On 8 October, Perm hosted a City Conference with International Participation “Perm-Oxford 2020: the Angles of Cooperation”. The online broadcast brought together 126 people in real time, both from Russian and British parties. 28 speakers presented 11 reports in Russian and 13 reports in English on cooperation in education, culture, medicine, public contacts and information exchange.
The Conference organizes included Perm City Administration, the Department of Literatures in the Languages of the World, A.M. Gorky Perm Regional Library, the Faculty of Modern Foreign Languages and Literature, Perm State National Research University (PSU), Perm English Language Teachers’ Association, PROO SRK “House of Friendship”.
On behalf the British Consulate in Yekaterinburg, Ms Judy Kpogho, Deputy Consul General, provided her greetings to the Conference participants. In her welcoming speech, Ms Tatyana Grigorieva, Head of the Department of International and Intermunicipal Relations, Administration of the city of Perm, emphasized the long tradition of people-to-people relations, and the variety of contacts with twin cities of Perm. In particular, she recalled the fruitful collaboration for the “Contribution to Victory” last spring 2020. “Every project we start with Oxford provides a boost for further initiatives and their fruitful implementations”, Ms Tatyana Grigorieva stated.
“The idea of an exhibition in collaboration with the twin cities representing the war allies arose in the close of 2019 and was enthusiastically supported by all partners, Ms Tatyana Grigorieva said. – Regardless the difficult conditions of COVID-19 lockdown, the «Sister Cities of Louisville» and Louisville University Archive, Oxford-Perm Association, Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford City Council members and staff united their efforts for a successful collaborationwith Perm City Archive.” PSU students had successfully contributed to the exhibition, and it is Ms Tatyana Grigorieva who acts as a tutor for their internships and projects with the Administration.
The initial contact between Oxford University and PSU happened in the late 1980s, shortly before the fall of the Iron Curtain. The academic link with PSU was built in the first place by Mrs Karen Hewitt and Dr. Boris Proskurnin. Mrs Karen Hewitt is a holder of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for establishing academic and cultural links with Russia, a major specialist in British literature, tutor at Oxford University, Honorary Professor at PSU, and active member of the Oxford-Perm Association.
“In 1989, I came to Perm at a very strange time, when Perm used to be a closed city. And it was a sudden change in the law, which allowed foreigners to come here. I was the first one to work in Perm, and I worked at Perm State University for 6 weeks, during which time I learned to love Perm and its people. At the end of my time, the rector of the University Vladimir Vladimirovich Malanin asked me if I could make any kind of connection with Oxford, because they needed international contacts,” Mrs Karen Hewitt recalls.
“I rushed back to Oxford and told them about the exciting time I had had, and it was easy to make an agreement between the two universities. And since then, for thirty years people have been going backwards and forwards: professors, teachers, postgraduate students, every year, until a last one with the pandemic, Mrs Karen Hewitt states. – But it wasn’t just the University. Very quickly, there were people in Oxford who were asking about voluntary and charitably activities in Perm, and were invited to Perm to find out what was going on with the disabled society, with the deaf society and with the hospice. All kinds of exchanges have come out of that, and it is a very wide and important part of our work…”
In his speech of response, Mr Vadim Gataulin, Head of International Department, PSU, mentioned that for the last 15 years, Ms Karen Hewitt’s activities in Russia have been connected with the Oxford-Russia Fund, allowing to organize annual seminars on contemporary English literature. The non-profit Oxford-Russia Fund was established in 2005 by the graduates of the University of Oxford looking for an effective way to support promising Russian students and postgraduates in a broad variety of humanities and arts.
Due to her chairmanship in the Oxford-Russia Association Committee, Ms Karen Hewitt and her British colleagues have been long assisting the academic exchange visits between the researchers of the University of Oxford and postdocs of PSU, for three decades already. The outstanding feature of such visits is its homestay character, allowing scholars to enjoy the local family life style as well as learn about the British academic environment and social life from within. “Not only did it change the teaching of English language and literature here, but also irreversibly transformed the academic culture of the whole University,” Mr Vadim Gataulin acknowledged, on behalf of PSU.
Representing Oxford, warm and welcoming speeches, including those fond memories of exchange, were given by Ms Chris Cowley, the Treasurer of the Oxford Perm Association Committee, Ms Liz Wheate, the Membership Secretary of the Oxford Perm Association Committee, Ms May Wylie, the International Links Ex-Officer for Oxford City Council, Ms Angela Charlton, the International Links Officer for Oxford City Council, Mr Bob Price, former leader of Oxford City Council, and MrTim Sadler, Executive Director for Community Services, Oxford City Council.
The session was marked by a variety of presentations, project descriptions, ideas and questions. Particularly, one of the latter was about a significant difference between Perm and Oxford students. Responding the question, Ms Karen Hewitt said: “Oxford is the oldest university in Britain, and it is one which receives people who have passed very high academic tests. It’s not easy to get into Oxford. One of the consequences is that people come from all over the country. (I’m leaving aside international students). And, it’s not easy for students here to feel it’s their city, their region, like it happens among most Russian students in Perm.” Hence the difference.
“However, what did happen, when we had the students from Oxford going on these internships, they rapidly discovered the charms and wonders of feeling that Perm is a very specific place with a very specific culture which we are enjoying. We are not just enjoying biology, chemistry or geology, or the teachers, we are enjoying that this is Perm. Now, Oxford is a very beautiful city, but I don’t think that the students have that quite sense. And, while they feel they belong to the University, it’s not so much about the sense of the city and the region,” admitted Ms Karen Hewitt.
To remind, in 2019, the University of Oxford granted PSU the Gold Standard Internship Host sign. For seven years, Perm University has been hosting for numerous visits of Oxford students. PSU is confidently competing with leading Russian and world universities – in terms of providing high quality summer courses. In order to claim for the Oxford reward, the University had to meet a variety of criteria, including the quality of feedback from the students, provision of resources for interns, and the total duration of participation in the summer educational programs.
In 2018, the Memorandum of Understanding for a new 10-year period was officially signed by the former PSU rector Dr. Igor Makarikhin, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Easton on behalf of the University of Oxford. “Thanks to cooperation between our Universities, a Twin Cities link was established between Oxford and Perm. We have enjoyed a series of successful projects with our Oxford colleagues, including the annual seminar in Modern British Literature, and the Victorian Center, established at PSU,” stated PSU Rector’s Office.
Taking into consideration the younger voices of the Conference, including students and schoolchildren, supported by state institutions and NGOs,it might be stated that the future positive projects and collaborations of Perm, PSU and Oxford are yet to come.
“Perm-Oxford 2020: the Angles of Cooperation” Conference Video and Pictures Source