On June 18th 2020, the Black Sea Universities Network (BSUN) jointly with the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA) held a virtual conference entitled "The impact of COVID-19 on Universities".
Rectors and vice-rectors of the universities in Sofia (Bulgaria), Bucharest (Romania), Tirana (Albania), Belgrade (Serbia) and Kiev (Ukraine) took part in the webinar. Moderator on behalf of the Black Sea Universities Network was the Secretary General Prof. Eden Mamut, and on behalf of the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe was its President Prof. Luciano Saso.
The participants in the online conference greeted the representatives of the Medical University of Varna Prof. Todorka Kostadinova, Assoc. Prof. Aneta Dokova and the team of the Department of International Relations as long-standing partners and friends.
The Conference was held in four sessions. In Session 1 "Towards Virtual & Blended Education", the academicians discussed the main challenges for every university during the COVID-19 crisis, the most relevant lessons learned regarding the online teaching and assessment in specific specialties and disciplines. The question was raised about how to provide high quality virtual and blended student mobility as well as high quality opportunities of virtual and blended mobility to the teaching and administrative-technical staff.
The new challenges faced by the university management were in the focus of Session 2 and the participants shared their opinion about whether other "providers" of online education (Coursera, Edx, etc.) compete with universities and whether universities will survive in the new digital era. Of particular concern were the research and innovation activities during a time of crisis.
The university leaders shared their experience concerning the main challenges and opportunities that coronavirus posed for universities' administration and the way in which the use of different facilities (laboratories, libraries, etc) was organized.
The online conference ended up with the topic of education and society: How to reduce the risk of digital divide also due to socio-economic differences in our societies? Did the strategies related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals change due to the crisis? What role can the universities play to help our societies to face the incipient economic crisis?
The Medical University of Varna has been a member of the Black Sea Universities Network with a seat in the "Ovidius" University of Constanta since 1996. Prof. Luciano Saso, who is also Vice-Rector for European Universities Network at the University "Sapienza" in Rome, visited our university in February 2018 and delivered an honorary lecture entitled "Strategies for Internationalisation".