Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange
The Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange (Bulgarian Fulbright Commission) was officially inaugurated on February 9, 1993, under a ten-year bilateral agreement between the Governments of the United States and the Republic of Bulgaria. On December 3, 2003, a new bilateral agreement was signed between the Governments of the United States and the Republic of Bulgaria establishing the Fulbright Commission in perpetuity. The Commission consists of ten members, five of whom are American citizens and five are citizens of Bulgaria. They represent the major areas of state and public activity: government education and business. The Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Bulgaria and the Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria serve as honorary chairpersons of the Commission. Dr. Julia Stefanova is the Executive Director of the Fulbright Commission. The Commission staff consists of two program officers, financial officer and cashier, administrative secretary, educational adviser, coordinator of the language-training center in Sofia and coordinators of local info centers.
The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program and Commission in Bulgaria is an annual US government allocation of about $ 700,000 and since 2009 an annual BG Government contribution of $ 140,000.
The main function of the Commission directly derives from the goals of the Fulbright Program worldwide and consists in administering the exchange of Bulgarian and American scholars, students, teachers, school administrators and professionals and disseminating information about opportunities for study, research, teaching and lecturing in the U.S.
Prior to the establishment of the Commission the Fulbright exchange existed on a limited scale. Between 1967 and 1993 there were 102 Bulgarian and about 80 American Fulbright grantees. From 1993 to 2012 a total of 846 Bulgarian and American specialists have been awarded scholarships under the following programs: Fulbright grants for senior scholars and graduate students, Hubert Humphrey fellowships, Fulbright Teacher and School Administrator Exchange, Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminars, U.S. Studies Summer Institutes, Fulbright Senior Specialists. The total number of Bulgarian and American Fulbright grantees since 1967 is 1028. Of these, 517 are Bulgarians and 511 Americans.
Educational advising is another major activity of the Commission that has dramatically expanded since the opening of the Advising Center in 1994. The Center offers ample information and guidance on educational opportunities in the US, admission procedures at US universities, financial aid, paper-based and computer-based testing, language training, the annual Fulbright and other competitions etc. There are regular individual and group sessions from Monday through Friday. Annually, the center services about 11,000 visitors, email and phone inquirers.
In 1995 the Commission established its Language Training Center in Sofia which offers English language instruction at all levels and preparation for the American standardized tests iBT TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT and business English. Annually, the Language Center trains over 400 students.
In 1997 a Computer-Based Testing Center was opened on the premises of the Fulbright Commission through Sylvan Prometric. It offers administration of iBT, GRE, TOEFL, GED, EPSO and other tests. Annually, over 2700 testees use the computer-based testing facility.
To make educational opportunities in the US more widely known in Bulgaria and ensure a broader participation of candidates in the Fulbright competition, the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission has opened seven local information centers in the cities of Plovdiv, Veliko Turnovo, Sliven, Smolyan, Vidin, Shumen and Kurdzhaly.
The manifold activities of the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission are publicized by a quarterly Newsletter (now available on Internet).
Every two years since 1994 the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission organizes international Fulbright conferences on key issues relating to education, culture, knowledge and the growth of civil society:
- 1994 “Breaking Barriers through International Education”
- 1996 “Understanding Differences and Building Bridges”
- 1998 “Education and Civil Society in the Post-Totalitarian World”
- 2000 “Globalization and Cultural Differences”
- 2002 “Knowledge, Power and Freedom in a Changing World”
- 2004 “Strengthening Transatlantic Cooperation and European Integration through Educational and Cultural Exchange”
- 2006 "Culture, Education and Leadership Today and Tomorrow"
- 2008 “Education and Society: Problems, Prospects, Prognoses”
- 2010 "Education for the New Age: Tradition, Reform, Innovation"
Every year since 2002 the Commission organizes a two-week Fulbright International Summer Institute. FISI offers one and two-week interdisciplinary courses in a variety of fields: political science and international relations, social studies, economics and business, education and communication, cultural studies, etc. The courses are addressed to undergraduate and graduate students and junior faculty from all over the world. Special courses are offered to US Fulbright grantees. FISI also offers a rich cultural and tourist program. For more information: www.fisi-bg.info.