- The municipality of Dryanovo encouraged the establishment of a college that had never been heard of in the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), placed it in a municipal property, and the mayor personally cut the opening ribbon
- The future college students will study in poor conditions for 1500 BGN per semester and their diplomas will not be valid in Bulgaria
“On March 22 this year, “Higher College of Biodynamics” was opened in Dryanovo. This is the same college that “Pro Veritas” told in February this year in the text “How Dryanovo didn’t become the world city of environmentally friendly way of life!?“. Yet then it was clear that the high school is not legitimate, which did not prevent the mayor of Dryanovo from cutting the ribbon for his opening a month later.
The Higher College of Biodynamics is not accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Agency, which makes its diplomas just a piece of paper not only in our country but also in Europe, where each country has its own rules for recognizing foreign diplomas. This obviously is not an obstacle for the high semester fee of BGN 1,500, given that according to the Ministry of Education the most expensive in our country is the medical education – BGN 900 per semester for students from the European Union.
The different model
Since no action has been taken by the college to legalize the school under the Bulgarian Higher Education Act, the Dryanovo graduates are promised to receive British diplomas. They will be issued by the “Crossfield Institute”, an NGO in the field of education. The institute is the author of the curricula and programs for the new college, which offer a different model of university education than others known.
The students in Dryanovo will not pass an entrance exam. They will be accepted after their application has been submitted in accordance with a sample and ater an interview. In order to be enrolled, the mandatory requirement for them is to have paid the semester fee. If they do not have the financial capacity, they can work out what they owe, i.e. to pay with labor, explains Nikolay Zaitsev, cited as a contact person on the college’s website. How this work will be valued and where it will be worked out is unclear at this stage.
The training will last for three years or six semesters, with lectures only on Saturdays and Sundays. “Our colleagers are mainly farmers who work during the week,” explains Zaitsev, adding that in Dryanovo they rely on practice, not theory.
This is the reason for the academic year to be opened in March – the month when active agricultural work begins, explains Zaitsev, adding that the British educational model allows students to be admitted twice a year. It is true that the model looks more like a completed course rather than a university, but they are adamant from the college that it is a British model of higher education.
The “Crossfield Institute”, which will issue graduates’ diplomas in Dryanovo, is not on the register of institutions that are eligible to issue higher education diplomas under the UK Higher Education Act. The register is maintained by The Department of Education, an independent public body established in 2017 under the UK Higher Education Act. It reports directly to the British Government.
Colleges and universities in this register are authorized to issue a UK degree document, confirming therefrom, emphasizing that the “Crossfield Institute” is not recognized by the UK authorities as an institution with an educational degree”.
However, the institute is on another list – the OFQUAL – the UK’s government agency for school accreditation. According to this list, the institute has the right to issue qualification documents for several levels of the British training system. And level 6, which the students in Dryanovo will receive, is “the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree”. The same was clarified for “Pro Veritas“ by the institute itself. The fact that the “Crossfield Institute” is listed in one British register and missing in another, and the clarification “the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree” do not change the fact that the diplomas of graduates in Dryanovo will not be recognized in Bulgaria, their legitimacy in Europe is doubtful as well.
In addition to the high tuition fees and the illegitimate diplomas of the students in Dryanovo, they will have to swallow the quite primitive conditions under which they will study.
Bold plans with a grace period
The building that is housing the college was a school for training of cadres for the railroad transport. It is owned by the Municipality of Dryanovo, and at the end of 2016, by a decision of the municipal council, it was rented for 10 years to the “Regional Association for Social Prosperity” for the purposes of higher education school.
The councillors’ decision was taken after two meetings, at which the association presented their ambitious plans for academic activity. These plans shall transform Dryanovo in a “world city of environmentally friendly lifestyle” and in “a centre for people who will have a lasting place on the world map, both as the city of Master Kolyu Ficheto and as the city that has established the first college of biodynamic agriculture, horticulture and crafts in Bulgaria. “
The first step towards the grand idea is the lease agreement, signed in December 2016 by Grozdalina Georgieva, representing the Regional Association for Social Prosperity and Miroslav Semov – Mayor of Dryanovo Municipality. According to this contract, Dryanovo Municipality provides the property for a monthly rental price of BGN 4642, VAT excluded.
For the first two years of the contract, due to the repairs “that have to bring the building in compliance with the requirements for the respective type of institution”, rent is not due, but the repairs made should not be lower than the amount due rent for the same period. This means just over BGN 111 thousand invested in renovation and modernization of the building.
(You can download the proposal of the mayor of Dryanovo to rent the building of the former railway school from the link at the end of the text).
What’s in the warehouse In the few “furnished” rooms old worn-out furniture is used, completely dysfunctional and leaving the feeling of being taken out of a junk store, just for the guests to see that the rooms were not empty.
On the first floor, in the building of the presented as the “Southwestern Europe’s only one college in biodynamics”, there is only one study room with desks, chairs and even a teacher’s chair and desk.
The adjoining room is empty, with a sign hanging on its door, according to which it is the “Dental Room”. Next to it is the Doctor’s Room. There, an old section cabinet was chosen for furniture, from which drawers were missing and its doors were not closing. One of them has Red Cross stickers, which is probably a reminder of the site’s former destination.
The next door down the corridor leads to a video hall. But there is no video equipment in it. The floor is covered with faded rugs that would have been taken as sound insulation had it not been for the assumption that they were hiding something that should not be seen.
On the second floor there is no renovation done, explains College Director Rosen Naumov, who graciously shows the teacher’s room – the only room on the floor that is clearly intended to be used. The place has not been changed since the time when the students of the former technical school for the preparation of cadres for the railroad transport were studying here.
The account for repair or repair of the account
“About a hundred thousand levs have been invested in repairs,” says Rosen Naumov, when we mention that it is not evident that craftsmen and foremen have entered and the situation is offensive to someone who will pay BGN 1500 per semester to study under these conditions.
The money went mainly for repairing the damages caused by moisture, because the Dryanovo Municipality was a poor landlord and when the building was emptied years ago, neither the radiators and the steam installation were drained nor the windows were secured, Naumov explains. In some places the radiators were cracked and the water was flowing into the rooms, which caused a lot work for the tenants. They had to remove and transport the parquet that had risen because of moisture. There was also moisture on the walls because of the outdated windows.
Whether the cost of the repair of the damage caused by the “poor management of the building”, according to Naumov, was BGN 100,000, in the Municipality of Dryanovo they need to know once they have taken it over the rent due. However, there is one detail that may suggest that this figure is well calculated for the owner.
One signs, the other manages
Who has made the repairs in the municipal property and who is obliged to the Municipality of Dryanovo for rent after the grace period is unnecessary question after having a contract. However, nothing is as it seems in this story.
As it became clear, the rent agreement is between the Mayor of Dryanovo Miroslav Semov and Grozdalina Georgieva – representing the “Regional Association for Social Prosperity”. However, the invitations for the opening of the college are not from the association, but on behalf of the “Higher College of Biodynamics” AD, whose Executive Director Ivaylo Zaitsev welcomed the guests and thanked the Municipality of Dryanovo for the support.
According to the portfolio of “Higher College of Biodynamics” AD, the company is “established for commercial purposes” and “focused on the creation of several mini-production facilities on the territory of the college, management of the farms and their production”. This means that it is not the non-governmental organization that has rented the municipal property and will run the new school, but the joint-stock company.
The company was founded in April 2017 and its founders are Ivaylo Zaitsev, Stefan Naumov and Oleg Asenov. The three also constitute the Board of Directors. A year later, Oleg Asenov was released and “Belmont Invest” EOOD was registered in his place. In February 2019, in the minutes of the General Meeting of the company for the first time the “Regional Association for Social Prosperity” appeared as a shareholder with the least share of 10%.
Is there any reason for the “Higher College of Biodynamics” AD to open a college in a municipal building? This is a question that the municipal council in the city, as the owner of the property of the Municipality, must seek an answer to. Because in the rent contract there are clearly stated rights and obligations of the parties and according to them “the tenant has no right to re-rent the premises, re-lease them or use them together with third parties”.
Commitments on paper
The rent contract also states that “the tenant undertakes to obtain registration and accreditation so as to commence effective work during the 2018-2019 academic year. As it became clear on this point, the commitment was not fulfilled and the college was opened without the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science (MES) having heard about it, they explained therefrom for “Pro Veritas”.
Where are the students?
In MES they may not be aware of the college, which turned out to be the only one of its kind in Southwestern Europe, according to the speech of the Mayor of Dryanovo at the inauguration ceremony, and the only one in the Balkans, according to the speech of the Executive Director Ivaylo Zaitsev. If this detail seems unimportant, the absence of students at the opening of the college in Dryanovo is not so. Because, at the beginning of each school and academic year, scholars and students are at the center of the event, and not a single colleger was present there, although according to Nikolai Zaitsev, there were twenty students enrolled for the first year, fifteen according to Rosen Naumov.
With the participation of the prosecution
The lack of collegers was not the reason for the ritual cutting of the ribbon in front of the new college. Mayor Miroslav Semov and Executive Director Ivaylo Zaitsev cut it. Closely next to Semov was Nikolay Zaitsev, who proved to be a significant figure in this story.
In 2016, Zaitsev is next to Grozdalina Georgieva at the meetings with the municipal administration in Dryanovo, he also attended and spoke at the meetings with the Municipal Council, at which it was decided whether the college will be accommodated in municipal property and under what conditions. After they both received the keys to the building in 2016 and signed the delivery protocols, Zaitsev is the main actor on the stage.
In 2017, when the machinery and the equipment of the former railroad technical school are removed from the municipal property, the mayor appoints a committee to carry out an on-site inspection. The inspection found that the Regional Association for Social Prosperity had transferred to three companies machinery and equipment, that were in the real estate,for thousands of BGN, which violated the contract with the Municipality of Dryanovo, where it was clearly stated that the tenant was not entitled to re-lease the property without the consent of the owner. For the actions of Zaitsev the mayor of Dryanovo seased the prosecutor’s office, which at the end of 2018 finds criminal records and institutes pre-trial proceeding for acquisition and possession against Nikolay Zaitsev. The work under this pre-trial proceeding is still ongoing, and Zaitsev told for “Pro Veritas” that “the machines are available and if the Municipality requests them, they will be returned.”
Despite many questions and uncertainties about the new college, the first collegers should enter this month. They and those after them will turn Dryanovo into a world city of the environmentally friendly way of life. At least that is the ambition of the founders of the college, supported by the Municipality of Dryanovo.
Two years later, the expectations that for the opening of the college, a modern building will be glittering, equipped and furnished according to the standards of a university that promises British diplomas, are not justified.
In fact, the stories of illegitimate universities in Bulgaria are one in a way similar to the fact that all of them had the support of the local authorities. Dryanovo is no exception.