Introduction | Cooperation
For the last 10-15 there has been a remarkable progress in the EU in the general understanding and the logic of international cooperation in all spheres of social life including university education. Internationalisation of higher education, once a subsidiary issue, is taking centre stage now. It is becoming the predominant trend in the development of European universities and is considered to be an integral part of “higher education policy”. What used to be called educational policy is now the subject of international debates and decisions and therefore is being inevitably and permanently internationalised. Thus the activities covered by the term internationalisation or international cooperation have been expanding.
There are two types of internationalisation. „Old internationalisation” refers to mobility of students and academic staff. „New internationalisation” affects the collective international efforts concerning the structural and regulatory issues of higher education in Europe (quality of education, education throughout life and distant education in all its forms, heralded as the higher education of ХХІ c.).
Trans-national education has been gaining broader ground in Europe. Many of the EU member countries have already developed bilateral relations with other counters in the field of higher education and trans-national initiatives for higher education are abound in the EU. But there are still a lot of challenges along this route.
European ministers of education and science stated in the Bologna declaration of June 1999:” The vitality and efficiency of any civilisation can be measured by the appeal that its culture has for other countries. We need to ensure that the European higher education system acquires a world-wide degree of attraction equal to our extraordinary cultural and scientific traditions.” This founding principle maps out the further development of the so-call Bologna process.
In Lisbon (March 2000) and Prague (May 2001) the ministers of education and science of European governments emphasized once again the need for cooperation in European higher education and the encouragement of international cooperation. Cooperation with third countries outside the EU is a significant element in this process.In July 2001 the European Parliament and the Council received Communication of the EU Commission on strengthening co-operation with third countries in the field of higher education.
In July 2002, following the positive response to the Communication from the European Parliament and the Council, the EU Commission prepared a new proposal known today as Erasmus Mundus. This new initiative promotes the European Union as the centre of academic excellence by organizing and setting up seminars, summer schools and above all master’s degree courses among universities in the EU. It also provides EU funded scholarships to representatives of third countries participating in these post-graduate programmes as well as scholarships to EU citizens studying in third countries. The proposal of the Commission for 2004-2008 was adopted at the end of 2003.
UNWE’s participation in these processes includes membership in 4 international university organisations (see Organisations), work under 32 nominally concluded bilateral international contracts for cooperation with higher educational institutions from 17 countries, and negotiations for joint activities with another 33 foreign universities (see Universities).
The unsatisfactory effect from UNWE’s international cooperation is due primarily to the lack of continuity, “vertical” subordination and hierarchy in performing contractual duties. Review of Appendix 2 shows that no one is personally responsible for the performance of almost any of the contracts; contracts are not even addressed to any specific faculty or department. Taking into consideration this fact the Rector’s Council passed the following resolution: “15. When concluding contracts for cooperation with foreign higher educational institutions the Vice-Rector for International Cooperation appoints the faculty, department and coordinator in charge of the contract. The coordinator, the chairperson of the respective department and the dean of the faculty are responsible for the performance of the contract. They report to the Vice-Rector for International Relations about the performance of the contract at the end of each academic year” (Resolutions of the RC №33/25.10.2005).
UNWE can achieve effective and adequate international cooperation when every department (as a basic organisational unit) has active continuous cooperation with an affiliate department under at least one contract and participating membership in at least one international (regional, European, global) professional organisation. The same can reasonably be applied to the faculties of UNWE depending on their specifics.
The internet sites of the universities with which UNWE has concluded contracts are listed in Appendix №2. The most advisable course seems to be working with departments and faculties (as well as with aptly formed inter-departmental teams) and establishing direct working relations with suitable contractual partners. Thus the already concluded contracts can develop into successful international cooperation. The abovementioned manner of interaction and responsibility for the performance of every contact is also considered necessary.
The same approach can be applied to the list of universities in Appendix №3 with which the university is in negotiations. Naturally the initiative for concluding international contracts may come from any faculty and department as well as from any other “leading” university not included in the appendices.
The programme minimum of UNWE is every department and faculty to enter into at least one international contract with one scientific or professional international organisation by the end of the current academic 2005/6 year.
The next step is associated with our integration with European and global education. For this purpose it is essential to have lecturers who can offer courses in English (they may be different from those they teach at the UNWE). The final stage of this process will be accomplished with UNWE offering master’s degree programmes in English, which can be taught in different forms on-line (for example on the site of EuroEducation).
UNWE has the adequate amount of professional and linguistically well prepared academic staff to face the new realities. Otherwise we may run the risk of being number one in Bulgaria but completely unknown to Europe and the world.
The programme minimum of UNWE in this respect is to complete the paperwork and to implement at least 20 courses at bachelor’s degree level and at least one master’s degree programme in English by the end of the current academic 2005/6 year.
In view of the abovementioned priorities development of masters’ degree programmes in cooperation with foreign universities (university departments being the driving force) or on a higher level – opening international faculties within UNWE (the initiative coming from a particular faculty) may be pursued. The statutory regulations are very favourable in this respect – only a contract for joint activity, signed by the Rectors of the respective universities, is required.
There are still a lot of unused resources in terms of participation in the international organisations listed in Appendix №1.
UNWE is a leading and coordinating university for Bulgaria in the Central European Initiative for university networking. Development of programmes providing mobility for students and academic staff (in the form of seminars, summer school or a master’s degree programme) is in its initial stage. Application for funded joint education is done on the basis of already established contacts with relevant universities from CEI member states whenever students and academic staff are in another foreign university. Besides, all priority goals are covered by the structural organisation of UNWE.
There are a lot of opportunities with respect to the Association of South Eastern Europe Economic Universities as well. The Third Conference of the Association will be held in 2006 hosted by our country. The association’s journal is opened for publications of researchers from member universities. The first three issues have already been sent to UNWE’s faculties and departments.
The issues and task described so far may be considered to be the initial stage of UNWE’s integration into the emerging European and global educational space. International cooperation and integration in higher education and science are not an end in themselves, separated from other aspects of university life. Each contract for international cooperation has its expression in educational activity, science and research projects and in all other affiliated intellectual achievements of students and lecturers. That is why the role of the Vice-Rector for International Cooperation is to coordinate and encompass all aspects of university life and activities.
Thriving and effective international cooperation which will put UNWE on the educational map of ЕU and the world is possible only with the coordinated efforts of the whole academic staff, the active participation of all departments and faculties and all administrative structures of UNWE.