17-19 May 2016, there was an international conference «University as a Heterogeneous Organization: Creating Strategies for Inclusive Environment» held at Novgorod State University and in St. Petersburg Academy of In-Service Pedagogical Education (Russia) which was the final one in the mutual European project TEMPUS IV/VI “Initial and Further Education and Training for Educationalists and Managers in Education in the field of Diversity”. Highlight of the conference was experience brought up together on how to develop strategies for an inclusive environment in modern universities, post-graduate institutions and other educational organizations of higher and further education. Numerous scientists from Russian universities as well as their colleagues from Germany, USA, Italy, Belarus, and Bulgaria participated in the conference.
On May 17, guests from Russia and abroad were welcomed in the main building of Novgorod University in a traditional Russian manner of hospitality with “bread and salt”.
Welcoming speech was held by the Chancellor of Novgorod University Viktor Weber, Vice-Chancellor for International Work Michail Pewsner, Head of Department for Youth and Young Policy in Novgorod region Alexander Shirin, Chancellor of St. Petersburg Academy of IPE Stepan Zholovan, Chancellor of Ryazan University Alexey Zimin, Vice-Chancellor for Educational Work in Vitebsk State University (Belarus) Veslau Turkovsky, Professor at College of Education at Appalachian University (USA) Dr. Barbara B. Howard, Professor of Hildesheim University and Head of experimental school Ansgar (Germany) Dr. Algermissen geb. Koeke Ulf Helmut Heinz, former Deputy Mayor for Culture and Education in Nessebar and Head of Friendship Society in Ravda (Bulgaria) Eli Kirilova.
Chancellor Victor Weber pointed out: „International work is our biggest priority and is one of the most effective working fields at our university. Over 500 foreign students are enrolled into our university. We cooperate with 22 states and 68 universities. Thanks to TEMPUS project, our international activities expand and we gain new partners”. There was one more agreement signed by the two Chancellors, Viktor Weber and Alexey Zimin, between Novgorod State University and Ryazan State University.
According to Vice-Chancellor for International Work Michail Pewsner, this conference is one of the most important events at the university. Besides, he pointed out that diversity, inclusion and tolerance are being topical issues for many countries due to different reasons. These are migration stream caused by war conflicts and economical problems and thus leading to a tense “multiculturalism crisis” in Western Europe; aggravation of inter-ethnic and religious clashes in multicultural society; growth of nationalism with consequent national identity; integration of disabled people and those with peculiar needs (physically, socially weak, mentally and creatively talented, those with deviant behavior etc.)
In this regard it is necessary to plan and develop an inclusive educational environment in higher education institutions which are to contact different groups of students. A modern university has to become a university of equal chances, so that different social groups can be included into an integrated academic society. Developing an inclusive environment at a modern university presupposes changes in buildings’ architecture as well as provision of technical equipment for students with health limitations. Yet the most important task is to train teachers and educational managers in such a way that they become able to work in and manage over this world of diversity.
Main activities during the conference were a plenary session, work in three sections, a professional skills contest “Special educator of the future” as well as the show “Fashion with no boarders” and a round-table discussion: “Implementation peculiarities of inclusive education in Saint Petersburg”.
There were over 40 proceedings presented during plenary and sectional sessions.
Proceedings at the plenary session were held by:
Michail Pewsner, Ed.D., Prof., Vice-Chancellor for International Work at Novgorod State University, Russia: “Creating an inclusive environment in higher education: how to control diversity”.
Ulf Algermissen, Professor at Hildesheim University, Head of experimental school, Germany: “Inclusion as a cultural and social problem in pedagogic education”.
Larisa Baykova, Ed.D., Prof., Head of Institute for Psychology, Pedagogic and Social Work, Ryazan State University, Russia: “Psychological and pedagogical support for personal development of master students in heterogeneous environment”.
Barbara Howgard, Professor at Education College of Appalachian University, USA: “Higher education availability for students with health limitations in USA: legislation, politics and praxis”.
Diana Spulber, Ph.D. (Psychology), Prof., Link Campus University, Rome, Italy: “Italian university as a heterogeneous microsystem”.
Nikolai Lebedev, D.Sc. (Agriculture), Vice-Chancellor for Academic Work, Professor at Mozyr State University, Belarus: «Polessky region: educational needs of students from different heterogeneous groups”.
After the plenary session, a final competition of a professional skills contest “Special educator of the future” took place as well as a catwalk show named “Fashion with no borders”. The former has been carried out for 7 years already and 19 bachelor and master students from Special Education Institute participated in it this time. Final places were shared by three master students. Further on, at the conference they talked about their work, experience and pedagogical achievements in teaching and educating children with health limitations.
Afterwards, cooperation results of Institute for Special Education and Institute of Design at Novgorod State University were presented: a catwalk show named “Fashion with no borders”. Clothes design for people with health limitations were demonstrated, while design students and Professor at Design Institute Svetlana Frolova explained peculiarities of this clothing. Dresses cover a wide range of winter, summer, sport and ceremonial clothing.
Section meetings took place at the Institute for Continuous Pedagogical Education and at Liberal Institute of Novgorod State University and were dedicated to topical issues in three challenging spheres:
Section 1: “Inclusion problems of foreign students into an educational university environment. How does corporate culture change?” (Moderator: D.Sc. (Philology), Professor Marina Nilova)
Section 2: “Management in heterogeneous university environment – how to control diversity” (Moderator: Doctor of Pedagogy, Professor Irina Donina)
Section 3: “Strategies for networking with heterogeneous organizations while training teachers and educational managers” (Moderator: Doctor of Pedagogy, Professor Roza Sheraizina)
As part of section meetings, representatives of Kuban State University (Russia) Doctor of Pedagogy, Professor, Dean of Department of Pedagogy and Psychology Veronika Grebennikova and D.Sc. (Pedagogy), associate professor at the Department of Pedagogy and Psychology Anna Scherbina gave students of Liberal Institute of Novgorod State University a workshop on “Development of ethno-cultural skills and sensitivity”.
From May 19 on, the conference took place in Saint Petersburg in Academy of IPE. Participants visited Centre for inclusive education at Saint Petersburg Academy of IPE. Head of the Centre, D.Sc. (Pedagogy), associate professor at the Institute for Innovation Educational Technologies Marina Sizova told about special equipment for the students with health limitations.
Later on, representatives from partner universities participated in a round-table discussion: “Peculiarities of inclusive education implementation in Saint Petersburg” (Moderator: Olga Krylova, Doctor of Pedagogy, Vice-Chancellor for Scientific Work at Saint Petersburg Academy).
During the round-table discussion, there were following presentations held:
“Concept of inclusive education in Saint Petersburg”. Olga Krylova, Doctor of Pedagogy, Vice-Chancellor for Scientific Work at Saint Petersburg Academy of IPE, associate professor at Institute of Professional Education at Saint Petersburg’s Academy.
“Peculiarities of inclusive education implementation of children with specific health possibilities”. Natalya Yakovleva,, D.Sc. (Pedagogy), Institute for Special Pedagogy at Saint Petersburg Academy of IPE.
“Developing social skills by musically and athletically talented heterogeneous groups in educational institutions”. Timophey Stakhovsky, Head of school №235 named after Shostakovich which is focused on intensive learning of arts and esthetics in Saint Petersburg.
“Integration peculiarities of bilingual children into an educational environment”. Irina Sherstobitova, D.Sc. (Pedagogy), associate professor at Philology Institute at Saint Petersburg Academy of IPE.
“Quality assessment of educational institution in the context of multi-ethnical educational environment”. Svetlana Pospelova, Vice-Principal of school No. 122 in Saint Petersburg.
During final part of the round-table discussion, participants who worked in teams (Moderator: Natalya Bogatenkova Head of Centre for International and Regional Projects at Saint Petersburg Academy of IPE) were determining general and unique things about inclusive environment in partner universities within TEMPUS project.
The conference was wrapped up with the final discussion held by Chancellor of Saint Petersburg Academy of IPE Stepan Zholovan and Vice-Chancellor for International Work at the Novgorod State University Mikhail Pewsner.