Points of Presence: Part I

Our business life is becoming more and more nomadic. The growing number of management and professional goals extends geography and tightens our schedule. Very often we are obliged to be simultaneously in several places and time zones. Even online video chatting does not always help. Not only because it is difficult to use, for example, Skype to discuss various topics with several people at the same time, but also because online communication will never replace live interaction. Especially when one needs to solve some complex problem or understand a profound context that influences the life of the University. That is why we choose directions and points of destination in the real, not the virtual, environment to find such a solution or enhance such understanding. Since the beginning of this academic year, I have had several trips and I would like to tell you about some of them.

On September 12-14, I partook in the first congress of the Association of Classical Universities of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, and in the Forum of Rectors of Russian and Chinese universities in Shenzhen (China). Shenzhen used to be a small market town that sold fish, salt, and pearls.  In the middle of the last century, the population of Shenzhen was about 20 thousand people, which is a small number on the Chinese scale. At the end of the 70s, Deng Xiaoping singled out this area to be the first of the five Special Economic Zones. Since that time, the town has gone through incredible economic and social changes. Effective international and local investments have turned a small town into one of the largest industrial, financial, and transportation centres in China.   Today, Shenzhen is a city of skyscrapers and theme parks with a population of more than 15 million. Since 1999, it hosted the annual Chinese high-tech fair. Offices of large international and transnational companies are located in Shenzhen. Apple has the largest production of iPhones and iPads there. 


The pace of the economic growth influenced the environment. Attention to the environmental problems was drawn by the technogenic disaster of 2015, when the landslide of construction waste occurred and killed dozens of people. Today, wastewater treatment facilities provide fresh water for Shenzhen and the neighboring Hong Kong. The proper solutions to the problems were found, from the rest, thanks to the effective system of professional training. At present, there are 9 (!) international university campuses in Shenzhen. Each campus was established in collaboration with some globally recognized university, such as Berkeley.   There is a campus whose main building looks very much like the main building of Moscow State University.

Last year, Moscow State University and University of Beijing initiated establishing the  Association of Classical Universities of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. This year, the congress gathered over 300 people. There were 20 Russian and 68 Chinese university delegations. The Russian delegations were represented by the rectors of the associated universities and Olga Golodetz, the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs. She appealed to the Russian and Chinese universities to join their efforts in doing groundbreaking research and in qualitatively changing the systems of higher education in both countries. The Chinese government was represented by Liu Yandong, the Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China. The Congress resulted in signing the Association’s Charter and establishing the list of its members with 40 Chinese and 20 Russian universities, including TSU.


   One of the main issues discussed at the Congress was how to answer the question about the differences between the Association of Classical Universities and associations of universities of other types (technical, entrepreneurial, and research). Only understanding the specifics of a classical university can help to find the right answer. I shared my ideas on the matter in my report. The strength of a classical university is its foundations aimed at developing human potential. I mean not only exchanging its best practices in customization of education and tutoring, but also its fundamental research of patterns in developing and transforming individuals under certain factors of influence, such as globalization, technologization, and digitalization, accompanied by the risks of losing cultural identity and the risks of trans-humanism.


The feedback from the audience let us know that our perspectives on the mission of a classical university resonated with our colleagues and helped the Association to focus on the right subject. Another important role of collaboration in the sphere of humanities was acknowledged: it establishes the grounds for mutual understanding and interaction between Russia and China.

The next day, I visited Peking University (Beida), the first national university in China, which was founded in 1898 not far from the Forbidden City. The design of its campus combines traditional Chinese style and modern architecture. This was location of the Chinese Imperial Gardens and the maority of them have been preserved. Peking University has the largest library in Asia with more than 7 million books. By the way, this library was where Mao Zedong worked as an assistant librarian. Therefore, his doctrine did not appear out of nothing. The University is famous for its high standards of education. There are 105 bachelor programmes, 257 master programmes, and 228 post-graduate programmes. The Beida research in digital, medical, and bio technologies has been especially successful recently, though researchers from other spheres do not  fall behind either.


One fifth of the students are international, even though all bachelor programmes and a considerable part of master programmes are conducted only in Chinese! Only MBA programmes are offered in English. In order to enter a bachelor programme, it is required to have pre-study intensive Chinese language courses. And we can learn a lot from how they are organized at Beida. Future students have 36 hours of Chinese per week minimum, plus they are obliged to participate in non-academic events. If a candidate scores lower than 7-6 point out of 10 on the test, he or she is not going to be admitted.   Master and post-graduate programmes’ requirements are even stricter. Here, along with the language, one has to go through professional testing and provide a motivation letter with strong argumentation of all possible reasons for entering a particular programme, as well as to bring two recommendation letters from professors from the previous place of study. Statistics prove this approach to be the right choice, as 95% of graduates find well-paid job during first several months after their graduation.

Of course, we need such strong partners as Peking University. We have proposed to develop collaboration in regional studies (economics and the Chinese language). The TSU Confucius Institute was acknowledged as one of the best in the world by international experts in 2016 and became the only Russian Confucius Institute in the top twenty. The main result of our trip to China was joining the international mechanism of collaboration with leading Chinese universities. I think we should invite their representatives to celebrate TSU’s 140th anniversary. This will help us to maintain our relationships and make the collaboration with Chinese universities stronger.

On September 19-20, I and Ivan Ivonin worked at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. The Institute is an international intergovernmental scientific research organization that was established to join the scientific, technological, and financial potential of its members to research the fundamental properties of matter. Officially, it was founded in 1956 on the basis of the agreement between 11 countries-members of the socialist alliance and was registered at the United Nations Organization.


However, the history of the Institute began in 1946, when Igor Kurchatov, a prominent Soviet academician, initiated building a synchrocyclotron accelerator. It was started up three years later in the place currently known as Dubna, located 120 km from Moscow. Academician Grigory Flerov was one of the greatest founding fathers of the Institute. He was the author of several scientific discoveries, including the designer chemicals lawrencium, rutherfordium, and dubnium. They were put on Mendeleev’s Table as numbers 103, 104, 105, accordingly.

Despite dramatic geopolitical changes connected with the demise of the Soviet Union, the members of the Institute still support financially this important research structure. 7 other countries have joined the project. All members have the right to participate in all projects that are carried out in the spheres of theory and applied research. Today, the Institute has 18 members: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, D. P. Republic of Korea, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Over the years of work, a great number of specialists in the sphere of nuclear physics and chemistry have been trained to become top managers of national nuclear organizations in the countries mentioned above. The Supreme governing body of the JINR is the Committee of Plenipotentiaries of the governments of all 18 members. Germany, Greece, India, Italy, China, the USA, France, and Switzerland are members of the Scientific Council. The Institute collaborates with 700 research centres in 64 countries and with 150 research centres and universities in Russia. It participates in 15 projects carried out by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).


5,000 people work in the laboratories and the Scientific Research Base at the Institute. They do research in nuclear physics and chemistry; develop and implement state-of-the-art technologies; and participate in education programmes at universities. There are several departments that focus their work around research, as well as around training highly qualified professionals. 5 dissertation defense committees pass PhD and doctoral dissertations. Every year, hundreds of Russian and international students study at the Institute in order to become either  its staff members or to be employed in the partners’ organizations. The Institute offers summer programmes for students and international summer schools for internship. 

Tomsk State University and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research have been partners for years, however, we became the first official TSU delegation in Dubna. We spent there only two days but we had a chance to see and discuss a lot of things. 


TSU’s students and post-graduates, as well as the staff of TSU and the JINR, will be trained in theoretical and mathematical physics, electronics, automation systems, computer engineering, information technologies, nuclear medicine, and radiation biology. We are planning to conduct joint fundamental and applied research, using the equipment at TSU and the JINR.

Today, a number of TSU graduates work at the Institute in various positions.  But the Institute is ready to employ more of our talented students and graduates as there is always a lack of well-trained professionals. That is why together we are planning to launch a master’s degree programme in microphysics. It is possible that Tomsk State Polytechnic University will join the programme. Together we can carry out a unique programme of high quality. Its students will participate in real research at the JINR and the CERN. Our Deans will go to Dubna to discuss the details in November.

A large delegation from the JINR, headed by Academician Matveev, will visit TSU in February. Our guests will conduct lectures and other professionally-oriented activities.

We are proud to be partners with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and hope to carry out many promising projects together.

(to be continued)