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St Petersburg State University launches alumni association

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”

Benjamin Franklin

This year, Times Higher Education ranked St. Petersburg State University 64th in the BRICS and Emerging Economies university ranking (up from 67th last year). While this is still disgracefully low for a school that has 8 Nobel Prize winners amongst its graduates, this is far better than 10-15 years ago when the whole Russian education system faced neglect and under-financing.

Despite its world-class teaching standards, the institution has suffered from a lack of ‘structural’ and ‘organisational’ components, such as a communication programme with the alumni community, which is crucial to receiving good international rankings.

More generally, in terms of the academic quality of the education provided in Russia (especially for natural sciences and engineering; as humanities were not exactly taught by the Soviets), the current situation matches, if not exceeds, the heyday of the Soviet system. Developments are now underway to laying the foundations for a long-term and sustained high quality of education across the country.

The major universities are developing boards of trustees, and have launched endowment funds, the best performing of which has already reported significant results in less than 10 years of operation. Alumni associations are also being established across the country with graduates wanting a greater say in how their school is run.

On the 26th November 2014, I visited my alma mater, St. Petersburg State University (SPSU) to take part in the launch of the university’s official alumni association, after almost a year of volunteer-led efforts by about 500 alumni. The alumni association’s mission statement looks to “unite the alumni in a dynamic and committed community, foster professional, creative and scientific ties within the community and the university, improve the competitiveness of the university, and preserve and develop the value and uniqueness of the university’s education, culture and traditions”.

The newly established alumni association will permit the university to keep track of graduates’ successes, and facilitate communication between former classmates and help SPSU to reach the most sought-after ratings in the international education rankings.

Earlier this month, the RBC published an interview in which I discussed the alumni association as well as the issues that St Petersburg, as a place, must face in order to realise its potential as a world class city to live and study in – you can read it (in Russian) here.

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