Educational System of Bulgaria

Education in Bulgaria is mainly supported by the state through the Ministry of Education and Science. School education is compulsory for children from seven to sixteen years of age.

The Bulgarian educational system falls within the continental European tradition. The main types of secondary schools are: general educational, vocational, language schools and foreign schools. Private schools are also being established and they are beginning to compete successfully with state schools.

There are fifty-one higher educational institutions in Bulgaria offering degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels. The academic year for most Bulgarian universities begins around October 1 and consists of fall and spring semesters. The academic year covers up to 30 weeks. Classes usually meet once a week for 75 minutes or for two 45-minute periods with a 15-minute break in between.

  • Structure

    Structure of the Educational System of Bulgaria

  • Grading System

    Main Grading System Used by Education Institutions in Bulgaria

    • All academic courses receive grades of 2-6 according to the following standards:
      • 6 (A) – Excellent (91.5 -100%)
      • 5 (B) – Very Good (80.5 – 91.4%)
      • 4 (C) – Good (70.5 – 80.4%)
      • 3 (D) – Sufficient (59.5 – 70.4%)
      • 2 (F) – Poor (0 – 59.4%)
    • 6.0 (US 4.0) is the highest possible GPA
    • Pass/fail level: 3.5
    • Lowest on scale: 2
    • To convert GPA from the Bulgarian 6.0 system to the American 4.0 system, subtract two points from the Bulgarian system. For example, a 6.0 in the Bulgarian system is a 4.0 in the American system.
    • As a matter of policy, the Bulgarian education institutions do not rank or rate their students.
    • The Bulgarian counselors and teachers do their best to distinguish applicants in recommendations, and you should not hesitate to contact them if you have questions.
  • Languages of Study

    Languages of Study

    • The official language of instruction is Bulgarian.
    • At the school level, the general curriculum provides opportunities for ethnic minority children to study their mother tongue.
    • In specialized language schools and in the profile-oriented schools, instruction takes place in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Armenian, Hebrew, Russian, and other languages.
    • At university level, instruction takes place in English at the American University in Bulgaria, and in German, French and English in some programs in technical universities.
  • Primary and Secondary Education

    Primary and Secondary Education: General

    • Authority: The Ministry of Education and Science
      Web site in Bulgarian:
      The Ministry of Education and Science creates and applies national education policy, and also plans and organizes the development of education by putting together long-term programs and operational projects.
    • Education in Bulgaria is compulsory from the ages of 7 to 16. Children complete their compulsory education in upper secondary schools.
    • Structure
      • Basic education (Grades 1-8) in Bulgaria comprises primary school (grades 1-4) and pre-secondary school (grades 5-8).
      • The Upper Secondary level lasts for either 4 or 5 years following the receipt of a Basic Education Completion Certificate. Upper Secondary education is provided in three types of schools: comprehensive (general) secondary schools, profile-oriented schools and vocational-technical schools.
    • Admission Criteria
      • Basic (primary and pre-secondary) education is free, except in private schools.
      • Students can enter the profile-oriented schools upon completion of grades 7 or 8 after passing entry examinations, according to the profile of the school (mother tongue/literature, mathematics, humanities etc.).
    • Curriculum is unified for all schools. It includes subjects such as Literature (Bulgarian, English, French, German), Mathematics, Foreign Languages, History, Geography, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Psychology, Ethics and Law, Philosophy, Music, Arts, Vocational Training, and Physical Education. There are no course levels, i.e. A.P., or Honor Courses in the Bulgarian Educational System. However, in the last two years of study, students are required to take advanced courses in two or three subjects.
    • School Year
      The school year is divided into two terms: the first is from Mid-September to the end of January, and the second – from the beginning of February to the end of June. At the end of each term students receive term grades in each subject, and at the end of the school year they get final grades in the subjects.
    • Completion Document:
      Name in Bulgarian: Диплома за средно/средно специално образование
      English translation: Diploma of Secondary/Secondary Specialized Education
  • Higher Education

    Higher Education

    Legal Framework
    • Law on National Education, published, State Gazette N86/18.10.1991, last modified and supplemented, State Gazette N40/14.05.2004
    • Higher Education Act (1995) passed in December 1996, amended and supplemented in 1999 and 2002 to strengthen the legal context for higher education. The legislation recognized the private sector and new disciplinary areas. It also set guidelines to bring standards in line with the rest of Europe (e.g. in line with the Lisbon, Bologna and Sorbonne declarations)
    • Government Ordinance on the State Classifier of the Fields of Study and Subject Fields (2002)
    • Government Ordinance on the State Requirements for the Degree Qualifications of Bachelor, Master and Specialist (in specific professional field) (2002)
    • Government Ordinance on the State Requirements for the Content of the Documents Issued by Higher Education Institutions (1997)
    Main Coordinating Bodies at the National Level
    • The National Assembly – Makes the final decision about establishment, transformation and closing of higher education institutions, as well as branches and departments where there are provisions for study programs of the regulated professions.
    • The Council of Ministers – Makes the final decision about establishment, transformation and closing of departments, institutes, branches and colleges at the public universities.
    • The Ministry of Education and Science
      • Controls whether higher education institutions respect the law and in the cases of legal infringement addresses the National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency with proposals to revoke accreditation status.
      • Carries out the procedures for the recognition of foreign credentials.
      • Decisions on recognition are made by a commission established by the ministry. The Bulgarian ENIC/NARIC supports the activities of the commission on the recognition of higher-education study periods and qualifications.
      • Keeps a record of all accredited institutions and their programs/courses of study in a State Registry of Accredited Institutions and Programs.
    • The National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency (NEAA) is the only national statutory body for evaluation and accreditation in higher education.
      • The Agency recognizes the degree-awarding powers of higher education institutions.
      • Organizes also a follow-up procedure at institutional and program levels.
      • Aims at post-accreditation monitoring and control of the capability of an institution to assure quality and standards, as well as whether the institution properly addresses the issues and follows recommendations set in the evaluation report.
    • The National Information Center for Academic Recognition and Mobility (ENIC/NARIC) was established in 1994 within the International Relations Department of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science.
      • The members of the staff work in close cooperation with the Legislation Commissions, which are expert bodies of the Ministry of Education and Science entrusted with recognition of foreign credentials.
      • The Center is responsible for the certification of all national qualifications destined for external evaluation by foreign institutions.
    Types of Higher Education Institutions
    • Total of 51 accredited higher education institutions
      See State Register of the Accredited Higher Schools in Bulgaria:
    • Four types of higher education institutions:
      • Higher Education College (non-university higher education institution)
      • University
      • Specialized Higher Education Institution Equivalent to Universities /Technical University
      • Academy
    • Private and Public Institutions (37 public and 14 private institutions)
    • The requirements for enrollment, depending on the type of higher schools and the particular specialty, comprise written competitive exams (one or more), tests (varying in volume and structure in the different higher schools), and a diploma of completed secondary education.
    • The autonomy of higher education institutions allows them to define for themselves the requirements for enrollment every year. This enables them to organize admission in some specialties only on the basis of a diploma (a Diploma of secondary education) or by combining enrollment by diploma with a test or with exams.
    • The procedure for application in each specialty is determined on an annual basis and made public in the reference manual of the higher school.
    Degree Structure (per 1995 law):
    • “Specialist in…” Degree
      • Colleges, which are generally incorporated into the structure of universities, offer relatively short, vocationally oriented programs (usually three years in length) leading to the award of “Specialist in…” degree.
      • Holders of this qualification are eligible for bachelor-level studies or for entry into the labor market.
    • First or Bachelor’s Degree
      • Four-to-five years of study is required at this level leading to the Bachelor’s degree.
      • The curricula at the bachelor level provide for basic comprehensive training, thus facilitating direct access to the labor market.
      • About 2/3 of graduated bachelors continue in master programs.
    • Second or Master’s Degree
      • Requires one-to-two years of additional study after the bachelor’s degree, and leads to a Master’s degree.
      • The new Master’s degree is currently offered in parallel with the traditional, integrated master’s-level degree known as the Diploma of Higher Education.
      • Both qualifications possess the same academic value.
      • Only universities and specialized higher education schools offer a master’s degree of one year, building on a bachelor program of four to five years. There are still some long, integrated master’s programs of five-to-six years in subject areas such as architecture.
    • Third or Ph.D. Degree
      • Requires a minimum of three years of study after the master’s or four years of study after the bachelor’s, and leads to the Doctoral degree.
      • Doctoral programs are essentially research programs.
      • Graduates are awarded a Doctor’s degree upon successful defense of their doctoral thesis.
    European Standards in Bulgarian Higher Education
    • Credit Transfer System
      • The 2003 draft of the Higher Education Act foresees the adoption of ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) by all higher education institutions.
      • In Bulgaria, ECTS mainly facilitates academic harmonization and student mobility and functions less as a tool for assessment.
    • European Diploma Supplement
      • Since 2005 all graduates automatically receive the Diploma Supplement in both Bulgarian and English. The format corresponds fully to that recommended by UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
      • The Diploma Supplement was developed to provide students with a document that will be attached to a higher education diploma and to improve international recognition of academic and professional qualifications (diplomas, degrees, certificates etc).
      • The supplement provides a description of the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies a student pursued and successfully completed.
    Official Higher Education Documentation
    • Diploma “Specialist in…” + Diploma Supplement (official transcript of the academic program listing subjects and grades; invalid without the diploma)
    • Bachelor’s Diploma + Bachelor’s Diploma Supplement (official transcript of Bachelor’s degree program listing subjects and grades, invalid without the diploma)
    • Master’s Diploma + Master’s Diploma Supplement (official transcript of Master’s degree program listing subjects and grades; invalid without the diploma)
    • European Diploma Supplement
    • Certificate of Professional Qualification
    • Certificate of Professional Specialization in Medicine or Dentistry
    • Doctor of Sciences
    Recognition of Studies and Qualifications
    • Studies pursued in home country
      • NEAA (The National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency) at the Council of Ministers evaluates universities and colleges and accredits their programs.
      • The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for the certification of all national qualifications destined for external evaluation by foreign institutions.
    • Studies pursued in foreign countries
      • Bulgarian ENIC/NARIC (National Information Center for Academic Recognition and Mobility) at the Ministry of Education and Science deals with recognition of foreign credentials.
    Verification of Accreditation

    Verification of Academic Credentials

    • Ministry of Education and Science
      Department: European Integration and Bilateral Cooperation
      Section: Certification of National Education Qualifications
    Verification of European Diploma Supplement
    • Ministry of Education and Science
      Department: Policy in Higher Education
      Section: European Diploma Supplement
    • Internet:
    Verification of Records: Useful Tips
    • Most of the Bulgarian high schools do not have an established practice of sending academic credentials issued by them directly to U.S. colleges and universities.
    • If high school credentials have been submitted to you by the applicant, notify the student that copies of the documents will be sent to the Principal of the issuing institution for authentication.
    • Require legalization of higher educational documents with an APOSTILLE from the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    • Verify the document legalized with an apostille with the Ministry of Education and Science.
    • Contact the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission for assistance.
    Verification of Records: Apostille
    • If a document issued by an educational institution in Bulgaria (and in most cases, a translation of the document) needs to be used in the United States, obtaining a special “apostille” certificate is generally all that is required.
    • The authority issuing apostilles is the Consular Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
    • Documents for which apostilles are mainly issued: school and university diplomas, certificates, academic transcripts.
    Selected Internet Resources and References