On January 21st, International Postgraduate Day is celebrated all over the world. It was on this day in 1925 that documents regulating the system of training university researchers were signed. This holiday is celebrated by graduate students, scientific supervisors, and specialists working in research institutes of any field of study. Natalia Shaburova, Head of the Centre for Doctoral Studies at South Ural State University, spoke about the specifics and importance of the centre's work at our university.
– What are the main goals and objectives of the Centre for Doctoral Studies of South Ural State University?
– From 2022, the procedure for preparing postgraduates has changed. Previously, the studying process in postgraduate training programs involved mastering a large number of educational disciplines and simultaneously conducting scientific research. But, in fact, the postgraduate had to present only his final qualifying work at the state final certification (GIA). Requirements for mandatory passing of candidate exams and publications of a certain level were not specified as such. And since after successfully passing the state examination, the graduate received a diploma of completion of postgraduate school, giving the right to teach, many limited themselves to this, without bringing the level of their final work to the level of a dissertation and, accordingly, did not defend their papers and did not receive academic degrees.
A new approach to the postgraduate education process has clearly outlined the purpose of training − the preparation and defence of a dissertation of a candidate of sciences. Moreover, the result of the training is not only the text of the thesis, but also a set of achievements necessary for the defence − 2 to 3 publications in peer-reviewed journals, successfully passed candidate exams, experience in presenting scientific papers at conferences at various levels.
With these changes, the role of the Centre for Doctoral Studies is also changing. Now our functions go far beyond simple methodological support of the educational process. We see our goal as forming a reliable personnel reserve of teachers and researchers for our university.
To achieve this goal, it is necessary that our postgraduate students not only remain at the university after graduation, but remain in the status of candidates of sciences and have the opportunity for further professional growth.
In this regard, the tasks of the Centre for Doctoral Studies are closely related to helping postgraduate students complete their defence in a timely manner. It is no secret that the procedure for defending a dissertation involves not only performing research work and its preparation, but also extensive documentary support, which has many formal nuances. To comply with them, we carefully monitor all changes in legislation regarding the regulation of the procedure for awarding an academic degree, which allows us and our postgraduates to respond to them in a timely manner.
– How do you assess the level of training of SUSU postgraduate students?
– The university has all the conditions for postgraduate students: qualified supervisors, modern equipment, well-equipped testing and research centres and laboratories. And, if a postgraduate student is focused on writing a dissertation and personal development, then he or she certainly has the opportunity to achieve high results. I am talking not only about writing a doctoral dissertation, but also about the opportunity to develop one’s scientific field, self-realization in a profession and career.
– What opportunities do the SUSU postgraduate studies provide for students?
– The most important thing, from my point of view, is that we are in touch virtually on a round-the-clock basis. Using the VKontakte social network messenger, all postgraduate students can directly ask me questions that interest them and communicate with their colleagues. We use the same chat to inform students about ongoing competitions, grants, conferences, and provide information necessary for the educational process.
We try to be useful to postgraduate students in their scientific activities. Of course, the main and decisive role in this belongs to scientific supervisors. But sometimes people turn to us for help. For example, some postgraduates, especially those who came to us from other universities, do not know about the availability of this or that equipment in the departments and laboratories of our university, and do not always know who to contact to conduct research or testing on it. We help to establish the interaction.
Financial support for postgraduate students from the university is also important. We have developed a fellowship provision under which postgraduates with high publication activity receive an increase in their grants. With the support of the Rector and First Vice-rector, the practice of employing postgraduate students as teaching staff has been successfully implemented for the second year now.
– What new methods or approaches are used in the process of teaching postgraduate students at our university?
– General disciplines, such as History and Philosophy of Science, Foreign Language, are taught using electronic courses that have already become traditional at our university. This approach, well known to our Bachelor's and Master's degree students, is very convenient for both postgraduate students and teachers.
As for the methodological support of the educational process, in 2022 we began the transition of individual plans for the scientific activities of postgraduate students to the electronic format. Today, first- and second-year graduate students create an individual plan in their personal accounts and send it to their supervisors for approval. In their personal accounts, supervisors have the opportunity to coordinate, adjust the plan and provide feedback on the postgraduate's work during the semester.
Research activity is actually the individual work of a scientific supervisor and a postgraduate student. Considering that dissertation work is, first of all, scientific novelty, approaches to solving specific scientific problems should by default be innovative.
– What advice would you give to future postgraduate students who wish to successfully complete their studies and pursue a career in science?
– For those who wish to apply for postgraduate studies, I would like to advise them to try and engage in scientific activities as early as possible, so that they come to postgraduate school with at least little but much-needed experience, groundwork, and a clear understanding of what they must do. Our university has all the possibilities for this − research is being conducted in various technical, natural science and humanitarian areas, and everyone will be able to find something interesting for themselves. The sooner you begin to delve into and become familiar with science, the easier it will be for you to see a problem that you could solve in postgraduate studies.
For those who are already studying in postgraduate school, I wish them perseverance, self-confidence, rational use of time, stay on top of things and concentrate on the main things, not lose heart if something doesn’t work out, and of course, successfully prepare a dissertation and timely defend it!