Project No.2019-1-BG01-KA103-061445 is funded by the Erasmus+ programme, KA103 of the European Union. The project was initially planned from 01/06/2019 to 30/09/2020 and additionally prolonged to 30/09/2021. The main quantitative objective of the project was to increase the number of outgoing student and staff mobilities from 57 to 65, incl. 25 student mobilities and 40 staff mobilities. Another quantitative objective of the project was to achieve at least 90% of the staff mobilities for training which are dedicated to the development of and/or improvement in pedagogical and/or curriculum design skill. Additional qualitative goals of the project were to provide an environment for improving students’ linguistic, social, cultural and transversal competences (decision making skills, flexibility, etc.), as well as for increasing job satisfaction, language, cultural and social competences, experimenting with new teaching and learning practices, learning from good practices for teaching and content design and delivery, extending the professional network of the staff. On the institutional level, the qualitative goal of the project was to extend the opportunities for international cooperation and collaboration with the partner-universities beyond the framework of the Erasmus+ programme.
Project No.2019-1-BG01-KA103-061445 was implemented from 01/06/2019 to 30/09/2021. Its duration was prolonged from the initially planned 16 months to 28 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which blocked the international mobility of students and staff. Total number of the implemented mobility activities was 62 out of 65 approved by the Bulgarian National Agency. During the project implementation, 4 informational events were organised to attract mobility applicants, share mobility experiences, and keep the target audience updated about the opportunities for Erasmus+ mobility abroad. One of the informational events has been targeted towards the academic and non-academic staff, and the others – towards the students. One of the informational events has been implemented in online mode using Big Blue Button functionalities. Its main objective was to attract additional applicants for student mobility abroad because many of the initially selected and nominated students have cancelled their mobilites or have not been able to carry out their mobility for studies during the full lockdown in Europe but after that they have lost their student status and eligibility for participation. During the project implementation, representatives of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics took part in 2 discussion panels dedicated to Erasmus+ programme by presenting the good university practices and opportunities for academic mobility of students and staff between programme countries. The discussion panels have been targeted to a broader audience.
During the project period, the portfolio of partner-universities was enlarged in order to provide more opportunities for incoming and outgoing student and staff mobility abroad. In accordance with the university internationalisation strategy and Rector’s Mandate programme for the periods 2016-2020 and 2021-2024, 5 new inter-institutional agreements under Erasmus+ programme, KA103 have been signed with universities from Turkey, Romania and North Macedonia. All other inter-institutional Erasmus+ exchange agreements have been extended and updated to allow the university-partners to organise and implement mobility activities in 2021.
During the project implementation, most of the project documents have been digitalised. Application, language diagnostics of the applicants, as well as participants’ reporting have been implemented in a digital form using the functionalities of MS Forms. E-files of all applicants and participants have been created in OneDrive cloud. Erasmus+ Dashboard and OLA platforms have been used for 7 of the student mobility flows – 5 mobilities for studies and 2 for traineeships, 6 outgoing and 1 incoming.
The recruitment of the applicants has been implemented in 4 calls – 1 call for applicants for staff mobility, and 3 calls for applicants for student mobility. From geographic point of view, the mobility flows has been organised between the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and its partner-universities and organisations from 16 Programme countries. The gender structure of the mobility participants was balanced. Students from first, second and third study cycle have taken part in the two types of student mobility activities – studies and traineeships. Their gender distribution is as follows: 12 females and 10 males. 40 representatives of the academic staff have taken part in different types of staff mobility activities. Their gender distribution is as follows: 20 females and 20 males.
The project was implemented in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, which totally blocked the international mobility during the spring of 2020, and caused many cancelations of already organised mobilities (mostly student mobilities for studies), delays in student and staff mobilities for the next year, as well as changes in initially approved destinations for staff mobility (changes usually concerned Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Poland, and Croatia). Due to the pandemic and the entry restrictions imposed by different countries, the mobility flows have been directed to the partner-universities located in the neighborhood countries of Bulgaria (Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) which offered less stringent entry measure for Bulgarians, higher flexibility and lower risk in planning of the traveling and business trip details, etc.
Project No.2019-1-BG01-KA103-061445 consists of 22 outgoing student mobilities, incl. 14 student mobilities for studies and 8 student mobilities for traineeships, as well as 40 outgoing staff mobilities, incl. 38 staff mobilities for teaching and 2 staff mobilities for training. Despite of COVID-19 pandemic, the number of the student and staff mobilities has been increased respectively by 4.76% and 11.11% in compassion with the number of the mobility activities implemented under the project No. 2018-1-BG01-KA103-047258. All student and staff mobilities have been carried out physically in the host country. 95.38% of the pre-specified quantitative objectives of the project have been achieved. Total number of the implemented mobility activities was 62 out of 65 approved by the National Agency. The quantitative objective regarding staff mobility for training has been achieved as well and 100% of staff mobilities for training has been aimed to developing pedagogical skills, as well as syllabus and curriculum design skills.
The project was implemented in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, which totally blocked the international mobility, and caused many cancelations of already organised mobilities, delays in student and staff mobilities, as well as changes in initially approved destinations for staff mobility. Due to the pandemic and the entry restrictions imposed by different countries, the mobility flows have been directed to the partner-universities located in the neighborhood countries of Bulgaria which offered less stringent entry measure for Bulgarians, higher flexibility and lower risk in planning of the traveling and business trip details, etc. The achieved number of student mobilities for studies was higher (63.64%) than the number of the participants in student mobility for traineeships. Mobility for teaching has been highly preferable (95.0% of the total staff mobility flows) by the faculty similarly to all Erasmus+ projects implemented by the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics since 2015.
Both student and staff who have taken part in the project reported very high satisfaction levels. 95.45% of the students and 100% of the academic staff of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics have indicated that they are very satisfied or rather satisfied with their Erasmus+ experience abroad in general.
As a result of the individual mobilities some spin-off effects on individual and institutional level have been reported: reinforcement of the cooperation with partner-universities from Romania by inviting them to take part as associated partners in a project for the modernisation of the higher education in Bulgaria under the Operational programme “Science and Education for Smart Development”; diversification of the cooperation with partner-universities from North Macedonia, Serbia, Romania and Turkey by preparing, submitting and implementing two projects under the KA203 of the Erasmus+ programme; strengthening of the cooperation with partner-universities from Poland by joint implementation of a project under the mobility programme NAWA and establishing a new mobility network under the programme CEEPUS; increasement of personal and professional adaptivity; improvement of language, cultural and social competences; higher confidence in the personal abilities; extension of the friendship and professional networks; experiencing with new teaching and learning approaches; establishment of a stable volunteering community of former Erasmus+ student highly motivated to contribute and take part in welcoming, socialisation and integration of international students and staff, organisation of international events, and motivation of students to apply and participate in the Programme.