The forum’s first plenary session involved Vladimir Vasilyev, the Rector of ITMO University; Elena Kudryashova, rector of the Northern (Arctic) Federal University; and Vadim Volkov, rector of the European University at St. Petersburg. The discussion was moderated by Pavel Demidov, head of the Communications Department at the Accounts Chamber of Russia. The rectors discussed humanity's biggest challenges for the near future and how they could be tackled within the context of the pandemic.

According to Vladimir Vasilyev, a properly set goal very nearly guarantees success. And that is why Russian universities must focus on the five national development goals for 2030 – which correspond with the global sustainable development goals. Among them are: preserving the population and its mental and physical health; creating conditions and opportunities for self-fulfillment and effective labor; organization of a comfortable and safe living environment; and digital transformation.

Elena Kudryashova, agreeing with Dr. Vasilyev, pointed out three topics she finds the most important: responsible treatment of the environment and the people we work with and for – and quality process management. In his turn, Vadim Volkov singled out climate change as a particularly crucial issue. Countries can only tackle climate challenges together, but they are impeded by the trend towards sovereignty and isolation.

ITMO University’s Rector emphasized that other goals, too, have become more relevant during the pandemic and must be attended to. First among them is public health.

“Public health is a very important field of study. Nations must work in sync in this field, and I believe that Russian specialists still have a lot to learn if they want to conduct impactful research on the subject. Nevertheless, we already have results that were recognized by the scientific community,” said Vladimir Vasilyev.

The pandemic has raised the level of individual and collective responsibility: now, people are responsible not only for their own health, but for that of others, which has an effect on common welfare and people’s ability to work. According to Dr. Vasilyev, it is more important than ever to strike a balance between virtual and physical reality.

“This is yet another task the pandemic has presented us with. Until we find balance, we’ll be thrown between the two extremes, whether it’s complete virtualization or a desire to stay fully in the physical world,” he said.

The participants also discussed environmental trends, which have permeated everything, from business to education. Today, companies often rely on the idea of ESG – environmental, social and corporate governance.

As part of its pursuit of ESG goals, last year ITMO University launched the Faculty of Energy and Ecotechnology (GreenTech); in August 2021, it launched the School of Life Sciences, which brought together the university’s ChemBio Cluster, Faculty of Biotechnologies, and Infochemistry Scientific Center. ITMO is building a comfortable environment for students and staff, and that includes more than the introduction of new 24/7 coworking areas. For instance, the campus is now home to a network of waste sorting stations – an initiative suggested and organized by the students. As Vladimir Vasilyev points out, this once again proves that ITMO’s administration is not only the Rector – any member of the ITMO.FAMILY can make decisions that change the university for the better. Today, a quarter of ITMO’s Academic Council are students, and the unit’s sessions include open discussion of the university’s development programs and strategies.

The national forum Strategic Planning of the Regions and Cities of Russia has been held in St. Petersburg annually since 2002. Representatives of science, business, and government come to discuss the methods and mechanics of strategic planning: sustainable development goals, digitalization, green technologies, and the creative sector. This year’s topic, Reality 2020 and the Agenda of the Decade is dedicated to the usage of cities and regions’ resources during the pandemic. Learn more about the event on its official website.