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 of the Educational System of Bulgaria

According to ISCED-97
(Reflects Reform in Higher Education begun in 1995)

Structure of the Educational System of Bulgaria

Click to enlarge

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

  • The official language of instruction is Bulgarian.
  • At 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: General

  • Authority: Ministry of Education and Science
    Web site in Bulgarian: www.minedu.government.bg
    The Ministry of Education and Science lays down and applies national education policy, and 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 (1-8 grades) 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 receipt of a Basic Education Completion Certificate. It 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 grade 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, 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

LEGAL FRAMEWORK
Documents

  • Law of 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 down of higher education institutions, as well as branches and faculties where there are provisions for study programs of the regulated professions.
  • The Council of Ministers - Makes the final decision about establishment, transformation and closing down of faculties, 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 the 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 a post-accreditation monitoring and control of the capability of an institution to assure quality and standards of its provision, 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
    • Equivalent to Universities Specialized Higher Education Institution/Technical University
    • Academy
  • Private and Public Institutions (37 public and 14 private institutions)

ADMISSION

  • The requirements for enrolment, depending on the type of the higher schools and the particular speciality, comprise written competition 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 themselves the requirements for enrolment every year. This enables them to organise admission in some specialities only on the basis of a diploma (a Diploma of secondary education) or by combining enrolment by diploma with a test or with exams.
  • The procedure for application in each speciality is determined on 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 3 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 the 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 defence 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 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: www.minedu.government.bg

VERIFICATION OF RECORDS: Useful Tips

  • Most of the Bulgarian high schools do not have the practice to send 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 APOSTILLE by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Verify the legalized through Apostille document with the Ministry of Education and Science.
  • Contact the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission for assistance.

VERIFICATION OF RECORDS: Apostille

  • If a document issued by 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

  • Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria
  • State Register of the Accredited Higher Schools in Bulgaria.
  • The National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency

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Major Universities in Bulgaria

Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”
15, Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., Sofia 1504
tel.: (359 2) 9308 422
fax: (359 2) 9460 255
www.uni-sofia.bg

University of National and World Economy
Studentski grad “Hristo Botev”, Sofia 1710,
tel.: (359 2) 963 0043
fax: (359 2) 962 3903
www.unwe.acad.bg

Technical University of Sofia
8, Kliment Ohridski Blvd., Sofia 1000
tel.: (359 2) 987 7870
fax: (359 2) 868 3215
www.tu-sofia.bg

University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy
1, Hristo Smirnenski Blvd., Sofia 1406
tel: (359 2) 9635245 /ext. 538
fax: (359 2) 8656863
www.uacg.bg

New Bulgarian University
21, Montevideo Str. Sofia 1632.
tel.: (359 2) 8110 482
fax: (359 2) 8110 260
www.nbu.bg

American University in Bulgaria
1, Georgi Izmirliev Sq., Blagoevgrad 2700
tel.: (359 73) 888 542
fax: (359 73) 880 174
www.aubg.bg

University of Veliko Turnovo
2, Teodosi Tarnovski Str.,Veliko Turnovo 5000
tel.: (359 62) 618 306
www.uni-vt.bg

University of Plovdiv
24, Tsar Assen str., Plovdiv 4000
tel.: (359 32) 629 094
fax: (359 32) 635 049
www.pu.acad.bg

University of Rousse
8 Studentska Str., Rousse 7017
tel.: (359 82) 845 362
fax: (359 82) 845 362
www.ru.acad.bg

Bourgas Free University
62 San Stefano Str., Bourgas 8000
tel: (359 56) 813 914
fax: (359 56) 813 905
www.bfu.bg

Varna University of Economics
77 Knyaz Boris I Blvd., Varna 9000,
tel.: (359 52) 660 358
www.ue-varna.bg

Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar”
”Chaika” Resort, Varna 9007,
tel.: (359 52) 359 523
www.vfu.bg

”D.A. Tsenov” Academy of Economics
2, Emanouil Chakarov Str., Svishtov 5250
tel: (359 631) 60450
www.uni-svishtov.bg

University of Shoumen
115 Universitetska Str., Shumen 9712
tel: (359 54) 830495
fax: (359 54) 830371
www.shu-bg.net

Agricultural University
12, Mendeleev Str., Plovdiv 4000
tel: (359 32) 633232
fax: (359 32) 633157
www.au-plovdiv.bg

University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy
8 St. Kliment Ohridski blvd., Sofia 1756
tel: (359 2) 8163 110
fax: (359 2) 8685 488
www.uctm.edu

University of Forestry
10 Kliment Okhridsky Blvd., Sofia 1756
tel: (359 2) 919 07
fax: (359 2) 8622 830
www.ltu.bg

Technical University of Varna
1 Studentska Str., Varna 9010
tel: (359 52) 383 331
fax: (359 52) 302 771
www.tu-varna.acad.bg

South-West University
Ivan Mihailov str., Blagoevgrad 2700
tel: (359 73) 831 562
fax: (359 73) 8889 182
www.swu.bg

National Academy of Arts
1, Shipka Str., Sofia 1000
tel.: (359 2) 9878 177
fax: (359 2) 9878 064
www.nha-bg.org

National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts
108-A, Rakovski Str., Sofia 1000
tel.: (359 2) 987 9862
fax: (359 2) 989 7389
www.natfiz.bg

State Academy of Music “Pancho Vladigerov”
94, Evlogy Georgiev Blvd., Sofia 1505
tel.: (359 2) 442 197
fax: (359 2) 944 1454
dma.data.bg

Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts
2 Todor Samoudomov St., Plovdiv 4025
tel.: (359 32) 601 441
fax: (359 32) 631 668
www.artacademyplovdiv.com

Medical University of Sofia
15 Dimitar Nestorov Blvd, Sofia 1431
tel.: (359 2) 590 052
fax: (359 2) 594 094
www.mu-sofia.bg

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
1, "15 Noemvri" Str., Sofia 1040
tel.: (359 2) 989 8446
fax: (359 2) 981 6629
www.bas.bg

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