Reconstruction towards sustainable development: TPU reports on the implementation of its 5-100 Project roadmap

On 26-27 October 2018, the meeting of the Council on Global Competitiveness Enhancement of Russian Universities among Global Leading Research and Education Centers was held in Kaliningrad. TPU team reported on the implementation of the competitiveness enhancement program adopted last year. 

Photo: credit to IKBFU

Reputable international and Russian scholars, experts and businesspersons who are the members of the Council attended the meeting. This time Tomsk Polytechnic University was represented by TPU Rector Petr Chubik, Vice Rector for External Affairs Liliya Kiriyanova, Director of School of Non-Destructive Testing Dmitri Sednev, Deputy Director for Development of Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Studies Marina Trusova, and Director of Tomsk National Research Medical Center of RAS Evgeny Choinzonov, as a representative of a significant partner organization. 

Photo: credit to IKBFU

TPU delegation presented the results achieved by the University in the previous year, challenges and complications it faced and most importantly on how the University is taking the path towards sustainable development following the reconstruction of key processes.

Last year Tomsk Polytechnic University set a course for reforming its structure to improve the quality of education of engineers of the future, both capable to deal with modern technologies and initiate the creation of completely new ones. 

Photo: credit to IKBFU

In particular, the University focused on the development of the principles of interdisciplinarity and cooperation. Such direction is due to the inevitability of changes in the traditional models of engineering education and organization of science and innovation activities. In order to overcome disciplinary ‘barriers’ the University abandoned a chair structure. They were replaced by 10 schools of different types. This model of engineering education is not based on specialized programs but on interdisciplinary and oriented towards future programs.

Bachelor programs were transformed as follows: during the first two years, students study at the School of Core Engineering Education where they received strong competencies in key engineering directions. Afterwards, they are involved in personal interdisciplinary academic trajectories and solve production problems within the project work. 

In the presented model of the University development, master programs are self-sufficient, i.e. they are not a continuation of similar bachelor ones. They are based on the technological needs of the industry. When designing and upgrading master programs, TPU focuses on cooperation with other universities, scientific and research centers, enterprises including foreign ones. 

Being a national research university TPU sets a task to educate both highly qualified engineers of the future and researchers – young PhDs. For this purpose, the University established two research schools concentrating scientists in breakthrough directions. These are the Research School of High-Energy Physics and the Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Studies.

Photo: credit to IKBFU

In these schools, scientists have lower teaching load, there is additional funding for state-of-the-art equipment, internships, and participation in conferences. Such reconstruction has already resulted in an average double increase of papers published in the Q1-Q2 journals. The main focus of these structures is the preparation of early-career scientists. They launched integrated master and PhD programs. Future scientists begin to work on future theses right while pursuing master programs, often they have two supervisors from TPU and leading foreign universities and RAS institutes. They will defend interdisciplinary dissertations at new interdisciplinary councils of TPU, which will begin to award TPU scientific degrees in January 2019.

Interdisciplinarity and cooperation became the basis for the new model and the scientific and innovative activities of the University. If earlier the R&D contracts were signed and implemented by the staff of one department now TPU is an integrator of scientific, engineering and manufacturing competencies not for different schools of the University but also other universities, RAS institutes, branch institutes, and companies. This allows implementing much larger projects. 

For example, the project Paleozoic. It is a complex project with a total budget of over 260 Ml rubles on the development of new resource efficient technologies for the production of unconventional hard-to-recover oil reserves. Here TPU operates as a project office for a dozen contractors.

The changes also affected the management system where the University is focusing on talents and a personalized approach. A key element of the new management system is a freely designed KPI system. Employees choose their indicators from the list of strategic priorities of the University.

In turn, the international activity of TPU is focused on Asia. This is due to history, scientific and educational relationships, dynamics of Asian markets and priorities of Russia’s external and economic policy. Asian countries are currently a key market for the export of TPU education and technology.

According to the meeting’s results, the Council will elaborate its recommendations on the continuation of the state support of the 5-100 Project for the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation and proposals for universities to update their competitiveness programs.