About VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar"

Our students study, think and communicate without borders

Interview with the Vice President of VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" Assoc.Prof. Krasimir Nedyalkov, PhD for the Offline magazine

  

Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels ... Since 1991 – also Varna Free University (VFU) "Chernorizets Hrabar". Free, it means, non-aligned, independent! How does this university formula make VFU students different? And, what is it that they get as a result of the unique VARNA - FREE - UNIVERSITY trinity?

 

You point out three very typical examples of the essence and history of free universities. The University of Amsterdam was founded in the distant 1632. The Brussels Free University (Université Libre de Bruxelles) was set up in 1834 in Ixelles, Belgium, with the efforts of the Brussels liberal intellectuals in reaction to the establishment of a Catholic University in Mechelen. In the Cold War years, the Free University of Berlin was considered a symbol of the free world, since, unlike Humboldt University, it was in the west of Berlin. That is where its name comes from - Free University. Let us mention that in Bulgaria the first Free University of Political and Economic Sciences emerged in the 1920s and worked until 1940 and its current successor is the University of National and World Economy. I say all this in order to share my understanding that what is the general characteristics of these universities is not so much their striving for independence from the state and state education, but the desire - at the specific historical moment - to offer a new alternative to allow young people to get out of the cage of worn out and inadequate patterns of social and personal development.

 

VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" was founded in the first years of the country's transition to a new model of economic and social development and its inclusion in new geopolitical and regional processes. In this sense, free in its name does not demonstrate a lack of commitment, but on the contrary, a willingness to bind to the challenges of the new realities. Making a step to your freedom, as Paulo Coelho says, means to give up something you no longer like and change yourself and your life. It is this choice that we have provided to our students since the first moment and we have striven to defend it to this day. But freedom is reserved only to the one who can take on the responsibilities that it carries.

To the unique triad of Varna - free - university, I would like to add the name of the university - Chernorizets Hrabar. With his remarkable work, the enlightened medieval cleric and writer establishes and creatively reveals Cyril and Methodius' idea of self-reliant spiritual development through his own writing and literacy. And the ideas of the Chernorizetz are activated whenever the self-standing cultural development of our country is at risk and they become a powerful shield of faith and nationality.

 

It is known that one sees as much as he knows. Do they, your students look and see broad-mindedly and a long way ahead, leaving their Alma mater after the years spent in its bosom?

Yes! Definitely, yes. Every new generation - intellectually and technologically - stands higher than its predecessors. And from above it is more visible. This is very good, and it is loaded with many risks. Today they see the global world, they communicate without borders, they compare. Naturally, the comparison is not always in favour of our country, but the technological possibilities and the achievements of science raise the question "Why can not this happen in Bulgaria?" Then the look focuses on Terminal 2 and Bulgaria, unfortunately, loses the capacity of those who see farther ...

 

Mr Nedyalkov, Varna Free University "Chernorizets Hrabar" has been writing its biography for more than a quarter of a century. From this "peak," how do you see the relationship between secondary and higher education in our country? Figuratively speaking, you are building on the foundation laid before you ...

 

I am not inclined to transfer all the failures to the secondary education. We are also the result of this same secondary education and we do not lack grounds for self-esteem in the preparation we have received and the qualities that are formed in us. The point here is that to be free means to be yourself! New times require less of a new volume of knowledge than free individuals who have the conditions and the environment to develop their full potential. Firstly, our secondary education should split with the all-knowing teacher and moralist, who insists on - at all costs - children accepting him/her as the final truth and, on request, to reproduce exactly his/her theses and understandings. Here I see the frustration of the palliative measures that we are flooded with and the essence of the reform that needs to be implemented in secondary education. And all this is quite visible at the entrance of the universities.

 

Yes, reforming Bulgarian education again is being discussed a lot these days. I know that the topic is worthy of (non) scientific work, but - based on experience, what should be, in your view, the direction of these changes? And when do we have to stop wandering and changing and to begin to improve?

 

Unfortunately, we managed to devalue this wonderful word of "reform," too, and it fell into mistrust and idleness. The big mistake that mandatory thinking permits is the total denial of everything that has been so far. The classroom content is changing, our classics are "fighting" for a place in textbooks, we measure the weight of the backpacks, we are discussing abstract education budget figures, and we keep children in the trap of our own ideas about the world and our desire to reproduce us one to one. True reform will begin when we make the school a desirable place to develop children's own potential and to create values ​​that motivate their future choices.

 

I know that at your university, you very carefully examine the needs of employers and the processes that are developing in the field of the labour market. Do you apply the results to your practice?

 

This activity is more and more like volleyball played on one side of the net. The more we study the labour market, the more we are convinced that it remains chaotic enough and with a very near horizon. This is also the basis of the progressive labour migration, because young people choose destinations with clear priorities and highlights of their intelligent development. The choice of profession requires a horizon of at least 10 years, and this choice determines the academic supply of specialties and professions.

 

Various rating charts, both native and international, are emerging, evaluating universities on a wide range of indicators. What is your attitude towards them?

 

I'm afraid I am not one of the most zealous sympathizers of the rating system. First, I think that measurements by individual indicators are neither professional, nor statistically reliable. On the other hand, there are indicators which are far from the quality of the educational institution and the results of its activities. I would like to point out as an example the achieved income in the realization of the graduates. For example, we have very good students at the Smolyan branch of the university, graduating with brilliant training, but the labour cost in the region of the Rhodope town, as we know, is much lower than in the capital. Each year, Varna Free University has about 100 students who win national and international competitions, win awards from competitions, but the labour market offers them modest recognition for their opportunities. The same young people abroad get a much better start and opportunities for career development. Ratings are good when they allow real comparability of comparable quantities depending on their subject.

 

The professional destiny of your students. Is not this one of the most accurate assessments of the performance of each higher education institution? Can you keep abreast of this process?

 

Naturally, as all and we maintain the Alumni system, we keep abreast of the development of our alumni. We use them as ambassadors of our university and we have many reasons to be proud of their achievements. At the same time, it is important for us to promote their motivation for lifelong learning, and for a continuous relationship with the university they have graduated. They are our regular participants in master classes, in scientific sessions, in meetings with leading representatives of world science and business. The systematic analysis of information from the Alumni system gives us a good basis for marketing activities and the development of the academic profile. At the moment, for example, we are convinced that we need to expand the opportunities for the formation and realization of entrepreneurial activity, that we need to pay more attention to the so-called soft skills in the portfolio of professional skills that employers expect.

 

Academic partnerships, European programmes, international projects. It is true that at present Europe and the world are a very disturbing place to live, but nevertheless the opportunities for scientific, cultural, professional and social communication are enormous and fruitful. These connections are the future of the generations ...

 

Varna Free University "Chernorizets Hrabar" has accepted the internationalization of its activity as a strategic choice. Its implementation is measured by the continuous expansion of the geography of our international partnerships and projects. Erasmus mobilities are already an established and ever-expanding practice. We are very proud of the rapid increase in the number of international students on incoming mobility, with the number of foreign lecturers taking regular courses or master classes. Each year our university works with a number of partners in international projects. But here too I will not be uncritical - I always get angry when I see agreements on trade, agriculture and so on in interstate acts, and education is in the group of "others". I want both the state and the municipalities to use every opportunity to make our country an attractive educational and scientific destination. And this is a very broad set of conditions and prerequisites that, despite the anxious world, can be created.

 

The new 2015 - 2019 candidate campaign is forthcoming. What is the news from VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar"?

30% is a trade secret, the rest is routine and work.

 

 

Questions asked by: Blagovesta Yordanova


by ВСУ Черноризец Храбър

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