Project No. 2019-1-BG01-KA107-061442 is funded by the Erasmus+ programme, KA107 of the European Union. The beneficiary of the project is D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics (Svishtov, Bulgaria). The project was initially planned from 01/08/2019 to 31/07/2021 and additionally prolonged to 31/07/2022. The main quantitative objective of the project was to achieve 50 student and staff mobilities between D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and 9 higher education institutions from 6 Partner countries, incl. 22 student mobilities and 28 staff mobilities. 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-KA107-061442 was implemented from 01/08/2019 to 31/07/2022. Its duration was prolonged from the initially planned 24 months to 36 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which blocked the international mobility of students and staff. The total number of the implemented mobility activities was 49, incl. 22 students mobilities and 27 staff mobilities. During the project implementation, two informational events were organised to attract mobility applicants, share mobility experiences, and keep the target audience updated about the opportunities for Erasmus+ mobility abroad. Each of the partner-universities has organised informational events to attract student and staff for mobility abroad. As the project has been implemented during periods of world pandemic, blocked transport, closed borders, full or partial lockdowns in Europe and world, D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and its partners has organised some calls for applicants under the Erasmus+ programme because many of the initially selected and nominated students and staff have cancelled their mobilities or have not been able to carry out their mobility due to the lost statute and eligibility for participation. In 2021, the Institutional Erasmus+ Coordinator of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics took part in two educational discussion panels, dedicated to the Erasmus+ programme. The forums were targeted towards a broader audience and were used to present the experience of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, its good practices and potential for student and staff mobility under KA107. During the period 2020-2022, D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics organised various cultural events and trips in Bulgaria in order to provide social and cultural integration of the incoming students. Most of the events have been outdoors due to the many restrictions and COVID-19 measures on national or local level. Incoming student took part in many volunteering tree-planting and clean-up activities (2021), cycling trips (2020), kayaking trips (2021), city and cave tours (2020), participation in festivals on ancient heritage and re-enactments (2022), involvement in youth activities organised by a local NGO, incl. teaching English to primary school pupils, preparing project proposals, etc. (2022).
During the period 2020-2022, D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and all 9 partner-universities from Partner countries updated the conditions and signed inter-institutional agreements under the Erasmus+ programme, KA171. 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 the MS Forms. E-files of all applicants and participants have been created and uploaded in the OneDrive cloud.
From geographic point of view, the mobility flows have been organised between the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and 9 partner-universities from 6 Partner countries – Albania (6 exchanges), Montenegro (8 exchanges), Armenia (8 exchanges), Moldova (8 exchanges), Morocco (11 exchanges) and Taiwan (8 exchanges), located in 4 regions of the Erasmus+ programme.
The gender structure of the mobility participants was relatively unbalanced due to females. Students’ gender distribution is as follows: 17 females and 5 males. A very positive result of the project is the implementation of 5 mobilities of PhD students, incl. 3 incoming and 2 outgoing. 12 females and 15 males academic and non-academic staff have taken part in different types of staff mobility activities. 18 of the staff mobilities were for teaching, 9 were for training or job-shadowing.
The project was implemented in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, which totally blocked the international mobility during the spring of 2020, autumn of 2021 and 2022, caused many cancelations of already organised mobilities (mostly student mobilities for studies), delays in student and staff mobilities from spring semester of 2020 to spring semester of 2021 and 2022, as well as changes in initially approved mobility types (to match the mobility period to the academic calendar of the host university) and mobility flows (due to the differences in the severity of the restrictions and measures for quarantine and/or entering the host country).
Project No. 2019-1-BG01-KA107-061442 consists of 22 student mobilities for studies, incl. 4 outgoing and 18 incoming, as well as 27 staff mobilities, incl. 14 incoming and 13 outgoing; 17 mobilities for teaching and 10 for training and job-shadowing. All student and staff mobilities have been carried out physically in the host country. During the project period, 98.00% of the pre-specified quantitative objectives of the project have been achieved. Quantitative objectives concerning student mobilities have been 100.00% met. Quantitative objectives concerning staff mobilities have been 96.43% met. The total number of the implemented mobility activities was 49 out of 50 approved by the National Agency.
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 mobility types and flows. The achieved number of the incoming student mobilities was higher (81.82%) than the number of the outgoing student mobility (18.18%) in accordance with the agreed with the National Agency. Despite of the negative world conditions, the project objective for relatively equal number of incoming and outgoing staff mobilities has been met. The share of incoming staff mobilities (51.85%) is higher than the share of outgoing staff mobilities (48.15%). The project objective for higher number of staff mobilities for teaching has been also met and the reported share is 62.96% of the total staff mobility flows.
Both student and staff who have taken part in the project reported very high satisfaction levels. 100.00% of incoming and outgoing students and 100.00% of the staff of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and its partners from Partner countries 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 Albania, Montenegro, Moldova, Armenia, Taiwan, and Morocco; reinforcement and diversification of the cooperation with all partner-universities involved in the project by: collaboration in preparation of joint Erasmus+ Mundus projects; co-organisation and implementation of online conferences for young scientists and doctoral students; planning of research exchanges for post-docs; joint supervision of doctoral and master degree students; participation of faculty members of the partner universities in Editorial boards of the academic journals of the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics; participation of faculty members of the partner universities as key-speakers in a jubilee scientific conference organised by the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics; establishment of a memorandum of understanding for student traineeships at the D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics; 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.