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11:34 AM  July 26, 2021

TPU Rector (Ag.): want to supply education models for all universities

© предоставлено пресс-службой ТПУTPU Rector (Ag.): want to supply education models for all universities

TOMSK, Jul 26 – RIA Tomsk, Elena Taylasheva. TPU team under the leadership of the new Acting Rector Dmitry Sednev is preparing the university's development strategy for the next 10 years. In his interview he talked about what the new engineering education is, how to make TPU the best technical university in Russia, and under what conditions Sednev will send his son to the alma mater.

– At the meeting of the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) Academic Council on July 5, when your appointment was announced, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation Valery Falkov explained that he was also won over by the fact that you refused to head one of the iconic Moscow universities, preferring Tomsk. Tell me about your conversation with the minister? Did you know where you were being interviewed?

– There was a call from the minister, I was scheduled for an interview, which, due to the pandemic, is not conducted face-to-face, but via video-conferencing. I was confronted with the fact: "You are being considered for the talent pool." There was indeed a question about the change of the region, but I said that not everything is still done in Tomsk, to move from here.

 What university did they offer?

– Which one - it was not indicated. The choice - Moscow State University or Tomsk Polytechnic - was not put before me.

 And what if it was about Moscow State University? Well, for the sake of argument.

– I would have chosen the Polytechnic anyway. Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin. This is true: there are ambitions for my native university, which I now head, to become the best technical university in Russia (so far we are called so, but with the prefix "non capital"). It's within our power to make our strong university even stronger. Education at Polytechnic is at a high level, we have always been ready to make experiments, including educational ones, and I am ready to support and strengthen these traditions.

 Now a large part of the team, which has not yet recovered from the previous structural experiments, must have shuddered...

– Experiments can be different. You can say: "Tomorrow we will all live a new life. Or you can say, "Those who want, can try to do something different. We are ready to give leverage and resources to make the transformation happen."

We're not going to break anything - we're hoping for a smooth diversification of the model. These ambitions for new educational formats are now reflected in the "Priority 2030" application (a program for enhancing the competitiveness of universities, launched by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation - Ed.). One of the strategic stakes of the program is the new engineering education.

 What do you mean by "new engineering education"?

– Traditional models of education are when there is a clear workplace, for which an understandable specialist is trained in an understandable way. Let's say, in five years you need 18 technologists at the pipe plant, control figures for admission are given to the university, it recruits people, trains them and distributes to the specific workplace, thus, closing the needs of the country.

But now a lot has changed. Our economy is integrated into the global economy, graduates go outside of Russia, and we clearly understand: if we want to be a leading university, we must produce professionals who are mobile in the labor market (including the ability to create their own jobs), who are ready not just to come into the industry, but to transform it. And this requires other educational models, including, for example, early professionalization.

© РИА Томск. Таисия Воронцова
"Engineer is now in demand in the job market not only and not so much by his diploma as by his resume. That's why we want to get students into real projects as early as their senior year so they can try out different roles and get competencies that can be reflected in their resume," says Sednev.
At the same time, when we talk about different formats of education, we understand that there is no getting away from the concept of life-long learning. Additional education, retraining, and changing careers is an indispensable step, without which we can't further integrate with industry.

We are already working with industrial partners on transforming educational blocks in terms of individual fine-tuning, so that a specialist, falling out of the production process as little as possible, could develop those very skills in which he is failing individually. We are preparing to launch a system of competence diagnostics for specialists.

 And in which industries?

– At the moment - in the oil and gas industry: TPU's Heriot-Watt Center is successfully developing the Asset of the Future project with Gazprom Neft. This is a program to improve business processes, digital transformation, and the development of cross-functional competencies and flexible skills. We are extending this educational project to the School of Energy & Power Engineering - with digital transformation of the energy sector.

We are also having our first conversations with the nuclear industry. We already have one flagship educational project with them - providing human resources for Rosatom's export potential. TPU created a center that allows us to teach foreign students in English, so that the technological products that the corporation ships abroad can be immediately supported by our trained specialists.

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
"Our unique venue, TPU Nuclear Research Reactor, plays its part; we got permission to hold educational modules there. Graduates come to work with a high degree of readiness, minimal adaptation is needed to be included in the job," tells Dmitry Sednev.
The important thing here is that by piloting some projects, we are ready to extend them to other industries. In many ways, the "Priority 2030" program is about developing various models of cooperation with industry for further replication. We want to become a supplier of such models for the entire higher education system.

Now, within the framework of the Big University (unification of Tomsk universities and research institutes while preserving their legal independence - Ed.), there is an opportunity to cooperate with colleagues from other universities and take the unique educational competencies that are available at TSU, TUSUR, SSMU, TSUAB, and TSPU. I am sure that my colleagues and I will be able to work out these mechanisms. This is also an experiment that will be useful for everyone, which can be transmitted to the federal level.

 Are you discussing these ideas with your colleagues?

– Right now we are on vacation, and most of my colleagues are not at work. So I have not yet had a big meeting with the staff. But we have met with the Academic Council, rector's office, and Professors' assembly.

– The old professorship are, in a good sense, the most "hurting" part of the staff: true patriots of the polytechnic, who are suspicious of the fundamental reforms. What is their main request?

– To preserve the traditions of the university.

 Surely they raise the question of returning the traditional departments?

– Departments are indeed an articulate request, and we have had very constructive conversations with the Professors' assembly. It does not matter what you call the institution: department, chair, laboratory, research and education center, or something else. What is important are the basic principles by which this unit of the university is built. For example, the electivity of the head of the institution through his public defense of the development program. It is possible to restore this practice.

It is important: the collective gathers together, sees a candidate (ideally, candidates, in order to have a real electability), and votes for a specific development program. In this way a kind of social contract is concluded: the head takes on obligations, and the collective, which chose him, has the right to ask for the result. Then it is not just a KPI from above (you have to write so many articles, earn so much money, accept so many students). You have not only quantitative, but also qualitative plans.

© предоставлено Томским политехническим университетом
"TPU knows how to make money: we are the eighth in Russia to raise funds from industry and the first to raise funds from abroad - we have the highest export potential. We have accumulated a lot of experience in attracting partners, now we need to make this experience a system," notes Sednev.
It so happens that we are now writing a ten-year strategy for the development of the university (the previous comprehensive development plan was presented for 2019 - 2024).

And when the head of the department presents his program, he will certainly correlate it with the university's comprehensive plan. So each employee will be able to see directly his place in the overall development program, to find his role in it, which raises his involvement and motivation.

 I have heard that now the entire university's management is practically sleeping at their workplaces, preparing this development strategy for "Priority 2030". How has your schedule changed since you became to lead the university?

- Weekends became quite scarce. But I try at least sometimes to leave work on time to see my family - my son is six and a half years old.

– Are you writing your doctoral thesis?

– Of course! At night... As I've always been told, the PhD and doctoral theses are your own business, so only in your spare time. I have a lot of accumulated material on non-destructive testing and ultrasound, both on a project with TEMP and on a project for Rosatom.

There are systems that we (at the TPU School of Non-Destructive Testing) made for the St. Petersburg Research Institute of Electrophysical Apparatus, involved in the construction of a thermonuclear reactor in France. There was still mechanical work to summarize the materials, I sincerely hope that in a year it can be done.

 Was it hard to leave the School? Or did you, as the head, see the continuation of your career in that particular direction?

– I can't say that I dreamed of my way to becoming a rector. I just worked for Tomsk Polytechnic University. I did not intend to become a head of the School at the time either - the stars are aligned that way. On the other hand, I understood that the things that I wanted to change within the university could only be done in a certain position. In that part of the career move was logical.

I realized that I was sacrificing my time, and in many ways, I was sacrificing the projects I was leading. But I put everything into reliable hands. I would like to emphasize: I have the same attitude towards all the schools: no indulgence, no allocation of separate resources for the school, saying that since I am a former head, non-destructive testing is now our main religion.

At the same time, of course, I still have some personal involvement in projects - because some of the obligations to industrial partners were taken under my reputation. Immediately after moving to another position, I contacted all partners and gave guarantees that all projects would be completed. I can see from the outside: the team is doing fine. At the moment, the stage for the thermonuclear reactor project is being handed over.

 Now let's check your true loyalty to the Polytechnic. Would you like your son to follow in your footsteps and your parents?

– The main thing I want is for my son to be happy. It is impossible to say what a child is drawn to until he even goes to school. Maybe he'll want to be a dancer, and I won't stop him. If he is interested in technical sciences and by that time Tomsk Polytechnic will be the university that my team and I dream about, and because of that he will choose it himself - I will be happy.

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