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Meeting of Moscow State University Board of Trustees

January 23, 2019

A meeting of Moscow State University Board of Trustees was held under Vladimir Putin’s chairmanship in the historic building of the Lomonosov Moscow State University on Mokhovaya Street.

The participants discussed interim results of implementing the Moscow State University development programme, further steps to enhance its competitiveness, as well as its participation in advanced research.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends.

I am happy to welcome you all to this meeting of the Board of Trustees of Moscow State University. First of all, I would like to thank you all for the substantial support that you are rendering to the country’s leading university.

Today we will discuss the results of our joint work and map out plans for the future.

The high prestige of Moscow State University and the quality of its fundamental education – in both science and the humanities – are recognised in the entire world. Obviously, this is the result of the work of many generations of outstanding professors and researchers that created unique scientific schools here.

Today, Moscow State University’s research teams are playing a tangible role in advanced international projects, such as LIGO, dedicated to the study of gravitation waves and the origin of the Universe, thereby making a substantial contribution to the development of modern astronomy and cosmology.

Students and post-graduate students have grants from the Russian Science Foundation and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research; laboratories with a broad range of scientific subjects – from chemistry and physics to neurosciences and medicine – are being established for young researchers.

Clearly, the university’s vast scientific and educational potential should be used more effectively in training highly skilled specialists capable of dealing with national development tasks in public administration, the economy and in the social sphere, and ensuring a breakthrough in the areas that matter in this new technological era.

In a word, the entire Russian higher education system and, of course, Moscow State University as its flagship – which it certainly is – are designed to play a significant role in reaching the strategic goals facing the country.

In particular, we need discoveries, pilot projects and finished products in priority areas, including, for example, artificial intelligence, and people who are able to come up with such breakthrough solutions. All the more so as Moscow State University boasts strong competences in math and physics, including quantum physics, big data analysis and complex mathematical simulation, and it enjoys advantages in information technology.

Incidentally, last year the university team won the World Programming Championship in Beijing – we just discussed this with the rector – and surpassed not only the traditionally strong hosts of the championship, but also outperformed its competitors from a number of Russian universities, including, I believe, some that are based in my native city of St Petersburg.

We also hope that Moscow State University will play a significant role in implementing the genetic research programme that will focus on biosafety, medicine, pharmaceuticals, microbiology and agriculture.

Advanced research in these areas is impossible without biobanks, which are global repositories of biological materials. A group of young researchers from Moscow State University has been actively working on this since 2015.

In general, the university has accumulated significant findings in biomedical and chemical research in recent years. It is no coincidence that the National Anti-Doping Laboratory is opening at Moscow State University.

Colleagues, I would like to repeat that the dynamics of technological change is very high; today, it is not enough to just move forward, not enough to just move. It is necessary, as the saying goes, to rapidly gain pace and rapidly improve one’s positions.

Of course, Moscow State University, by most indicators in reliable ratings, is ahead of all Russian higher educational institutions. This is an obvious fact. However, at the same time, new and strong university leaders are strengthening their position. This means that both global and domestic competition is on the rise, and I am hopeful and looking forward to continued growth, which is an important condition for our science and universities to raise their levels. This is certainly a good thing but also a challenge to Moscow State University.

Other universities are already breathing down your neck, as they say, and – I think Mr Sadovnichy will agree with this – they are pressing Moscow State University hard in a number of areas, such as physics, which has traditionally been a strong discipline here. Incidentally, some of the best secondary school graduates, including winners and prize winners at the All Russia Olympiad of School Students, choose – generally, this is certainly highly positive where education is concerned, but Moscow State University should think about this – often choose not only Moscow State University but also other leading Russian universities, including in the Russian Federation’s regions.

Moreover, talented young people are placing increasingly higher demands. Those, who during their school years participated in Russian and international Olympiads, say that sometimes there is a lack of substance and a similarly intense rhythm, and that contrary to this, they are ready to dive deeper in the hope that it will bring important results.

So, in order to be and remain among the leaders, and in this particular case – the leader, the university should constantly seek to renew itself, while retaining the fundamentality and best traditions; it should eliminate anything that can hinder development or, what is more, somehow affect the prestige of our leading university.

What I mean, what I would like to draw your attention to, and I believe the university administration will agree with me. It is good to study related disciplines in different departments: they can look at a problem from different angles, which is very good, because many of the discoveries over the past century have been made at the junction of different sciences. But when they simply start cloning departments and faculties for the same programmes, this is a bit too much, probably.

I am aware that life is complex and diverse, and it is often difficult to avoid this kind of department cloning, because the people are good and deserving, and you need to do something for them, create something for them, but you still need to be primarily guided by the end cause and work for the end result.

Three different departments at Moscow State University train economists; seven offer management programmes. Does that mean the degrees are the same, but the skillsets are different? We need to understand how effective this is, we have to take a closer look. This is not a catastrophe, but it requires attention.

I am sure that the university administration is well aware of this: today we need cross-cutting education and research programmes, a more intensive development of the interdisciplinary approach, including at the junction of the humanities and the exact sciences (those cognitive sciences that Mr Sadovnichy repeatedly spoke of – they are at the junction of disciplines) in the areas of scientific and technological development that we have talked about many times.

The most important task is to strengthen the research and teaching staff, to attract truly outstanding researchers, both Russian and foreign, who possess expertise and competencies in promising, emerging areas, to develop academic exchange programmes with other universities.

This kind of openness should promote dynamic, confident development, and increase the attractiveness and authority of the Russian education system among the post-Soviet states and beyond. The university should further promote the best education traditions through its branches, centres of Russian language and culture, and the training of foreign students.

We certainly need projects aimed at resolving the major challenges of the future. For example, we should speed up the process of creating a science and technology centre to combine the potential of Moscow State University, the Russian Academy of Sciences and our leading companies. We have just discussed one component of this plan.

A special law has been passed to implement this project. I very much hope that the practical steps will not be slow to arrive.

Let us talk about all these things, and others that you consider important for the development of Moscow State University.


January 23, 2019