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Bulgaria

Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1.: Schematic Description of the Higher Education System

Section 1.1 Bulgaria

Comprehensive information about the Higher Education system in Bulgaria can be obtained from the Bulgarian University Ranking System (https://rsvu.mon.bg/rsvu4/#/) and the Register of the Higher Education Institutions (http://rvu.mon.bg/HomeEn/IndexEn).

Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

The Bulgarian system of higher education is autonomous. According to the Higher Education Act, higher education institutions enjoy academic autonomy which includes academic freedoms, academic self-government and inviolability of the territory of the higher education institutions.
Higher education institutions perform their overall activities in adherence to the principle of academic autonomy and in compliance with Bulgarian laws. The system of higher education offers academic training after completion of secondary level. Higher education comprises the following levels:

Bachelor's degree which requires:

  • at least 180 credits with a minimum length of studies of three years - "professional bachelor in...";
  • at least 240 credits with a minimum length of studies of four years - "bachelor".

The training for the bachelor's degree in accordance with the curriculum shall provide comprehensive training or specialised professional training in professional areas and specialties.

Master's degree which requires:

  • at least 300 credits in accordance with the curriculum with a minimum length of studies of five years (= programs in certain fields such as Medicine, Architecture, Law studies, etc.);
  • at least 120 credits after the acquisition of a "professional bachelor in..." educational and qualification degree;
  • at least 60 credits after the acquisition of a "bachelor" educational and qualification degree;

The training at the second level, up to the master's degree, provides profound fundamental training in combination with specialisation in a particular specialty.

Doctoral (PhD) degree – the training is organized in doctoral programs after having obtained the master's degree. The duration of training and independent research for regular and independent training is up to 3 years, and for part-time and distance learning – up to 4 years. By way of exception, governed by the regulations of the relevant higher education institution or scientific organization, the period may be extended, but not more than one year.

Section 1.3: Number of Higher Education Institutions

52 higher education institutions (they may be universities, specialised higher education institutions and self-depend colleges). 38 out of them are public while the number of the private ones is 14. The Universities are 32 (27 public and 5 private), the Specialized Higher Education Institutions are 17 (11 public and 6 private) and the self-depend Colleges are 3 (private only).
The scientific organizations can perform training for acquiring of the PhD degree only.

Section 1.4 Number of Students in Higher Education

1. Total number of students /for the summer semester of the academic year 2019-2020/
 
Total Number
Total Number without mobility and Erasmus students
221 880
221 492
2. Number of students by type of institution
Type of institution
Type of institution
Total number
Number without mobility and Erasmus students
Independent College
1 370
1 370
Specialized higher education institutions
32 634
32 593
University
187 876
187 529
3. Number of foreign students enrolled in full-time programs (excluding mobility and Erasmus students) – 15 797
 
4. Number of outgoing exchange students (Bulgarian mobility and Erasmus students) – 88
 
5. Number of incoming exchange students (foreign mobility students and Erasmus) – 264
 

 

1. Total number of PhD students /for the summer semester of the academic year 2019-2020/
 
Total Number
Total Number without mobility and Erasmus PhD students
9 597
9 594
 
 
 
2. Number of PhD students by type of institution
 
Type of institution
Total number
Number without mobility and Erasmus PhD students
Scientific organizations
1 209
1 209
Specialized higher education institutions
1 085
1 085
University
7 303
7 300
3. Number of foreign PhD students enrolled in full-time programs (excluding mobility and Erasmus students) – 697
 

Section 1.5: Structure of Academic Year

The academic year begins in September or October (differs from one institution to another) and ends in June or July. It is divided in two semesters and students have their examinations after each one of them. The practical training happens both within the semester or after the examinations, depending on the subject and the curricula. Typically there are 15 weeks in one semester.

Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

The National Qualifications Framework of the Republic of Bulgaria covers all education and training degrees and levels in lifelong learning context, including pre-school education, school education (both general education and vocational education and training), and higher education.
The NQF contains 9 levels in total, including preparatory (zero) level covering the pre-school education. The zero (preparatory) level comprises the system of pre-school education. The zero level has no analogue in the EQF levels. It is included for thoroughness, so that the entire education system and all qualifications in it can be included in the NQF.

The levels numbered from 1 to 8 correspond to the EQF levels. The upper three levels of the NQF numbered from 6 to 8 correspond to the three cycles of the Bologna process (the degrees Bachelor, Master and PhD).
The expected learning outcomes described in the NQF are generic knowledge, skills and competences. The learners should acquire these competences upon completion of the training process at the respective NQF level. They are also a pre-requisite for further education or training aimed at acquiring professional qualification. They provide a snapshot of what the learner knows and is able to do after completing the training process.
The learning outcomes in the NQF of Bulgaria are described as:

  • Knowledge;
  • Skills;
  • Competences.

The descriptors of the NQF levels conform both to those of the EQF and to the relevant QF-EHEA descriptors. The knowledge, skills and competences, which are defined in the Bulgarian Qualifications Framework are based on the State Educational Requirements (standards) within the national school and higher education systems. They correspond to the expected learning outcomes that are defined in those standards in terms of knowledge, skills and competences.

Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

The learning outcomes in the NQF of Bulgaria are described as:

  • Knowledge – theoretical and/or factual;
  • Skills − cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) and practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments);
  • Competences – personal and professional. The competences are described in terms of responsibility and autonomy and are set in four main groups:
    • Responsibility and autonomy;
    • Learning competences;
    • Communication and social competences;
    • Professional competences.

The learning outcomes in the NQF and in the state educational requirements, are closely linked to the procedures for quality assurance and the use of educational credits awarded for units of learning outcomes (where applicable). The National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency is the national authority for external quality assurance and control in higher education. The autonomous higher education institutions should describe expected learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and competences) for each specialty.

Section 1.8: Admission Requirements to Higher Education

For “Professional Bachelor in..." and Bachelor programs can apply people with completed secondary education that gives them access to universities (e.g. who have successfully passed the state matriculation exams).

For Master programs can apply persons who have:

  • completed secondary education, giving them access to training in higher education institutions, e. g. who have successfully passed the state matriculation exams – for the integrated programs]
  • or persons who have acquired Professional Bachelor in… or a Bachelor degree – for the rest of the programs.

Applicants who have successfully partaken in the admission competition to a higher education institution shall be admitted under easier terms and conditions as established in the higher education institution's Rulebook in any of the following cases:

  • applicants who scored equally;
  • disabled persons with long-term disabilities and reduction of the ability to work by 70 percent or more;
  • disabled war veterans;
  • orphans;
  • mothers of three or more children;
  • twins where both have concurrently applied to the same higher education institution and for the same professional area and one of them has been admitted.

Applicants who are winners at national or international competitions completing their secondary education in the year of the competition and medal winners at Olympic, worlds and European championships shall be admitted without any entrance examination and beyond the annual number of students to be admitted under the Decision of the Council of Ministers where the entrance examination for the specialty they apply for corresponds to the subject-matter of the competition or championship. The proposal can be made by the Minister of Physical Education and Sports and is followed by a decision of the academic council of the respective HEI.

For admission to PhD programs can apply only people with Master degree. Full-time and part-time doctoral students are admitted on the basis of a competition. Applicants for independent doctoral study propose for discussion to the relevant department or institute a plan of the dissertation which is developed in its main part, as well as a bibliography. Successful applicants are admitted on the basis of a decision of the faculty council or the academic council of the higher education institution. PhD students' training is based on a curriculum.

Section 1.9: Grading System

Students' knowledge and skills shall be graded on the basis of a six-grade system1 comprising of: Excellent (6.00), Very Good (5.00), Good (4.00), Fair (3.00) and Poor (2.00). The grade of at least Fair (3.00) is required for an examination to be successfully passed .
Still, any higher education institution shall have the right to introduce through its Rules of Operations different grading system whereas it shall be required to ensure comparability with the national grading system.
Higher education institutions shall provide a system for gaining and transferring credit points for grading the knowledge and skills acquired by the students in the course of studies. The credit points shall be awarded to students who have successfully completed the respective subject and/or module through an examination or another form of grading established.

1The grade system is from 2 to 6. In the old days 1 was used when somebody was giving a hint to a classmate. It is not used nowadays but tradition is kept.

Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

Foreign citizens can apply to be admitted in Bulgarian universities as follows:

  1. Under bilateral agreements for educational, scientific and cultural exchanges – the tuition fees matter is part of the certain agreement.
  2. According to regulations of the Council of Ministers (decrees № 103/1993 and № 228/1997) - candidates shall be presented by the Ministry of Education and Science. These are: citizens of Bulgarian origin who live abroad and have no Bulgarian citizenship; citizens of North Macedonia. Some of them are free from paying taxes, while others pay taxes as Bulgarian citizens.
  3. Citizens of Member States of the European Union and the European Economic Area can apply under the terms and conditions for Bulgarian citizens (also in terms of the tuition fees).
  4. All non-residents (outside the above categories) pay annual tuition fees set for foreign nationals annually by the Council of Ministers.

Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

The course of studies in each specialty of the bachelor or master educational and qualification degree shall be completed with a final state examination or defence of a diploma thesis. The state examination or the diploma thesis defence shall be conducted pursuant to the state diploma-granting requirements before a state board of examiners made up of habilitated persons having academic rank. As an exception members of the board of examiners may be also lecturers holding the educational degree and the scientific title and rank of a "doctor". Outside persons shall also be part of the boards of examiners. Typically, they are employers’ representatives.

Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

The development of the reform in higher education is stimulated through the constantly increasing internationalisation in the system at national, institutional and program level and at the level of human resources. This is also related to our participation in the European Higher Education Area (Bologna Process).

The most significant latest reforms introduced by amendments of the Higher Education Act are:

  1. Optimization of the institutional network for higher education through:
    • adoption of a National Map of higher education - optimization of the territorial and profile structure of higher education;
    • designation of university with research status for 4 years.
  2. Improving the management system of the higher education institutions by introducing a management model that combines academic autonomy with mechanisms for institutional accountability – the aim is to have achieved transparency, better public relations and public control and support:
    • the Minister of Education and Science shall approve a policy for the development of each public higher education institution with strategic goals and objectives, target values and indicators for their implementation;
    • the Minister of Education and Science shall sign a management contract with the respective rector elected by the General Assembly of the public higher education institution on the basis of this approved policy;
    • in order to encourage the development of the public , the Council of Ministers shall adopt national programs for intervention in certain area and with specific budget for this;
    • in order to stimulate the professional development of young non-habilitated teachers and their responsibility for the development of the higher education sector, the quota of young teachers in the governing bodies of the is increased;
    • The Board of Trustees of the public higher education institution shall include in its composition a representative of the municipality in which the seat of the higher education institution is located. The members of the Board of Trustees will also participate in the composition of the Academic Council of the public with an advisory vote.
  3. Improving the accreditation model:
    • institutional accreditation will be initial (for newly opened or transformed ) and subsequent – for those that have already received accreditation;
    • the program accreditation for a given professional field will be carried out simultaneously for all , teaching in specialties of the field.
  4. Development of the higher education system in the conditions of digitalization:
    • promoting the digital skills and competencies for the academic teachers and staff;
    • improving data analysis, research, strategic planning and communication, creative competences and activities to ensure the long-term employment of the higher education graduates;
    • removing regulatory barriers to the provision of open and digital education.
  5. Other changes:
    • the exemption from fees in the public of students studying in professional fields and protected specialties with the highest expected shortage on the labour market according to a list approved by the Council of Ministers;
    • to facilitate the realization in our country of young people who have graduated in foreign universities, a two-month period is introduced for the recognition of their diplomas for higher education acquired abroad, including diplomas for degrees obtained in accordance with the educational and scientific degree "doctor";
    • it is possible to conclude up to two agreements between a public higher education institution and state or municipal schools from the system of pre-school and school education;
    • employers and people with rich working experience in certain area can be invited as lecturers.

The new developments in the policies for development of higher education will find expression in the prepared draft of the Strategy for development of higher education in the Republic of Bulgaria for the period 2020-2030.

 

Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

The National Agency for Assessment and Accreditation (NEAA – https://www.neaa.government.bg/en/) under the Council of Ministers is the specialised state authority vested with the assessment, accreditation and quality control of the higher schools’ activities. Besides the external evaluation and accreditation of institutions and programs NEAA shall also exercise post-accreditation monitoring and supervision of:

  1. the capacity of the institution and its primary units and affiliates to ensure high quality of education and research through an internal system for quality assessment and assurance;
  2. the fulfilment of the recommendations given in the course of the assessment and accreditation;
  3. the observance of the capacity of the higher school and the capacity of professional areas and specialties of regulated professions.

Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

 
Study programme
Institution
Voluntary
   
Compulsory
X X
Regularity (years)
 N/A
 N/A
External
X X
Internal
X X

Section 2.3: Link Programme Authorisation with Quality Assurance

Subject of evaluation and accreditation are the professional fields and the specialties leading to practicing of regulated professions. While the specialties leading to practicing of regulated professions are subject of concrete procedures, the others can be open after a decision of the respective HEI within an accredited professional field. The procedures can be seen at the web-site of NEAA (https://www.neaa.government.bg/en/evaluation-and-accreditation/programme-accreditation/majors-from-the-regulated-professions).
Full list of the accredited institutions with their accredited professional fields and specialties leading to practicing of regulated professions can be seen at the Ministry of Education and Science website (http://rvu.mon.bg/HomeEn/IndexEn) and at the website of NEAA (https://www.neaa.government.bg/en/accredited-higher-education-institutions/higher-institutions).

 

Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

Credit system is described as an organization of the learning process that:

  1. is based on the full student workload in the process of education and in each separate academic discipline;
  2. provides students with the opportunity to choose disciplines, different training activities, as well as mobility periods on the basis of mutual recognition.

Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

A national System for Accumulation and Transfer of Credits is used. It is based on the ECTS one.

Section 3.3: Additional Information

Credits are determined for all activites provided in the curriculum and also for the extracurricular activities in compulsory, elective and optional disciplines depending on the specifics of the certain specialty (lectures, practical and seminar exercises, individual work, individual work with academic teachers, projects, participation in practice), internship, course or diploma paper, etc.).
Each discipline receives a credit equivalent to its position within the curricula and reflecting the students workload.

Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/SemesterSection 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?

Yes.

Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

Curriculum training provides 60 credits per school year and 30 credits per semester.
One credit is awarded for 25-30 hours of student workload. Credits are distributed by academic years, semesters and disciplines.
The share of the classroom activities cannot be more than half of the total number of credits. The ratio between the curricular and extracurricular activities shall be determined in the curriculum of the specialty, taking into account the requirements set by the national legislation.

Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

The credit is a numerical expression of student workload, necessary for mastering certain skills and knowledge in the learning process of acquiring a degree of higher education.

Bachelor's degree:

  • at least 180 credits with a minimum length of studies of three years - "professional bachelor in...";
  • at least 240 credits with a minimum length of studies of four years - "bachelor".

Master's degree:

  • at least 300 credits for the integrated Master programs with a minimum length of studies of five years;
  • at least 120 credits after the acquisition of a "professional bachelor in..." educational and qualification degree;
  • at least 60 credits after the acquisition of a "bachelor" educational and qualification degree.

Doctoral (PhD) degree – credits are not awarded.

Section 3.8: Link between Learning Outcomes and Credits

One credit is awarded for 25-30 hours of student workload. 10 credits are awarded for successfully passed state exam or defended diploma thesis for acquisition of “professional bachelor in...” and “bachelor” degrees. For the “master” one the number of these credits is 15.
Credit points in each specialty shall consist of the total number of lectures, practical exercises and seminars, self-preparation (at laboratories, libraries, through papers, homework, and others), examinations passed and other forms of grading as established by the higher school. Credit points may also be awarded for participation in practical courses or course or diploma papers, where these activities constitute elements of the curriculum.

 

Last updated in 2020.

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