal reserve and with the basic, promising reserves.
A very important programme is regional management teams, where we work with the regions. And here it is very important that these are not individuals but teams: the governors invite us to engage in selection, help them in assessing personnel, in the formation of reserves, in competition for posts. Among our graduates over the past two or three years have been the leadership of the Tula, Kaliningrad, Voronezh and Tver regions, Tatarstan (Tatarstan studies always and everywhere), the Republic of Altai, Sevastopol, and so on.
A distinctive feature of our programme is the assessment of personal and professional skills. Since 2014, we have assessed about 80,000 people, but the most in-depth and complex assessments are undergone by candidates for the management personnel reserve under the patronage of the President. This assessment lasts several days and includes essays, presentations, a very in-depth conversation lasting five hours. But this is not an exam – this is about revealing inner potential. Our assessment consists in the fact that we try to reveal the inner potential of those people who go through it.
Vladimir Putin: 350,000 over 10 years?
Vladimir Mau: For 10 years, we have trained this number of higher education students.
Vladimir Putin: No, I mean state and municipal employees.
Vladimir Mau: Yes, of course. We have 54 branches, and this is a large network. On the one hand, it is not easy to manage this, as we must ensure quality standards throughout the country, but on the other hand, this provides a huge opportunity for expanding programmes in order to set the tone throughout the country.
We maintain partner ties with the Russia – Land of Opportunity platform and other autonomous non-profit organisations, such as the Leaders of Russia and the Manage cup for students, in the organisation of various contests.
We also hold international business management courses. By the way, in the past 20 years the Russian team won the international championship three times, and 40 countries participate in it. So it is not true that business is underdeveloped in Russia. Quite to the contrary. It is usually young people who win these contests.
Another important event we organise together with the Agency for Strategic Initiatives is a competition dealing with social projects, which provides for the participation of young people involved in this field. We try and manage to work throughout the post-Soviet space. In 2015, the Academy became the CIS establishment base for the training of civil servants.
Vladimir Putin: Do you have many colleagues from the CIS countries?
Vladimir Mau: We would like to see more, but there is a problem of funding. We provide half of the necessary funds; we see this as our mission. Many republics ask us to organise courses for them, which we do. Plus, we regularly hold on-site courses at the partner academies of public administration. We do not open branches, because there are public administration academies under the president of corresponding country. So, we hold our courses there.
Vladimir Putin: In other words, you would like to ask for additional support, am I right?
Vladimir Mau: We could have accomplished much more, as we reported to Mr Vaino [Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and Chairman of the RANEPA Board of Trustees] at a meeting of the Board of Trustees. He wholeheartedly supports this idea. Potentially, this could be a very strong element of soft power.
Vladimir Putin: And it would be easier for us to work with such colleagues, as we would speak the same language.
Vladimir Mau: They are grateful, because we have been accumulating experience not only for the past decade but already for 100 years. RANEPA’s roots go back to the Institute of Red Professors, the Academy of Social Sciences at the Communist Party Central Committee, the Academy of National Economy and the Higher Party School. Our regional branches are the modernised former Soviet institutes of advanced training. In other words, we do have a huge resource potential, which is very interesting for our colleagues.
Of course, I cannot but mention that we are actively working with students, too. We have very good students; they are a minority, but there are still tens of thousands. We have 45,000 in full-time higher education: perhaps, half in Moscow and half in the regions. And, of course, our main task is to train patriotically educated students, responsible entrepreneurs and capable officials; we regard this as…
Vladimir Putin: Good. The level of training is very important.
Vladimir Mau: Yes, absolutely. But, you see, I believe that lectures are not the main thing here but joint work. The older people are, the more important it is. In fact, it is very important for people who already hold a university degree to choose groups and teams correctly. In addition to courses, students of the higher talent pool become involved in projects in the regions. They form teams in line with their interests, go to the regions where governors set tasks for them, so they spend a week or two in the regions, then return there and address the tasks the governors have set, starting from the development of northern areas to construction of university complexes, for example.
Vladimir Putin: I completely agree that practical work in the field is essential.
Vladimir Mau: And it is the main thing for us. Of course, on the one hand, we are a university, but on the other, we are not exactly a university. Publications are not our main criterion, although we have a reason to boast: we were set a task, and over 10 years the number of our articles in foreign bases grew 40-fold in one case and 60-fold in another. The number of quotations grew, too.
But, to be honest, this is not our main criterion. Our main criterion is our alumni’s success and how many adults come to study. I think this is a very important factor today, when continuous education, lifelong education, and not education of the type “graduated from school, got a degree and moved on,” becomes mainstream. In this sense, it is very important to see how many people come for further training and re-training – this is a very important criterion, relevance. Not the fact that a person’s mother said you have to study, but…
Vladimir Putin: Because one feels a need to do it.
Vladimir Putin: Yes. Although, to be honest, in your Address you said – you have not repeated it since, but I tell this to everyone – that it is very important to change the area of work after the second year. I believe this is essential. It is the same as with the two-level system of bachelor and master degrees: why is it good? At the age of 17, people do not know exactly where they are going. It is very important to have a chance to change the area after the fourth year.
Vladimir Putin: Refocus.
Vladimir Mau: What you have said is very important, because universities cannot do it by themselves. It is necessary to have an opportunity to change the area after the second year, because, in fact, when a student enrols, there are no prospective areas of study yet: they will appear in five, six or seven years. So an opportunity to refocus will, of course, increase the responsibility for oneself, and for one’s family and country. But it is also very important to learn how to assume responsibility.
The experience from the pandemic is very important. When the pandemic started, I asked my colleagues to conduct a stress test and to see what would happen if the Academy received less than 50 percent of our usual number of students, including those enrolling for additional education programmes. We faced some risks, but we took in more students than expected. This year, 100 percent more students enrolled here. Today, there are about 18 real applicants, not applications, per place, on average, and the breakdown is 23 for St Petersburg and 31 for Moscow.
The additional professional education programme for adults also continues to expand. To be honest, I thought everyone would be reluctant to enrol for financial reasons and to study remotely. However, they are ready to study remotely. Yes, we had business education programmes, and we are a major business school. About 1,700 people will study in the Business MBA and Executive MBA programmes. They asked us to postpone some courses because they want to take these courses in person. This is understandable because entrepreneurs find it important to speak with other people, and they do not have enough contacts. But the majority, including corporations – we had a very interesting programme for Russian Post – said it even better: “We are technologically advanced, so let’s study online,” and we are doing this. I would like to note that we and many others do not see online, remote studies as a transition to studying by correspondence; there is some confusion here.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Vladimir Mau: It took us just one day to move online this past March, in spring, with the support of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Ministry of Education because we also have school programmes. But we continued our courses on schedule. The lecturers went online as planned, and the students listened. In effect, this matter is not simple, it is more complicated.
Vladimir Putin: The workload is even greater.
Vladimir Mau: The workload on lecturers is quite substantial. The students said they also face tough workloads, if they do not simply pretend to take part. We have learned how to overcome this. They, too, find it hard.
We conducted a huge opinion poll of 33,000 lecturers on instructions from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. In all, 98 percent of respondents have gone online and can work this way. At the same time, about 80 percent are not satisfied and would very much like to resume in-person teaching.
Vladimir Putin: Let us discuss the talent pool in greater detail.