The Bulgarian Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Bulgaria we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. Bulgarian students have always been very internationally oriented and mobile. Back in 2013 the outbound mobility rate was 8%. In 2021 this figure has gone up to 10,8% (according to UNESCO). At the moment, more than 25,000 Bulgarian students are studying overseas for a bachelor, master of PhD degree.

Most of the Bulgarian students choose Germany, the UK and other EU destinations because the EU provides free university education for EU member countries. The main focus on majors is economics and business, legal studies, psychology, architecture, fashion and design, and computer technologies. Bulgarian mathematics education is among the best in Europe.

The Bulgarian education system is facing some serious issues. According to a report by the European Union, Although public spending on education (In Bulgaria) is increasing, the system remains underfunded.

‘In 2017, Bulgaria’s general government expenditure on education rose by 8% in real terms compared to the previous year, reaching the equivalent of 3.6% of GDP. Despite this improvement, public spending on education is still among the lowest in the EU, and significantly below the EU average of 4.6%.’

According to the same report, ‘Educational infrastructure is in great need of modernization. There are considerable disparities in the quality of school facilities, with poorer municipalities being particularly at disadvantage (UNICEF, 2018). Schools often lack basic facilities or equipment, and have no laboratories or sports facilities.’ All this and more in the Market Report on Bulgaria.

Quick facts

  • Population: 6,95 million (2020)

  • Education: 9 years compulsory

  • Academic year: October – June

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 11

  • Duration: 8 years

  • Enrollment numbers: 486,000 (2019)

Higher education

  • 3 years (Bachelor) – 2 years (Master), 4 years (PhD)

  • Enrollment numbers: 250,000 (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 71%

  • Universities / Polytechnics: 51 (37 public, 14 private institutions)

Bulgarian Education System

Education in Bulgaria is mainly regulated 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.

Secondary education

In Bulgaria, secondary education comprises 12 grades, organized in two major levels: basic and secondary. Basic education (grades first through eighth) is subdivided into two sub-levels: elementary (grades first through fourth) and presecondary (grades fifth through eighth).

Secondary education normally encompasses grades eighth through twelfth, but can start earlier depending on the type of school. There are two major kinds of secondary schools: secondary comprehensive, usually called gymnasia (high school) and secondary vocational, most often referred to as tehnikum (vocational school.)

Special schools at all educational levels accommodate students with impaired health. Private schools constitute a new element in the structure of the education system. (Source:

Admission to Higher Education in Bulgaria

The requirements for enrollment in higher education depends on the type of institution. They include: 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.

Higher Education system

Higher education is provided exclusively by colleges and universities. In accordance with the Higher Education Act, they are all self-governing and autonomous institutions.

Visual depicting the Bulgarian Educational System

Types of Higher Education Institutions

Higher education is provided by: universities, specialized higher schools and self-contained colleges.

Universities: provide scientific education in a wide range of subjects within at least three of the four major branches of science – humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and technical sciences. They offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees.
A specialized higher school conducts scientific research and offers courses of training in one of the major areas of science, arts, physical culture, and military science. These higher schools also offer (university) master and PhD programs.
A self-contained college provides training on polytechnic level. It awards professional bachelor degrees.
A college may be established within the structure of a university or of a specialized higher school accredited for the professional areas or majors of regulated professional education. A college awards professional bachelor qualifications.

Training in doctoral programs is performed in Research Organizations such as Bulgarian Academy of Science, Agricultural Academy, etc.

The following qualifications are delivered by higher education institutions in Bulgaria:

  • Bachelor: the duration of study is three to four years depending on the type of bachelor program. There is a distinction between the bachelor degrees from universities and polytechnics.
    – Colleges (Polytechnics): 3 years, 180 ECTS
    – Universities: 4 years, 240 ECTS
  • Master: the duration of study is one or two years; 60 or 120 ECTS.
    – 1 year (60ECTS) for students with a BA or BSC degree
    – 2 years (120 ECTS) for students with a Professional Bachelor degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy, PhD: the duration of study is 3 – 4 years.

Latest Bulgarian Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 25,185 Bulgarian students are studying abroad, for or as part of a degree in higher education. (Source: Unesco). These are the most popular study abroad destinations:

Bulgarian students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

IB schools in Bulgaria

Upcoming Education Fairs in Bulgaria

Scholarships for Bulgarian students

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