In an interview with TASS, Acting Rector of Tyumen State University Ivan Romanchuk told TASS what he sees as the meaning of customized higher education, how the scientific direction of biosafety is developing at the university, how things are with the employment of students during a pandemic and what is the university's "third mission".
—Tyumen State University has been actively transforming almost all the basic processes of university life for five years now — education, science, infrastructure, partnership. Are you doing that foe a reason, what request of society are you fulfilling?
— That's a serious question. Over the past five years, we have understood that the labor market is changing dramatically, and the pandemic, like a litmus test, has proven this even more clearly. It has become more obvious that cistomized training is necessary for successful employment. It is for this type of new education that we began to build network interaction with the best universities and scientific organizations of the country and the world, create unique learning spaces, laboratories and coworking spaces. We have seriously taken up the issues of university science, have become the drivers of the development of the Interregional West Siberian Scientific and Educational Center. Today we can say firmly that we were one of the first in Russia to anticipate a number of changes taking place in universities and were half a step ahead.
— How is the university handling advanced development?
— It's not easy, because it is the right-flank ones that usually leave the comfort zone. Tyumen State University has more than 2,000 professional employees. The most important thing is that we have managed to consolidate the team to solve strategic problems. A lot was done within the framework of the 5-100 project, we managed to attract the best teachers, highly rated in terms of high publication activity of researchers, managers from the country's leading universities and abroad to work at the university, we invested a lot in our people and infrastructure. We had to concentrate all our resources on top-notch research. Now I understand that this was the only right way.
— Biosafety became the frontier of research at Tyumen State University even before the pandemic. Were there prerequisites for that?
— Of course. But now this matter has become even more relevant. We created the Institute of Ecological and Agricultural Biology (X-BIO), purchased modern research equipment for its needs. However, the infrastructure renewal which had already been carried out is not enough for a revolutionary breakthrough in science on a global scale. Now we are planning to create a supercomputer cluster of high-performance calculations for bioinformatics. The capabilities of this cluster will be used to conduct genomic research.
— There is a feeling that the stage of life called "student days" is becoming less relaxed and carefree. What is the reason for that?
— School graduates come to us, and we endow them with completely new responsibilities - they design customized educational trajectories themselves. In order to reduce the level of stress and anxiety [that accompany this choice], the university has a mentoring institute, a service for professional psychological counseling for students.
The active transformation of higher education, which the leading Russian universities are implementing together with us, reveals an important problem — the psychological, emotional and intellectual inability of applicants to undertake the obligation to define their own educational goals and design individual training courses. To solve this problem, a transformation of the entire education system is required, at least, starting from school.
— Is there anything one can do right now in a particular university?
— For the university, this is a challenge we can only tackle with a strategic reassembly of educational programs of pedagogical training areas, which have already begun. This academic year, the first admission to the Master's program "Experimental Higher Education" took place. The entire university will become a testing ground for pedagogical experiments for undergraduates.
However, we understand that we must go further. It seems that the experience of teaching in programs based on customized educational modules for student teachers will not be enough. Therefore, Tyumen State University intends to become a technological provider of educational solutions not only for higher, but also for secondary schools - first, of course, within the framework of experimental educational sites.
— A lot has been said about the "third mission" of universities recently. What do you think about this?
— This mission is based on the implementation of the social, entrepreneurial and innovative functions of the university. It is extremely important for us that the university's activity is aimed at improving life in the region. Science should make people's lives better, education should give confidence in the future, innovation should bring income. This is our understandable and very humane work.
— You said that work with the team of teachers and researchers during the transformation of the university is carried out systematically. And how is the involvement of students in creative activities going?
— We form in students such values as responsibility, leadership, patriotism, constant self-development and involvement in the development of society. For example, we have good results in the development of the club movement, this is one of the most effective formats for youth development. At the moment, there are 100 student clubs operating at Tyumen State University, and these are 100 leaders that unite more than 3,000 students. Is it a lot or not? We believe that it is not enough. Therefore, we systematically cultivate leaders and direct their energy in a positive way, towards the implementation of significant projects and the solution of important problems for society. Youth policy at the university is not a set of event and leisure activities, but the integration of educational and extracurricular activities.
— How does that work exactly?
— In order to generate new ideas, we began to develop the system of student project marathons "Makerton", established partnerships with leading Russian business accelerators. Now over 500 students participate in this initiative. This activity seems to be not educational, but it falls in the category of the formation of entrepreneurial competencies necessary in the modern world.
— The summer of 2020 has become a large project of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education for the employment of students during a pandemic. How did you employ students?
— From May to August 2020, Tyumen State University was the organizer of a program to promote student employment. In four months, almost 5,000 students of our university and other universities of the region were able to work and receive financial support.
Now there is a new project "Sirius. Summer", we are making some progress here, there are collaborations of students, representatives of industries and schoolchildren. The project is being implemented on the basis of the regional center "New Generation". Companies such as Sibur, SUENKO and Taxtelecom provide production cases, which are solved by schoolchildren of the Tyumen region under the guidance of mentors — the students of Tyumen State University. The solved cases are eventually accepted at enterprises, and students and schoolchildren receive offers of internships and employment. This is an example of how, on the basis of a university, as a result of the cooperation between talented children and industrial leaders, new technological solutions with a high potential for further commercialization emerge.