Video conference with leading Russian universities 2018-01-25 17:15:00 During his visit to the Institute of Fundamental Medicine and Biology of Kazan Federal University, Vladimir Putin held a video conference with the country’s leading higher education institutions. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, I just had the pleasure of congratulating representatives of student clubs who gathered here, in Kazan, practically from all over Russia, on the occasion of St Tatyana’s Day. I want to begin our meeting here with congratulations as well. I wish all of you and everyone who sees or hears us a happy Students Day. I wish success to all of you – all students, your mentors and professors. All of our work to promote education and support talented students, creativity, and social, scientific, and business initiatives is aimed at making sure that our young people can fully realise their potential, be successful in their lives and dedicate a significant part of their lives to our country, Russia. So, today I propose we have a substantive discussion of the positive experience of the federal universities and the approaches that are important to apply to the entire system of higher education. We have just looked at the sites of Kazan or rather Volga Region Federal University, as it is called now. Of course, this is an example of how a university with history, good traditions, and outstanding scientific schools can meet the challenges of the times and move forward. As the rector said, we now have two dates for the university’s founding: a very old one, 1804, and 2010, when several sites were added to it, and the university got a new lease of life. As you may be aware, we have established a network of federal universities, including Siberian (Krasnoyarsk), Southern (Rostov-on-Don), Northern or Arctic (Arkhangelsk), Kazan (Volga Region), Urals (Yekaterinburg), Far Eastern (Vladivostok), Northeastern (Yakutsk), Baltic (Kaliningrad), North Caucasus (Stavropol), and Crimean (Simferopol). That is how all of our 10 federal universities strive to work, as I said about the university where we are now. As you remember, we began to form this network in 2006 with the creation of Siberian and Southern federal universities. It was a project fully geared to the future and designed to achieve long-term goals. Federal universities are designed to become the flagships of industrial, social, and technological development of entire areas of Russia, and, accordingly, entire industries; they should contribute to developing vast spaces of our country, including such strategically important ones as the Arctic, Siberia and the Russian Far East. That is why we released significant financial resources for developing our educational centres, and stuck with these programmes through the difficult period of the global economic crisis. Today, it is safe to say that this project has come to fruition. The funding of the project (for those in this audience, and those who will see and hear us with the help of media) in 2016–2017 from the federal budget amounted to 52 billion rubles. The universities and those who supported them, the regions made 22 billion rubles available. In 2010–2016, an additional 40.7 billion rubles were allocated to form a modern scientific structure for the federal universities. During the same period, federal universities earned 38 billion rubles by doing research activities. Federal universities have become centres of attraction for talented people, talented young people, strong scientists and researchers, including those who actually determine the course of modern science. Let me remind you, dear friends and colleagues, that 18 world-class scientists worked at federal universities as part of the so-called mega-grant project from 2010 to 2017. We made a special effort to distribute them across Russia. Of them, 11 were foreign scientists of international standing, leaders in their industries, two Russian researchers, whom we selected on a competitive basis, and five our compatriots who once left to work abroad but returned and worked here. It is hard to say now where they spent more time working, here or abroad. The concentration of intelligent potential and access to modern research infrastructure allows for training top-class personnel, designing advanced solutions in the interests of the national economy. This includes such critical promising areas as artificial intelligence, projects in biology, medicine, agriculture, natural resource extraction and processing. In this sense the federal universities have become a tool in making our country more technological competitive and stronger. I would also stress the important fact that we have managed to significantly bolster the unified educational and scientific field in Russia. Joint academic mobility programmes have been launched. Students and lecturers gained a greater capacity to move between universities, select education courses, conduct joint projects and also employ modern training and research equipment, including in so called collective use centres. By the way, 30 such centres were established during that time. Modern expensive equipment is concentrated there, and it can be used by scientists and research groups from any organisation. Let me underscore that today the federal universities are setting the standard for the whole education system to reach so that graduates of all Russian universities could start a successful career and realise their potential. I am sure that this topic is most important to our students. So, let us have an in-depth discussion about it and share experiences. Especially since the rectors of Moscow and St Petersburg universities will also be joining our talk. Those universities have a tradition of strong systemic work on career counselling and employment for their graduates, and degrees from those universities are a reliable ticket to the future. Practically all our federal universities have joined the video conference. Let us get to work. Dinar Valeyev: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon to all the videoconference participants. My name is Dinar Valeyev; I am a postgraduate law student at Kazan Federal University. Mr President, thank you very much for visiting Kazan Federal University on this remarkable day, Russian Students Day, and bringing together the community of Russia’s leading universities at our alma mater. Our remote participants today are representatives of Lomonosov Moscow State University, St Petersburg State University, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, Boris Yeltsin Ural Federal University, Vernadsky Crimean Federal University, North Caucasus University, Northern (Arctic) Federal University and Southern Federal University. I think many will agree that academic mobility is essential for a student today, as you rightly noted. It allows us, students, to expand our competencies and skills, gain unforgettable experiences and competitive advantages. Many Russian universities are offering academic mobility programmes within the country and internationally. Some very common practices include double degrees, academic networking programmes, language schools, research missions, internships, various competitions and festivals. We hope that participants of this videoconference will share their experience in organising mobility programmes. We have something to share too. Kazan Federal University offers more than 60 exchange programmes and internships. The most popular programme is called Algarysh and it reimburses students for all academic travel expenses. Our republic is interested in qualified professionals. After completing a programme, each participant must return home to work at a local organisation or company for at least three years. Our university also has extensive experience in interacting with Kanazawa University and the RIKEN Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tokyo and Yokohama. The 25 years of cooperation with Japan helped us to win a Japanese government grant for training future leaders. As soon as next year, we will be sending 70 of our students to Japan and receiving 100 students from Japanese universities. Our university is traditionally open for researchers and scholars from all over the globe. The invited experts from the world’s leading universities expand the borders of our education space. Our university takes part in network interaction programmes implemented by federal universities. It is a very promising area. In our opinion, it is necessary to pay more attention to academic mobility programmes within the country, because they will allow us to exchange the best educational practices that have developed in Russia. It is obvious at the moment that there are many more ways to improve academic mobility programmes. Mr President, we suggest that other participants in the video conference join in this discussion. Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Dinar. Dinar Valeyev: Let us give the floor to the representative of the Northern (Arctic) Federal University. Arkhangelsk, good afternoon! Albert Chunkevich: Hello, Mr President, colleagues, My name is Albert Chunkevich, I am the chairman of the university’s student self-government council. I am very pleased on behalf of all the staff of the university to congratulate you on Russian Students’ Day. Thanks, Dinar, you have raised a very relevant subject. Being a student, I know that to develop one’s educational, research and professional skills, it is very important to take part in academic development programmes. By the way, Mikhail Lomonosov, who was also from Arkhangelsk, was not only the founder of university education in Russia, but also, speaking the modern language, took part in academic mobility programmes. He studied in Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg as well as Germany. In 2013, federal universities came together to form the Club of Ten and agreed to exchange best practices and to implement network projects. This programme is yielding its positive results. Today, over 20 joint networking educational programmes are being implemented for undergraduate and graduate students. For example, there is the Advertising and Public Relations programme. Students of Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Baltic and Northwestern federal universities study full-time or long-distance. Last year, 115 students at Northern (Arctic) Federal University contacted other universities on networking programmes, with our Arctic University receiving students from five Russian regions. Today, the National Arctic Research and Educational Consortium unites 33 organisations, and students can also conduct advanced training and fieldwork at 12 unique stationary facilities in the Arctic. Academic mobility is also important for research projects. Those involved in the famous Arctic Floating University national project receive unique competencies and learn practical skills. Northern (Arctic) Federal University implements it jointly with the Hydrometeorological Centre of Russia and the Russian Geographical Society. Nine high-seas expeditions have already taken place. Over 500 participants from various universities and research agencies in Russia, as well as participants from foreign countries, have been trained. The tenth anniversary expedition is scheduled for July 2018. Academic mobility facilitates the all-round development of students and the eventual employment of graduates. Northern (Arctic) Federal University and other universities have everything they need to receive guests, including unique programmes, intellectual centres, modern academic buildings, centres for collectively using research equipment, a residence hall and sports facilities. We need to expand students’ opportunities for taking part in academic exchanges and to merge information as to which university has specialised equipment and which lecturer is ready to work with them. This would make academic mobility more effective. We are planning together with other federal universities to set up a pool of experts on designing and implementing joint education and research programmes, including our readiness to participate in improving regulations of academic mobility inside Russia. A student does not have to study abroad to expand their opportunities to gain knowledge, experience and practice, since we want to live and work in our big multi-ethnic and beautiful country. Thank you for your time Vladimir Putin: Albert took up the student mobility topic and referred to Lomonosov. We all know that it was a very original kind of mobility. As is known, if this is not a legend, Lomonosov walked all the way from Arkhangelsk. Yet for us it remains the best example of striving for knowledge and reaching for one’s dream. This is why we should certainly always remember it. Whereas in the modern world it concerns the organisation of the process. Since your tutors and heads of universities are listening to us, it is crucial that the ministry should support this very important, to my mind, component of modern education, and heads of universities should also bear in mind that a university is not compromised by undergraduate and graduate students going to other universities. On the contrary, it only raises the overall competitiveness of Russian education. Albert is definitely right here: there is no shame in also studying abroad. But on the whole, when the possibilities of the Russian education system are used, there is no need. At any rate, it definitely expands opportunities for training first-rate specialists. Thank you. Dinar Valeyev: Albert, thank you very much for sharing your experience. It seems that academic mobility and subsequent employment of graduates are closely related. We would like to hear more about employment, this topic needs to be covered in greater detail. I would like to ask Ural Federal University to share their extensive experience. Yekaterinburg, good afternoon. Aslan, you have the floor. Aslan Kagiyev: Good evening, Mr President, Good evening to all participants of the videoconference. My name is Aslan Kagiyev. I am the chairman of the Ural Federal University Student Union. When we speak about employment, it is very important to emphasise the significance of finding jobs, because after graduation, a student has tremendous prospects, and it is very important to find a good job. And what is a good job for a student? It is a space where he or she can attain their ambitions, so that their skills are in demand; the employer, in turn, looks for good employees. For the employer, a good employee is a person who aspires high and is certainly interested in the development of the corporation. Therefore, employers’ interaction with universities has changed. They show interest in more things about the graduates besides their degree – how deeply the student was involved in volunteer work, how much they know about managing projects, their communication skills and all that we call additional skills: the so-called soft and digital skills. The university actually faced these realities, and it was important to respond to this challenge. So we became pioneers in building a new level of relationships with employers, because today the university has developed a number of unique projects that allow us to develop soft skills and record results. A striking example is the students’ general rating, which, on the one hand, shows the entire educational and research component, and on the other hand, the additional things that interest the employer, the so-called extracurricular part. It primarily includes the ability to work in a team, volunteer experience, communication skills, including in a foreign language, and leadership potential. And most importantly, upon graduation, the student receives a Student Union certificate, which describes the full scope of their student life. It is important that our model be competitive, so we have built constructive professional contacts with both Harvard University and Navarra University. They lead the world ratings in terms of employment. And the main thing is that we conducted an array of global projects within the framework of the World Festival of Youth and Students. It is worth noting that our experience is unique in many respects. We are prepared to share our experience with other universities. We sincerely hope that this initiative will help create a platform for the further development of career assistance offices. Thank you very much for your attention, friends. Mr President, we expect you to visit Ural Federal. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Aslan, or Mr Chairperson, such a big boss. The fact that you study the experience of other countries is very important and essential. It is necessary to take a look at how things are organised over there and introduce their best practices on our soil. However, at the same time, it is still more important that you, as a chairperson, and your colleagues, students and post-graduate students work with key Russian employers. Here, one does not even need to wait for any initiative, or to put it differently, there must be an initiative, yet one should not pin one's hopes solely on an initiative that is supposed to come from university administration. It is up to the students themselves to take care of their employment, do not forget it. If you have such a structure as a student union, no one forbids you to work directly with your future employers, something you can do even in the first year of studies. Perhaps, this is something a student may find hard to do all alone, but it seems to me that a student union can easily cope with the task. What can and must be done is establishing direct contacts with employers, setting up professional ties, since you are all full of energy, providing career internships for students at the proper time. Organising an internship is essential for future employment. As you said: on the one hand, on the other hand. Well, on the other hand, this internship must not be a purely formal matter – for the mere sake of obtaining certificates or other papers – because if you confine yourselves to obtaining certificates or other papers, sometimes forged ones, you cannot expect to get a decent job and then it will be no use accusing the university administration of allegedly not caring about your employment. You must actively try to do it yourself and you will succeed, especially since employers are interested in such contacts. Heads of universities are involved in the training process; business leaders are concerned with the results of practical work; and your job is to get employed. True, the universities must find employment for you in order to raise their rankings, so they want to make sure that all of you are employed. Employers are interested in getting quality professionals. Bring everything into focus, join everyone’s efforts in this area. You are the ones who have the most at stake, so take this into your hands. By all means, you can take these matters into your own hands. Aslan Kagiyev: Yes, Mr President, this is precisely what we are doing. The database that we are talking about comprises information that is specifically based on indicators: which activities the students took part in, what role, what projects they completed, and their overall volunteer experience. We provide this information to employers, because they are the customers, we work for them. This is the whole point of this portfolio and, in principle, the theme of an attachment to a diploma. Vladimir Putin: Great, good luck to you, Aslan. Thank you. Dinar Valeyev: Aslan, thank you. As a follow-up to the discussion on student portfolios, allow me to introduce our next speaker, a student at St Petersburg State University. Good afternoon, everyone, welcome to the video conference from Kazan. Denis Mikheyev: Good afternoon. Thank you, Dinar. Good afternoon, Mr President, conference participants. I am Denis Mikheyev, second-year student in the Master’s programme in social studies. When I joined the university’s Bachelor Degree programme in 2012, I already knew that the diploma that I would receive would be significantly different from the diplomas of the graduates of other universities, specifically because it was issued in two languages – Russian and English. In 2016, I defended my graduation work before the State Examination Commission, which consisted entirely of employers. That year, more than 1,500 people took part in these commissions at our university. Having received my diploma, I saw that it included information about our lecturers, where I had practical training and an internship, and which employers were specifically part of the state examination commission. Also, this diploma is different because it has a QR-code. With only a smart phone, an employer can scan this code and access the students’ portfolios, an electronic copy of their diplomas, the comments of a research advisor and reviewer of their graduation papers, as well as information about whether the student studied abroad – this is related to academic mobility, which we discussed earlier. Let me note that starting in 2014, the students that study abroad at one of the universities in the top 300 in the international rankings can have the results of their study abroad recognised here without taking extra exams for the term they missed. This code also opens up access to the student’s portfolio which contains records of the student’s merit recognition and acknowledgements, personal fellowships, the student’s in-class and extra-curricular achievements, and also whether the student’s graduation paper was approved or proposed by employers. For instance, the topic of my graduation paper was approved by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, today’s students can choose topics for their papers from an electronic registry, which includes over 5,000 different topics suggested by employers. The university has over 2,000 employers with whom we cooperate directly. However, each student who gets such a diploma is aware that it may contain a totally different sort of information, for example, whether he was disciplined, had academic backlogs, or overdue library books. The diploma I am going to get this year, my Master’s degree, will also be different from the one I currently have. Our university has been very active in the digital environment, which is why a 2018 graduate of St Petersburg State University will have a record of online courses taken at this or other universities. This was made possible thanks to the changes suggested by students themselves, which, in turn, was possible due to each order issued at our university having a section listing the official to be contacted and their address for feedback and suggestions on changing the order itself. This is why we expect some other changes in our diplomas next year. The university, of course, will not be standing still and will keep up with the times. We believe that any university graduate should have this kind of diploma, and the opportunities that go along with it. Therefore, today we suggest that leading Russian universities use the experience of St Petersburg State University and have QR-codes on diplomas, with each graduate’s portfolio available on their websites. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Well, this is true, any information technology that can be used in the education system needs to be used as much as possible. I will not list everything now, but the possibilities are great. But what you, Denis, are doing, and what you have at my university – I am pleased with the part you just described. This should certainly help with employment, if a future employer has comprehensive information about the potential job candidate. However, of course, you need to ask the university administrators to provide future graduates with as much information as possible about available employers, including in a digital format. This will help them decide on specialisation at an earlier stage and then, perhaps, more purposefully seek contact with companies, arrange to do their practicals there, and so on. This would be good, too. In general, you are saying the right things. I would like to wish you success. Mr Kropachev, would you like to say something? Rector of St Petersburg State University Nikolai Kropachev: We have created education programme councils for all programmes to facilitate such contacts. These councils only include employers. The contact was established from the moment this council was organized, a very close relationship, because employers participate in both academic and methodology commissions. The study curriculum councils determine the requirements for enrolment, the requirements for teachers; they determine the study curriculum and, therefore, are involved in the education process from start to finish. As our graduate said, 1,700 employers also partially administer exams and graduate paper defence, after having recommended the subject for the paper. Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Kropachev. D. Valeyev: Thank you very much. On January 25, 1755, Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna signed a decree on creating Moscow University. This happened on Holy Martyr St Tatiana’s Day, who has been considered the patroness of Russian students ever since. On this student festival, we give the floor to Viktor Sadovnichy, Rector of Moscow University, the oldest university in Russia. Good afternoon, Mr Sadovnichy. Greetings to Moscow State University. Rector of Moscow State University Viktor Sadovnichy: Good afternoon, Mr President, good afternoon, dear students. Today is Moscow University's birthday, St Tatiana’s Day. It is so good that this tradition was born in this very building, built by Kazakov in front of the Kremlin. Kazakov, together with Bazhenov, built the Catherine Palace, the Kremlin halls, and later he designed the first university building in Russia. Many outstanding things have happened inside these walls. Pushkin read his poems here. Lermontov, Turgenev, Griboyedov and Chekhov studied here. And there was one more chapter depicting the feat of our students in history. On June 22, 1941, 5,000 Moscow University students, like their fellow students from other universities, volunteered to go to the front. Of those 5,000, only 2,000 returned. Of course, we honour their sacrifice. St Tatiana’s Day was always marked by students because on this day students mapped out their prospects and reviewed what they managed to do over the past year. Mr President, we are grateful to you for meeting with the students of Moscow University in our library on January 25, 2005, and for supporting their request to make this day special for all Russian students. In fact, this is our common day, as we were all students and we all recall our university years, but of course, this is a special day for these young people, who are currently studying at our universities. We discussed many topics in the run-up to this meeting. I very much support the ideas advanced by the universities. However, I would like to emphasise two points, Mr President. Our education has always been strong and fundamental. The fundamental nature of our education has always been the hallmark of our education system. So, university science is certainly very important. And science and high technology need to be linked, which you mentioned in your remarks. Moscow University initiated the adoption of the law on scientific and technological valleys, which you supported. It was adopted. Now this law is being implemented. It is not only for Moscow University, but the entire country and other universities. Implementation means that, in these valleys, university research, the work of students and graduate students will be linked with industry, state corporations, and high technology. I think the creation of such campuses, valleys, and innovation centres at universities is a new concept in our university activities. I want to mention one more idea. The researchers at Moscow University have developed the idea of a Trans-Siberian Belt, which concerns connecting territories and strategic areas. We even crunched the economic numbers and estimated completion deadlines. This belt should cover a vast portion of northern Russia from Europe to Alaska. We are making such proposals and want to put them up for broad discussion. Today, we are talking about students, Mr President. I wanted to share a thought with you. The World Festival of Youth and Students was held in Sochi. We participated as a large delegation, and I had the honour to moderate the Science and Education panel. Students from all countries agreed that it was necessary to create an international union of young scientists. There is a good base for this. We have been holding the Lomonosov Forum for 25 years now. About 10,000 students from 40 countries come to attend, and so we have a good basis. Now we are busy creating such an international forum of young scientists so that young people have a broad outlook on the world, cooperation, and the future. We believe this is important. One more positive development, or direction, in the education system. We have looked into and studied the number of foreign students currently enrolled in Russia – we have not had such a high number in the history of education. Moscow University has 9,500 foreign students; this is twice as many as Cambridge, Oxford, MIT or Stanford have. Mr President, we have students form Chad, Uganda, China, Cuba and other countries. They study at Moscow University, they will earn their degrees and will be our friends, while our students will have a broader world outlook and will cooperate more. Thus, the idea of supporting the status of Russian education is certainly related to this effort to enroll as many young people from other countries as possible. We have proved to be strong. The People’s Republic of China has established the first ever joint university – Moscow and Beijing Polytechnic. It is now open; classes are being held. They expect you, Mr President, to come for the opening ceremony. The Chinese built the building for this university – a copy of the Moscow University high-rise – in one year. Which means China attaches great importance to the quality of Russian education. Mr President, today is St Tatyana’s Day, students celebrate and mark it – they have passed their exams without fails, and they look forward to their medovukha [honey drink]. It will certainly arrive. Thank you for the gift of establishing Russian Students Day. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Mr Sadovnichy, I congratulate all the students in Russia on Students Day, on St Tatyana’s Day. I must also congratulate Moscow University because everything started with it. So my best wishes to you, to all your students and post-graduate students, and lecturers. Regarding technology valleys – this was your idea, I am happy that it is being developed, and the regulatory acts have been adopted for this. I think it is a very significant direction. We have to test-run this project in Moscow and then use it wherever possible and where it will function effectively. As to the student association, the federal authorities will be pleased to provide support if needed. Dinar Valeyev: Mr Sadovnichy, thank you very much. Mr President, we understand that, unfortunately, your time is limited. We could probably still say a lot about employment and academic mobility, but we have to start wrapping this up. Vladimir Putin: You know we have Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don, Simferopol, and Stavropol in the videoconference with us. We can ask our colleagues to say, very briefly, what they consider important for our teamwork. Let us start with Kaliningrad. Pavel Chechko: Mr President, the videoconference participants welcome you from the westernmost point of Russia. My name is Pavel Chechko. I am a first year Master's student majoring in radio physics. Regarding mobility, it is important for us to attract students and specialists from other universities in Russia. It is also important for us to send students not only abroad, but also to other Russian regions. We could say that Kaliningrad is the outpost of Russia and Russian culture in the centre of Europe; so foreign students primarily consider our university – not only students from neighbouring European countries, but also students from overseas, from South America and Asia. Student organisations organise many events aimed at popularising Russian culture and Russia. Foreign students also take part in these activities. Over the past two years, the number of foreign students at our university has doubled. I would also like to remind you that foreign students’ growing interest in our city and our university is due to Kaliningrad being one of the World Cup host cities. I would also like to draw attention to the proposal made by Albert and Dinar about launching a federal programme to support Russian student mobility, and to attract not only Russian, but also foreign students to it. Thank you. And happy Students Day to everyone. Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your suggestions. We will work on them. Are you a first-year student? Pavel Chechko: Yes, first year, Master’s Degree programme in radio physics. Vladimir Putin: All right. Thank you. Now Rostov-on-Don. Aram Bugayev: Good afternoon, Mr President, colleagues, participants of the video conference. My name is Aram Bugayev. I am a postgraduate physics student at Southern Federal University. Thank you all for raising topics that are so important for students. In particular, I mean employment and, above all, mobility. But I would like to add that for many students, like me, who have chosen science, the university should be the first employer. Mobility is a very important issue for science. We should share our experience; we should send our students abroad and across Russia. I was no exception; I completed a postgraduate programme at Turin University, Italy, got my PhD and returned to my alma mater. I did not return because I had signed some contract. Dinar said that there was an excellent programme, under which graduates had to come back and work in their republic for three years; but I have returned because, first of all, there was an up-to-date laboratory awaiting me at home, which by the way had been supported by a large grant from the Russian government. There also was an excellent team waiting for me, a good salary and good working conditions. I was not coming back empty-handed; I have brought back new contacts and skills that I now share with my younger colleagues. That is why I would like to wish for more such laboratories for all of us today, on St Tatiana’s Day. I know there are many such laboratories in our country, I have visited many of them and I hope our government will continue supporting such research centres in Russia, where students, including those who took courses abroad, will be happy to return to; I hope that thanks to these students we will promote a dialogue between research centres, universities and knowledge-intensive industry. Thank you very much. Vladimir Putin: What can I say? Yours is a very good example of professional development and loyalty, in the best sense, to your university, your country and your Fatherland. I would like to wish you professional success and I hope you will achieve everything you set out to. Good luck! Aram Bugayev: Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Simferopol, please. Kseniya Slutskaya. Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon to participants in the video conference. My name is Kseniya Slutskaya; I am a postgraduate student at Crimean Federal University. Despite certain geopolitical difficulties that Crimea faces today, international activities remain part of the life of our university and practically each one of us. Almost 3,000 foreign students from over 50 countries study at our university. Every year we conduct or co-organise over 100 international events, receive many foreign delegations and develop international academic mobility projects. It is international academic mobility that is particularly important for increasing the personal competence of students and broadening their world outlook. But its role goes beyond this. Being abroad, Crimean students, students of Crimean Federal University are ambassadors of this country. They pass information to others via personal communication and make new contacts and friends. This is particularly important for Crimea because it is a manifestation of public or people’s diplomacy, about which we have talked more than once and that works when official diplomatic channels are blocked. After all, education and science have no borders or barriers. Thank you for your attention. I wish you happy Students Day. Vladimir Putin: Thank you for this information. You mentioned certain political difficulties, but when was it ever so calm in Crimea? During Vernadsky’s time in the 1920s, life was very hard, there was a civil war, but the university was alive. Moreover, it was not just alive but was the centre of Crimea at that time and remained a centre of science and education for the entire country. This is a clear if not excellent example of how important education is in any situation. As for today, I do not think the situation around Crimea is dramatic. Quite the contrary, I am sure that everything will stabilise, gradually. You know how development proceeds. I am confident that after the resolution of some infrastructural issues this development will gain momentum in several areas simultaneously: socially, in science, education and different branches of production. I wish you success. Thank you. Let Stavropol take the floor. Lyudmila Kiryukhina: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, participants in the video conference. Greetings from the North Caucasus Federal University and the city of Stavropol. I am Lyudmila Kiryukhina, a first-year student in the master’s course, a future lawyer. Mr President, first of all I would like to say that the federal university system has created incredible opportunities for students that we could not even dream of before. This also applies to academic mobility, which my colleagues have talked about so much today. At present, students from 69 regions of the Russian Federation study at our university, which points to its status as a federal university. Just recently, our university hosted a presentation of the navigator of professions that will be in demand for developing the economy and the social sphere of the Far East in the next few years. During that week, we received information not only on vacancies but also on benefits that may be offered to young specialists. This information was of interest both to students from the Far East that study at North Caucasus Federal University and to students from other regions that are ready to work in the Far East and help develop Siberia, as it was in the past, in our country’s best education traditions. I would like to conclude by saying that all students of North Caucasus Federal University are grateful to the Government of the Russian Federation and to you, Mr President, for the opportunities that are opening up before us today. They are helping us to expand our professional knowledge and, most importantly, to study the best experience that domestic and foreign educational institutions have to offer. Thank you very much. Happy Students Day to all of you once again. Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Thanks to all participants in the current meeting. This is what I would like to say in conclusion. We have just taken part in what is essentially a national event. We celebrated St Tatiana’s Day but in a working atmosphere and in contact with practically all federal universities. There are ten of them in all. But apart from them, we have also established a network of research universities. I would like to note that other universities and secondary schools will never be abandoned on the periphery. When we established a system of federal and later on research universities and institutes, we believed there should be some examples of how it is possible to grow and what goals to strive for. I know from experience in other areas, apart from education, that as soon as these growth points appear, all other institutions, including those in education, immediately strive to emulate them. I have no doubt at all and would like to reassure you – those students that study at other universities – not federal universities, Moscow, St Petersburg or research universities – that, as they say in such cases, nobody will be forgotten. We are well aware that the educational system in Russia is much broader than 10 federal universities and a network of research universities. We will pay attention to the entire educational system. This is the only way we can produce the desired results in developing university science and training students for the professions required by the national economy and the social sphere, the professions that the country needs in general. And so, I wish success to all students and teachers, especially in light of today’s holiday, St Tatiana’s Day. I wish you all the best! I am convinced that you will achieve your goals as you have done so far.