Development of the system of higher technical education
Russian engineering education has a long glorious history and traditions. The first educational institutions that trained technical specialists appeared in Russia in the 18th century, and then the network of higher engineering educational institutions began to develop rapidly. Both Russian and the world community recognise Russian technical engineering universities as the ones which have always had high standards of training, have been the pride of the country’s educational system. Today, Russian higher educational institutions continue to preserve long-lasting traditions providing its graduates with a high level of fundamental scientific knowledge, both general professional and practical skills.
The system of higher technical education in the Russian Federation dates back to the early 90s of the 20th century. It was a turning point for the Russian economics and politics, therefore leading technical institutions faced the problems of giving deeper fundamental, professional, economic, humanitarian training, as well as providing graduates with better opportunities in the labor market. Due to the significant social and economic changes, specialized institutes had to be transformed into technical universities, which began to increasingly promote new type of education that had previously been observed only in classical universities. However, universities retained the applied nature of scientific research and the focus on certain jobs.
The first technical university in our country was Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School. On July 27, 1989 the USSR State Committee for Public Education took the decision to rename it into Bauman Moscow State Technical University. Later, the status of technical universities was given to Leningrad, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk Polytechnic Institutes and Leningrad Shipbuilding Institute (its current name — St. Petersburg State Maritime Technical University).
As a result, an increasing number of polytechnic and specialized higher educational institutions obtained the university status. Approved by the State Committee of Russia for Science and Higher Education, the status of the university and the criteria for evaluating its activities did not allow higher educational institutions to qualitatively and objectively resolve the issues of obtaining the status of a technical university. Hence, the State Committee and BMSTU together with the Association of Universities of the USSR agreed to convene the expert committee for assessing the activities of technical institutions that claimed the university status.
On October 22-23, 1991 in Baku the III Congress of the Association of Universities of the USSR took place. The Congress raised important issues of developing Russian university education, its role in the life of our society. The Congress found it necessary to introduce the notion of a «classical university» — as a higher educational institution that trains students in the natural and humanitarian fields of education.
The III Congress of the Association of Universities of the USSR decided to admit Bauman Moscow State Technical University to the Association and form on its basis a section of technical universities of the Association of Universities of the USSR.
As a large number of technical institutes looked forward to gaining the new status, the secretary general of the Association of Universities of the USSR, V.A. Sadovnichy addressed the university community. The letter of the Association of Universities of the USSR of January 14, 1992 «On granting the status of a technical university» expressed certain fears concerning that problem. Renaming a number of institutes to universities, as well as establishing new universities with different names that did not meet their role and potential, could lead to classical universities, whose historical role had been significant for centuries, being pushed backward and the role of a diploma and a university graduate being lost.
Next, a plan was proposed to regulate the process of assigning the status of a «technical university» to technical institutes. The main goal was to found an association of such universities, which would further aim to enter the Association of Universities of the USSR as an associate member . As a result, the Associations could hold joint meetings and consider all problems related to the names, status, content issues of humanitarian education in technical universities and other institutions of the country.
On January 20, 1992 rector of Bauman University I.B. Fedorov, as he was the chairman of the Council of the Educational and Methodological Association of Higher Educational Institutions in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, applied to the Ministry of Science, Higher Education and Technical Policy of the Russian Federation. In his request he referred to the decisions of the Council of the Universities Association taken at the meeting on 23 October, 1991 in Baku. He emphasized the importance and necessity of establishing a section of technical universities of the Association on the basis of Bauman University.
On February 4, 1992 BMSTU held a meeting of representatives of technical universities and a number of other universities, administrators of the Association of Universities of the USSR, the Committee on Higher Education of the Ministry of Science, Higher Education and Technical Policy of the Russian Federation. According to the decision taken at the meeting, a section of technical universities of the Association of Universities of the USSR was established. The founders of the section were Bauman Moscow State Technical University, St. Petersburg State Maritime Technical University, St. Petersburg State Technical University, Tomsk Polytechnic University and Chelyabinsk State Technical University.
The Association was renamed into the Eurasian Association of Universities by the decision of the IV (Extraordinary) Congress of the Association of Universities of the USSR held on May 19, 1992 in Moscow. Participants of the Congress also approved the establishment of a section of technical universities, which became known as the section of the Eurasian Universities Association.
In July 1992, the Ministry of Science, Higher Education and Technical Policy of the Russian Federation considered the issue of reorganizing higher education institutions. Hence, in October 1992, there was approved the Temporary Procedure for renaming state higher educational institutions of the Russian Federation. Moreover, the composition of the expert council for renaming higher educational institutions was also adopted and approved , as well as the Provisional List of Organizations which had the right to submit documents on renaming the universities including the Eurasian Universities Association.
In 1992, the meetings of the section of technical universities were held; the sessions held on May 16 in Tomsk and May 27 in St. Petersburg had the goal to discuss, and the ones held on September 22 in Moscow to approve of the indicators and criteria of the activity of the institutions claiming the university status. Furthermore, the approaches to carrying out expert examination, ways of further development of technical university education in Russia were determined.
On November 3, 1992, the Technical Universities Association was established on the basis of the section of technical universities of the Eurasian Universities Association. The founding universities of the section of technical universities organized it. At the constitutive meeting, the draft statute of the Technical Universities Association was discussed, the President of the Association — Rector of BMSTU I.B. Fedorov — was elected, as well as the Academic Secretary of the Association — BMSTU vice-rector V.K. Baltyan. The participants also stated the composition of the council of the Association, which included the rectors of the founding universities Yu.S. Vasiliev, G.P. Vyatkin, Yu.P. Pokholkov, D.M.Rostovtsev, I.B. Fedorov and the Academic Secretary V.K. Baltyan. M.P. Sychov, Director of the Educational and Scientific Center for Mechanical Engineering at BMSTU was appointed Executive Director of the Association.
These first five Russian technical universities, in fact, were at the root of the system of university technical education developing its scientific foundations in Russia. This led to a systematic project of a technical university, clear criteria, indicators and basic requirements determining the necessary conditions for its activities. The requirements rely on the high level of work, the effectiveness of the academic process of the institution claiming the technical university status. In 1999 this work was awarded the Prize of the President of the Russian Federation in the field of education.
On March 23, 1993 the Technical Universities Association was officially registered as a legal entity (Certificate of Registration of a Non-profit Organization, No. 1149-1 in the Register).
Since 1993 the Technical Universities Association has been working on preparing materials for the state bodies to consider the issues of renaming higher educational institutions and granting them a new status — a technical university: special commissions have been formed to study the educational activity of the institutions and find if their work fit high educational standards and comply with the established criteria. Appeals of some higher education institutions on granting the status were not satisfied or postponed due to non-compliance with the established indicators.
Findings of the Technical Universities Association were crucial in taking a positive decision.
In 1993-1996 according to the recommendation from the Association, a new status was awarded to more than one hundred higher educational institutions. Simultaneously, the universities joined the Association, which became increasingly authoritative, the most important public organizational structure expressing the opinion of technical universities.