The President continued his series of meetings with faculty and students at Russia’s federal universities. In April, Mr Putin met with faculty and students at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University.
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Excerpts from transcript of the with faculty and students at the Southern Federal University
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
I propose that we make today’s meeting as informal and simple as possible. I will say a few opening words and then I’d like to hear from the university’s teachers and managers. I’d like to hear from the students here too, the undergraduates and postgraduates, hear about your aims and achievements, what has helped you succeed, and what you still lack in order to attain even more, even better results. Let’s reflect together on what we can and should do to develop the university and our education system and science in general.
I don’t really have much to say given that you know your own university much better than I do. I know that it is among the leaders in various categories in all the different ratings – I won’t list them now. It looks very solid. This is a big university with a long history. If I recall correctly, you will be celebrating the university’s 100th anniversary next year, because the university takes the date of its founding from the moment when the Imperial University of Warsaw was moved to Rostov-on-Don during World War One.
Today, it is a big learning and research centre with 41,000 students and many postgraduate and doctoral students. True, there are some problems too. As far as I know, less than a quarter of postgraduate students defend their theses on time. This is probably one of the issues we could talk about today.
You have a good scientific and research base and plenty of technology platforms. You have techno-parks and similar organisational units. What made me especially happy and even surprised me a little are the excellent financial results your research activities have produced. You have made 1.6 billion rubles [more than $51 million]. It’s quite amazing how you do this and it’s really great to see. You’re doing a marvellous job.
You have established a couple of dozen small businesses. The university has involvement in a number of different commercial organisations working in various areas connected to education and science. This is really all very impressive. It makes me happy for you, and I want to wish you success, but as I said, I realise that you no doubt have problems too.
Let’s talk about this now.
Vladimir Putin: (on the research and education project on the history and culture of the Caucasus) I think this would be interesting and useful. I can tell you that work would be beneficial for the whole country and for the South of Russia. I will give it some thought, together with the relevant ministry. I think it would be right to involve the academic community as well.
The main objective here will be to demonstrate the advantages of living in a strong unified state. That is a major priority. It's one thing when scholars of different nationalities write their research articles on their own, within their nationality, and quite another thing when these different nationalities live separate lives and everyone tries to secure their own interests. What are the advantages of combining efforts to achieve progress and prosperity? It is worth giving some thought to this subject and to show these benefits. If we're missing something, it is important to get assistance.
That's the point of any research in this or any similar field – to assist the people who are engaged in practical politics. Where are they falling short? What can be done to not only explain, but to achieve this synergy from living together in one strong and prosperous country. If you achieve this, that would be a very good, useful and desired result. It would be very important for the South of the country and for Russia as a whole.
Vladimir Putin: (answering the question about raising the prestige of science as a professional field) Here the answer is completely obvious and trivial: we must upgrade the conditions for research, including laboratories, and improve the living standards of the people who work in this field. Today we are trying to achieve this by employing a system of grants (big, small, and huge grants). We are trying to raise the research process to a modern level, including through the establishment of collective use centres jointly with research institutions, the Russian Academy of Sciences institutions. There are interuniversity collective use centres.
We try to structure the work in such a way that our researchers, including young scientists, become part of the global scientific process, in relation to universities and education. Today Russian scientists are taking part in practically all major projects, at CERN and other international centres. We are involved in everything. That's the first thing. I recommend that you work towards this goal either independently or through the Academy of Sciences.
Second, we will continue to provide support and, perhaps, will modernise the mega-grant system. This is a very interesting system that produced an excellent result: researchers from around the world, either foreign scientists or our compatriots living abroad, have begun to come to Russia and use these funds to attract young researchers to the project for which they received the mega-grant. In fact, they create whole new trends in science or even a new school of thought. We will continue working on this system in the future.
Let me ask you, how do you see Russia’s image as a great power today? What can get every citizen the feeling of belonging in this great state? Most importantly for young people, what image of a young modern patriot corresponds to that status, in your opinion?
Vladimir Putin: (on Russia’s status in the world) The problems you mentioned are acute and severe, and not only in our country. They are acute and severe almost worldwide. Take a look at what is happening in Europe. On the one hand, they have disintegration of nation-states, and on the other, there is a rise of euroscepticism along with a crisis in the economy and the social sphere (Spain has 26% unemployment, and 40% among young people – amazing, unbelievable, but true). The situation is very difficult, exacerbated by opposing tendencies: the erosion of nation-states and the loss of identity in the same way as you mentioned with respect to us, but this process is even more pronounced there, and rising euroscepticism on the other hand.
We should analyse what is happening there. By the way, both tendencies are harmful, strange as it may seem. Our country not only has the biggest territory in the world, it also has the greatest ethnic and cultural diversity, and this should not make it less stable; instead, it should create a solid foundation for national development.
This discussion is too short to be able to answer all the question and give ready-made solutions. But, first, we should think about these issues and, as I said in response to one of the first questions, we must try to ensure that people have a clear understanding and conviction that it is easier and more productive to tackle today’s challenges if we do it together. This is vitally important.
And for that to happen, we must respect our cultural and ethnic neighbours, and treat our own roots with respect. Ultimately, that will foster comprehensive, effective joint development.
I am not sure we need a revival as a great power in the Soviet sense. In Soviet times, humankind was going through one development stage, and today it has progressed to another, but it is indisputable that we are a great nation, there's no doubt about it. I believe our key challenge, or one of our key challenges, is to create such conditions when people will be convinced that living together within a single state gives us a huge competitive advantage. This will give us an opportunity to ensure the on-going development of the economy and achieve a decent standard of living for our citizens, to be at the forefront of science, education and healthcare, in the development of such promising areas for humankind as space research, and so on and so forth. And then, our self-respect will grow.
If we achieve that, then surely we will succeed, and we will strengthen our unity and our state. In fact, we have no choice – we have to do it. And judging by what I have heard from you, my confidence that we will succeed is growing.
Vladimir Putin: One of the most important trends in training modern professionals is collaboration with industry. Because businesses know best what they need for their work today and tomorrow. Though they can certainly be wrong, because global trends are sometimes quite difficult to predict, but it's still the best indicator of what the labour market needs will be today and tomorrow.
We are developing a system of measures that would allow us to build up collaboration between the customers in the labour market and the suppliers of goods, if we can use this term in relation to employees, and to make sure that this relationship is as professional, consistent and effective as possible. I'm not going to list all the incentives, but this is what we are thinking about and I believe it is one of the major directions to improve the quality of education in Russia.