About VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar"

To turn Bulgaria into an educational destination preferred by Bulgarian and foreign students

  1.     To turn Bulgaria into an educational destination preferred by Bulgarian and foreign students

    Universities are experiencing one of the most difficult years hit by three crises - financial, demographic and international

    Prof. Anna Nedyalkova, D.Sc., President of Varna Free University, in an interview with the  Cherno More newspaper.     Tatiana Kisyova asked Prof. Nedyalkova about the university admissions, the trends in the demand for specialties and the challenges that education faces.

 

 

How many students have been admitted at VFU this year? Our admissions is still ongoing. It goes through several stages – admissions of Bachelor’s degree students, admissions of Master’s degree students and permanent admissions of PhD students. Similarly to previous years, the Bachelor’s degree students are about 800. Currently, the admissions of Master’s degree students is going off. I think that it is quite likely to fulfill the predefined number of students.  

Don’t you notice a decline in the admissions? The decline in the admissions of students applies for all universities. We are talking about a decline against the capacity of the universities determined by the national agency, i.e. our university and all others are working below the capacity for admissions of students.

If you need to talk about the results with which the students are admitted and then graduate, do they drop over the years? A characteristic feature of the students at our university is that they retain their achievement levels. I want to boast that this year more than 40% of the students who apply have between A and B marks which means that they have very high results at the entrance of the university. Some of them even manage to improve their results while studying. There are some who drop out, but that usually happens in the first year. These are students who decide that our university is not their proper place, but they are not more than 15%.

What are the most popular and least desirable specialties?

What influences the interests towards some specialties is the inertia from previous years as well as the desire to seek something new. Among the specialties which are traditionally most popular are law, national security, psychology. All specialties related to the applicability of new information and communication technologies also attract the attention of students. Every year there is a group of people who have chosen professions and who would not change this choice on no account. These are people who want to study architecture, construction of buildings and facilities or the specialties in the field of arts.

 

You have mentioned the new specialties. There was a discussion on this topic 2-3 years ago that new specialties which did not exist until 5, 6, 7 years ago appear in the academic space …….

The world is changing with each passing day. We train students who would pursue a career in 5-6 years, which means that we should be a step ahead of the stated public demand. Digital economy, digital marketing, electronic management are new areas which make their way at high speed, and we must be ready with knowledge for the new jobs and the new qualification that is required.

 

The Minister of Finance expressed the view that in 1-2 years there will be universities that will close for economic reasons. In your opinion, is that possible?

Unfortunately, I think that it is quite likely to happen, although it may sound disturbing and we may not like it as a trend. Currently, universities are experiencing perhaps one of the most difficult years because they are hit by three crises simultaneously - economic and financial crisis, the demographic crisis and the emerging but very seriously reflecting on education crisis in international economic relations. All this leads to a reduction of interest and the number of students and is valid for all universities. Another serious influence is the restructuring of the international market of demand for educational services, which is linked to the financing of the European projects and mobilities under Erasmus +. Minister Goranov's right to make such a negative forecast.

On the one hand, the revenues of the universities will be seriously reduced; the bad thing is that the expenditure necessarily implies a necessary increase for several reasons. The increase of the minimum wage reduces the gap between the pay of an academic and an administrative employee, and because this can not happen and the payment of the habilitated lecturers should be increased, this leads to additional costs for the universities. We can not talk about educational programmes for new technologies and at the same time  not to buy the expensive but very necessary new software. These are two of the main components that increase the expenditure side of the budgets against the background of stagnation or decrease in revenue. This worrying trend should make us seek solution to the issue and not cry about the past times.

 

Is it correct the way the universities now receive a subsidy from the state? This is a very complex issue and a single answer can not be given. The subsidy of the state universities is mainly dependent on the number of students who are studying, which explains why there is such a great interest in recruiting students in all specializations, in all areas ... But the subsidy is not the only way that can provide support for education. I think the whole educational policy has to be reformed and it must be done in several directions. Above all we need to turn Bulgaria into educational destination preferred by young people both at home and abroad. Thus the outgo of Bulgarian students who go abroad to study will cease and at the same time we will attract as many foreigners as possible. This requires a very serious state policy.

I would make an analogy to tourism - as they struggle to impose Bulgaria as a preferred tourist destination, not less strength and resources should be invested to make Bulgaria a preferred educational destination. There are also other areas in need of optimization. The state concludes various intergovernmental agreements, signs partnership agreements with other countries. I bother whenever we establish contact with partners from another country to review these agreements and see what in them refers to education. Unfortunately, it is always placed in the "Others" column. It is always first thought about the interstate contact in regard to trade and industry and education is in the last place. This has to be changed and more attention to be paid to interstate cooperation in the field of education, it should be precisely defined.

I would say that much more has to be done in terms of optimization of costs made in higher education. I know that the minister of sports will not like what I say but since universities are in this difficult situation, who needs to include 240 hours of compulsory training in sports in every curriculum – can you imagine how beautiful students in shorts run short distances in the campus. It is better to make sports clubs, to invest in mass sports, to improve conditions for sports as it is worldwide. Why do we have to include these compulsory 240 hours which burden both students and universities as they require the existence of specialized department and academic staff. This are redundancy costs and the funds can be redirected to improve the quality of education, for its technological development.

In connection with the statement of the Minister of Finance, I would add that it is very dangerous to assume restrictions in the field of education following the descending lineof demographic and financial processes. The risk of de-capitalization of education is very serious because it is a conservative system and when the line of demographic and economic development goes up, it will be very difficult to be restored. It will be very costly and prolonged pleasure to restore the academic capacity, if we assume its limitation.

What is the situation with the European funding? Brussels stated that in the period 2014 - 2020, predominantly projects related to research will be financed? Perhaps you mean the opportunities provided under Horizon 2020 and Erasmus +. They depend on the initiative and responsibility of the university to try to reach those funds. Given the complex situation in Europe at the moment we should expect the reduction of these resources which does not mean that we should not be motivated to apply for them. The biggest education-oriented resource is under the Science and Education for Smart Growth programme, where the main beneficiaries are universities. It is being worked under this programme, but I have concerns that in Bulgaria we have not captured the essence of the concept of "smart growth", that we are not in line with the new requirements and incline mostly to the past.


by ВСУ Черноризец Храбър

Gallery