EU MONEY FOR EDUCATION NOT ENTIRELY UTILIZED
Philosopher Erasmus Rotterdamsky (1469-1536) studied and taught in France, England, Italy, Switzerland, and contemporary Belgium. The fact that he spent his entire life frequenting various universities has motivated the European Union (EU) to call after him its programme for exchange and mobility of students. The main aims of Erasmus are cooperation between universities and development of high quality education. All establishments of higher education from the EU, Romania and Bulgaria, may participate by projects for exchange of students and lecturers. It's a public secret that due to lack of money Bulgarian universities do not have modern technical equipment and laboratories, and our students are doomed to study in conditions which are light years behind those in Europe. One of the ways out of the situation is to use the opportunities for studying for a semester of a whole year in foreign educational establishments, included in the Erasmus programme. In the same way lecturers will be able to exchange experience with their European colleagues. For the purpose the respective university should have closed a contract with a foreign one. Currently, 34 Bulgarian universities, five of them private, have such contracts. It's another question if they will be realized. Last academic year (2003/2004) higher schools in Bulgaria failed to utilize EUR85,000 of the funds, allocated by the Socrates National Agency, authorized to approve the projects and distribute the EU money. The earmarked sum was EUR1,670,204.40, of which EUR1,585,204.40 was spent. According to Socrates data, universities applied for financing of 1,329 students and 811 lecturers. However, only 751 students and 213 lecturers went abroad. The main reason for not utilizing all the money, according to experts, is that some of the applicants give up in the last minute. The most frequent reason is that they have to pay for part of the expenses themselves. Legalization and translation of necessary documents also costs money and sometimes the host country refuses to issue visas to te candidates. The BANKER weekly's investigation, however, suggests somehow different conclusions. Lecturers in many faculties are not charmed by the opportunity for their students to study abroad. Fixing dates for exams on the day set for leaving, refusal to change the schedule of examinations, or administrative delay when issuing the required documents have impeded not a single student from going abroad. The situation at the Faculty of Communications Equipment and Technologies with the Technical University in Sofia is indicative in that respect, the BANKER learned. The higher school has closed a contract with the Italian university Sanio Benevento. The Italians accept last year Bulgarian students for a 3-month education in Sanio Benveneto where they prepare their diploma papers. But the constant attempt of the faculty's management to distribute the funds and specify the students that could go resulted in not a single student leaving for the Italian university last year, the contract's coordinator Galya Marinova commented for the BANKER weekly. Moreover, students who went to Italy under the programme were deliberately impeded from defending their graduation papers, written in Italy. A representative of the Italian university comes to Bulgaria to attend the exam and the evaluation of the papers in Bulgaria. But instead of perfect organization he meets a boycott of the part of his Bulgarian colleagues. That is certainly one of the reasons for the Italians' decision not to accept any more students from Bulgaria.