Question: We, workers in higher education, are worried about the outflow of young graduates into leading Russian and world oil companies. That breaks the continuity of generations, which in the long term may affect the quality of engineers. Does the Government intend to do anything about it?
Vladimir Putin: Pay in business is always higher than in higher education. This is true of the West as well. So it is always a matter of personal choice. If he has a bent for intellectual activity, he pursues research even when he is in business.
We should emulate the developed countries by protecting intellectual property and evaluating it accordingly. That can be achieved. We should work out many new regulations and strengthen the legislation connected with the protection of intellectual property.
Regarding the outflow of human resources abroad. It is a multi-faceted task that cannot be solved by taking a single measure. The problem lies not only in the outflow of personnel, it is also connected with the outflow of capital and the outflow of technologies and all the other key factors of modern production. All these factors tend to concentrate very quickly in the countries which are better at using them in terms of the tax code, administrative barriers and so on. We are working in that direction and so far we have few achievements to boast of, but we have done something. The outflow of capital has diminished somewhat. And there are better conditions for people to fulfill their potential in our own country. You cannot do it overnight. And you cannot do it by administrative decisions and barriers.
As for salaries, I could remind you of the decisions taken. Bonuses for Doctors of Sciences have been increased as of January 1 this year, bonuses for Candidates of Sciences have trebled and in the second half of the year all salaries will be raised by 30%. On the whole in 2003 the salaries in higher education will almost double compared with 2002.
Question: We have recently received a draft Government decree that would introduce a distinction between a federal head higher education institution and a federal-regional head higher education institution. Could it be a cover for discriminating between higher education institutions in the capitals and in the regions?
Vladimir Putin: I am not in a position to assess these plans of the Education Ministry. But as far as I know there are actually three and not two categories of higher education institutions: federal, federal-regional and sectoral. This is common practice in many countries. Some higher education institutions are designated as the bases for retraining and refresher training of teachers and specialists. Of course they will get additional financing for these activities, just like Moscow gets additional financing because it performs the functions of the nation’s capital. Time will tell whether this is a good or a bad decision. We intend to concentrate resources in the regions. The measure is not aimed at some kind of discrimination. This practice has proved to be useful at Moscow University and at the Academy of Sciences. Not every higher education institution can afford to buy modern equipment, which is quite expensive. That is why we have decided to create such common centers. By and large it works.
Question: Should more attention be paid to teaching foreign languages at higher education institutions?
Vladimir Putin: Do you work with foreigners?
Vladimir Putin: Let them learn Russian.
As for the graduates of Russian universities, they must have a command of at least one foreign language. When I say “have a command” I mean that they can express themselves and understand what they are told.
Question: In the current situation a young university teacher is unable to acquire a flat of his own. How can that problem be solved?
Vladimir Putin: That is one of the most complicated and pressing problems. This year’s budget earmarks about a billion roubles to help young families to build housing. I think the bulk of that money will go to the Far East and North. I am thinking about the demographic situation in these regions.
On the whole, we are looking to create a modern flexible system of mortgage loans that is geared to that group of citizens. This year the Ministry has teamed up with a bank to develop a mortgage scheme for higher education teachers. It is to be a 15 year mortgage. It can help teachers to pay back the loan, considering inflation. This is the way to solve the problem. The mortgage schemes will be the more effective the more effective the country’s economy is.
Question: The Government has signed a declaration whereby our graduates, holders of MA and BA degrees, will be able to go to work abroad, so that there is a balanced exchange programme. We don’t have reference materials to tell us where we can send our graduates. What is being done at the Government level to develop a package of such documents?
Vladimir Putin: The programme will last until 2010. The Government still has a lot of time to work out such reference books. But I understand that you are not so much asking a question as hinting that we should move faster. I will convey your concern to the Ministry.
Thank you very much. I wish you luck.