We had a long pause in our communication. It was caused by the election campaign to the Legislative Duma of Tomsk Region and certain limits all the candidates had in their publication activity. I have already thanked my voters for their trust and believing in me. However, today I want to do it again and emphasize how important it was for all of us to elect three university rectors to be the representatives in the Duma. This is our victory. Peter Chubik (Tomsk Polytechnic University), Victor Vlasov (Tomsk State Architecture University), and I won most votes as candidates to the Duma. Of course, we want to justify such a confidence. Now I have a feeling of personal responsibility for my future work as a Duma member. I am sure all my colleagues experience the same feelings and emotions.
For me personally the election campaign was a non-stop communication with different groups of citizens who work and live in my district and the territories I will be responsible for. Over the last month and a half I have had about a hundred meetings with people in organizations and resident buildings. This unique experience widened my opinion of university people and their environment. We had never lived in an ivory tower. Still, our experience is very different from that outside the University Grove. Yes, theoretically, we know everything. We know what mass media report about the problems of our city and its districts. But when you hear about those problems straight from people, you have a totally different picture. The scale appears to be different. All those issues with health care, hospitals, schools, disabled people, residence, repair works, and kindergartens have different colors.
We deal with our problems here at the University. Very serious ones. However, it is important to know the problems people have in other contexts. Knowing the real life gives an opportunity to see new issues and contradictories as well as ways to develop relationships between the University and the City and the University and the Region. For example, we have been working with schools for quite a long time by now via the strategic project called The Interaction between TSU and The System of General Secondary Education. One of its major goals is to prepare strong enrollees for Tomsk universities.
But our University may have other goals in terms of its education activity, such as helping to socialize and adapt to a new environment, to expand the people’s prospective, to develop personal cultural assets, to develop creative skills, to help with professional growth, to fight digital illiteracy, to teach dealing with new technologies (means of communication), to resist age brain changes, and so on. With the help from the students and their supervisors, we could provide children and adults in foster houses, hospitals, juvenile prisons with training programmes. We could teach former military staff, new parents, retired people, disabled people, social workers, and volunteers. We could do it even remotely.
We have a positive experience in the matter as we have carried out the project called The Open University. It is oriented towards various social and age groups.TSU pays special attention to aduacting the elderly. This project has made the University a member of the International Association of Universities for the Third Age (IAUTA) (http://www.aiu3a.com/indexen.html ) . This acknowledged community includes universities of the world, which work with the elderly. It was founded in 1973 to exchange knowledge between people of different generations for the prosperity of the whole manhood.
In some countries social role of universities is regulated by certain laws. The world is moving in this particular direction. TSU is aware of how important such a role is for a university and has become the only university among all Russian universities that put it on the Roadmap. Now companies that rank universities develop new criteria to evaluate social contribution of the education institutions. The third role of universities is becoming more and more important. Even equal to the other roles they play, such as development of innovations, transferring technologies, helping start-ups, and organizing new models of production. Universities trigger the economy of regions. I spoke about it a at the forum in Saint-Petersburg that was devoted to education.
MIT is one of the best examples of how a university plays its economic and innovation role in a society. This is an entrepreneurial university, whose graduates generate one sixth of the world’s economy. In other words, they have established companies whose aggregate income constitutes one sixth of the world’s economy. Many universities try to follow this example and choose technocratic way of development in order to create new ecosystems and innovation areas. But they do not take into consideration the main secret of MIT. Its graduates are not just great professionals; they are elite and leaders of the modern economy. MIT’s success is explained, among the rest, by the huge variety of disciplines of the social and humanities areas. For example, in 2013 MIT offered 284 disciplines in humanities and social studies, from Archeology to African Music, from Philosophy of Math to Political Processes on the Territories of the Former USSR.
If universities succeed in playing all their roles, including the social one, their value for a region becomes undebatable. However, it is hard to deal with the responsibility. That is why it is important to join the efforts. Tomsk, being a university city, has unique opportunities for that. Rectors are well aware of the need to join the resources their universities have to achieve social goals. Strong universities must be the key to success for the regional and city administration, as well as for the business. The amount of students in Tomsk is the means to develop the regional economy and the sphere of service. Students eat, drink, use public transport, buy clothes, use mobile connection, go out, and so on. Where there are students, there is an opportunity for a region to develop. And the opposite: where there is a development of a region, there are students.
It is necessary to make this two-way cooperation effective. Legislative support and fund raising are necessary to create efficiency. That is why three rectors came to the Duma. Oksana Koslovskaya, the Duma’s Speaker, said that three rectors will help to promote Tomsk on the Federal level. Clearly, the relations between our universities are competitive. And this is an advantage too. As well as partnership and cooperation. This election has contributed a lot to the development of our partnership with other universities. On all levels. We have conducted many business and cultural events together. Of course, we communicated before. But certain common goals have improved our collaboration and put it on a brand new level. Now we are not just partners but friends. The atmosphere of the sports event for the freshmen organized by two leading universities – TSU and TPU – showed how we can work together.