Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS – BHFS website) started in 2008 as an educational program of practice-oriented courses in the fields of archaeology and historic preservation taught in English. Currently, the courses take place in Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of North Macedonia, and Montenegro. They are targeted to both academic and non-academic audiences (mostly volunteers and individuals with a need for specialized pre- and early career training). All courses are affiliated with ongoing research and conservation projects conducted by BHFS partner heritage institutions and have been accredited by prominent universities: New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria), Connecticut College (USA, through Institute for Field Research), University of California Los Angeles Extension (USA, through Institute for Field Research) and the Department of Classics, Queen’s University (Canada). Since 2008, BHF has conducted more than 100 field schools (with durations ranging from 2 to 8 weeks) attended by approximately 1500 students, ages 16 to 79, from 59 countries.
The concept of BHFS is based on a symbiosis between educational projects (i.e. field schools or courses) and ongoing heritage projects (research and conservation). Normally, specialists in the research and conservation projects are instructors and supervisors in the field schools and, the participants in the field schools are in fact volunteers in the heritage projects. Thus BHFS becomes a platform for solidarity in benefit of cultural heritage. Based on this, our students, heritage specialists, partnering institutions and local communities are able to interact, collaborate with and benefit from each other. As a result, BHFS participants receive a quality practice-based education and a unique intercultural experience; the heritage specialists and their projects receive funding, volunteers and organizational support; and, local communities generate income for providing their products and services to BHFS and have “their” (actually our) heritage promoted and supported. Each field school project combines elements of academic and non-formal education: lectures and instructions, field and lab work (excavations, field surveys, workshops) and field trips that enable students to gain valuable hands-on experience. For more information, please see the BHFS website.
In 2015, BHF and the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA began a strategic partnership and created the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans. Thanks to this program, students attending designated field schools can earn up to 8-semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through IFR’s academic partner – Connecticut College, USA. These projects are subject to the intensive peer-review process conducted annually by the IFR Board of Directors which is comprised of distinguished archaeologists from universities across the world.