The new academic year 2016/2017 was officially opened at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. According to tradition, at the beginning of the solemn ceremony the Rector of Sofia University and the members of the Academic Council of Alma mater laid flowers at the monuments of Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev.
The official ceremony held in the Aula was attended by Ms Meglena Kuneva, Vice PM and Minister of Education and Science, Mr Krasimir Kiryakov, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Professor Lyuben Totev, Chairman of the Council of Rectors of the High Academic Institutions in this country, Messrs. Yanaki Stoilov and Yavor Haitov, Vice-chairpersons of Parliament, Mr Borislav Velikov, deputy chairperson of the parliamentary Education and Science Commission, Associate Professor Dr Lilyana Vulcheva, Chairperson of the National Branch Syndicate for High Academic Education and Science at the Confederation of Independent Syndicates in Bulgaria, Associate Professor Mihail Gruev, Chairperson of the Archives State Agency, rectors of high academic institutions, ambassadors, faculty, students and guests.
The ceremony was opened by the Rector of the oldest Bulgarian high academic institution, Professor Dr. Habil Anastas Gerdzhikov, who pointed out that for the past 128 years Sofia University has built the nucleus of the Bulgarian cultural elite and played a significant role in the Bulgarian contribution to the global development of science and education. Professor Gerdzhikov added that Sofia University had been called to preserve, enrich and pass through the centuries the stock of knowledge and human aspiration to science and truth.
The Rector pointed out that Sofia University was proud not only of its traditions but also of the quality of its teaching and research work. “The results of the ranking system of the high academic institutions in this country that employs such criteria as the realization of graduates and scientific achievements of the institution, place Sofia University at the top in all professional domains that the educational system offers, and are yet another proof that Alma mater is the best because of you – its talented students and dedicated faculty“, Professor Gerdzhikov said.
The Rector of Sofia University remarked that for the past few years the crisis and the hatred have exerted tremendous influence for the negative trends existing in the educational system of this country and pointed that the proverbial penury and the long-term policy of the state to stimulate quantity at the expense of quality had brought to a decline of quality in the country’s high academic institutions. Professor Gerdzhikov said that in spite of all that many Bulgarian universities had preserved their traditions and their alumni had done well both in this country and abroad.
In the words of Sofia University’s Rector, recently, the policy of the state ha been stimulating quality and had been aimed at implementing a life-saving reform in the domain of high academic education. “Not to acknowledge the achievements of these universities and the efforts of the state is an act of pessimism and a fresh example of the national pessimism raging in us“, he pointed out.
In his official address Professor Gerdzhikov mentioned that for the past academic year Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” had improved its rating by 50 positions in the QS World University Rankings and had been positioned amongst the first 700 most prestigious universities of the world. Sofia University is the first Bulgarian university which was listed in the other most reputable world ranking system this year, that of the Times Higher Education. The Rector pointed out that if a university is amongst the first 700 or 800 of 20 000 universities, that means that it stands amongst the top 4 % in the world.
Professor Dr. Habil Anastas Gerdzhikov remarked that the oldest academic institution in this country hosts 10 % of the Bulgarian students who pursued their studies in buildings that were monuments of culture; they won awards at national and international competitions and achieved significant scientific and research results. In his speech he underlined that Sofia University had the highest achievements in this country, too, and its faculty were awarded the national Pythagoras prize for science and participated successfully in European educational and scientific projects.
The Rector mentioned also the fact that the University Library was the second biggest in the country and the one most frequently visited, and Sofia University was also a center of cultural and spiritual life with more than 1000 events that took place within its premises annually.
“Sofia University is what a university should be – a temple of science, knowledge, education and spirituality“, Professor Gerdzhikov said and noted that Alma mater’s successes would not have been possible had it not been for the efforts of faculty and administration, the educational and scientific achievements, the dedication, erudition and friendly atmosphere.
“I am full of optimism for the development of the University during the next academic year and I am convinced that it will be the turning point that will lead us to dignified work in better conditions and with more opportunities for self-realization of your high potential“, Professor Gerdzhikov stressed.
In his speech the Rector addressed also the first year students and noted that their first step in the University is both a mystery and a miracle. He recalled his own memories of entering Alma mater for the first time. Professor Gerdzhikov appealed to his youngest colleagues to make the best of the years spent behind the walls of the University, do their utmost in the acquisition of skills and knowledge that would be vital for their successful future realization.
“May your stay at the Alma mater be an emotional journey during which you will get in touch with the best of human knowledge, take part in inspiring discussions and make interesting acquaintances.
May you become educated and hungry for knowledge young people, capable of independent thinking, having a broad horizon and critical mode of thinking. May you grow into prominent personalities, people of worth and dignified citizens“, Professor Gerdzhikov added.
At the end of his speech the Rector wished to the students a successful new academic year, full of smiles, a year in which the wildest dreams would come true and declared the new academic year 2016/2017 open.
Ms Meglena Kuneva, Vice PM and Minister of Education and Science, congratulated all people present and thanked for the opportunity to be present at the opening of the academic year at Alma mater. She recounted the emotions she had experienced when she had first entered the University building as an undergraduate and added that, even today, in her capacity as a guest to the ceremony, she felt at home: “The feeling of belonging to our Alma mater is what gives so much optimism in life. It also gives the feeling of stability, a feeling of having an origin. You know where you have started from and you know where you are going to. These are the aims which, as a whole, our education cherishes, and have also become an integral part of every human person who has entered Alma mater“.
Minister Kuneva turned to the first year students and made it a point that they were to live through something exceptional – they would pass from a school-type to a university-type of education and will discover their first favorite teacher. She spoke emotionally about her first lectures in Roman Law with Professor Mihail Andreev.
Meglena Kuneva advised the students not to yield to the temptation of having an easy pass and just managing through; on the contrary, they should aspire for the highest because it was only that way that they would reach at least what was necessary. She added that they would have the biggest number of new ideas in the students’ years to come, many interesting discussions were in store for them, and many new horizons would be opened up. She wished them to make the best use of their time.
Minister Kuneva addressed also the faculty with deep respect and genuine gratitude for everything they had persistently been doing over the years despite the difficulties since the former molded the future specialists of the country and the society we would live in. She encouraged them to be critical and demanding to their students. She wished that the encounters with them and their lectures be long remembered by their students, and even after many years the latter may still remember their academic and life lessons.
Meglena Kuneva stressed that expansion of high academic education in this country over the past years failed to bring about the long-expected results -- an increase of its quality: “This means that we didn’t have fair competition and that we failed to award the best amongst us with our trust. This is a grave diagnosis“.
In Minister Kuneva’s words the choice that the young people had made to remain and study in Bulgaria is a historically responsible choice related not only to their realization but also to the responsibility we had to raise high the roof beam of Bulgarian education to the level it is worthy of. “This is why all efforts you make in this building are efforts that do not concern your lives only but rather they are made on behalf of the whole community, on behalf of the whole country“, Minister Kuneva went on to say and stressed that the Ministry of Education and Science would do its best to carry out the reforms raising the quality of high academic education; the reforms, on its turn, would be widely discussed and get the support both of the rectors, and of the faculty and the students’ councils. Wide national consensus would be sought because education is a number one national priority, Meglena Kuneva said.
In the words of the Vice PM, education is the answer to all national and global issues and she went on to add that during the next academic year all we had to make full use of our optimism because that was the most efficient weapon of people who want to work and achieve tangible results.
At the end of her speech, Meglena Kuneva congratulated the Academic Council of the University on the ranking Sofia University got, being rated 50 positions higher on the QS World University Rankings and wished to all those who cherish the dream of having the University among the first 100 to come true.
As part of the solemn ceremony of opening the new academic year, Professor Reneta Bozhankova, Vice-rector of the University, presented the names of the first year students, winners of competitions, and Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov, the Rector, gave out their student books.
A welcome address to the first year students was delivered also by Vasil Silyanovsky, Chairperson of the Students’ Council at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. He reminded them that the day marked the 197th anniversary of the birth of Evlogy Georgiev.
“Today is also your day. Today marks the beginning of your new adventure and most probably you are captivated by an incredible kind of emotion and inspiration, but there must be also some elements of fear related to the new road you have embarked on that is to become your new way of life“.
In his address the Chairperson of the Students’ Council also added:” Don’t ask yourselves what Sofia University gives me but rather answer the question what you are ready to give to the University. Man is rich not with what he has taken but with what he has given“. Vasil Silyanovsky also said that in times of violent opposition, of clashes of values and cultures, when the causes of personal freedom, democracy and justice were at stake, Sofia University stood as their loyal defender. “What makes our University special are not the impressive buildings and the magnificent Aula where we have convened. Sofia University is special because of you, its students, because the people in its auditoriums have always been ready to fight for values, defend ideals and work for the welfare of the country“.
Vasil Silyanovsky passed a message to the first year students to study, be curious and follow the calls of the heart, and also be critical because theirs was the future of Bulgaria.