How we Run Railway University in Russia – Rector

The first engineering transport university in Russia – St. Petersburg State University of Railways of Emperor Alexander I – this year marks the 210th anniversary of its founding. The rector of the educational institution, Aleksandr Panychev, told Gudk why applicants choose technical specialties and what current graduates of sectoral universities expect from future employers.

– Alexander Yuryevich, did PGUPS manage to fulfill the plan for admission of applicants? How many people were enrolled in their first year this year? 

– The university has fully implemented the plan for admission to places financed from the federal budget – more than 1,400 people have been enrolled. This is not only a bachelor’s degree and a specialty, but also a master’s program with graduate school.

Budget places are distributed among universities according to the results of an open public competition held annually by the Ministry of Education and Science. This year, with a decrease in the declared budget places for us by correspondence courses, the number of places for full-time students has increased. However, the total number of budget places for higher education programs has not changed in recent years. 
The admission plan for paid tuition is set by the university on its own. In this – a little more than 1.4 thousand places. The university has also fulfilled this plan. 

– What specialties are popular among applicants?

– The number of applicants who apply for admission to our university on a budget has remained at the same level over the past five years – this is about 8.5 thousand people a year, of which traditionally 75–80% go to specialized railway specialties. 

For two or three years, we have seen an increase in demand for construction specialties, including “Construction of railways, bridges and transport tunnels.” This year there was a maximum competition in this direction, which amounted to 69 people per place. 

For other specialties, the competition is lower. For example, in the specialty “Rolling Stock of Railways” that year, the competition was four people per seat with 200 budget places.

The popularity of technical specialties is growing. The direction “Information Systems and Technologies” is traditionally in demand. The number of applications for training in the areas of “Power Engineering and Electrical Engineering” and “Heat Engineering and Heat Engineering” is increasing. 

– What, in your opinion, is the growing popularity of construction specialties connected with? 

– I think that this trend is associated with the growing popularity of engineering education in the country as a whole. Affects the selection and implementation of large infrastructure projects, including in rail transport. Applicants and their parents are sure that after graduation they will be in demand and will find interesting work with decent wages. 

– How many nonresident students at the university?

– The northern capital, the atmosphere and history of the city itself attract students. In the opinion of the applicants themselves, in addition to the specialization and reputation of the university, the opportunity to gain a foothold in the metropolitan area, where the quality of life, the level of remuneration is higher, more employment opportunities, also affects the choice. 

70% of our students come to St. Petersburg from other regions. They come from all over the country: from Sakhalin to Kaliningrad, there are freshmen from Moscow. This year we received freshmen from 62 subjects of the Russian Federation. 

Our students are also citizens of foreign countries. There are more than 11% of the total number of students. In general, representatives of more than 40 countries are mastering railway specialties in our country. This year, university enrolled from 25 countries.

Traditionally, among freshmen there are many children from the families of railway workers, successors of labor dynasties. I am convinced that a true professional is a hereditary railroad worker who goes on target order. He is already familiar with the industry and is focused on long-term labor relations with the company in which his relatives worked or are working. 

– If we are already talking about targeted training, then what are the admission numbers this year? 

– Our main customer is still Russian Railways. For the first course in the specialties and areas that the company needs, we enrolled 400 people.

At the same time, we are well aware that it is often difficult for a freshman-target student from the line to give some disciplines at first. The level of their training is not the same as, say, among graduates of schools in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Therefore, in the first year they have additional classes – for example, in physics, higher mathematics. 

– Rosobrnadzor said that this year in some disciplines the average score for the exam has grown. Are more prepared students really coming to universities?

– Yes it is. We note this qualitative change – the average exam score for applicants to our university grew from 67 in 2018 to 71 in this. Passing points this year increased in all specialties (there are 21) and areas. At the same time, nine passing points exceeded 200 points. In particular, it is “Construction of railways, bridges and transport tunnels”, “Operation of railways”. 99 people were enrolled with USE scores above 230, of which 25 people had it even above 250. This undoubtedly indicates an increase in the level of applicants. 

– Was this year among those wishing to study at PSUPS winners of olympiads or 100-point USEs?

– Among applicants for admission, such applicants, of course, were. But their number is declining every year. This time, only six people from among the winners and prize-winners of the Olympiads submitted applications. Of these, only one person ultimately chose our university and was enrolled with 100 points in a specialized subject. 

We are calm about the tendency to reduce the number of such applicants. Federal and national research universities work very actively with the olympiadniki, and most often they choose these universities in order to spend more time on research activities.

The task of the transport university is to bring the learning process as close as possible to solving the production problems of the transport industry. We were created to provide the industry with staff, and for the two hundred years that our university has existed, we have not changed our approaches. But this does not mean that we are not happy with applicants who have such results. 

– There is an opinion that an extramural student is not interested in studying and is secondary to her, and teachers are lenient to them and do not require much. Do you agree with that?

– The portrait of the student of the correspondence department of PSUPS is as follows. This is a Russian Railways employee with a secondary vocational education. He worked for some time on the railway, and for him, getting a higher education is an opportunity to get additional knowledge necessary for promotion. These are very diligent, responsible students, and as a result of them highly qualified specialists are obtained. 

– Russia is also implementing international projects in the field of railway transport. Does the university train personnel for such tasks? 

– We try to ensure that our educational programs meet not only modern requirements, but also the requirements that will be presented to specialists in the future, taking into account the fast pace of technology development.

From this academic year, we began training under the international master’s program “High-speed railway transport. Infrastructure, economics, ecology. ” The program was developed as part of the European international project Erasmus + and is implemented by an international consortium of universities led by the Dresden Technical University and the Madrid Polytechnic University. 
PGUPS acts as the project coordinator for Russia and the pilot scientific and educational platform. The program is designed for two years. For four semesters, students will undergo theoretical and practical training in the field of the latest technology, technology and organization of design, construction, operation, economics and ecology of railway transport, including high-speed railways.

In addition, the university has concluded more than 80 existing agreements with the largest universities in the world, within the framework of which the academic mobility of students, graduate students and teachers is possible. 

– How important is PGUPS for its presence in international ratings? 

– A university, which has everything in order with the recruitment of applicants and the employment of graduates, strives for this, to be honest, there is no particular need. But today the vector of state policy is such that the country’s higher educational institutions should be represented in international rankings. Therefore, we, of course, declare, participate. 

If we talk about the rating methodology, the situation is as follows: as a rule, the emphasis is on the number of educational programs. And we, of course, are losing here, since we have a narrow transport focus.

Nevertheless, we are the only transport university in the country that Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) in 2018 included in the prestigious QS University Rankings: Eastern Europe and Central Asia ranking, which included 300 of the best universities from 26 countries. We have a good position 251-300. 

In total, experts evaluate 10 criteria: academic reputation, reputation among employers, the ratio of scientific and pedagogical staff to students, the number of publications per employee, international scientific relations, the influence of the university on the Internet, the proportion of employees with a PhD degree (Doctor of Science), the number of citations per article, the share of foreign employees and the share of foreign students. Each criterion makes a certain contribution to the overall assessment of the university.

– How many PGUPS branches – colleges and technical schools? What specialties did the applicants of educational institutions of secondary vocational education choose? 

– Our university has 15 branches and structural units implementing secondary vocational education programs. The budget plan for admission has been completed, and with a fairly high competition. 

The paid admission plan has been exceeded by most branches. Railway specialties are most in demand both on the budget and in the paid department. This result only confirms that secondary vocational education is again becoming popular among young people.

– According to the All-Russian Research Institute of Labor, among the most sought-after specialists in the labor market this year are lawyers. For several years now, the Ministry of Education and Science has not allocated budgetary places to sectoral universities for this area of ​​training. Has the situation with admission of applicants changed to “non-core” specialties for transport this year? 

– As for the “non-core” areas, the budget places are allocated in small numbers and not every year. Competition in such cases can reach more than 100 people per place. We are talking about such areas of training as Economics and Management. We do not prepare lawyers.

– Students will again be able to take loans from the state for education. The agreement on state support of educational loans, which was signed by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and Sberbank, entered into force on August 1. Did students of PSUPS use educational loans? 

– Our university previously participated in a similar program of crediting paid tuition. Five people coming this year have already taken advantage of this service. 

The conditions are pretty attractive. Let me remind you that the minimum loan amount is not regulated by the bank – as a rule, it is equal to the cost of a semester of study at a university. The maximum loan amount cannot exceed the full cost of training. You can borrow from the bank for the entire period of study plus 10 years, while the borrower, if desired, can repay the loan ahead of schedule without penalty.

– You have already said that at the university more than half of the students are not from St. Petersburg. Is it possible to provide everyone with places in dormitories? 

– We have more than 3300 places in the hostel. Mostly residential buildings are located in the central part of the city. 

Every year, taking into account our capabilities and internal reserves, we add from 40 to 100 places. Foreigners, according to the current migration legislation, can not live anywhere except in a hostel, so it is necessary to increase the volume. 

Nonresident students with cumulative USE scores from 230 and above are given the opportunity to choose a place in the hostel. When submitting documents, it is necessary to fill out the appropriate application and go, see, choose the room in which he would like to live and study.

– In your opinion, what does a student pay attention to when graduating from a university when choosing an employer? 

– We conduct surveys on this topic. Of course, in the first place – the level of wages, the availability of a social package. The last three or four years, applicants with parents have come to us, and they are also concerned about career growth: how quickly with our diploma he can reach certain positions. Russian Railways has an established corporate culture, mentoring programs, and the possibility of further education – this is what the applicant also pays attention to. I think that’s why, by the time a higher education diploma is received, 95–97% of our graduates are already employed.

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