Project No. 2020-1-BG01-KA107-078355 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 length of the project was 36 months and is was implemented in the period from 01/08/2020 to 31/07/2023. The main quantitative objective of the project was to achieve 95 student and staff mobilities between D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and 26 higher education institutions from 16 Partner countries, incl. 50 student mobilities and 45 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. 2020-1-BG01-KA107-078355 was implemented from 01/08/2020 to 31/07/2023. The total number of the implemented mobility activities was 87, incl. 53 students mobilities and 34 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 several 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. The war in Ukraine started in February 2022 had negatively affected the implementation of the project as it concerned mobility flows with Ukraine and Russian Federation. As a result, all already planned outgoing mobilities of staff and students from Bulgaria to Russia has been cancelled. 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 and 2023), involvement in youth activities organised by a local NGO, incl. teaching English to primary school pupils, preparing project proposals, etc. (2022 and 2023).
During the period 2020-2022, D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics and all 26 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 26 partner-universities from 16 Partner countries – Albania (4 exchanges), Montenegro (3 exchanges), Armenia (8 exchanges), Moldova (8 exchanges), Morocco (5 exchanges), Taiwan (7 exchanges), Republic of Korea (5 exchanges), Azerbaijan (7 exchanges), Uzbekistan (6 exchanges), Vietnam (4 exchanges), Egypt (3 exchanges), Palestine (3 exchanges), Ukraine (9 exchanges), Russian Federation (8 exchanges), Georgia (5 exchanges), China (2 exchanges), located in 7 regions of the Erasmus+ programme.
The gender structure of the mobility participants was relatively balanced with a slight advantage of females (47 females and 40 males). Bachelor, Master and Doctoral students have taken part in mobility for studies and their gender distribution is as follows: 36 females and 17 males. A very positive result of the project is the implementation of 3 mobilities of PhD students. 11 females and 23 males academic and non-academic staff have taken part in different types of staff mobility activities. 17 of the staff mobilities were for teaching, 17 were for training or job-shadowing.
The project was implemented in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, war and sanctions on Russia, which totally blocked the international mobility during the spring of 2020, autumn of 2021 and 2022, caused many cancelations of already organised staff and students mobilities, 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. 2020-1-BG01-KA107-078355 consists of 53 outgoing student mobilities for studies, as well as 34 staff mobilities, incl. 18 incoming and 16 outgoing; 17 mobilities for teaching and 17 for training and job-shadowing. All student and staff mobilities have been carried out physically in the host country. During the project period, 91.58% of the pre-specified quantitative objectives of the project have been achieved. Quantitative objectives concerning student mobilities have been 106.00% met. Quantitative objectives concerning staff mobilities have been 75.56% met. The total number of the implemented mobility activities was 87 out of 95 approved by the National Agency.
The project was implemented in the times of COVID-19 pandemic, war and sanctions on Russia, 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. All achieved student mobilities are incoming. 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 (52.94%) is higher than the share of outgoing staff mobilities (47.06%).
Both student and staff who have taken part in the project reported very high satisfaction levels. 98.11% 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, Armenia, Moldova, Morocco, Taiwan, Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Egypt, Palestine, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Georgia, China; 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 and implementation of student traineeships; 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.