The National Academy of Music “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” has been working on the main synchronization tasks defined in the Bologna Declaration since the period 1999-2000. – three-level form of education, European credit transfer system /since 2006/, European diploma supplement.

The European Commission’s ERASMUS+ program is a key tool in the process of implementing all plans of institutions in the field of higher education. Established 35 years ago to facilitate academic contacts between universities in Western Europe and given an acceleration by the launch of the Bologna Process, today it is an integral part of any international cooperation strategy at all educational levels. Over the years, it has come a long way in improving, consolidating, enriching its arsenal of means, and today the program is an indispensable financial, organizational, strategic and structural determining factor in all directives of the European Commission in the field of education, as well as an experimental field for innovative ideas that after being “tested” on its territory, become a common policy of the Union.

In the last years of the 2014-2020 programming period, one of the lines of the program, namely “Strategic Partnerships”, was reshaped and developed as the “European Universities” idea, the main principles of which were laid down in all projects for the future development of education in the member countries of The European Union.

NAM has been an active participant in the ERASMUS Sectoral Program since the beginning of 2009. A strategy was developed for its successful implementation. The main goal was to give our students the opportunity to develop their potential, to get acquainted with European pedagogical and concert practices, to expand their horizons. The teachers in the National Academy of Music should be provided with the implementation of the numerous existing creative contacts abroad. The main policy of the NAM in the period after 2009 is to strive not so much for a quantitative increase in contracts, but to conclude only with the most renowned institutions for music education in Europe.

The circle of responsible persons was determined – ERASMUS coordinator, the secretariats of the faculties of the National Academy of Music, the Vice Rector for academic activities and current financial control. All inter-institutional agreements are signed by the Rector of the NAM.

The ERASMUS coordinator conducts a study of potential partners, correspondence and negotiations, contractual documentation between HEIs and NAM, individual contracts with individual students and teachers, all financial reports, monitoring of mobilities.

Dean’s Offices monitor the compliance of the Learning Agreement for student mobilities with the NAM curriculum for the specific period and specialty and initial the Academic References and the Learning Agreement. An accounting officer monitors and stores all contractual and financial documentation for the program.

In the 100-year history of the NAM, proposals for creative cooperation with European and non-European institutions have been extremely numerous due to the large number of graduates of the NAM with a global career, who popularized the Bulgarian music-pedagogical school. Many of them were until recently hampered by the lack of resources to finance the activities. It is the ERASMUS program that provides an adequate financial framework for the realization of already existing creative contacts. Behind each of these contracts are real contacts and plans for future cooperation Geographically, the agreements cover all regions of the European Community – Bulgaria’s neighboring countries – Turkey and Romania, on the other hand – Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary to the north and east, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy to the west and south, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark in the north.

Student mobility is placed first in importance when implementing the ERASMUS program at the National Academy of Music. The strategy for working with students is based on the individual approach, which naturally complements the personalized nature of music education in general. Selection criteria were drawn up in order to have the best and most linguistically prepared students participate in the mobilities. Participants are representatives of all three degrees of study, as an advantage is given to Masters and Doctoral students. The criteria are announced on information boards in the NAM and on the website. The main documents – the Application and the Learning Agreement are very carefully drawn up with each student individually, especially the part about the required credits during the mobility. In accordance with the specifics of the musical art, a video clip is prepared with the student’s performances, which is sent to the host institution, where the student is subjected to a “second selection”. The documents are prepared by the Coordinator and the Faculty secretariats. Assistance and coordination is provided to find suitable accommodation during mobility, student insurance is monitored.

During the mobility, the ERASMUS office is ready to respond to any problem or question that arises. After the student’s return, he submits a confirmation and an Transcript of records, against which the acquired credits are automatically recognized. Mobility is duly reflected in the Diploma Supplement as an integral part of the Diploma. The aspiration in the future is to increase student mobility, by making attempts to involve students in more significant projects – incl. those of scientific value.
Teaching mobility under the ERASMUS program is an excellent opportunity to develop already existing creative contacts, as well as search for new horizons for the exchange of pedagogical experience and popularization of the Bulgarian musical tradition. Most teachers at NAM have an excellent knowledge of one of the three most common languages ​​in the Community, so the Master’s and lecture courses they conduct at the partner institutions are extremely successful. The students arriving on ERASMUS + mobilities have the right to participate in the Bulgarian language courses, depending on their level, and for additional language training inside or outside the institution in the period preceding the mobility provided by the program.

A communication strategy is an important part of the successful implementation of any European program. Continuous efforts are being made to develop the NAM ‘s capabilities in this direction – updated website, regular information submitted on social networks where we have active profiles, timely response and feedback to users.

Internationally, bearing in mind the individual approach when working with the participants in relevant events, it is necessary to search for flexible methods of communication with particular persistence.

In a permanent activity, priorities are always identified, which are particularly relevant in a given period. Such is the special emphasis on building and expanding ties with related HEIs in the Balkan region, both among EU members and outside them. Contacts were established with the heads of music academies and music faculties to the universities in Serbia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Turkey, Greece, and specific proposals were made to them regarding the preparation and implementation of various forms of cooperation, such as groups and formations with the participation of representatives of related HEIs, to act on a permanent basis.

Naturally, the NAM also has numerous contacts with countries and institutions outside the EU – the USA, Brazil, the Russian Federation, South Korea, China, Macedonia, etc. , from where most foreign students come, following a full course of study, as well as short-term specializations. Our teachers are often invited to hold master classes and concert activities. Only limited funding prevents these relations from developing adequately to the interest in them. In the new program period 2021-2027, it is possible, under certain conditions, to carry out outbound mobilities with countries outside the EU, which the NAM intends to take full advantage of. NAM is currently not involved in international cooperative projects in the EU or outside the EU. Regardless of this, opportunities are being actively sought to include the institution as a partner, and why not as a coordinator in projects with a regional focus / eg. Danube and Balkan regions/ or in scientific projects with the aim of developing new curricula. We continue to explore opportunities to initiate or engage in such projects.

We strive for full use of the resources and opportunities offered by the ERASMUS+ program in the preparation and research of the most suitable, tailored to the specifics of the specific university, forms of joint educational activity – master’s degrees, issuance of common diplomas, master classes. The development of the idea of ​​closer cooperation between European universities, creation of university networks, sharing of resources, good practices, management and teaching capacity is continuously monitored. In such cases, institutions such as the NAM are always faced with certain difficulties related to the specifics of training in musical disciplines, which in many cases cannot correspond to the standardized postulates and procedures in the directives of the European Commission. Therefore, it is a daily concern of the persons responsible for this to discuss, propose and consult before the administrations at a higher, even European level, their views on the most fruitful and flexible approach in the application of the general idea to the concrete reality of a musical educational institution.

Participation in international programs and specifically in the Erasmus+ program extremely contributes to the development of the institution, its opening to good practices at the European and global level, the aspiration to provide increasingly better material, technical and programmatic conditions for a modern education. This gave a strong MODERNIZATION push and an increase in the QUALITY of teaching in the otherwise considered conservative music institution. The presence of certain administrative and financial order in the program also has a very positive effect. ERASMUS makes it possible to study practice in other higher education institutions abroad – some with a long history – without having to interrupt studies, retake exams and other accompanying problems. Adding the financial support, it turns out that ERASMUS has found a very good and fruitful way for mutual learning of teaching practices in European universities. This makes the stay of students and teachers abroad under the program particularly useful.

Regardless of the fact that the Bulgarian musical and performing arts is well known all over the world and the graduates of the NAM received wide recognition even before the existence of the ERASMUS program, the participation of our students and teachers in it gives them much wider and richer opportunities – for contacts with view THEIR FUTURE CAREER as musicians, to gain insight into the way of thinking, work and practices in Europe, to advertise Bulgarian musical talent, to increase the attractiveness of the Academy as a leading musical institution in Bulgaria. This also helps to ATTRACT MORE STUDENTS wishing to study at NAM.

Students return with a broadened horizon, many new professional contacts, many new ideas and plans for the future career. A distinct plus is the extraordinary IMPROVEMENT OF THE LEVEL OF PROFICIENCY OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES. They get an opportunity to reassess their qualities and to strengthen their professional self-esteem. Since NAM has been working “for export” for many years and a large part of its graduates get their professional realization abroad, the ERASMUS program particularly successfully supports this process.

By participating in it, the COMPETITIVENESS of our students on the European music labor market increases. They are also encouraged to participate in upskilling activities at host institutions that the NAM cannot currently offer. This increases the impact of the program.

In the ERASMUS program at this stage, mainly those with extensive international experience and a perfect knowledge of foreign languages ​​participate as outgoing teachers. In our opinion, the importance of their activity in foreign higher schools has a huge ADVERTISING THE BULGARIAN MUSIC AND PEDAGOGICAL SCHOOL EFFECT in front of the partners.

Along with this, it is a way for the individuals themselves to reassert themselves in the international arena, contributes to their professional and pedagogical development, becomes an occasion to receive recognition, new invitations for future projects – teaching and executive.

NAM actively strives to work on the new priorities of the ERASMUS+ program in the period 2021-2027, namely on inclusion of people with disabilities, social and economic obstacles, cultural differences, geographical isolation, etc. with the means of musical art and collaboration. A big role in this process is also played by the progressive digitization of the program in which the NAM participates, with the aim of maximally facilitating the work with all participants. The pursuit of an active social position as European citizens is embedded in all mobility activities and in the future plans for wider consolidation between HEIs in our area.