University education in Bulgaria: quantity at expense of quality

Photo: BGNES

The new academic year in the Bulgarian universities started on October 1. Fifty five Bulgarian universities welcomed 300,000 students in different majors. The number of freshmen amount to 55,000. Earlier the state authorities approved 70,000 university quotas for first year students. Bulgaria’s population amounts to 7 million people only. That is why the number of students and universities in this country looks quite impressive. However, Bulgaria is still far from the European average, because nearly 30% of all Bulgarians graduated from universities, whereas 40% of the Europeans are university graduates.

The Bulgarian people have always wanted their children to receive a high-quality education. During the communist period when a dictatorship of the proletariat was established an anecdote had it that people had to study if they did not want to work a physical job. In the beginning of the stormy and controversial transition from communism to democracy this anecdote was changed by a number of examples from the reality when aggressive, primitive, uneducated and fit young people accumulated in an aggressive and illegal way a whole fortune and later provoked other peoples’ jealousy. This criminal, yet very prosperous contingent of thugs proved that one can become wealthy without having to study at all. Some young Bulgarians followed this example and neglected their education, let alone the university studies.

Today, the picture is controversial. The prestige of the university diploma has been restored to a big extent, thanks to the official policy of the Bulgarian authorities as well. The Bulgarian Ministry of Education is planning and sponsoring the quotas of the newly-enrolled students in each Bulgarian university. However, sometimes these quotas are not filled in, because they are either unrealistic, or because some of the university subjects are not that attractive to the young Bulgarians. On the other hand, the universities are trying to attract as many new students as possible, because the state subsidies are allotted per student. Currently, there are nearly 14,000 foreign citizens studying in Bulgarian universities. These students pay for their education in Bulgaria which makes them quite attractive for the local universities.

However, the policy aimed at increasing the number of university graduates is controversial, because it counts on the quantity rather than the quality. The quality of education and the requirements towards the students are often lowered, which helps less-motivated students pass their exams. Perhaps, we should mention here that the Bulgarian universities are not among the universities that occupy top positions at the University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP). Over 300,000 people graduated from Bulgaria’s oldest and most prestigious university Saint Kliment Ohridski in the past 130 years. However, this university places 855th at the University Ranking by Academic Performance 2017/2018.

The Bulgarian employers also claim that the university education does not correspond enough to the economic and social reality in this country and that the university graduates are experts on paper only and do not have enough professional skills and knowledge to meet the needs and the requirements of the local business and the Bulgarian society. That is why Bulgarian businessmen and industrialists received recently the opportunity to teach the Bulgarian students practical skills and knowledge in the field of business and science. This will be very useful both for the Bulgarian university graduates and the employers, because the future prosperity of Bulgaria depends on its competitiveness on the international markets.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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