On June 21, 2018 Russia’s Federal Education and Science Supervision Agency (Rosobrnadzor) announced that it has revoked the state accreditation of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, better known as “Shaninka,” after a planned inspection uncovered “multiple violations of education standards.” This School was founded in 1995 by Teodor Shanin (1930), Professor of Sociology at the University in Manchester. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Shanin moved to Moscow where, with funding from The Open Society Institute, Ford Foundation and others and after a lot of problems with Russian authorities, he founded the School. He is President of the Moscow School, Professor Emeritus of the University of Manchester, and an Honorary Fellow of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences
In an interview on June 22, Viktor Vakhshtayn, Shaninka’s social sciences dean and sociology department head, stated:
The students who come to Shaninka don’t come for state-recognized diplomas. In terms of recruitment, the departments that will be hit hardest will be those without joint Master’s degree programs with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration [RANKhiGS]. But again — Shaninka didn’t have Russian state accreditation for a big chunk of its history, and we managed just fine without it. […]
In my department, a lot of the students receive three diplomas simultaneously: one from Shaninka, one from the University of Manchester, and one from the Presidential Academy. All our students will get diplomas. […]
Honestly, whatever the motives of the people who decided to send us the message that we “don’t belong here,” they achieved exactly the opposite. I’ve spent almost half my life affiliated with Shaninka, but I’ve never seen such incredible solidarity among students, professors, and alumni as in the past day.
We saw yesterday — in the reactions from students, colleagues, alumni, and even new applicants — that we belong here. And as long as we can walk into a classroom and teach, read, and write together with our students, our place will remain here [in Russia].
On June 25, 2018, the initiative group of students and graduates of the Shaninka published a petition demanding from the Russian government the termination of the activity of Rosobrnadzor and a large-scale reform of the legislation in the field of licensing of educational and scientific activities.
On June 27, the Scientific Council of the Higher School of Economics (HSE) expressed its concern about the withdrawal of state accreditation from Shaninka and noted that the quality of the students’ training at Shaninka meets high standards. The HSE statement also said that the situation with Shaninka “again demonstrates the inadequacy of the existing system of accreditation and licensing of educational programs.”
In connection with the situationat Shaninka, on July 2, 2018, fifty of the biggest Russian universities endorsed a public appeal to Vladimir Putin calling for reforms to the federal government’s accreditation process. According to the petition, the state’s college accreditation regulations are outdated, and the experts who carry out school inspections are often under-qualified. Academics want to add professional representatives to inspection commissions and force the state to publish the full results of their inspections.
Now a threat to all of Russian science is discussed, whereby Rosobrnadzor would have control over not only universities, but also research institutions.
In the meantime, “Doctor of Sciences” and Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky received the International Valentin Pikul award for his history novel “The Wall.” Valentin Pikul (1928-1990) was the author of 40 history novels that have been criticized for inaccurate treatment of historical documents, vulgar writing style, and glorification of the Soviet regime. The International Valentine Pikul Award was established in 2005 in Moscow to perpetuate the memory of the writer Pikul and encourage writers who preserve, develop and enrich the traditions laid down by him in the national history and heroic-patriotic literature.