President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Andrei Alexandrovich! I signed a decree on pilot projects in our universities. I am referring to the MISA (Moscow State Institute of Steel and Alloys) and the MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (State University)). As we agreed, we can use these institutions to carry out experiments and apply decisions that have already been developed during work on the national projects and in other instances.
I would like you to tell me how you are thinking of carrying out this pilot project and what its prospective outcomes will be.
Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko:
Dmitry Anatolyevich! First of all, the very fact that you made this decision has significantly increased the status of these institutions. They are the first national research universities of their kind. And as you may recall, the law on this topic has been prepared, but we agreed that these two pilot projects will lead the way for further developing similar universities.
Together with the universities we are preparing a programme for their development and, at the same time, preparing proposals for a competition among all Russian universities whose winners will receive this status and support from the federal budget. We are offering the money that has been allocated for next year within programmes designed to continue the national projects — there is about three billion there — and using it to launch projects related to national research universities. In other words, to launch the relevant competitions and to support both the pilot and other universities that win these competitions.
Dmitry Medvedev: How is the organisation proceeding? Have all relevant decisions been taken ?
Andrei Fursenko: I think that all ideological issues have all been worked out.
Dmitry Medvedev: We already met once to discuss this issue. Was it three or four months ago?
Andrei Fursenko: It was when you visited MEPhI. And at the time it was clear that both our university community and research community were ready and interested in this. This is very important because the main idea of this project is to promote more sustainable integration between science and education.
Dmitry Medvedev: What measures of economic support have we planned for this eventuality?
Andrei Fursenko: I would like to once again go back to the development programmes. These programmes specifically stipulate that funds from the federal budget are not to be used for current expenditures, but rather for investing into new equipment and new programmes. We plan to pay considerable attention to mobility, that is inviting professors from different Russian scientific and educational institutions, as well as, perhaps, academics who traveled to the west some time ago and are now ready and interested in coming here, in returning and participating in the development of higher education and science in Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good, but in addition to new projects we must not forget those that we are already implementing and are proceeding well. I am referring to the project to link up schools to the Internet. As far as I know, there were some problems with the new phase of funding. Have these problems been resolved and what is the situation today?
Andrei Fursenko: I believe that virtually all the problems have been resolved. There are still some technical problems but most importantly the money of the regions — your directive was linked to the fact that after two years of paying with federal funds the regions must take this responsibility upon themselves — this money has been allocated in almost all the regions.
There are still some technical issues related to holding competitions, but we believe (we follow-through the project on a daily basis) that there will be no failures and that schools will continue to use the Internet in the same way they used it before; in other words, students will continue to surf the net like they do now. This project is developing, has developed successfully and will evolve further.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good, then you keep this under your personal control and tell your colleagues in the regions that they should not allow any disconnections. If that happens then we will then disconnect them from other things.
Andrei Fursenko: We are working together with the Minister of Telecommunications and Mass Communications Igor Olegovich Shchegolev. We have a joint council that we both head. And this is currently the main issue that we are discussing there.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good.