- What is the Black Sea Universities Network?
The Black Sea Universities Network has been initiated as an inter-university cooperation framework for the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. It has been founded in June 1998 when the rectors and representatives of more than 60 universities met in Constanta and agreed on the principles that have to govern a cooperation platform where the members of the academic community might feel an extension of their University. For this reason, the structure should be flexible, without additional bureaucracy. The decision was to develop an Ad-Hoc International Organization. For this purpose, it has been drafted a Charter (BSUN Statute) and the Universities that accept the provisions of this document are passing over a simple procedure and become a BSUN Member. As long as the decision structure of a certain member university considers that is a benefit for the University to continue as a member in the network being involved in different activities the membership continues. For getting out of the network, the procedure requires just a notification on behalf of the member university. So, the benefits for the member universities are the opportunities to interact with the member universities, to propose projects, to be invited in projects or different activities, to take the benefit of lobbying activities. But, it is up to each member university to take the benefits of the existing opportunities within the network.
- How is BSUN functioning?
The activities of the Network might be described at two layers: at the layer of member universities, there are two patterns: BSUN Consortium and BSUN Centre. The BSUN Consortium is a cluster of several universities that are interested at a specific moment on a topic like a study program or a research topic. I shall give the example of the recent request of a University from Zonguldak, Turkey. They have identified that it is an opportunity for their region to develop a study program on health tourism. They sent the request to the Secretariat, we have made a survey between the members and identified the universities with experience in similar programs and also, get in touch with an association of naturopaths from Germany. The association recommended us several Universities from Germany that are working in this field. We have passed the available information and at present we are in the process of assisting the above mentioned University to select the members and to establish the consortium on health tourism. For the second pattern I shall give also an example: In 2004, the rector of Baku State University approached us with an interest to develop in his university a Research Centre on Nanotechnologies. We have worked with them in the identification of suitable models in the member Universities, in the EU and USA. We had contacts at the level of European Commission and NATO Science for Peace and Security Program for the identification of available funds and after many years of efforts, at present, in Baku there is a reference research centre that is developing cooperation with other BSUN member universities and partners from all around the world.
At the level of the BSUN as an organization, it is the role of the General Assembly / Conference of Rectors from the Black Sea Region to evaluate strategic objectives and to define a framework program. Based on this program, the Executive Board and the Presidential Troika is identifying priority projects and activities.
Based on the priorities defined by the General Assembly there are initiated contacts with international organization, possible funding sources for matching the BSUN priorities with the interests of funding programs for education, scientific research or international cooperation.
Recently we had an official visit to Brussels, developing contacts with European University Association, European Commission and NATO Science Program and we have arrived to a portfolio of joint projects that are going to be implemented in the coming period. Beside of these two levels there are the scales of cooperation between individual professors and students and also the participation of the Network in partnership with other networks and international initiatives as the United Nation “Academic Impact” Initiative.
- Who is the President of BSUN?
The position of the President of the Network is defined in the BSUN Statute as an elected position. There is a Nomination Committee that is appointed by the Executive Board and the Committee submits the proposals to the General Assembly.
Between 1998-2000, President of the BSUN was Prof. Adrian Bavaru, Rector of „Ovidius” University of Constantza; between 2000-2002, the position was held by Prof. Suha Sevuk - Rector of the Middle East Technical University, Ankara; between 2002-2004 the position was held by Prof. Abel Maharramov, Rector of the Baku State University - Azerbaijan, between 2004-2006 the position was held by Acad. Ioan Bostan, Rector of Technical University of Moldova, between 2008-2010 the position was held by Prof. Mychailo Zgurovsky, Rector of the National Technical University, „KPI”- Kiev and between 2010-2012, the position was held by Prof. Dmitry Livanov, Rector of National University of Science and Technology “MISIS” form Moscow.
During the BSUN 2012 Congress, that was organized in Tirana between 16-19 May, 2012, the members of the Conference of Rector from the Black Sea Region have elected Acad. Jorgaq Kacani as the President in office, for the mandate 2012-2014.
- Which are the BSUN priorities?
The methodological approach for the cooperative activities has been approved in the BSUN 2008 Congress held in Kiev. In this perspective, there are brainstorming activities in the preparatory phase of the BSUN ordinary Congress and there are identified priorities which are debated during the session of the Congress.
This year in Tirana there were identified the following priorities:
- Supporting the efforts of BSUN member universities in the process of reform of Higher Education and integration in the European Higher Education Area;
- Strengthening the university autonomy;
- Improvement of quality of education and quality culture within Member University;
- Supporting the focusing of education processes on students;
- Exchange of best practices in the field of qualifications’ framework.
Regarding the cooperation topics for scientific research, the General Assembly approved the following priority themes:1. Sustainable Development
2. Networking on Innovation and Knowledge Transfer
3. Energy Security & Renewable Energy Sources
4. Advanced & Multifunctional Materials
5. IT&C - Networking & High Performance Computing
6. E-health & Telemedicine
7. Social & Cultural Cohesion in the BSR
For each priority subject there are assigned responsible persons that work together with the representatives of interested universities and identify projects of interest for the BSUN members.
The process follows both top-down and bottom-up approaches. As an example, a university in Ukraine proposed a topic for research on the detection of underwater toxic deposits that have been left in the Soviet Union period. Based on this proposal, there are identified interested partners, there is defined a concept, there are identified funding resources and the process continue with follow-up activities until the implementation of the project.
- How is it the Network financed?
The financing of the Network might be split in 3 main chapters: the membership fees that are collected on a yearly base by the International Permanent Secretariat, the subsidies from different governments (as an example, the Romanian Government allocated every year a support of an amount of 80.000 Euros for the activities of the Secretariat) and the third chapter of incomes are funds dedicated to individual projects by different donors and funding organizations.
- What is the added value of the Network for the universities?
The added value of the Network might be defined from different perspectives as followings:
- The first perspective is for the individual universities to get support in addressing the needs of the market. As an example, in Romania, three years ago, has been defined a very favourable framework for projects on renewable energy sources and as a consequence, for the region of Constanta, where there is a very good potential on wind energy, it was a boom of investment projects and the investors were looking for engineers and experts to implement and operate these projects.The “Ovidius” University of Constantza developed a cluster with four other universities from Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova, and with the joint efforts it was possible to organize a very high quality MSc Program on Renewable Energy Sources which is accredited at the moment as the “BSUN Joint Master Degree Program on the Management of Renewable Energy Sources – ARGOS”. This program is delivered by the whole group of five universities, addressing the market needs of each university.
- The second perspective is in the area of transferring best quality academic programs from one university to another. In this mandate, we are initiating a process to facilitate different form of joint ventures between universities form partnerships to franchising models.
- The third perspective is the access of professors and students to the most developed facilities for education and scientific research of the other universities, as it was described above.
- Another perspective is the representation and lobbying capacity, because the position of a grouping of universities can be expressed at the highest levels of decision makers. In the case of BSUN we are participating to different sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Cooperation and to the United Nations, in the areas related to higher education, scientific research and sustainable development. But besides of all this aspects, is the relation between professors and students that are facilitated by different activities and are contributing to understanding each other and preparing the ground for peace and welfare in our region.
- How is the Network involved in European Higher Education Area?
The BSUN is an affiliated member to the European University Association since 2003. In this framework, there were developed joint activities in the field of quality management within the universities, evaluation of the situation of higher education and participation to the position papers of EUA. Since the beginning, BSUN is collaborating with other similar organization like Baltic University Program, Mediterranean University Association, Eurasian Universities Association and Caspian Universities Association. Jointly with these organizations, there were organized conferences, seminars and cooperation on different projects. Regularly, the delegations of BSUN are visiting the national authorities, presidents of states and members of the European Commission.
Based on the above mentioned activities, we are building a reputation for BSUN and try to aggregate to positions of the universities from the Black Sea Region in order to be taken into consideration within the EU structures.