05 June 2020

Today's issue of Stroitel newspaper - the professional edition of the Bulgarian Construction Chamber presents the training at the Faculty of Architecture at Varna Free University "Chernorizets Hrabar". The journalist Georgi Sotirov interviewed the dean Dr. Arch. Zhechka Ilieva. See the full text of the interview ►

Arch. Ilieva, on behalf of the team of Stroitel newspaper, accept our congratulations on your appointment to the prestigious position of Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar". At the beginning I will ask you to introduce its three departments.

I would like to introduce you to the three departments at the Faculty of Architecture - the Department of Architecture and Urbanism, headed by Corresponding Member Prof. D.Sc. Arch. Atanas Kovachev; the Department of Construction of Buildings and Facilities headed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Eng. Dariya Mihaleva and the Department of Arts headed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Eng. Kapka Manasieva. The team also includes Assoc. Prof. Dr. Eng. Rositsa Petkova-Slipets, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Architecture. We work as a team and manage to meet the challenges of today's world.
The teachers who work at the Department of Architecture and Urbanism are dynamic, enthusiastic people who invest a lot of effort and energy in the training of future architects. At the regional level, the department works on joint projects with the Municipality of Varna and has the support of the chief architect, who often visits our events and is a member of the commission for evaluation of diploma projects. The management of the regional structure of the Bulgarian Chamber of Architects is also a long-term partner and helps to establish the connection between theory and practice during the training of students. Representatives of the department took part in the international project "Citywalk", part of the European program "Interreg", which was awarded an audience award.
Internationally, it is worth noting the cooperation with the world-famous urbanist Prof. Jan Gehl, who is a patron of the student laboratory "Varna-city for the people" and is a frequent guest of VFU. The fruit of this collaboration is Jan Gehl's book "How to Study Urban Life" translated into Bulgarian, whose Bulgarian premiere took place in early March at the Graffiti Gallery in Varna.
The department trains students majoring in "Architecture" and “Design" in two areas - interior design and graphic design. The master’s degree program in "Preservation of Cultural Heritage" aimed at architects and engineers was launched in 2013.
The Department of Construction of Buildings and Facilities has a 25-year history in the training of civil engineers. It offers training in four specialties of the regulated profession "Engineer in Investment Design" - "Construction of Buildings and Facilities", "Transport Construction", "Water Supply and Sewerage" and "Fire Safety and Protection of the Population" in the educational qualification degree "Bachelor" .
The master's programs "Building Structures", "Transport Construction", "Water Supply and Sewerage", "Fire and Emergency Safety of Buildings and Facilities" and "Civil Engineering" provide opportunities for training, specialization and improvement in various fields of civil engineering and parts of investment design.
The training in the Department of Construction of Buildings and Facilities is fully compliant with the regulations on the state requirements for acquiring higher education in the educational qualification degree "Bachelor" and "Master" in the specialties of the regulated profession "Engineer in Investment Design". The approach in training is flexible, adapted to the needs of the construction industry and the modern development trends. An example in this direction is the new project "Training in partnership" of VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar", in which the main emphasis is on the practical training of students in a real work environment.
The Department of Arts as part of the Faculty of Architecture is unique for both Bulgaria and the university, because the bachelor's and master's programs we have been creating for more than 25 years offer freedom to our students and teachers to express their creativity in design, fashion, music and dance. We teach students to develop their creativity and the arts in the global socio-political and cultural change. We believe that creative research is a source of new tools, methods and aesthetics. We prepare students for careers in the visual, music and dance arts, for realization in the creative industries. Thus, they develop a modern understanding of the importance of contemporary practices in art in a global context.
The aim of all departments is for the training to be practice-oriented, which becomes possible thanks to our contacts with long-term business partners. We are always supported by them and together we address new challenges to our students through the competitions in which we invite them to take part.

It will be interesting for our readers to tell us in more detail about the Department of Construction of Buildings and Facilities, which is the successor of the Department of Marine and Construction Sciences of the Educational and Scientific Complex "Technical Sciences", founded in 1995. Give us more details on the e-based learning process at the department.

In 1995, at VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" - four years after the institutionalization of the university - a department of "Marine and Construction Sciences" was opened at the Educational and Scientific Complex "Technical Sciences". Then the training of civil engineers in Varna began. In 2010, after internal reforms, ESC "Technical Sciences" was transformed into the Faculty of Architecture, as one of the departments was "Construction of Buildings and Facilities". In 2020, the Department of "Construction of Buildings and Facilities" will celebrate its 25th anniversary. These are 25 years filled with enthusiasm, striving for development and improvement, and of course many challenges. Years, during which lecturers were the luminaries in civil engineering in Bulgaria, we established ourselves with our own academic staff and a well-organized base for the educational process and research.
Prerequisite for this start is the state of civil emergency in which Bulgaria has been since March 13, 2020. In an extremely short time, the teachers from the Department of Construction of Buildings and Facilities managed to prepare 44 courses (general and specialized) in the electronic platform Google Classroom. In this way the education of all our students from first to fifth year, full-time and part-time study in the bachelor's degree was fully covered. Thus, the summer semester started, and our students are actively involved in the learning process. The teachers deliver their lectures and part of their seminars in the virtual classrooms. Students are provided with access to lectures and recommended literature for exam preparation. There is an additional direct connection between the student and the lecturer through the regular consultations and contact hours.
VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" received a fourth institutional accreditation for a maximum 6-year period with a score of 9.21 out of the highest possible 10. The document is issued by the National Agency for Evaluation and Accreditation.

In 2019, VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" went through its fourth procedure for institutional accreditation. The result is more than satisfactory - 9.21 - the highest score among private universities in Bulgaria. This success is the consequence from the efforts of the entire academic staff of the university and especially of its management for the work they have done over the years. Once again we proved that VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" with its educational and scientific activities is at a high level. Professional field "Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy" at Varna Free University was accredited for the second time in 2016 with one of the highest grades in the country 9.14 - for a period of 6 years. The grades received by the National Agency for Evaluation and Accreditation reflect the progress that the Faculty of Architecture has achieved through the introduction of innovations in the educational process, new programs and initiatives, project and research activities, improvement of the material and technical base, etc. All this is done for the benefit of our students. The steps that the university is taking forward in its development were the reason for VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" to become the first Bulgarian university to receive a re-certification from the European Commission for the mark "HR Excellence in Research" on March 23, 2020.
You are probably in touch with the Vocational Schools in Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy?

The connection between the secondary and higher education and the construction industry is an extremely important moment in the training of quality young professionals and their successful realization. We strive to maintain this connection by organizing various events in which traditional participants are students and teachers from Vocational Schools of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy (VSCEAG) across the country. Our greatest pride is the International Competition for Creative Skills "Varna Spaghetti Engineering", which brings together students, teachers, professors, architects and engineers from the industry. The distinguished students have the opportunity to become our students and pay reduced semester fees. Traditionally, we also hold "Master Classes" on various topics, which support specialized training of students from VSCEAG in Varna, Burgas, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, etc. Our main goal is to provoke the interest of young people in the professions of architect and civil engineer and for now we are succeeding.
In the situation of civil emergency, in which the whole country is, your university is about to have a summer exam session and something more important - a candidate-student campaign? How will you manage to do it?

With regard to the candidate student campaign, the university responded in a timely manner by organizing "Virtual Open Windows", which are aimed at all graduates. Candidate students, their parents and teachers will have the opportunity to participate in interactive presentations in real time and ask specific questions related to education and admission to the university. The application is entirely in electronic environment - on the site www.vfu.bg, 24/7. Our electronic application platforms are available from anywhere in the world. The 12th graders, who wanted to continue their education abroad, but due to the situation, will not be able to study in foreign universities, are also interested in our specialties in the field of architecture, construction and arts. The diplomas of Varna Free University are recognized in Europe and in the world. We are looking forward to teaching young people who want to receive a high quality education!

Dr. Arch. Zhechka Ilieva graduated from the "Vasil Levski" Vocational School in Construction in Varna in 1996 in Architecture and Construction. She graduated from the University of Economics. She is also one of the first class of architects at Varna Free University, who graduated in 2008. In her second year she was invited to join the department and apply for an assistant position. In 2010/12 he participated in a course for professional training of architects in the protection of immovable cultural heritage at the National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage and the Ministry of Culture. In 2015 she became a doctoral student and in 2018 he successfully defended a dissertation on "Regional forms of secession in the architecture of Varna - comparative characteristics in the detailed formation." She organizes and participates in conducting numerous scientific and research expeditions, workshops, field lectures, archaeological practices and other practical classes with students. She is a member of the Bulgarian Chamber of Architects (BCA), the Union of Architects in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and sites, the Heritage Society at BCA, the Advisory Council for the Preservation of Immovable Cultural Heritage under the Mayor of Varna, etc.