EUSP gets back its teaching license

After 375 days of academic siege and tiring fight with the Rosobrnadzor, European University at St. Petersburg finally succeeded in restoring its education license.

After a fourth attempt to apply for the education license, on 10 August 2018, EUSP got the license back and plans to launch a recruitment campaign already in August. Former MA and PhD students will get a chance to return to the university and complete their studies. The leading graduate school in Russia is back in game fully equipped for a new academic year in a new building and facilities.

International academic cooperation

EUSP was founded in 1996, and swiftly became one of the leading graduate schools in social sciences and humanities in Russia and one of the very few truly successful private universities. Most of its graduates pursued academic careers in Russia and abroad including the most reputable universities such as Stanford and Oxford.

There is a long history of close academic cooperation and friendship between the EUSP and University of Helsinki. Professor Anna Temkina, one of the University’s founders and current co-director of the most successful gender studies program in Russia, began her academic career in Helsinki. Several other EUSP professors have established close ties with Finnish colleagues, and featured as visiting fellows in the Aleksanteri Institute and Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies.

In the teaching side, an exchange program between the two universities operated for several years supported by the EU and plans for a new MA level cooperation are underway. Since 2015, an intensive exchange of doctoral students has been possible thanks to the Kone Foundation. FRRESH program brings together doctoral students from both countries, and YRUSH provides visiting fellowships in Helsinki for pre-doctoral researchers from St. Petersburg.

Long fight for existence

The trouble that almost wrecked the fruitful cooperation began in 2008, when a fire inspection was conducted at the premises of the university and its building was immediately shut down. Widely shared understanding, however, was that safety concerns were not the main reason for the closure. Thanks to wide Russian and international support, the university was able to resume its activities after a series of complicated negotiations with the state’s authorities. Then, in 2016 a new chain of events started, as the Russian state education watchdog Rosobrnadzor got the European University in its teeth again. This time it questioned the quality of education programs and facilities of the University, then launched a legal process that in the end got the university’s education license revoked.

According to the Russian law, any education activities not licensed by the state are subject to legal penalties. Thus, besides the extensive support by partner universities such as the University of Helsinki, EUSP was left without students for a year.

Some former students found their way to other universities to complete their degrees, others decided to wait in the hope that alma mater succeeded in winning the license back. Many PhD students opted to work as research assistants at EUSP within the numerous EUSP research centers. University of Helsinki provided an opportunity for a select group of PhD students to finalize their dissertations in its doctoral programs.

New premises, new hope

St. Petersburg city authorities followed the process closely. As the University was emptied from students, the city reclaimed its premises, the Small Marble palace, which had been its home since late 1990’s and become an important building block of its international brand. The university was forced to move but eventually succeeded in finding a suitable building in the same neighborhood. Now that the education license has been restored, the new, more modern, premises are ready to welcome back students.

There is budding hope that the state policy regarding private and internationalized universities will take a more cooperative turn. International cooperation and success in global rankings is the shared goal of Russian educational bodies and in this prospect, internationally recognized institutions such as the European University are leading the way.