Prof Evgeni Stanimirov, PhD, rector, manages a university that provides top-quality education
The University of Economics – Varna has the deserved reputation of one of Bulgaria's finest institutions for higher education. Established more than 100 years ago, it confidently adapts to the global changes in education and business and prepares its students to be informed, proactive professionals and entrepreneurs. This is why the University of Economics – Varna is popular among both Bulgarian and foreign students. This is the reason why we met with Prof Evgeni Stanimirov, PhD. A graduate of the University of Economics – Varna, he became its vice-rector in 2011, and 2 years ago he took office as its rector.
You took the reins of University of Economics – Varna 2 years ago. What is your recapitulation?
My understanding of management is linked to concrete results. This is why we started with setting priorities, goals and criteria that fit our resources.
In coordination with our clearly declared vision to be an educational centre that is creative, entrepreneuring and brings real value to society, we became a hub for development of entrepreneurship culture for both our students and the region's business ecosystem.
In the past 5 years, 104 of our students started their own business while still at university. We encourage their entrepreneurial "appetite" with an excellent environment for generation and support of innovative ideas, business trainings and business events. We created our own accelerator UEVA (University of Economics Varna Accelerator) for development of our students' entrepreneurial initiatives. All of this is possible thanks to the support of our business partners.
The focus on digitalisation is bringing results in different fields of our work. We started a YouTube channel (Career Academy) for students and businesses, and a media studio where we realised projects like Digital Force Week and participation in conferences connected to business consulting, tourism, construction entrepreneurship. We continue to develop a unique innovative system for cooperation with the business (UEBN). Over 19,000 users are registered in it, including over 2,200 businesses that offer our students internships and jobs.
In short, we aim to scale each of our goals and to intelligently manage its realisation.
What were the biggest challenges you had to deal with and what are your goals for the future?
The main challenge was the Covid-19 pandemic. How did we manage? We organised adequate hybrid and online education. A week after the lockdown started we already had 1,700 virtual classes, and by the end of the second week – over 15,000 virtual sessions. During the lockdown semester, in a matter of days, we created about 500 e-courses, provided over 28,000 digital resources to students and held about 90,000 video meetings. We succeeded because we have 13 years of experience in providing digital education for regular form students.
Another challenge is to constantly analyse and update the procedures and standards for work in a dynamic environment. Along with artificial intelligence we aim to develop natural intelligence as well. Because informational technologies are nothing without quality people.
As a rector I aim to provoke my team and to work together on a wide front of activities. Our strategy is towards entrepreneurship, digitalisation, internationalisation, research and corporate social responsibility. We register excellent and measurable results in each of these directions.
Why do Bulgarian students choose University of Economics – Varna?
In the past 3 years the places in the university are full 105-110%. The reasons are complex. The main ones are our unique curriculum and professors. This helps our graduates to adapt to the real business environment at rates comparable to those in the EU. A survey among 400 managers discovered that 12% of our students adapt to the work environment within 2 weeks; 21% – within 3 weeks; 40% – within 1 to 3 months, and the rest – within 6 months.
The University of Economics – Varna offers education on a par with that of the best international educational institutions. Our academic documentation is synchronised with the one of the world's educational leaders. Over 40% of our professors consult or have their own business, which makes our education very practically oriented and based on solving business cases.
The opportunity the students have for career orientation in the most innovative centre of this type in Bulgaria and the access to over 2,200 companies for internships and jobs, is yet another advantage. We teach our students to recognise business opportunities, we encourage them to think that they can change the world around them if they want to. We have master's certificate classes (IT, Leadership and Talent Management) that improve qualification and help students to start their career.
Many foreign students also choose the university. How do you attract them?
The process of internalisation is indeed encouraging. We have over 300 foreign students from 30 countries and we partner via Erasmus+ Programme with over 250 universities in 52 countries. The feedback from foreign students is strongly positive. They see us as an innovative institution with a high-level of personalisation of education. In the past 2 years we scored a 500% increase in mobility connected to the Erasmus+ Programme.
What international partnerships do you develop?
The University of Economics – Varna has 5 educational programmes with double degree diplomas with universities in Germany, Finland, Russia and India. Our partnership contracts include an action plan for the realisation of the ideas around which we are consolidated. This protects us from the risk of the agreement becoming "on paper" only.
We are the fourth point of support for practical training for students in two programmes of Nottingham Business School. We are also proud of our contacts with Stanford University (California) in the field of entrepreneurship. We organised here a training in entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity, and our students and assistants were certified by Stanford University.
In July 2021, we became Bulgaria's first university that hosted the congress of the coordinators of Erasmus+ Programme (ERACON).
Varna, 77 Knyaz Boris I Blvd 77
+359 52 800 890