Union of Scientists in Bulgaria

BUILDING A KNOWLEDGE-BASED ECONOMY AND SOCIETY IN BULGARIA

 

 

 

MEMORANDUM ON SCIENCE AND HIGHER EDUCATION ISSUES IN BULGARIA AS MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

Sofia – 2007


CONTENTS

 

BUILDING A KNOWLEDGE-BASED ECONOMY AND SOCIETY IN BULGARIA…………………………………………………………………

            Science in Bulgaria…………………………………………………..

            Rate of development of the country…………………………………

            Commitments to the European Union ………..................................

Framework programmes and funds of the European Union……..

“Knowledge-based” economy……………………………………….

1. WHAT IS NECESSARY IS CLEAR AND CONSISTENT

     GOVERNMENT POLICY………………………………………………

2. INTENSIFICATION OF EFFICIENCY OF RESEARCH……...

3. MODERNISATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION……………………..

4. FUNDING OF UNIVERSITIES AND SCIENTIFIC

    ORGANISATIONS……………………………………………………….

5. PROTECTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC

    POTENTIAL IN BULGARIA…………………………………………...

6. SCIENCE, HIGHER EDUCATION AND BUSINESS………………...

7. CIVIL SOCIETY IN SCIENCE AND EDUCATION………………….

THE WAY OUT – CONSENSUS AND ENERGETIC JOINT

     ACTIONS…………………………………………………………………

 


BUILDING A KNOWLEDGE-BASED ECONOMY AND SOCIETY IN BULGARIA

 

(MEMORANDUM on science and higher education issues in Bulgaria as member of the European Union)

 

            In the course of many years, the scientific community in Bulgaria and its most representative organisation – the Union of Scientists in Bulgaria (USB), has insisted on putting an end to the isolation of this community from solving the problems of the country’s economy and has continuously motivated the necessity of increasing the governmental support for science and higher education as a pivotal prerequisite for overcoming problems of the transition. At conferences and symposia, public discussions and national forums scientists offered scientific solutions to the most vital problems but governments turned a deaf ear. The example of some small European countries, the size of Bulgaria, that have achieved enviable economic results placing them high in world rankings thanks to fronted investment in science and education, did not change the situation.

            Only on the threshold of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union (EU) did executive authorities begin, reluctantly and strenuously, to overcome their alienation from the problems of research, modern technology, innovation and education, the latter being the decisive factors for the social and economic prosperity in our time.

            At the beginning of 2006 USB adopted and disseminated a Memorandum on science and higher education issues relevant to the coming integration. The Memorandum received wide support from the scientific community and elicited a number of initiatives of various institutions and organisations. Only the official authorities involved with these problems remained silent.

            Finally, at the beginning of 2007, the Ministry of Education and Science demonstrated activity by publicising accents of a Strategy for Development of Higher Education presenting as new facts repeated for years not only by USB but also by other analysts – aging of scientists and university lecturers, low social status of scientists, small number of young people choosing a career in science, unfavourable students/teachers ratio, etc.

            The major positions formulated in the aforementioned Strategy of the Ministry of Education and Science concern important issues but, as a whole, they focus mainly on the relations between universities and government institutions with the view of enlarging the scope of influence of the state. This is in flagrant contradiction to the democratic process and good practices in European countries. The Bologna Declaration for creating a common European education area, which outlines the necessity of extending the independence and autonomy of universities parallel with the growth of their responsibility, is entirely disregarded. Only a few days after publicising the Strategy the Ministry corrected some formulations in it after protests that the scientific community was utterly unaware of it and came up with well-founded criticism. The main accents in the Strategy relate to solving everyday situations and isolated problems but offer no strategic decisions. They disregard European requirements for universities as centres of knowledge and for research holding the key to a knowledge-based economy and society.

            Economists and politicians launched in the media the idea of education as a market industry and not as a “social sphere”. The idea is for business to replace the state in the universities and the rate of student fees to become the sole criterion of competition between the universities. The Ministry of Education and Science was not able to avoid this wrong thesis, not applied in any other country in the world. It involved the idea of increasing the funds for higher education only within the limits of inflation rate and linking this increase with student fees, paid education and the good will of business. It is absolutely unacceptable to turn universities and schools of higher education, public institutions of major importance, entirely into market-based establishments. This may be convenient for some government officials and interest groups but it cannot relieve the state from its social functions, cannot invalidate the implementation of recommendations by European experts and the commitment to allocate progressively growing funds to science and higher education.

            The last amendments to the Law of Higher Education made by the National Assembly solved some long-standing problems. But they are far from solving the problems of higher education, from improving the quality of education and its conformity with the labour market of tomorrow, the mobility of teachers and students, the development of research, etc.

            The thesis that the state is unable to exert influence on the management of state universities, spread by politicians and economists, is untenable. Practically the state predetermines the policy of state universities by means of laws and sub-normative acts, by means of fixed funding and state regulations. Instrumental in this respect are also the National Agency of Evaluation and Accreditation, the Supreme Attestation Commission, the Chamber of Accounts, financial and juridical institutions. The contention that university authorities put their interest first and disregard the interests of students and business is even more untenable. The propagator of this thesis is the Minister of Education and Science himself. He managed to impose the establishment of a supervisory council, which practically achieved the only goal of including a representative of the Minister in it.

 

Science in Bulgaria

            Bulgarian science is left on its own to find ways of survival. As early as 2003 the Law of Stimulating Research defined science and research as national priority but solved none of the problems. Practically, the policy of the government authorities did nothing to implement this priority. The Law contained the obligation of creating a National Strategy for the Development of Research. Today there is no trace of such a strategy. The Law re-established the Research Fund but the regulations of this fund remain unfulfilled, i.e. it does not function as a legal entity and there is no cooperation with the National Innovation Fund. The newly established National Research Council exists only formally and does not function despite the serious goals attributed to it. Measures for the preservation and development of the infrastructure of viable and promising scientific units in biotechnology, genomics, information and communication technologies, aeronautics, food quality, defence, etc. are highly insufficient. The decapitalisation of the whole sector is in progress.

            The European Union strives to create and implement a kind of knowledge that leads to the creation of new nano-, bio-, micro-, laser and space materials and technologies. This presupposes the mobilisation of considerable resources and the joint efforts of the European science elite. Bulgaria must give its due in this respect within the limits of its possibilities and scientific potential as far as this is related to its strategic development, which unfortunately remains unclear. Participation in international projects is very useful and highly necessary but it cannot secure the functioning of science in our country.

            The funds for research and development in the country are about 4 times less than the average in leading European countries. The larger part of them go for operational costs – salaries, social security and the keep up of equipment. There is almost nothing for the improvement of the infrastructure of science. Only about 12 million levs from the state budget for 2007 go to the National Innovation Fund for small and medium enterprises, which constitute more than 90% of the total number in the country.

            The lack of capital for starting investments is a grave problem for scientific organisations and universities. European governments offer various forms of support for research and the realisation of scientific projects. Unfortunately such ideas are almost unknown to Bulgarian political elite. One cannot detect even the smallest effort to re-direct state orders to innovative products.

            The growing tendency in our country to rely for research and innovation primarily on European money received on a competitive principle speaks of the total lack of a scientific policy that the state is expected to carry out through the instruments of the budget and taxation laws.

 

Rate of development of the country

            In the preparation for admission to the EU Bulgaria achieved many good results and was recognised as a country with market economy. The unemployment rate dropped and is now below 8%. The rate of development remains relatively stable which ensures about 6% annual increase in the GNP and the private sector forms about 2/3 of the GNP.

            Despite all this, Bulgaria ranks last among the 27 EU countries. The GNP per capita in the country is more than 8 times lower than the average for the EU. Bulgaria is the only country among the newly admitted to the EU whose GNP has not increased since 1989. If the present rate of growth persists, it will take 4 or 5 generations to level up with the EU. The country needs a much greater increase in the rate of growth of GNP, similar to that in European and Asian countries, whose example must be studied and followed.

            The foreign trade balance is highly negative. There are just a few branches of industry like textile and clothing production which export 86 % of their production to the EU. Besides, this export constitutes 27, 6 % of the total export of Bulgaria in this direction. It is relevant to mention here that the Institute of Textiles and Clothing was closed 10 years ago. Now this Institute is re-established and its goal is to develop strategies for the branch.

            Productivity of labour in Bulgaria is the lowest – only 1/3 of the average for Europe. The country ranks 72nd in competitiveness for 2006 as stated in the Annual Report of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Bulgaria ranks 62nd in “economic freedom” among the countries studied by the American “Heritage” Foundation. Besides, only seven points divide it from the bottom - People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (56, 5%). The leading countries in the ranking are with 28 points ahead. According to the Applied Research and Communication Foundation, more than 65 % of Bulgarian enterprises didn’t see any innovation in 2005. The technological product of the country is at a rate 50 % lower than that in the first 10 countries of the EU.

            The financial stability and sustainable economic growth in Bulgaria in the last few years are not knowledge-based. Possibilities and potentials for such growth (foreign investments, low salaries, development of services, etc.) are limited. To achieve higher rate of development we need a new industrial policy based on investing in innovations, stimulating the export-oriented production, of energy-saving technologies, on a dynamic economy based on knowledge.

 

Commitments to the European Union

            In the process of preparation for accession to the EU chapter 17 “Science and Research” was amongst the first to close. However, the scientific community is still in the dark about the commitments of the country, the measures taken to meet these commitments and the respective results. There is no official stand and no measures undertaken to implement the directives and recommendations of the European Commission concerning science and higher education.

            Bulgaria committed itself to ensure 0, 15 points annual growth of investments for research. The commitment remains unfulfilled. Moreover, the government planned stagnation of funds till 2009 – only 0, 4 % of the GNP. There is no visible perspective to reach 3 % of the GNP for research – 1 % from the state budget and 2 % from the private sector. There are no tax deductions for financing and realisation of research projects as is the case in most European countries. On the contrary, new taxes and VAT on equipment and apparatuses are in force as of 2007. There are incentives for gambling and the hotel business but not for science.

            Bulgaria was under the obligation to develop a national Lisbon programme. Such a programme did not appear but instead were adopted documents in which science and higher education entirely disappeared. Bulgaria is the only member country which has not formulated any goals related to the Lisbon strategy. It is possible that some institutions follow the recommendations of the World Bank (an international institution set up after WW II to support the low-developed countries), which entirely ignore support and development of research in the country, in total contradiction to the resolutions of the European Commission.

            The EU member states are obliged to inform the European Commission about measures taken to comply with the recommendations of the EU regarding the European Charter of Research Scholars and the Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers. The scientific community in Bulgaria is not informed about any such measures prepared by state institutions although these Recommendations had been a fact as early as March 2005.

            The Green Paper of the European Commission about the new perspectives in the European Research Field, adopted in the beginning of 2007, contains a requirement to strengthen research institutions in each country, to develop the existing infrastructure of contemporary scientific units, to concentrate resources in units that have achieved considerable results, to mobilise research, education, training and innovation for the accomplishment of the economic and social goals of the EU.

            These priorities of the EU have not been implemented by the governmental authorities. It is no wonder then that Bulgaria holds last position among EU states in all indicators related to science and education.

            The scientific community declares the need for serious, fundamental changes in the organisation, managements, funding and normative provision of science and higher education so that Bulgaria turns, step by step, into an equal and competitive European state. This goal can be achieved with the support and cooperation of the European Commission.

 

Framework programmes and funds of the EU

            Framework programmes are an important factor for the development of the country. The participation of Bulgarian scientific institutions in the 5th and 6th Framework Programme has been very successful. The money invested as participation fee in the common fund of the programmes was refunded and sizable additional funds were received. The information campaign for the 7th Framework Programme is carried out on the expected high level and the number of new projects is growing every day.

            In the process of preparation of the operational projects for implementation of the strategic funds of the EU science and higher education were completely disregarded. The signal for this state of things came from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and high standing representatives of the European Commission.  Bulgaria is the only country which did not avail itself of the opportunity to from an independent operative programme for research, technologies and innovations. Problems in this field remained under the jurisdiction of two ministries – the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry Economy and Power Engineering. But there is no coordination between them on issues of research and innovations as major factors in achieving competitiveness.

            The National Referential Framework adopted by the government and statements about reforms are necessary prerequisites for implementing the EU funds. The information campaign for their use is successful. At the same time preparations for participation in it are lagging behind mainly due to the slow process of securing the normative regulations and the sluggish operation of the organisational scheme. The unfavourable tendency of not being able to use the funds allotted for the present year is already a fact. But even if all allotted funds are rightly implemented, this cannot solve the problems of the country in its stable development in the context of global economy, of the dynamic and unforeseeable economic situation in the world. We must not forget that the foundations of the European Union contain the subsidiary principle which envisages that instruments of the Union are only supplementary to the necessary measures taken on a national level.

            The opportunity to make use of almost 7 billion ˆ for the period 2007-2013 by means of approved projects through the European funds is vital and if realised, could contribute considerably to the development of Bulgaria. However, compared to the GNP of the country for the coming 7 years, the funds amount to about 6 %. This percentage will grow to 8 % if we add the necessary co-funding by the state. In other words, the help from the EU is welcome but the country’s internal potential and its policy are decisive for its speeded development. In addition, the great part of the funds for operational programmes is allocated for infrastructural projects, mainly in transport, communications and the environment. Municipalities and government structures are the major beneficiaries of more than half of the money. About 1 billion ˆ are allocated to the competitiveness of Bulgarian economy during these 7 years, which is the smallest portion of the operational programmes. The basic regulations of the operational programme allot less than 15 % of them to research. What is more, universities and scientific institutions lack the necessary funds for co-financing the programmes and this limits even more their participation in projects.

            There are mechanisms envisaged for ensuring co-financing for the municipalities. A Guarantee Fund to aid the access to the financing of small and medium enterprises was set up. Scientific units are again left without support. Only 100 000 levs were set apart in the “Research” Fund for preparing projects of Bulgarian scientists exclusively for participating in competitions within the 7th Framework programme. The maximum sums allowed for that purpose will benefit only 16 projects only on the basis of projects evaluated by international experts.

            Scientific units can have access to co-financing only if they are in cooperation with major beneficiaries. This is a necessary and important condition. But on the other hand, there are no requirements and criteria related to innovativeness of project resolutions in operational programmes, to the implementation of new technologies and the scientific validation of efficiency and expediency. Beneficiaries in the programmes have no obligation to look for support or inform about the nature of the projects prepared by them so that scientific units and the scientific community could offer their cooperation.

           

“Knowledge-based Economy”

            This term is comprehended in a very simplified way in society. One very important point is disregarded – the criterion of the level of knowledge. The concept of a knowledge-based economy relies on novelty, on innovation. For example, the motto of the social programmes “The greater the number of job positions the bigger the growth” sounds disturbing. It can be true only if these job positions are not connected with elementary use of energy, raw material and human resources, with manual labour and unmarketable products. It is no accident that the EU not only aims at creating job positions but also at their being more effective and productive, which can be achieved by means of new technologies and innovations.

            If the government places knowledge in the foundation of economy and society, a new kind of management comes to the fore – management of knowledge. Connecting it with the application and development of information and communicative technologies is not enough. Management of knowledge is in its essence management of the entire cycle - from the creation of knowledge and its dissemination up to its realisation in material, financial and intellectual assets. Here we must point out at least four important goals of this management:

·        Turning “brain drain” into a well-regulated system for “brain circulation”;

·        Optimisation of the number and structure of state institutions in higher education and science; rationalisation of interrelations between them; involving them in solving problems of society and economy; formulation of their role and functions in a strategic perspective;

·        Development of horizontal innovative networks and clusters accelerating the process of creation, dissemination, acquisition and realisation of knowledge;

·        A better legislative system and guarantee for protection of intellectual products.

In the newly published International Index of Property, first of its kind, Bulgaria holds 62nd position in protection of intellectual property out of 70 countries, which constitute 95 % of the world GNP. According to the authors of this index, intellectual property and its protection is most closely connected with the rate of economic development of a country.

The immediate goal of the National Assembly, the government, political parties and other governing institutions is to attribute an entirely new meaning to the role of knowledge in the development of the economy of the country and build up a national system for coordinating all activities in research, education, training and innovations in the country.

The formation and implementation of a strategy for the development of Bulgarian economy and Bulgarian society based on knowledge as a major resource and a major means of production and development cannot be postponed any more. It is not only important to fix the real strategic goals but also to formulate the branches and activities which are to be developed with the assistance of the state, the forms and resources for their realisation and the fields in which to concentrate public material, financial and intellectual resources.

 

1. WHAT IS NECESSARY IS CLEAR AND CONSISTENT

    GOVERNMENT POLICY

            The situation in science and higher education in the country, the problems accompanying them, the goals following from the innovated Lisbon strategy of the EU, the Bologna Declaration and the Green Paper for the new perspectives in the European field of research require the immediate formulation of a state policy regarding higher education, research, technologies and innovations as central factors in economic growth and making Bulgaria an equal member of the EU. It is necessary that executive and legislative authorities in the country:

1.1     Work out and adopt a long-term national strategy (doctrine) for the

       development of the country, based on preliminary strategies in

       various fields and activities

            The priority must be the development of a Strategy for the Development of Research, Technologies and Higher Education in 2007 and its adoption after a wide discussion in the scientific community and business.

1.2     The Council of Ministers must prepare and the National Assembly

       must adopt:

  • A new contemporary Law of Higher Education;
  • A new contemporary Law of Career Development and Mobility of Scholars and University Lecturers;
  • Amendments and riders to the Law of Stimulating Research which must ensure priority of the development of science in compliance with the requirements of the EU;
  • Normative regulations transforming the “Research” Fund into an European institution and setting up of a Guarantee Fund for risky scientific projects, technologies and innovations;
  • Amendments and riders to the Labour Code reflecting specific issues of researches and university lecturers following from the European Charter of Scientists and the Code of Recruitment of Researchers, which imply liberalisation of forms of employment (fixed-term contracts for work on a project, employment by the hour, etc.) and providing social security for researchers;
  • Programme for priority projects, research and development connected with solving important problems of the country;
  • Improvement in the statistical accounting of universities and scientific organisations, in innovative activities for the accumulation of the necessary data for evaluation in compliance with the adopted European indicators.

1.3     Executive authorities must take the necessary measures for:

  • Establishment of an independent unit (agency) for the development of science, technologies and innovations based on the structures of the Ministry of Education and Science, to carry out the state policy in these fields;

·        Preparing an annual report of the government before the National Assembly and civil society about the state and development of research, new technologies, innovations and higher education;

·        Optimisation of the existing overdeveloped and ineffective structure of state universities through a decree of the National Assembly, transforming them into scientific educational and cultural regional centres;

·        Assign to the regional and local authorities and other educational and public organisations functions, commitments and rights in supporting research, higher education and innovations, for using the scientific potential in its maximum capacity in developing and implementing programmes and projects resolving regional problems;

·        Formulation of a state policy in the qualification and retraining of people of all ages, which must provide incentives in this respect coming from the state and the private sector; aggregate the professions and set up new qualification ranks; formulate principles for determining the needs of the market which is highly necessary in outlining the directions in life-long learning.

1.4     Admission of organisations of civil society to the preparation and discussion of programmes, projects and legislative initiatives which requires that:

  • All projects of state institutions about strategies, bills, programmes, etc. are registered immediately in the public register of the institution and are available for discussion, assessment and proposals;

·        Projects tabled for approval in the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly include detailed motivation and assessment of the consequences of their adoption and the opinion of NGOs in the respective sphere;

·        NGOs and trade unions have equal access to government institutions and organisations.

 

2. INTENSIFICATION OF EFFICIENCY OF RESEARCH

            The acceleration of the general economic growth of the country, the restructuring of the branches of industry aiming at high productivity, the increase in employment and the keep up of high competitiveness are unthinkable without serious changes in the management and financing of research. This requires that science, as a priority proclaimed by the government, receives the support of state authorities, political parties, business and the scientific community.

            Special attention must be attributed to a number of issues in the field of science, the resolution of which will be decisive for the achievement of the strategic goals of the country.

2.1 The independent structure dealing with the development of science,

      technologies and innovations must become an active and operative

      structure which:

  • Analyses the problem areas, coordinates and controls activities for the realisation of the Lisbon strategy;
  • Has available instruments for selecting the most effective forms of cooperation between scientific institutions and business;
  • Carries out organisational and normative actions for resolving the problems of science and technologies;
  • Develops strategies and programmes and functions as the major implementing force in their realisation and in the state policy in the sphere of science;
  • Coordinates the programs for research of different ministries and agencies; offers assistance in the aggregation and thoughtful use of resources; formulates proposals for the scientific policy by means of the state budget;
  • Monitors, coordinates and aids the research activities of scientific organisations and universities with the aim to use effectively financial, material and human resources;
  • Establishes the programme approach to research and allots the funds available for the purpose in the state budget;
  • Initiates and actively participates in building up innovative networks for the exchange of ideas, joint projects, partnerships between the public and the private sector and participation in international fairs and exhibitions;
  • Specifies the general principles of the EU in assessment of national and regional programs and projects for research in view of their efficient funding;
  • Sets up and uses actively a National Scientific Council on problems of science, technologies and sustainable development of the country;
  • Uses the international experts as consultants, reviewers and participants in the programmes and projects for research and technologies.

2.2 Transforming the “Research” Fund into a stable, competent and

      strong institution for the stimulation of research. For that purpose it

      is necessary:

  • To make real the functioning of the Fund as a legal entity following the provisions of the Law of Research with all consequences ensuing from this;
  • To structure the organs and committees of the Fund with the broad participation of the scientific community;
  • To ensure the growth of financing for the Fund from the budget and the accumulation of money from sponsorship, donations, European funds and be instrumental in the integration with business;
  • To take care of all programmes and projects related to research, technologies and innovations operated for the present by departments of the Ministry in order to coordinate and use effectively the funding, resources and human potential of the country;
  • To achieve financing of research entirely on the basis of programmes and projects;
  • To acquire functions of coordinating programmes and cooperation with other funds connected with technologies and innovations;
  • To rationalise and speed up processes of publicising competitions, inviting foreign reviewers, announcing results, negotiations, the control on realisation and payments to partners;
  • To open a special account of the Fund for crediting initial stages of projects, approved by the operative programmes of ministries and the 7th Framework Programme of the EU;
  • To keep up a database of research projects ready for implementation and offer co-financing for their realisation by business enterprises; have the rights of equal share in firms founded on public-private partnership.

2.3 Setting up a national, independent, interdisciplinary councils of

       scholars, researchers, lecturers and managers which has the task:

·        To offer short-term and long-term priorities for science and economy based on the analysis of scientific achievements and the resources of business and in the context of the European integration;

·        To develop programmes for fundamental research and interdisciplinary projects;

·        To analyse the implementation of strategies and programmes for research;

·        To discuss before the general public the problems of the country originating from globalisation of economy, to guarantee its stable development.

2.4 To discuss with the scientific community and develop further the

       National Strategy for Research deposited in the National Assembly.

       This strategy must:

  • Fix terms and rates of development for satisfying the criteria of the EU and provide the respective funding needed;

·        Re-evaluate and broaden the formulated priorities in accordance with the strategy for economic development and the available scientific potential;

·        Determine priority fields which need programmes funded with the integrated efforts and resources of public and private institutions on a national and a regional level;

·        Create favourable conditions for the support of existing and the setting up of new technological parks, business incubators, centres for transfer of innovations and knowledge, etc.

2.5 Work out for the government a strategic programme for

        fundamental research, providing suitable funding and coordination

        within the EU

            The involvement of government institutions in fundamental research is absolutely necessary since it is out of the scope of business in general and even large companies in the country are not able to support it. Neglect of fundamental research has serious and long-term negative consequences. It is not accidental that, with the setting up of the European Technological Institute and the European Council for Research, the EU aims at coordinating strategic (fundamental) research on a European level, providing monitoring and assessment of results through unified criteria of the highest scientific level.

            Bulgaria must recognise the importance of investments in fundamental sciences, of preparing and supporting research and specialists in fields in which there are scholars and achievements of high standard correspondent to the goals of the EU, side by side with fields connected with the national interests.

 

3. MODERNISATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION

            The building of knowledge-based economy requires special attention to the mission of universities and their fundamental role in the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge. The diversity of approaches in the development of educational systems in the EU countries offers the possibility to build up a renovated model of Bulgarian higher education that corresponds most closely to present-day conditions and the global competition in all spheres of life.

            The major goal for universities is to improve perceptibly the quality of education. This is entirely within the competence of the academic staff. What is necessary is to overcome the school-like approach to teaching and assessing students. University students must think, collect, process and use information, apply knowledge in projects, and bear personal responsibility for their own training. The university offers the suitable conditions and presupposes intense self-education and development of creative potentials by students themselves. Broad access to university education is necessary but not at the expense of a low admission level which is becoming a threat for universities due to the worsening of the quality of knowledge in secondary schools, the system of their financing, the lack of specialised schools preparing highly qualified personnel for industry and services.

            To achieve all this it is necessary:

3.1 To optimise the network of universities, schools of higher education

       and colleges education we need:

  • To define the notions of “university”, “school of higher education”, “college” and create standards including qualitative and quantitative criteria like number of students, the fields of study covered, presence and scope of research, contracts with business, percentage of self-funding, regional coverage, etc., which will allow compatibility with educational systems in European countries;
  • To create the suitable environment and normative regulations for a voluntary merger of universities;
  • To liberalise the structure of universities and create normative regulations for them to incorporate specialised schools of higher education, colleges, scientific institutes, high-tech enterprises, etc.;
  • To preserve college education with no legal mechanisms for transforming them into universities and link it with educational qualifications of the ISCED;
  • To impose strict rules and active follow-up control for establishing new universities in the country and branches of universities from the EU and the European economic area in order to prevent the establishment of foreign high schools of unknown origin.

3.2 To ensure quality of education adequate to European standards it is

       necessary:

  • To analyse in great detail the functioning of the National Agency of Assessment and Accreditation and remove all normative obstacles so that it turns into a more active and representative institution caring for the quality of education;
  • To give more weight to quality of education measured at exit level and the realisation of graduates in various spheres of public life, their openness to additional training and continuing education, taking into account the opinion of business corporations and the scientific community;
  • To build up a system of adequate internal and external control on the quality of education and strengthen its influence on the development of universities;
  • To use criteria, procedures and follow-up measures comparable with those in the EU countries;
  • To use experts from other universities in the country and abroad in assessments carried out by the universities themselves;
  • To introduce periodical expert evaluation of universities by independent bodies or foreign agencies;
  • To connect the financing of universities with the results from expert evaluation of quality of education;
  • To introduce annual ranking of universities and colleges by a number of criteria (successful participation in programmes and projects, publications in respected journals, defended and sustained patents, etc.) or on the basis of professional spheres on a number of criteria; the ranking must be performed by a government body, public organisation or a public-private institution set up for this particular purpose;
  • To create the necessary conditions for the effective functioning of recognition and transfer of credits (ECTS);
  • To increase perceptibly the relative weight of research and applied technology in the assessment, accreditation and ranking of universities and professional spheres;
  • To revise the classification of majors, reduce their number and create conditions for additional specialisation and qualification;
  • To improve the content of MA programmes to provide theoretical and practical knowledge in accordance with the expected strategic development of branches of economy and spheres of public life, participation in scientific and applied research, and in projects;
  • To give doctoral students the status of junior researchers with respective rights including protection of intellectual property and social security; orient the educational period of the doctoral study towards methodology, invention and training in designing and managing projects.

3.3 Modernisation of the idea of academic autonomy and management

      of state universities preserving regulatory mechanisms of the state.

      For that purpose it is necessary:

  • To set up equal requirements for state, private and foreign universities functioning in the country;
  • To deprive universities and schools of higher education which exclude research from their activities of the right to give scientific degrees in the respective fields;
  • To revise and perfect the model of managing universities by using models from Europe and USA;
  • To extend the term of office of rectors to 5 or 6 years so that it covers the whole period of study of students;
  • To exclude the possibility of state administration to interfere in determining the forms of admission to universities, the control and assessment of students, internal structure of universities, etc.;
  • To develop and extend preliminary work with gifted pupils from high schools and their admission to universities on a preferential principle;
  • To build up the development of universities on the principle of self-regulation and permanent and transparent accountability before the state and the public.

 

4. FUNDING OF UNIVERSITIES AND SCIENTIFIC ORGANISATIONS

            Underestimation and non-compliance with the experience of the EU countries, with the recommendations of the EU concerning development and funding of research, higher education and innovations will inevitably bring about serious economic and technological backlog. At this stage the government shows no signs of increasing the share in the budget allotted to research and education and in this respect we rank far behind the EU. There is no visible tendency of increase in the yearly allowance for one researcher or student, which is several times lower than those in the EU. Only 5 % of the budget funds for science go for the modernisation of the equipment of institutes and universities which is hopelessly outdated. There are no tax deductions for firms and companies which reinvest their profit in research and new technologies. Universities and scientific organisation are badly in need of financial stabilisation in order to apply their efforts to satisfy the needs of economy and the labour market.

4.1 Drastic change in the approach of state institutions to the evaluation

      of the results of research and university education, to scientific

      organisations and their funding

            This means in the first place to take practical steps to realise the officially declared national priority of science and higher education. To correct mistakes in this respect it is necessary:

·        To stop funding state universities and scientific organisations as ordinary budget institutions on the ground of the budget classifier adopted for them (number of faculty, average salary, limitations on increase of salaries, allotment of only 90 % of the budget, etc.) and start funding based on programmes for research and education; budget money given to science and education is an investment and not an expenditure;

·        To increase every year the share of funds given for science and education so that criteria of EU can be covered by 2013;

·        To adopt a programme for the improvement of research infrastructure (equipment, resources, information technology), to stabilise regional scientific units and centres by introducing new technologies and innovations;

·        To set up guarantee funds, which will support the crediting of research and be instrumental in attracting initial investments necessary to co-finance projects with EU funding;

·        To stimulate life-long learning for permanent growth and renovation of knowledge, professional competence and practical skills;

·        To adopt in very short terms a system for student credits as a major instrument of supporting students, which will increase responsibility for their own education;

·        To grant preferences to firms offering jobs and practice periods to students, which can combine with diploma theses connected with the field and interests of the firm;

·        To introduce till the end of 2007 a system of grants and vouchers for gifted students, which will simplify the search for the university offering the best conditions for their creative potential and participation in projects;

·        To create more favourable conditions for legal and physical bodies to make donations, sponsor and support research and the education of students and for organisations of the scientific community with contributions to the development of science and higher education.

4.2 Elimination of legal and administrative obstacles, which hamper

      scientific organisations and universities in applying and using

      market mechanisms. They must have the freedom to:

  • Negotiate freely with business for postgraduate education and specialisation of personnel,  development, and transfer of technologies;
  • State sponsorship and competitions for education and research in fields with priority for the development of the country;
  • Accumulate profit and receive tax exemptions on it in case of reinvestments in research and modernisation of equipment;
  • Fix student fees with no limits imposed and without differentiations by government institutions;
  • Establish firms or joint ventures with scholars whose research has applied potential;
  • Find forms of financial support and other forms of bonuses for students participating in research and contracted projects;
  • Form special funds for development and qualification, for joint projects with industrial enterprises; possess bonds, stocks, securities and other profitable assets.

4.3 The development of science and higher education presupposes

       permanent and active interaction with public and private

       institutions and formations, which will offer moral, material and

       financial support to scientific and educational structures, express

       the opinion of society and business about results from their activity

        and discuss the status and development of investments. For that

        purpose it is necessary:

·        To set up at universities and scientific organisations voluntary public formations (consulting councils) with the participation of businessmen, prominent Bulgarian and foreign scholars, public figures, sponsors, former rectors and directors;

·        To creature normative regulations for setting up foundations and funds for support of research in specific fields;

·        That universities, on their own or in cooperation with the Union of Employers, found centres for monitoring the labour market to keep up relations with graduates of the university, to establish contacts with firms, which take care of the practical training of students before graduation.

 

5. PROTECTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC POTENTIAL IN

    BULGARIA

The underestimation of science by the government and the political parties during the entire period of transition had its strongly negative effect on the status of scholars and academic staff. Dealing with science receives no due public and media attention and is not the domain for professional realisation. Equipment for research is hopelessly outdated, which does not allow even fields of science in Bulgaria which have received recognition to keep up their level of competence. Salaries of scholars lag catastrophically behind European standards and there is no foreign scholar who would be willing to work in a Bulgarian state university or scientific organisation. The salaries are much lower than salaries in the state administration and state institutions where educational qualification and creative potentials are considerably lower. Bad conditions for research and miserable salaries are the main reasons for the brain drain, which permanently draws blood from Bulgaria’s science and industry. Many promising scholars leave the sphere of science and move to public administration or start their private business, often not related to their professional interests. Academic stuff is aging. The number of university lecturers with degrees and academic ranks under 40 is very small.

5.1 A concrete long-term policy for the professional development of scholars and

      university staff is necessary. The Programme for the Development of Scientific

      Potential, adopted by the National Assembly in March 2005, is only a promising

      beginning which, unfortunately, does not solve the most important problems of

      scholars. This Programme must be revised and expanded this year and must

       receive financial back-up. We find it necessary:

  • Salaries of scientists and university lecturers are raised with  10% as of July 1 and with another 25 % as of October 1; since the beginning of 2008 salaries of scientists and university lecturers must correspond to those of the managerial staff of the high levels of state administration and the necessary funds for that must be available;
  • To adopt a long-term programme to overcome the brain drain, to bring back to Bulgaria prominent scholars, to support young scholars (scientists, doctoral and MA students) and create conditions for them to work in the country;
  • To adopt unified minimal extra payments for holders of degrees irrespective of their place of employment as a criterion for degree of qualification until salaries of researchers and university lecturers become normal and correspond to their qualification and potential;
  • To introduce the requirement of a doctoral degree for positions in state administration as a criterion of qualification and abilities for analysis and proper use of information;
  • To increase with 50% the money in the budget allotted to procedures for assessment of scientific achievements, personnel, defence of doctoral theses, habilitations; limited financing today is among the major problems for young scholars and doctoral students, for scientific and educational institutions;
  • To adopt a programme for a drastic improvement of scientific environment, particularly its informational aspect – in its classical forms (libraries, journals, archives) and modern information technologies; it is necessary to build up a National Information System in service of institutions, organisations and firms, connected with science; it is economically effective to set up a national consortium, coordinated by a state institution, for a on-line access to the full text of periodicals.

5.2 Wide discussion and adoption of a law, resolving the whole complex of problems

       related to career development and mobility of scholars which corresponds to the

       Recommendations of the European Commission regarding the European

       Charter of Researchers and the Code of Conduct in the recruitment of

        researchers. This law must take care of:

a)      Problems with scientific degrees and academic ranks in the following cases:

·        Differentiation between academic rank and scientific position; the academic rank is given by an independent national institution while the position is occupied after a competition following rules specified by the university or the scientific organisation; this solves the problem of foreign scholars occupying a given position after acquiring their degree or rank in a foreign university;

·        Preservation of the existing system of degrees and speeding up the procedure of acquiring them; the doctoral degree must remain as obligatory for habilitation, while the degree of Doctor of Science/Letters must be a solid priority for Bulgarian scholars for acquiring the rank of professor;

·        Decetralisation of the acquisition of a doctoral degree;

·        Introduction of a two-tier system for acquiring the Doctor of Science/Letters degree and the academic ranks.

b)      Building a modernised independent national structure to replace the Supreme Attestation Commission, which:

·        Formulates criteria for acquiring scientific degrees and academic ranks;

·        Controls and aids the granting of degrees and ranks;

·        Considers appeals and functions as an arbiter between scholars and scientific councils;

·        Keeps up a national register of scientific degrees and academic ranks and updates every year the data about scholars;

·        Approvers specialised councils for granting the degree of Doctor of Science/Letters and the academic ranks;

·        Monitors, following the recommendations of the EU, the activities of employers, investors, university and scientific organisations in the application of the European Charter of Researchers.

c)      Building up a more transparent, just and widely recognised system for the selection and career development of scholars and lecturers as a prerequisite for a real European labour market for academic staff, which:

·        Removes legal and administrative obstacles for inter-branch, inter-organisational and international mobility of researchers and academic faculty;

·        Encourages interdisciplinary research and new scientific fields, overcomes narrow scientific specialisation;

·        Ensures maximal adaptation to basic principles of assessment and development of researchers and faculty in force in the countries of the EU; offers the possibility for foreign scholars to apply for positions at Bulgarian universities;

·        Introduces contemporary criteria for the evaluation of researchers and lecturers, which will form the basis for their regular attestation and their salaries;

·        Provides favourable conditions for joint research, education and application of universities, academic institutes and business;

·        Gives better quality to doctoral and post-doctoral studies, provides professional protection for doctoral students and young scholars, admits them to the management of organisations and their branches, which at the present are managed by aging scholars and university staff lacking creative activity and productivity.

5.3   Adopting unitary principles of assessment, stimulation and development of the

       scientific potential of the country. They will serve:

  • For universities and scientific organisations to work out their own standards of education, promotion and mobility, the accent being on contribution to the development of science and its application;
  • To introduce science-oriented indicators for assessment and attestation of researchers and lecturers including: publications with world currency, citations in prestigious journals; supervision of doctoral students; publication of university textbooks and materials for distant education; participation in projects and funds acquired through national and international programmes and business contracts; defended patents and other kinds of copyright;
  • To put an end to the practice of including in university senates, scientific and expert councils scholars who don’t have any publications in well known journals, no citations and no participation in research projects for the last five years.

5.4   Development and adoption by scientific and educational institution of a

       National Ethical Code as a means of prevention against negative phenomena in

       the field of science, of resolving conflicts in scientific communities, of protecting

       young promising scholars and for the establishment of research practices in

       conformity with the law.

 

6. SCIENCE, HIGHER EDUCATION AND BUSINESS

            There is no doubt that the scientific community, business and the state are the three points of the triangle, underlying the development of science and higher education. For the last few years the discussions among them have acquired harsh notes. Representatives of organisations of employers and liberally minded economists express their highly negative attitude to universities and the lack of scientific products that can be applied by them.

            Science and university education in the country have their problem. But their level of competence is by no means lower than that of Bulgarian business. There are sectors in the economy experiencing a shortage of qualifies personnel. This phenomenon exists in highly developed countries as well but they never blame universities alone for this state of things. The shortage of qualified workers is not a product of universities but a consequence of managerial incompetence in school and university education. Can we attribute the shortage of manual labour to them too? If the accusations of business were true, how could we explain the recognition of diplomas of hundreds of thousands of young Bulgarians in Europe and all over the world? Nearly 90 % of the graduates find jobs right away. The presence of unemployed with university education cannot always be explained with lack of vacant positions.

            The business has high requirements without being able to assess its own “contribution” to the present situation. Worldwide business forms the greater part of the GNP share allotted to science. In our country it is just the other way around – only 0, 1 %. The number of people engaged in research and development in the sphere of business is ten times lower as compared to the European countries. Over 92 % of the firms are small and middle enterprises, most of them are not members of employers’ organisations, the workers in them are not organised in trade unions and they have no points of contact with science. Almost 75 % of the small and middle enterprises spend no money on innovation and only 6, 6 % allocate funds to research. Only 9 % of the firms have partnerships with state and public research institutes. It is no wonder then that more than half of the firms have no intentions to apply with projects for the structural funds of the EU, according to the last study of the Ministry of Finance. In other words, the greater part of business has absolutely no connection with new technologies and innovations.

            The demands of business to have a decisive role in determining the subjects studies in universities are utterly ungrounded. Science, new technologies, innovations are risky enterprises but the pretences of business in Bulgaria to thrust the financial risk entirely into the hands of the state are unknown in the world.

            The following fact is very indicative. A proposal was made to exempt from taxation the part of profit reinvested for research, new technologies and innovations but employers’ organisations and the Bulgarian Industrial Association did not support special investments in science, a practice existing in many countries. At the same time they require reduction of all taxes and use of all free capital of their as they find suitable.

            Within the campaign of the Ministry of Finance connected with the EU funds the media publicised widely recommendations to business for the implementation of the funds by the chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Association. They don’t contain a word about science, new technologies and innovations as the major factor for competitiveness.

            The recommendations for facilitation of entrepreneurship, approved at the end of May 2007 and issued by the Governing Board of the Bulgarian Chamber of Trade and Industry, addressed to the state institutions, also have no mention of science and technologies, risk funds, protection of intellectual property.

            Business in Bulgaria, at least for the present, has neither the level of awareness nor the maturity to make use the achievements of science. It has no funds for big investments and does not plan any; it is not trying to unite its potential and financial resources and establish joint units with scientific organisations and universities. No doubt, there are leading companies in Bulgaria but they belong to foreign owners who came to the country with their know-how and their major task for the present is to find qualified human resources.

            Science, on its part, is also indebted to business. It must not wait to be invited by business but must market its products actively, show and prove the effect of their application. Not every scholar is able to give marketable form to his products and for that reason scientific organisations badly need managers in science and active forms for transfer of technology and innovations.

            The contribution of business to science and higher education can be assessed by means of:

  • Established specific institutes, research and development units, the  number of persons employed in them and the funds allotted to technology and innovation;
  • Competitions for the resolution of problems and development;
  • Contracts signed for cooperation with universities and scientific organisations;
  • Clusters created with the participation of universities and scientific organisations;
  • Number of scholars included in Boards of Directors and governing bodies;
  • Donations to universities and scientific organisations and sponsorship of research;
  • Establishment of innovative firms, laboratories and work groups on projects for EU structural funds together with universities and scientific organisations;
  • Grants for students and doctoral students and their involvement in the firm with the prospect of future employment;
  • Number of students accommodated for practical education, themes suggested for diploma and doctoral theses;
  • Attraction of scholars on part-time contracts as consultants or for the implementation of their products of interest for the firm;
  • Support from the user firms to patent or sustain a patent.

In the present situation relationships between science, higher education, business and society is fundamental. State institutions have the task to provide conditions and prerequisites for the effective functioning of these relationships without direct intervention in them. Finding a common language and effective forms of interaction is a necessary condition for progress and development.

 

7. CIVIL SOCIETY IN SCIENCE AND EDUCATION

            One of the most important manifestations of democracy is the functioning of a modern civil society. Much easier and faster, it makes obvious the weaknesses and failures in the functioning of the government. On the other hand, it contributes to the most effective employment of material, financial and labour resources, to finding the best solutions in the name of the progress of society.

            The Union of Scientists in Bulgaria is an important and competent component of civil society. Undertaking the obligation to work for the public benefit, it formulates as its major goal to create conditions for the normal and effective development of science and higher education – the most important factors for economic and social prosperity. Government authorities, business, scholars and public organisations must give an example of active and effective joint engagement in taking science to a priority position for the state and making higher education an active instrument for the education of knowledgeable and competent specialists able to solve problems of the country of tomorrow.

            The USB aims to generalise and give expression to the standpoint of the entire scientific community, to unite academic and university scholars, state and private scientific organisations. It attempts to protect specific interests of academic and university scholars without disregarding public interests and goals.

            The nihilistic attitude of state institutions to higher education and science for many years forced certain groups of the scientific community to demonstrate in the streets, to ask for higher salaries corresponding to their qualification and products. Scientists have never been and must not be treated as ordinary qualified workers. They must be paid well and have the necessary conditions to work in order to implement their full creative capacity in the prosperity of economy and society. Without adequate measures in this direction the brain drain will continue and no talented young scholars will remain in the country.

            The Union of Scientists in Bulgaria gives full support to the protest of the scientific community against the humiliating situation it is in. Unlike the protests of workers in different branches, the scientific community considers itself able to contribute to the resolution of its own problems if the necessary normative regulations are granted, if business in Bulgaria looks at science, technologies and innovations as a major factor for increasing profits, if the government implements the European and world practice of having its share in the stimulation of research and the adoption of new technologies and innovations.

            The USB initiated and is ready to broaden still further its interaction with NGOs, to contribute to the formation of an “academic civil society” in the sphere of science and higher education, which will assist the realisation of the aspirations of the scientific community and the goals of the to take its deserved equal position in the EU. The USB has the will and the capacity, together with other organisations concerned, to organise periodically public discussions on strategic and current problems of science and higher education.

            The USB is fully convinced that a tolerant and constructive dialogue between government, business, scientific organisations and NGOs is possible. The discussion must rest on facts, analyses and research, on transparency in relationships and on mutual respect.

            We need a change in the government policy and a guarantee that all representatives of civil society take part in the discussion of programmes, strategies, bills and managerial decisions concerning various groups of the population. This process must find place for organisations of the civil society directly concerned and not only organisations of employers and employees, which in some cases have a doubtful number of members. Particularly underestimated are organisations of civil society which have proclaimed goals for the public interest. The provisions of the Law of Legal Non-commercial Bodies for preferences granted to such organisations are long forgotten. Privileged are NGOs with foreign donors, in some cases with a political touch, as well as organisations founded by the state or supported by it. The NGOs voicing the interests of specific strata of society and exerting pressure on the authorities, as different from trade unions, get no cooperation, no material conditions for their existence, they are absent in legal acts as possible partners in cooperation. Very indicative is the fact that such NGOs, representatives of major scientific centres and universities, are not present at all in the Committee for Monitoring the National Strategic Reference Framework despite the fact that we are talking about knowledge-based economy.

            The web-sites of most state institutions contain a lot of information about official events but there is no mention of the latest ideas and strategies, with their authors, motivation and terms for discussion, no invitations for such discussions, no answers to fundamental problems. It must be clearly and categorically stated that transparency in the acts of state institutions is not only a factor in the improvement of administrative services but also a factor in broadening the scope of activity of NGOs, reducing the level of corruption and the “grey economy”, a factor for promoting investments and creating confidence in ordinary people and businessmen.

            Democratic social structures and public dialogue outside the parliament and the official meetings are the strongest instruments of democracy and the key to incorporating people into the strategic goals of the country.

            The administrative control in its totalitarian version as proclaimed by government institutions is not applicable to science and higher education. This is a sphere which offers all opportunities for the democratic participation of scholars in the resolution of their problems and the introduction of control based on publicity and market mechanisms.  

     

THE WAY OUT – CONSENSUS AND ENERGETIC JOINT ACTIONS

            In its nature, the Memorandum is the only public document in the country after its accession to the EU, which jointly discusses the problems of science and higher education, without political bias, without cover up for the deeds of legislative and executive authorities, without the separation between academic and university science, without passing over weaknesses in universities and scientific organisations, without disregarding the apathy and indifference of business to research.

            With this second edition of its Memorandum the USB aims at formulating the major problems before state institutions, the management of universities and scientific organisations, before business, that could be resolved with the support and the help of the scientific community. This picture of the problems is drawn through the prism of our membership in the EU, with the desire that Bulgaria holds a much higher position in the comparative statistics of the Union so that Bulgarians are not ashamed of their country.

            The complex approach requires that evaluations and recommendations in the Memorandum are based on the competence of both parts of the community. A number of specific proposals getting the general approval of the community are provided. However, the document cannot offer concrete solutions to all the problems of science and higher education described in it. It would be better if concrete solutions and their normative settlement is the result of the joint actions of scholars, government officials and businessmen.

            The scientific community extends a hand. We hope that the Commission on Education and Science of the national Assembly, other state institutions, and business organisations will accept this hand so that the necessary conditions for the development of science, higher education and innovations in the country as the major factor in the development of knowledge-based economy and society in Bulgaria will soon be a fact.

 

 

The Memorandum was adopted by the General Assembly of Proxies and the Governing Board of the Union of Scientist in Bulgaria

July 2007