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The Bulgarian Higher Education System

The Ministry of Education and Science manages the higher education system in Bulgaria. Higher education in Bulgaria is provided by public as well as private higher education institutions, which include universities, independent colleges and specialized higher schools. 

Bulgaria has adopted the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) under the higher education act, and it was put into effect since 2004.  The higher education system of Bulgaria is known for its quality and reasonable living and study expenses, thus attracting many international students from across the world. The evaluation and external monitoring of the higher education institutions is done by the National Agency for Evaluation and Accreditation. Bulgaria is the member of the European Union (EU) member, thus degree received by higher education institutions in Bulgaria are recognized in all EU states and beyond. 

Students who hold the diploma of secondary education/specialized secondary education are eligible to apply for higher education in Bulgaria. 

Main Laws Regulating Higher Education

Law: Higher Education Act and subsequent amendments 
Year: 1995
Deals with: Higher education institutions

Law: Law for Public Education & amended in 2004 
Year: 1998

Law: Law on Scientific Degrees and Scientific Titles; amended in 2000
Year: 1972

Law: Law on the Level of Schooling, the Syllabus and the Minimum General Education
Year: 1999

Law: Vocational Education and Training Act 
Year: 1999

Higher Education Institutions

According to the higher education act of 1995, tertiary/higher education in Bulgaria is offered by higher education institutions, including universities (universitet), colleges (kolej), and specialized higher education institutions (spetzializirano visshe uchilishte) which provide academic education. Also, there are professional colleges also available in Bulgaria which offers post-secondary professional non-academic studies. Universities in Bulgaria offer a wide range of programmes and are classifies on the basis of language of instruction- English, Germany, Bulgarian, and French.  

Types of Higher Education Institutions 

Following are the different types of higher education institutions in Bulgaria:  

Universities (universitet): Universities in Bulgaria offer several subjects in professional fields in at least 3 of the 4 main branches of science- natural sciences, technical sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Universities in Bulgaria provide bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees and also conduct research activities. 

Specialized Higher Schools (spetzializirano visshe uchilishte): These types of higher education institutions carry out scientific research and creative and artistic activities. They provide training programmes in one of the main science fields: military science, arts, sports, science, and physical culture. In Bulgaria, there are different higher schools for different specialities, its appellation may indicate the specific field in which it trains and educates specialist. The specialized higher schools offer master and doctoral degree programmes.

Independent colleges: This type of higher education institution offers professional bachelor’s degree. The independent colleges provide classroom teaching and practical training in each specialty. 
Colleges: In Bulgaria, there are colleges formed within university or specialized higher schools offering studies in professional areas. “Professional bachelor in…..” qualification is awarded after the completion of the programme. 

To get the complete list of higher education institutions in Bulgaria, click here

Higher Education Qualifications

First Cycle: Bachelor Degree Programmes (Bakalavr)

The first cycle studies in Bulgaria are offered by universities and specialized higher schools in all disciplines
  • Admission requisite: Students must hold a secondary education completion certificate/diploma.   
  • Duration: 4 years
  • ECTS: 240 credit points 

Short-Cycle Tertiary Education: Professional Bachelors in (Profesionalen Bakalavr no)

Short-cycle programmes are provided by independent colleges, specialized higher education institutions, and colleges within universities in several fields.
  • Duration: 3 years
  • ECTS: 180 credits
This programme ends with the defense of a final paper or state exams. 
Qualification awarded: Diploma for graduated educational-qualification degree of higher education “Professional Bachelor in...” (Diploma za visshe obrazovanie na obrazovatelno-kvalifikatsionna stepen Диплома за висше образоние на образователно-квалификационна степен “Profesionalen bakalavr no...”). Students who hold this qualification can go for bachelor’s degree in the related field, or can even go for master’s study. Holders of a “Profesionalen bakalavr no...” can enter workforce.

Second Cycle: Masters Degree 

The second cycle provides an in-depth study in a particular field. 
  • Admission prerequisite: Students must hold a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification for entry into the Masters degree programme.
  • Duration: 1 to 2 years
  • ECTS: 60 credits (120 credits, if the student holds “Professional bachelor in…” degree)
The degree programme concludes with a completion and defense of a final thesis.

Third Cycle: Doctoral/PhD

The third cycle is offered by universities, accredited research organizations and specialized higher schools. The PhD studies is offered in all areas of science. In Bulgaria, full-time, independent, and part-time doctoral programmes are available. This degree programme concludes with defense of a doctorate dissertation.
  • Admission prerequisite: Students must hold a relevant Masters degree.
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Title awarded:  Doktor degree (Doktor na Naukite); this is the highest obtainable scientific research degree. 

Higher Professional Education 

Professional colleges (profesionalen kolej) in Bulgaria offer post-secondary professionally-oriented non-academic studies in a wide range of fields, such as technology, tourism, etc. 
  • Duration: 2 years 
  • Admission prerequisite: Students must have completed secondary education and also passed the state exam, in order to gain admission to higher professional education. 
  • Qualification awarded: Upon successful completion of the programme, students are awarded a “certificate for professional qualification (Sertifikat za profesionalna kvalifikatchia)”.

Double Degree Programmes

In Bulgaria, Universities where the language of instruction in French or English offers double degree programmes. After completion the programme, double degree is awarded- Bulgarian and partner university degree. The programmes consist of Bachelor and Master degree organised in cooperation with British, Netherland, American, or French universities.

University Preparatory Course

In Bulgaria, University preparatory courses are offered by universities and colleges. The courses are offered in Bulgarian and English.  
  • Duration: 1 year
Bulgarian preparatory course is offered in the fields of humanities, medical, economic, technical, and art studies. Pupils along with Bulgarian language study other major subjects required for university education.

English preparatory course is offered in the field of economic, medical technical and others. Preparatory course in English consist of general English, basic medical terminology, chemistry, anatomy, biology, and physics.

Eligibility Criteria

  • EU/EEA or Swiss nationals who want financial help from the Bulgarian government must learn Bulgarian language.
  • International pupils who do not posses English language skills. 
  • International pupils with a good understanding of English but require a strong base in the subject chosen for medical university education must undertake the preparatory course.
  • International pupils who want to study in Bulgarian language
  • International pupils who want to pursue postgraduate specialisation in the field of medicine, as all the postgraduate specialisation are organised in national language
  • Pupils who fail in English entrance test 
Certificate awarded: Upon completion of the 1-year university preparatory course, students are awarded a certificate that enables them to pursue university studies in Bulgaria without undertaking any additional test for the programme chosen. However, EU/EEA nationals do have to take an entrance exam in order to obtain Bulgarian scholarship. 

Medical Studies in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, medical universities offer medical study programmes in English and Bulgarian. 
  • Medicine studies is of 6 years duration and leads to a master in medicine
  • Dental medicine is of 6 years duration and leads to a master in dentistry. 
  • Pharmacy is of 5 years duration and leads to a master degree in pharmacy.
  • Nursing study is of 4 years duration and leads to a bachelor degree in nursing. 
  • Midwifery programme is of 4 years duration and leads to a bachelor degree in nursing. 

Technical Studies in Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, there are many technical universities that offer courses in English, Bulgarian, German or French language. These courses lead to bachelor, master or doctoral degree. Technical study in Bulgaria is offered in the following fields: Computer science, mechanical, information technology, electrical, telecommunications, industrial, civil, electronic, and architecture.  

Admission Requirements

Higher education institutions in Bulgaria set their own admission criteria and procedures for each of their degree courses. Students must hold a diploma of secondary education and passed state exam for entry into higher education-first stage studies. Also, some of the higher education institutions conduct admission exams (konkursen). Specific entry requirements vary depending on the specialization and higher education institution. 

To know in detail about the admission requirements for Bulgarian higher education institutions, click here
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