EU programme Erasmus+ in University of Forestry, Sofia, Bulgaria

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Erasmus Policy Statement (EPS)

The major objective of the strategy of the University of Forestry is to continue to develop quality education complying with the requirements of the European Union by ensuring adequate and up-to-date education. That is why, the improving of the quality of mobility for students and teachers to and from partner universities from program countries fully coincides with the above strategic lines of the HEI. Quality education is the key issue in the conditions of decreasing number of student applicants, on the one hand, and the increasing demand for engineering professionals on the part of the national industry.

In the pandemic situation, education was confronted with a new challenge, namely, the necessity to re-organize teaching by using online methods; something that concerned all students, both at home and abroad. We are also fully aware of the objective of such education to be equal in quality to attendance education and not harm students in view of the learning process.

In the conditions of pandemic developments, the education is challenged with the necessity to implement online teaching, be it at home or abroad. This university is fully aware of the goal to reach adequacy of online teaching compared to attend face to face teaching in view of providing equal opportunities for student to receive quality education. That is why, with the present Erasmus Policy Statement, this institution intends to answer the new Agenda for development of higher education, by striving to maintain the level of teaching. In this view, quote, “everyone should have access to high quality, inclusive and innovative education (…) is part of the mobility equation”
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With regard to Erasmus+ program, this means to continue the successful 20-year-long participation of the institution in the program, but also to manage the unresolved issues from the previous period, and bring new opportunities. To this end, we select the partner universities in an established and well-functioning manner. The university will maintain existing links and develop new ones. The strategy is to select institutions with study programs that are analogic to ours, so that we can offer the students identical programs to the ones they follow at the home university.

A new and potential objective is to take advantage of the benefits offered by blended learning and by practical training, which is very attractive for students. This second opportunity became fact in the last two years, when our students first implemented Erasmus traineeship mobility.

The Erasmus Program proved to be an important instrument for establishing existing programs and creating new ones in compliance to the requirements of the labour market. This continues to be the strategy of the institution, in view of the deficiency of engineering specialists in the industry. As a result of increased links and communication with industry, the university prepared and from the autumn of 2020-2021 starts a new Bachelor program in order to answer the demand for engineers.

The University's strategy is also to participate in KA2 activities, such as strategic partnership projects, or projects for cooperation and exchange of good practice. In the past, these were mainly in the area of vocational training, with countries such as Greece, Turkey, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, etc., a tradition that the University will keep. In conjunction with the new interest towards traineeships, links with professional employer bodies, such as the EFIC (European Furniture Industry Confederation) are of high importance for the organization of traineeships, on the one hand, and for boosting education in the area of Green Deal, Circular Economy, Design, materials, recycling and reuse, for the future development of industry sector well presented in one of the institution’s faculties.

The most important objectives for all mobility are academic and professional. For students, this is the opportunity for modern education and useful professional skills. For the teachers, the objective is modernizing both teaching methods and teaching content and finding opportunities for collaboration. On wider cultural level, for young people, the objective is to get acquainted to various European cultures and peoples and the establishing of European identity. Students show enthusiasm both in educational and general cultural aims of the program. Teacher’s response is various: interest in teaching abroad, connected with their attestation and academic growth, as well as inter-institutional contacts and development of other activities with partners.

Student target groups are Bachelor degree, in their 3rd, 4th, and rarely 2nd year of study, the summer semester. For two years now target group are students with concluded semestrial study, who expect their pre-diploma traineeship. Master degree students were only incomers from partner HEI-s. No doctoral students have been included yet. Increasing number of regularly registered foreign students for one of the programs are also included. Total numbers for the last year were 12 (outgoing); therefore, total mobility numbers did not exceed 20; therefore, the university can use the potential for doubling the numbers. Signing of new Inter-institutional agreements will help reach a wider circle of partners which in turn will offer opportunities for greater mobility numbers. A constant improving of education quality, both in attendance and blended teaching will help. A serious input will come from Erasmus 2-months traineeships, as students from the veterinary medicine program are successful in finding employers in European veterinary clinics; other professional bodies, such as EFIC (European Furniture Industry Confederation) are expected to help implement Erasmus traineeships for pre-diploma students in engineering programs. The first steps and first implemented traineeships were made the last two years.