Zorin: ''A desire to destroy the pride of the education — European University — makes a strong impression''

The university, patronised by Alexey Kudrin, is hoping for the favourable outcome

Zorin: ''A desire to destroy the pride of the education — European University — makes a strong impression'' Photo: openrussia.org (Andrey Zorin)

The suspension of the license of the European University of St. Petersburg by Rosobrnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science) became a real unexpectedness, which has alarmed the whole high school in the country. The attempt to close one of the leading humanities universities that has achieved world recognition, has been lasting almost a year. The claims are more formal, however, that fact did not prevent the suspension the accreditation of the university at the end of last week. The decision was made despite the presidential order to the government to sort out the problem. At the same time, the federal mass media give their version of the attack on the university — it is the power ministries who want to reduce the activity of Alexey Kudrin. The experts interviewed by Realnoe Vremya are confident that there is a deliberate ''destruction of what the country can be proud of at a global level''.

What is the problem — a gym or ''jealousy of the professional community''?

The subject of the uproar — European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP) — in today's official report notes that violations revealed by Rosobrnadzor are formal. According to the supervisory authority, the department of political science and sociology does not have sufficient amount of teachers-practitioners in political science and sociology, teachers working on fixed term contracts, it has not undergone certification, and there are no gym (physical education is not included in the curriculum). The last-mentioned charge, the court ultimately did not accept. EUSP believes that all of these points are based ''on whether the specific interpretation of the provisions of the law or on an internal evaluation by the supervisory authority of the extent of compliance with the repeated injunction, the precise requirements of which the university had not been aware of until the last moment.''

EUSP refutes all accusations of ties with foreign funds, the work against the interests of Russia, etc. ''This information has no connection with the official reason to suspend the license. In fact, such actions are aimed to convince the public that the regulatory authorities were used for political purposes, as instruments of pressure on the university and to disrupt its work,'' states the official statement of the University.

According to medusa.io, the rector of the university Oleg Kharkhordin links the suspension of the license with the fact that the university cooperates with the Center for strategic studies of Alexey Kudrin. Kudrin, by the way, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the university.

Oleg Kharkhordin links the suspension of the license with the fact that the university cooperates with the Center for strategic studies of Alexey Kudrin. Photo: eu.spb.ru

''I easily can assume that it is just about jealousy and envy of the professional community''

Ilya Utekhin, Professor, Dean of the Department of Anthropology of the European University does not hasten to make such conclusions: ''As for the activities of Kudrin, I have no reason to engage myself in conspiracy theories in the spirit of media. (...) The activity of Kudrin, probably, causes disapproval in certain segments of our society because there is another trend. This is a natural process. As an economist, Kudrin seems to me much more convincing than Glazyev. But it is not a reason to call Glazyev a traitor and a foreign agent. The picture is quite complicated here.''

Andrey Zorin, a philologist and historian, Professor at Oxford University and RANEPA (he is well known for the lectures in the Arzamas project) also refrains from such assumptions but tells about the targeted persecution: ''We certainly are dealing with the systematic persecution of the best university in the country. The first time it was closed in 2008 because the fire inspection did not like the quality of the building for fire safety. Then they returned: violations of fire safety were eliminated, they were allowed to work. Then in April, the accreditation was revoked due to some formal irregularities in the papers. They eliminated violations in the securities — they continued to work. Now it is the same situation. There is something going here — I can't tell you absolutely, I can't understand where it comes from: perhaps, the leadership of the university knows, I don't know, but it is clear that someone is systematically have been preventing the university from operating. I easily can assume that it is just about jealousy and envy of the professional community who doesn't like competition.''

''I have no reason to engage myself in conspiracy theories in the spirit of media'', said Ilya Utekhin. Photo: comparativestudies.ru

While Moscow is negotiating, Paris is rallying

While training activities of the University are suspended, the scientific work is continuing. ''There is some legal collision. Scientific events have remained. For example, Natalia Kasperskaya comes to the university with lectures. Everything that has been announced as academic life continues. In the building of the university the educational activity has been terminated,'' says Ilya Utekhin. According to him, the university must offer the students if they want to go to similar programs in other universities. And now there are two universities — Higher School of Economics and RANEPA that have the corresponding programmes, though Utekhin believes that it is too early to talk about the transference. Nothing has been said about the fate of the faculty.

''It is clear that these professors and people at the European University will definitely find a job, they will find some solutions in our country or abroad, nobody of my colleagues at the European University will be on the street, I can promise you,'' said Andrey Zorin. ''The students (moreover, it is not bachelor level), they will solve their problems, they are high-quality students. But it still has a demoralising effect, of course. So they tried to teach at the global level… <…> Here is the university that tried to operate at a global level by world standards, and that's the result.''

The rector of EUSP is currently in Moscow, where there are meetings on the fate of the university. In the Internet there is the petition in defence of the university. Meanwhile, a rally took place in Paris in support of the European University. About thirty people gathered in front of the Sorbonne to express solidarity with the Russian University. The event was attended by the graduates and students of the EUSP, who happened to be in Paris at the time of the tragedy, as well as well-known sociologists Laurent Thévenot and Nina Eliasoph, a specialist in Eastern Europe Kerstin Jacobsen, director of the Institute CERCEC EHESS Professor Françoise Daucé, Professor at University of Nanterre Anne Le Huerou, and other researchers. During the campaign, they were joined by French students learning the Russian language.

A lecture of Apurva Sanghi at EUSP, the chief economist of the World Bank for the Russian Federation. Photo: eu.spb.ru

Second to none

European University in Saint Petersburg was established in 1994 with the active support of Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. It began its work as a training graduate school in the Humanities and social sciences (anthropology, history, art history, political science, sociology, economics) in 1996.

Today, there are about 200 students from 54 regions of the Russian Federation studying for master's and doctoral degree, as well as graduates of foreign universities (mainly in Western Europe and North America). For them there are special EUSP international programs, the teaching is conducted entirely in English. EUSP employs about 150 teachers (about 90 full-time professors).

EUSP is included in the rating of the London School of Economics ''100 Best European Centers of Political Sciences''. The fellows of the University are regularly invited as experts to the work of the Open government, the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, Ministry of economic development, Ministry of education and science of the Russian Federation, the Russian Science Fund and the Federal Agency of scientific organizations. EUSP is an active member of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum. The representatives of the University cooperate as authors with many periodicals. Including one of the most popular columnists of Realnoe Vremya — a historian Alfrid Bustnov who is Professor at the European University.

''European University has no undergraduate programs, it is a master-graduate university, and there is no natural sciences — it is a small university where only 5-6 disciplines are taught,'' says Zorin. ''But in those disciplines that it teaches, it is the best university in the country. Second to none. And the desire to destroy the pride of national education, of course, makes a strong impression. There are people with sufficient power and sufficient authority to be engaged in the destruction of what the country can be proud of at the global level. It produces on me a painful impression, it is easier for me to talk about it, because I haven't worked at the European University, and I have no relation to it. So I can tell these things with no allegations of any indiscretion and self-promotion.''

The attempt to close one of the leading humanities universities that has achieved world recognition has been lasting almost a year. Photo: ross.msk.ru

A year of inspections at the European University of St. Petersburg

The first claims of Rosobrnadzor for the European University at St. Petersburg appeared in March of this year. The agency conducted an audit of the University, in the result of which the accreditation of its programmes was suspended.

The University was accused of inconsistency with the rules of admission in 2015 and 2016 for training on educational programs of higher education, approved in Russia in 2014. On 5 May 2016, the Magistrates' court of St. Petersburg considered the claim of an administrative offense, presented on the result of an unscheduled inspection by Rosobrnadzor. The magistrate ordered to withdraw all claims and to dismiss the case against the EUSP. University accreditation was restored.

In July 2016, Prosecutor General Office on demand of the deputy of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Vitaly Milonov (a deputy of the State Duma) initiated another inspection. According to Kommersant, the audit revealed around 120 violations. On 22 August, the University sent to the service a report on the elimination of violations (about 1.8 thousand of pages of documentation). The day after the report it was announced a documentary verification of Rosobrnadzor (in the framework the university provided 8.5 thousand of pages of documentation). In the end, the agency recorded that there were about 32 violations, and ordered to stop work by 30 September. According to the University in July-August EUSP was visited by eleven regulatory authorities. All audits were unscheduled. Some of them were repeated.

However, the university continued to work, having enrolled new students. According to the university, all violations have been eliminated. However, on 14 October, Rosobrnadzor banned the admission of students for the failure to perform provisions within the established deadlines. The members of the Board of Trustees of the University sent the Russian president a letter with a request to prevent violation of the educational process at EUSP. Under which the President instructed the government to find a positive solution and to prevent the suspension of the educational process at EUSP. But on 5 December, the court upheld the claim of Rosobrnadzor and took the decision to suspend the accreditation again.

By Dmitry Semyagin, Timur Rakhmatullin, Dilyara Akhmetzyanova