Universities in Bulgaria offer an opportunity to obtain a European standard degree while significantly saving on tuition costs and living expenses. Despite the coastal location of the country, programs are not limited to hospitality studies: Medicine, Engineering, Agriculture and Linguistics are popular among foreigners, and can often be studied in English.

List of the best universities in Bulgaria

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Advantages of Bulgarian universities

  • Prices in most universities in Bulgaria start from 1,572-2,096 USD/year. After graduation, students receive a European diploma, which is recognized in the majority of the world.
  • High chance of admission. In the country's universities, the competition is very low, even for state-funded seats. Leading universities in Bulgaria sometimes have places even after three waves of admissions[1]. This is due to the fact that many young Bulgarians go to study abroad[2]. Therefore, for a foreigner, the chances of enrolling are very high.
  • Multilingualism. At universities in Bulgaria, you can study not only in Bulgarian. The most popular specialties (Management, Economics, Political Science, etc.) are taught in English. There are also several double degree programs in German and French. Some universities offer programs in Russian.
  • Medical universities in Bulgaria are known throughout Europe for their relatively low tuition fees and high quality of teaching. Despite the fact that universities don’t boast modern equipment, people come here to study medicine and dentistry even from countries with prestigious medical programs: Germany, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

Disadvantages of Bulgarian universities

  • Infrastructure. At a European university, a student often expects to see a comfortable campus, with modern equipment everywhere. Bulgarian educational institutions are nothing of the sort. As a rule, the physical condition of universities in Bulgaria leaves much to be desired. Most of the buildings are old, and the equipment is in desperate need of an upgrade.
  • Teaching staff. The profession of a teacher in Bulgaria is not considered prestigious, and the salaries are quite low. Many promising scientists leave the country for greener pastures, such as Germany or the United States. Because of this, at Bulgarian universities, you will not find the strongest representatives of the European academic community. There are also very few invited lecturers from abroad[3].
  • Prestige. In global rankings, Bulgarian universities are not even in the top-500. Local universities are considered rather average abroad. Therefore, when looking for a job, the name will not help a graduate of a Bulgarian university — you will have to rely solely on your own knowledge and experience.
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Admission requirements to Bulgarian universities

Type of studyAgeDurationMin. costAvg. costLanguage proficiencyExams
Pre-university program17+1 year1,572 USD3,144 USDIntermediate (B1)-
Professional Bachelor’s degree18+3 years1,782 USD2,620 USD/yearIntermediate (B1)STBFL B2
Bachelor's18+4 years1900
3,668 USD/yearUpper-Intermediate (B2)IELTS 6.0 / TOEFL 550 / STBFL B2
Master's20+1-2 years1900
4,716 USD/yearUpper-Intermediate (B2)IELTS 6.0 / TOEFL 550 / STBFL B2
MBA20+1-2 years3,144 USD/year4,192 USD/yearUpper-Intermediate (B2)IELTS 6.0 / TOEFL 550 / STBFL B2
PhD20+3 years2700
Upper-Intermediate (B2)IELTS 6.0 / TOEFL 550 / STBFL B2

The numbers in the table are approximate. The information must be checked on the website of the selected educational institution.

Applicants from countries with an 11-year secondary education system can enter the first year of Bachelor’s degree programs without additional entrance exams or any other issues. An exception to this rule is medical faculties: there applicants usually write tests in Biology and Chemistry. The GPA of the certificate/diploma is crucial: to participate in the undergraduate competition, your average score must be at least 62%. For admission to the Master's programs — 72%. Particular attention is paid to scores in the subjects related to the chosen direction.

Depending on the language of instruction, an appropriate language certificate might be required: Standard Test of Bulgarian as a Foreign Language (STBFL) for programs in the local language; IELTS, TOEFL and ESOL — for programs in English; DELF and TestDaF — for German and French, respectively.

For enrollment, you must provide a special certificate from the school proving that the student can study at a university in their home country, as well as a medical certificate.

Universities accept documents by mail until mid-September. The exact deadlines must be checked on the website of the selected educational institution.

Documents required for admission to universities in Bulgaria

Types of higher education institutions in Bulgaria

  • Universities are the largest institutions. They have the widest selection of specialties in Humanities, Economics, natural, technical and social Sciences, and Medicine. Universities can award PhD degrees.
  • Specialized schools are higher education institutions with a narrower professional focus. They include military, sports, and art academies, as well as universities specializing in a specific scientific field, such as technical universities.
  • Colleges allow you to get a professional qualification or Bachelor’s vocational education. Colleges can be independent or affiliated with universities.

Colleges in Bulgaria

Besides universities, there are more than 50 colleges in Bulgaria. Some of them are affiliated with universities. Here you can get a higher vocational education — a professional Bachelor. The students are studying for 3 years, combining theoretical classes with a lot of practice. For admission, you must know Bulgarian at least at B2 level.

In Bulgaria, with a professional Bachelor's degree, you can continue your education in a Master's program. However, for some programs, 3-year education is not enough: you will have to do another year of studies or take more Master's courses. You should also bear in mind that in other countries with a 4-year Bachelor's degree, such a diploma may not be recognized.

Nevertheless, in Bulgaria there is a higher demand for applied specialists than those with higher education[4], so vocational education can be a good investment if a student is planning to seek employment in the country. At a college, you can study management, finance, tourism, mechanical engineering, art, IT, medicine, and other specialties.

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Public and private universities in Bulgaria

There are 38 public universities in Bulgaria. Most students and employers consider them to be more prestigious and recognizable[5]. At the same time, many students note outdated teaching methods, the lack of modern equipment, and the slow introduction of technology into the educational process. Education here is cheaper than in private educational institutions. Prices for foreigners start from 2,096 USD per year, while state-funded seats are offered only to local applicants.

Only state universities offer specialties such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Medicine. Also, state universities are more often chosen by future lawyers, psychologists, teachers, philologists, engineers, and specialists in the field of tourism[6]. Traditionally, the best state university is considered to be St. Clement of Ohridski University.

There are fewer private universities in Bulgaria: as of 2020, there are only 14 of them. The prices here are not much higher compared to public universities, and sometimes they can be lower. For example, at the New Bulgarian University, any Bachelor’s program will cost a student 1,572 USD per year, at Varna University of Management — 1,991 USD per year. The only private institution with a particularly high cost is the American University of Bulgaria (AUBG). The tuition fee there will be 12,450 USD per year. However, there are many scholarship options at AUBG and graduates receive an American diploma.

Most private educational institutions offer specialties related to Management, Business, and Finance. Also, almost 70% of students choose private universities to study theater, cinema, and art theory[7]. Many private universities have established relationships with employers, therefore, according to the ranking of Bulgarian universities, the percentage of graduates in the profession is higher here. However, this figure varies depending on the specialty[6].

Groups and associations of Bulgarian universities

There are no large university associations within the country, but representatives of higher education in Bulgaria are actively involved in international associations:

  • Balkan Association of Universities brings together 79 higher education institutions of the Balkan Peninsula. The goal of the association is to support and enhance the cultural values ​​of the region, as well as to conduct joint scientific research to improve educational methods.
  • The Association of Professors of Slavic Countries unites teachers from universities in Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Through joint efforts, the members of the association establish links between leading universities in their countries and conduct research in the field of teaching.
  • The Association of International Universities’ Departments includes representatives of more than 30 universities in Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Coordinators of international departments are trying to develop student mobility between universities.

Free universities in Bulgaria

Education in Bulgaria is free for citizens of the country and students from the European Union. The tuition costs are covered by a state scholarship. In this case, teaching is conducted only in Bulgarian. Competition for budget-funded places is usually low, but candidates still have to pass entrance exams.

Applicants from countries that are not in the EU can study in Bulgaria only for a fee, on average 2,096-3,144 USD per year. Applicants are selected by their package of documents, without additional entrance tests.

Full funding is available only at the American University of Bulgaria. Some universities also offer monthly academic achievement scholarships. Details should be checked directly with the representatives of the selected educational institution.

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Interesting facts about Bulgarian universities

  • The astronomer Dimitar Sasselov was born in Sofia and studied at Sofia University. He discovered the most distant planet from the Sun in the Milky Way to date. Since 1998, Sasselov has been a professor at Harvard University.
  • In 2020, Sofia University posthumously stripped four Hitler supporters of their honorary PhDs. The degrees were awarded to them in 1939-40. The Academic Council of the University said: “The representatives of fascist Germany have no place among the distinguished personalities.”
  • Scientists from the Institute of Electronics of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, together with representatives of the Samara University are developing new technology to diagnose skin cancer. The shoebox-sized device will allow testing of residents even of the most remote regions of the world. It is expected that the accuracy of pathology detection will reach 95-98%.
  • There is a problem of poverty and discrimination of gypsies in Bulgaria. Most often they study in separate schools and are forced to hide their origin in order to be admitted to the university.[8] The Military Medical Academy still does not enroll such students. Nevertheless, the government and public organizations are trying in every possible way to involve young “Roma” (as gypsies are called in Bulgaria) in higher education by issuing grants for training.[9]
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