O.E. Piskun, associate professor, Ph.D.
St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg
Key words: polytechnic university, history, training of foreign students, physical culture, adaptation to education.
St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, better known in Russia and abroad as Polytechnic Institute, was founded in early 1899. Having originated on the top of economic and cultural successes of Russia at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, it soon became one of the factors of successful development of the country. Half a century later, the institute was rated not only as a famous institution of higher education, but also as "a major achievement of Russian culture" in the beginning of the XX century.
Nobel Laureates P.L. Kapitsa, N.N. Semenov, academicians A.F. Ioffe, I.V. Kurchatov, A.A. Radzig, Yu.B. Khariton, Chief Designers O.K. Antonov and J.I. Alferov - it's just a few names among hundreds of talented scientists and organization men whose names are associated with Polytechnic Institute and whose achievements determined the formation and development of national science and technology.
Polytechnic University occupies an important place in the implementation of the Soviet foreign policy with one of the lines presented by active all-round cooperation with developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and training of national personnel for these countries.
Since the late 50s the flow of foreign students from these countries to Soviet universities increased. In order to train foreign students for studying in the universities of the USSR in Russian the leading universities of the country began to create special educational structures – pre-entrance courses for foreign citizens. Since then the formation of the system of pre-entrance training of foreign students began. The task of the pre-entrance courses was to train foreign students in Russian language and general subjects.
Leningrad Polytechnic Institute (LPI) was among the first universities in the USSR, where in 1965 a pre-entrance course for foreign citizens was established.
Given the role and achievements of LPI in this area in 1987 by the order of the Ministry of Higher Education of the RSFSR the construction of a new building of the pre-entrance faculty was completed, it included: an academic building with modern linguistic equipment, dormitory apartments and a sports game complex.
This gave a new impetus to the life of the pre-entrance course: new departments of general education, a department of extra-curricular work, the reception and registration for foreign citizens were created.
All this influenced the quality of training of foreign students and as a result made training of foreign citizens in LPI and other Russian universities more attractive.
In same 1987 Dean Yu.S. Vasil’ev established the Department of the foundations of physical culture and sport, the first and only one in the system of pre-entrance courses of the country, to provide systematic physical education classes for foreign students. The first Head of the Department who held this post till 2006 and who made a major contribution to its development was A.V. Zinkovsky, Dr.Biol., Professor, Honored Worker of Higher Education.
About 600 people from more than 90 countries attended simultaneously the pre-entrance course. Such a variety of different cultures with their national, personal and psychological characteristics and different levels of physical fitness stipulated the specifics of practical and scientific activities of the department which significantly differed from the work of traditional physical education departments.
Students' adaptation to the new conditions of life is one of the main issues related to training of foreign students in Russia and which solution largely influences the quality of educational process. The organization of physical education classes during class hours and extracurricular classes is a major factor of accelerating this process. From the early 90s in order to enhance the process of adaptation of foreign students the Department of the foundations of physical culture and sport and the interdepartmental laboratory of biocybernetics conducted the scientific research of national, personality-psychological characteristics of foreign students. The research materials obtained for several years were presented in the form of a monograph  and methodological manuals, which are widely used by teachers of the pre-entrance course.
They keep researching up to now, but at a higher level: with the use of modern hardware psychodiagnostic complexes, health-preserving and computer technologies.
In 1989 the pre-entrance course was renamed the International Training Centre and in 1996 it was transformed to the Institute of International Educational Programs which included powerful educational patterns for training of foreign and Russian students, the Russian Language Center and the Department of Short-term Training Programs for Foreign Citizens. Along with the development of the pre-entrance course the department was developing.
In 1995, the merger of the Department of the foundations of physical culture and sport with the scientific laboratory of biocybernetics resulted in the establishment of the department of biomechanics and valeology. During this period, the department research interests lay in the field of biomechanics and studies of the mechanisms of human adaptation to stress conditions.
The department of biomechanics and valeology conducted researches not only on its own initiative, but also by the request of the leading research institutions of the country: Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Biomedical Problems of All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Physical Culture, Central Research and Development Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics, etc.
At that time close scientific relations with foreign universities were established. The collaboration with the University of Hasselt (Belgium) is the most successful and long-term up to now. This cooperation was noted by the Belgian Government and in 2000 the Ministry of Education of Flanders (Belgium) allocated a special grant to support research and educational activities in biomechanics in St. Petersburg Polytechnic University.
In 2007 a laboratory for monitoring their psychological and physical condition was opened at the department for more in-depth and detailed study of the problem of adaptation of both foreign and Russian students. The purpose of the researches was to elaborate practical recommendations to precipitate and facilitate the process of adaptation of students to university studies. In 2009 the department won a grant for these researches from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation .
In 2013 the Department of biomechanics and valeology was renamed the Department of physical culture and adaptation.
Despite some hesitation in the field of scientific interests, the main task of the activity of the department is the organization of the educational process and extracurricular activities aimed at improving adaptive resources of both foreign and domestic students.
What is crucial to the successful socio-psychological adaptation of foreign students is the organization of their leisure during spare time. The department has been working in this area since the establishment. Throughout the whole week the teachers of the department conduct different after-hours activities including sports games, badminton, table tennis, organize tournaments and mass sports events with the participation of Russian and foreign students.
In 2002 at the joint meeting of staff and national sports associations of foreign students it was resolved to conduct the Student Minor Olympic Games (SMOG) involving foreign students from other universities of St. Petersburg.
The idea was supported by the rector of Polytechnic University and by the district and city administration of St. Petersburg. Since then this unique sports event has become traditional and is held every year.
Over the years the Games have gone beyond the university life and become a big event and a festival of friendship and unity in the multinational student environment of St. Petersburg.
Polytechnic University honorably bears its responsibility for specialist training for foreign countries, develops international contacts, strengthening its position in the world educational space, while remaining at the forefront of progress, solving complex theoretical and practical problems in various fields of science, technology and education.
- Arsen'ev, D.G. Socio-psychological and physiological problems of adaptation of foreign students / D.G. Arsen'ev, A.V. Zinkovsky, M.A. Ivanov. - St. Petersburg: Publ. h-se of SPbSPU, 2003. – 160 P. (In Russian)
- Piskun, O.E. Physical culture and continuous monitoring of psychophysical state as a method of adaptation of students to university studies / O.E. Piskun. – St. Petersburg: Publ. h-se of CTC SPbSPU, 2012. 264 P. (In Russian)
- SPbSPU [electronic resource]: official site of SPbSPU. – St. Petersburg.-URL: www.spbstu.ru/ (In Russian)