VSU “Luben Karavelov” is a quite small and new university, having about one thousand students, and having changed its status from military corps-of-engineers university into a civilian university just sixteen years ago. Currently we specialize in Civil Engineering and Architecture.
We do not have a strict policy for choosing partners and are completely flexible in offering and accepting partnerships as long as there is common interest and common ground for joint education and research work. In practice this means that our partners would also specialize in Civil Engineering and Architecture, or have such a department. Almost exclusively, the driving force for initiating partnerships is the personal initiative of academic staff. Many of our partners are from nearby countries – Greece, Turkey, Slovakia etc., but we have and encourage relations with institutions located as far as the UK and Iceland. Another trend stemming from colleagues with Russian language background is the development of relations with former Soviet republics, where Russian is still on par with the local language.
The top objective of mobility both for students and academics is to “broaden one’s horizon”. Civil Engineering and Architecture education is very conservative in Bulgaria, so it is particularly important for students and staff to realize by experience that good outcomes may be achieved in different ways. A natural and very desired “side effect” of any mobility is the improvement of language skills, and for teachers, training to teach in a foreign language in front of foreign audience.
In terms of target groups for outgoing students, the most important for us is the undergraduates, as we realize that the earlier one encounters the big world the better. Unfortunately, this is the group we face the most problems with, due to credit transfer problems. Needless to say, we make every effort to encourage Master and Doctoral student to spend periods of their study abroad. They are generally easier to resume their studies at a normal pace once they come back.
In terms of incoming students, we welcome undergraduate in Civil Engineering willing to study in English – we offer the Civil Engineering course in English as well as in Bulgarian. Architecture undergraduates are also welcome, if willing to accept the challenge of studying in Bulgarian. Master and Doctoral students would normally come by personal arrangement with some of our teachers.
Although with no practical experience so far, we are keen on developing joint degrees with partner institutions abroad.
A key direction for our involvement in international projects in relation to projects implemented under the programme is to put a high priority on undertaking or participating in projects aiming at resolving the key issues currently hampering the activities of the Programme.
As a small institution we will put priority on securing the funding for such projects through applying to appropriate national and international funding calls.
The following issues will be targeted: building learning mobility into the curricula, efficient recognition of credits gained abroad, development of Europe-wide accepted curricula, cross-country harmonization and complementarity of teaching methods, student project assignment, delivery and evaluation methods, examination methods.
The participation in the Programme will have a thorough positive impact on the modernization of VSU.
The new ideas brought by the outgoing and incoming students and teachers are expected to make academic life at VSU more attractive, will lead to a higher positive publicity and confidence among prospective students, and consequently to more students and eventually more graduates. This will have a positive effect on the economy as well, since engineering degrees are not particularly popular lately.
The new methods of teaching and new research approaches adopted through all modes of mobility will definitely improve the quality and relevance of teaching and researcher training, and will equip graduates with better knowledge and transferable competences in a more efficient way than this is currently achieved.
A stay abroad makes a person stronger and more adaptable in the long run. Gaining additional skills comes naturally while in a foreign environment, since one is exposed to new situations on a daily basis. The same holds for study or training abroad – it is never the same as at home, and be it more pleasing or more frustrating is always helpful, so gaining additional skills and a broader mind is guaranteed. All this means brighter, more demanding and more critical students, along with better prepared, charismatic and flexible teachers at VSU.
In Bulgaria business is usually done in Bulgarian style and so is research and so is education. While Bulgarian style education is relatively good, Bulgarian style business and research are at best mediocre. In order to strengthen the "knowledge triangle", linking education, research and business, being exposed to alternative and better ways of doing things is imperative. The Erasmus mobility program is a natural way of exposing both students and staff to foreign experience.
Traditionally, reward of excellence is not wide spread in Bulgaria. Consequently effective governance and funding mechanisms in support of excellence do not exist in universities here, and any attempt to introduce such, faces stubborn opposition. it will be a slow process, but international mobility will definitely be beneficial to achieving this priority. A working example of such a mechanism at a partner university is the best proof there can be to a sceptical mind.