Modern university looks beyond education
Nowadays technical education is becoming more popular. Leading universities have great influence on economy of cities and regions, in which they work. We have talked about this to the rector of Volgograd State Technical University, Alexander Navrotskiy.
- Alexander Valentinovich, first of all higher educational institutions are engaged in educational and scientific activities. But we can’t draw the line on these. More people are talking about so-called third mission of universities. What is it?
- Alexander Navrotskiy: This long-discussed notion has become topical again over the last years. It is obvious that leading universities cannot stand aside from the social and economic development of their regions. That is why there appear great variety of activity areas which become as important as achievements in science and education. The university is turning towards an outside audience and offers them its resources. Of course it is not a charity, this refers to new common projects, partnership, joint opportunities for stating and solution of big mutually-beneficial tasks.
Therefore the university is no longer just an educational institution and becomes a center of attraction for people and organizations, which are capable and ready to create something brand new at the university.
- And what does the third mission mean in particular for VSTU?
- We are ready to work with partners from any sphere. New groundbreaking ideas, which can be realized in our region are of a great importance for us. We appeal to everyone: entrepreneurs, representatives of authorities, nonprofit organizations and in general to ambitious people. Let’s think together and try to do something innovative, creatively different, unusual, something that will promote the Volgograd region. We are ready to meet, discuss projects and partnership and make the success possible for everyone, who contacts with VSTU.
Let me give some examples. Firstly, our graduate students launch business projects at the university, and involve other students in them. As a result we get a so-called relay of generations in a high-tech business. Thus, our graduate student Artem Avdeev has recently won a prestigious competition “Young entrepreneur of Russia”. Artem manages the company Stereotech, which team consists of students and employees of VSTU. There are several big victories: the first in the world 5D printer has been elaborated and the company has become a resident of “Skolkovo”. Annual incomes of small innovative companies, housed by VSTU exceed 100 million rubles.
The second direction is “Polytech 0+” or as we call it “children’s university”. VSTU has a special ecosystem, aimed at teaching children. We have our unique program for pupils “Robotic school. At the laboratory of young engineers, students of the first grade are involved in development of computer games, robot design and other thrilling things. A great number of workshops, free lectures and training courses on the most relevant questions, including ones, which are suitable for children, are held at “Tochka kipeniya”. And of course I can’t help but mention “IT-lyceum”. It is an educational program on information technologies, elaborated by the leading international company, the official platform of which in the Volgograd region is VSTU. Besides, technical university takes an active part in work of children’s technological parks: we are partners of “Quantoriums” both in Volgograd and in Volzhski.
From children we go to adults. The third direction is a professional retraining. By virtue of our main specialization we are closely connected with regional industry. Annually we sign about 200 contracts with enterprises and companies for advanced training of their staff. In 2020 our university guided retraining of 183 employees from the plant “Krasniy Oktyabr”. Due to the difficult sanitary situation in the world part of the program was successfully realized using distance educational technologies. In 2020 we had big contracts with Volgograd ceramics factory and municipal unitary enterprise “Metroelectrotrans”. Work and study space “Factory of processes”, based at our branch in Volzhskiy was created in order to teach lean management strategies using special training equipment. In total there are more than 900 programs of advanced training and professional retraining at the university and the creation of such programs is always carried out jointly with a client.
The fourth direction is assistance in technological renovation of enterprises. An excellent example is the participation of VSTU in renewal of Volgograd aluminum plant. Our university is actively engaged into early career guidance, promoting metallurgic professions among pupils. We involved 250 educational institutions of secondary and additional education and during one academic year about 250 pupils and students visit the enterprise. It goes without saying that VSTU trains personnel on request of enterprises. Nowadays more than 20 percent of principals and employees of the company “Rusal Volgograd” are graduate students of VSTU. Jointly with the corporate center of youth initiatives of “Rusal” we have created an educational platform, which engages talented students into development of the company. In fact, this is a so-called transfer of the practical part of the educational process at the site of the industry partner. Besides, our university organizes popular youth competitions “You are entrepreneur” and Metal Cup. Moreover, our scientists provide scientific support of production tasks. For example, our quality control technique for end products allowed to increase sales by almost 23 thousand tons!
And finally our fifth direction is participation in improvement of urban and rural areas. This year four projects from the Volgograd region have become winners of the All-Russian competition of the best projects aimed at creating a comfortable urban area. Among the best one there are two architects of VSTU. We are talking about the project of the park “Torgun” in Palassovka and a project of municipal improvement in the city of Petrov Val. The development group includes university teachers and eight students. We cannot help but also mention the reconstruction project for a ground line of express tramway, carried out with the active participation of the scientists from the technical university. As the result of its implementation volume of passenger traffic will increase from seven to thirty million people, and average time of a travel will decrease by 22 percent. It will become an impulse which will increase transport connectedness of our very elongated city.
- Can you assess the role of VSTU in development of the Volgograd region?
- Alexander Navroskiy: Universities all over the world are actively involved in the life of cities and regions. Higher educational institutions become major employers and manufacturers of innovative products, development centers of small business and “assembly points” for social initiatives. World practice shows the contribution of a typical university to the Gross Regional Product in the amount of two-three percents. And it is considered to be a standard. But in my opinion, the role of universities is much wider.
I strongly believe that they should become responsible for innovations in the region. That is why VSTU intentionally expands its boundaries and presents itself as not only an educational organization.
Technical university is open for cooperation with regional enterprises and organizations. We have number of platforms, intended for cooperative work with our partners. In the nearest future we will create technology transfer centers and studios of students’ techpreneurship. We are aimed at development of new services, which will allow us to be even more intensively involved in the search for technological requests and proposals of regional enterprises, promote promising high-tech elaborations. In such a way we form innovative ecosystem, which improves workforce productivity and well-being of the citizens. This is the third mission of VSTU – to be a socially responsible university and an open platform for industrial and social innovations to the benefit of the Volgograd region and Russia.