Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

BUDGET OF EIGHT UNIVERSITIES CUT DOWN

Great promises, secret reports, positive forecasts, and superficial forecasts, preceded the drafting of the 2005 budget for education. Despite all the arguments, which at times seemed like pre-election propaganda, the State will allocate less money to eight Bulgarian universities next year. St. Kliment Ohridsky Sofia University is the most injured one. The State will extend for it BGN1,171,000 less as compared to 2004. The budget of the University of Bourgas will be cut down by BGN439,000 from last year, and the Higher School of Mining and Geology in Sofia will have BGN43,000 less to spend in 2005. The budgets of the following educational establishments have been also reduced: the College of Telecommunications (by BGN95,700), the Medical University of Pleven (by BGN44,000), the higher schools of transport and of construction in Sofia( by BGN659,000 and BGN127,000 respectively), the National Military University (by BGN200,000). The total amount of the State subsidy to the eight universities has been cut down by BGN2,787,700.The reduction of financing comes as a result of the approved new model of setting the State subsidy for universities. The money to be released by the Treasury will already depend only on the number of students in the respective educational establishment and the subjects, studied in it. Each year the State will set the so-called base norm for allowance per student. It will be multiplied by a certain coefficient - different for each speciality - and as a result we get the end amount to be paid by the State for various disciplines. So far that allowance was a set percentage of the total budget subsidy. Money for capital and everyday expenses were allocated as well. But as of next year the above formula will be used to calculate the total amount of money universities will get. The State will pay least (BGN659 per student annually) for training in pedagogics, economics, management and tourism. The largest amounts will go to education in professions which need clinical or other special practical training. Medical specialities and pharmacy get by the State almost BGN4,000 per student. The highest amount of subsidies has been projected for the organization and management of special forces in the national defence system. Military universities and specialized academies will be allocated BGN5,000-7,000 per student annually.Apart to cutting down financing to certain universities, the new scheme strengthens even more the existing significant involvement of education with the State and with the Government's wishes, respectively. That does not encourage the efficient development of educational institutions and the more optimal spending of funds, set aside for education, experts from academic circles claim. But not only the above-mentioned eight universities will face financial problems before the start of the new year. The money for the other educational establishments have been increased symbolically and they are also facing a financial collapse, syndicates in higher education point out. The Technical University of Sofia will get additionally only BGN100. According to representatives of the managerial staffs of universities, due to insufficient financial resources in 2005, the material and technical foundation and training methods shall not be updated, which would inevitably influence negatively the quality of education. The insufficient money won't allow the introduction of the credit system of education in all universities in the country. We may not succeed to introduce that system until Bulgaria's accession to the EU and that will exclude us from the educational market in the community, rectors of universities explain. Problems could arise as well with the certification of high schools as per the ISO 9001 quality standards, which is compulsory in order to compare the quality of education in Bulgarian higher schools with that of western universities. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) is also on the edge of survival, considering the Government-proposed budget. The Finance Ministry will allocate to BAS only BGN6,524,000 more than in 2004. This money won't be sufficient for paying the increased electricity and central heating bills, neither invest in scientific research, Acad. Ivan Yuhnovsky, Chairman of BAS, said in front of the BANKER weekly. He underlined that 27 scientific institutes were closed down a few years ago and 46% of the scientific workers were sacked, and now the academy was in the critical minimum. According to him, in 2005 the BAS will be assigned to plan and implement the decommissioning of Kozlodoui N-plant's units, which is connected with much expenses, which have not been ensured by the budget. BAS's Chairman sees the only possible way out in the participation in various international programmes and studies. If it was not for NATO's programmes and the contracts we sign with foreign firms, the academy would certainly go bankrupt, Acad. Yuhnovsky is adamant. But the more alarming fact, according to him, is that Bulgaria is not fulfilling its commitments to the EU, undertaken as per the Science and Research negotiation chapter, for yearly increase of the money earmarked for working out new technologies and carrying out scientific researches.The Finance Ministry, however, turned a deaf ear to the demands of academic circles and their gloomy forecasts do not seem to worry it. The requirement of MPs from Novoto Vreme that the money for education should be at least 5% of the GDP was rejected by Finance Minister Milen Velchev. According to him, a more significant increase of budget subsidies could be considered only after reforming the educational system. Reforms, however, require considerable investments, for which nо money could be found. For instance, several million levs are necessary for setting up an info system that will be registering university students. Not less money is needed for increasing the qualification of lecturers and development of new plans and programmes. But the Government-drafted 2005 budget cannot wear reformist ideas. This leads to a vicious circle. The money to be released by the State for education will depend on the reforms in it, but there is no money for reforms.

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