- We will train engineers in medicine and aviation with other higher schools, says Prof. Miglena Temelkova, Rector of the Higher School of Telecommunications and Posts (VUTP)
- Within a year or two we will offer students a double degree program with some of the most attractive technical universities in Germany
- Our partners from Israel screen applicants to study cyber security
And more highlights in the interview:
Already this year, we are launching joint programs with the universities of Plovdiv and Pleven on telemedicine and software programming in medicine
Bulgarian higher education education will be forced to introduce the “learn while working” model
Engineers who have a license and can repair the medical equipment that is increasingly used in treatment can be counted on the fingers
– Prof. Temelkova, in July, changes were adopted in the Law on Higher Education, which regulate joint majors between several universities. What does this mean in practice and why was it important for your university to adopt these rules?
– The adoption of the new rules gave us the opportunity to start the joint programs with the two medical universities – those in Pleven and Plovdiv on telemedicine and software programming in medicine and those with the air force school in Dolna Mitropolia on communication systems for air transport . There was huge interest in them even at the time of their development. This opens the way to the creation of a globally valued connection between the various universities, which is missing in Bulgaria.
This is a completely new approach to work that will become a guiding principle within a few years. University networking, in which each higher education institution uses its best capacity, is a hit everywhere. It builds on the “Erasmus+” program and makes it possible at the local level to obtain a diploma issued simultaneously by two or more universities.
– Why is studying between several universities attractive to prospective students? How is it implemented?
– It is attractive because it is niche and precisely concentrated in areas where there is a demand for specialists with specific interdisciplinary skills and where the business gives extremely attractive remunerations due to the acute shortage of personnel. Unemployment there is unthinkable, and salaries start at a few thousand BGN.
The specificity of this training is that the participating universities are involved in it in their areas of specialization and students study topics from two or three areas of science – specifically in our case it is medicine and aviation together with IT knowledge.
– Telemedicine, software design in medicine, communication systems for the organization of air transport. What are these majors and what will students study?
– Engineers in medicine are lacking and this is a tangible niche in the labor market. These are the engineers of the future – those who ensure the maintenance, programming and even the creation of the technologies used in medicine. These engineers will have a basic knowledge of medicine and deep competencies in information technology. Engineers organizing airspace on the basis of communication systems are also in short supply around the world.
These are specialists with broad knowledge and competences in the field of connectivity with 5G technologies, who have basic knowledge in aviation.
Our specialties “Digital Entrepreneurship” and “Digital Public Administration” are new. Without which electronic management is impossible.
– Where can the graduates of these specialties find employment and what remuneration would they receive?
– I am convinced that these specialties will be an absolute hit in a few years. Currently, the number of engineers who are licensed and able to repair the increasingly widely used medical equipment can be counted on the fingers. Hospitals even in Great Britain and Germany wait weeks for such an expert to be released before he can make a commitment to them. There are hardly any people with such skills in Bulgaria and it is necessary to send employees from the manufacturing companies from the other side of the world.
The prices that are paid for their services are literally cosmic. In terms of air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel of sophisticated communication avionics, as well as airport managers and air traffic controllers, the situation is similar – you see what the situation is at the world’s airports this summer – hundreds of canceled flights.
These are specialists for whom, due to their shortage, several competing companies are bidding among themselves. This makes the starting fees very high. They quickly reach five figures monthly.
– Are you the first to pave the way for this mix between different sciences and knowledge in education?
– We are the first to introduce it as our main direction of work. Most Bulgarian universities are supporters of classical education, which, however, turns out to be too narrow for the needs of the dynamic and rapidly changing labor market.
We have focused on what young people are looking for – fast-moving knowledge and skills that will enable them, even while still studying, to start their careers, and in the highest-income areas of the country. This has become the trademark of our graduate school.
– On Saturday, you open the new school year and welcome President Rumen Radev. You are also expecting the ambassadors of the USA, Russia, South Korea, Italy, Germany and France. What makes the university so interesting?
– We accept the presence of President Radev as an assessment of what we have done in the last few years. It is a legitimation of the quality of our work and the efforts made. Our relationships with the ambassadors of the world’s leading education and technology superpowers is an avenue we use to establish contacts with the world’s leading universities and joint degree pairings with them.
In a year or two, we will offer Bulgarian students a double degree program with one of the most attractive technical universities in Germany.
The condition of being accepted as a partner there is that you unconditionally introduce the standards of German quality and discipline. The French Embassy assists in pairing diplomas with some of the most innovative French IT universities, which are looking for partners in the Balkans due to the boom in the software industry in our country. However, our biggest challenge is Korea. We will send our representatives to the big education expo in Seoul in November to try to establish a partnership with the higher schools there as well.
What is happening in the education market in the Far East is something incredible. European educational institutions are already seriously lagging behind their Korean, Japanese and Chinese competitors. This is, without exaggeration, a vast world and a completely new level of learning. For us, it will be a standard for the quality of our work if we manage to get involved in it. Korea is an innovative educational destination and our work with its embassy is very advanced.
– Your students study cyber security – a specialty that is particularly relevant. Where can they be implemented and how will you comment on the hacker attack against “Bulgarian Post” a few months ago?
– Our cybersecurity program is also a product of our international cooperation. It was developed on the model of the Israeli Directorate of Cyber Security, and for this delicate area, the world gold standard is set there.
The influx of candidate students for it is extremely strong, in practice several dozen young people are fighting for one place.
They are periodically sifted due to the very high requirements of our partners. The work is organized in modern simulation centers for cyber attack and cyber defense at the highest technological level, which are not found anywhere else in Bulgaria. The training is in English and is carried out by specialists who are responsible for the security of telecommunications and computer systems in a country that is far ahead of everyone else in this field.
We also partner with Bulgarian institutions. The reason for a large part of the failures in the investigations of such crimes is precisely the technological and scientific superiority of those on the other side of the barricade. What happened to “Bulgarian Post”, which has been our partner for years, since we were founded in 1881, is a symptomatic example of this. You can’t go to war with 20th century weapons against the latest in technology. It is this gap that Bulgarian education must fill.
– The chairman of the board of rectors, Academician Lachezar Traikov, indicated among his priorities the creation of joint ventures between universities and businesses, which would play the role of academic business incubators. Are you working in this direction?
– Academician Traikov receives our full support for the realization of this idea. She is even very late. Since we work in symbiosis with business, we could write a whole book about the difficulties of the relationship between our higher education system and the requirements of our partners. The lack of a place where the two systems meet is obvious. The need – even more. The “study while you work” model has already become established in the practice of our higher education institution, and higher education will be forced to accept it, because otherwise it will have to go against the attitudes of young people in society. It is necessary to look for positives from the negatives of this model and the students, at least in the applied sciences, such as the social sciences, humanities and those related to information technologies, should find their employers precisely in such joint centers, where part of their practical training will also take place . Business, for its part, must find an incentive to work together with universities, to build the personnel it needs on its own, and not just to complain that universities and their programs are ineffective and hopelessly outdated.
Joint practical scientific developments solving specific tasks also have a place in the work portfolio of such structures. They function at large Western universities, and for the structure of the Bulgarian economy, they will be a panacea for solving regional, personnel and scientific development problems and will probably make it much more competitive than high technology centers, which also have their place, but they cannot replace them.
- Prof. Miglena Temelkova is the first female rector in the history of the Higher School of Telecommunications and Posts and the youngest female rector among her colleagues in Bulgaria
- She graduated in finance at the University of Economics in Varna and law at the VTU “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”
- She specialized in international commercial law and international business at the “Dimitar Tsenov” Academy of Economics and leadership at Georgetown University – Washington
- There are over 50 publications in the field of digital leadership, controlling, cyber-physical production systems and additive manufacturing in Bulgarian, English, German and Russian