This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Population: 6,966,899 (July 2020 est.)
GDP: $151.132 billion (2019 est., Purchasing Power Parity)
Currency: Leva (BGN)
UNESCO Student Mobility Number:
Bulgaria has 25,093 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.
CIA World Factbook:
23.92% of the population in Bulgaria is under 24 years old.
On one hand, being part of the EU has greatly improved the mobility opportunities for Bulgarian students and nowadays a significant amount of young people choose to continue their higher education abroad. Some EU countries provide free university education and many incentives for EU member countries. On the other hand, Bulgarian students are not that informed of the U.S. as an educational destination in comparison to the European universities which are spending a substantial amount on information campaigns and expos promoting their universities.
According to latest data from Eurostat, Bulgarian government expenditure on education is 4.1% of GDP. Education costs in Bulgaria are one of the lowest in the EU as only EUR 250 (approx. USD 286) are spent on average per inhabitant.
As a member of the European Union since 2007, Bulgaria can benefit from various programs. To help develop and strengthen innovations in higher and general education, as well as vocational training, Operational Program Science and Education for Smart Growth covers 2014 to 2020. The fund amount exceeds approximately USD 770 million and it is expected to advance the students’ opportunities for knowledge, skills, and competencies by supporting laboratories and pilot centers, different activities, and scholarships.
2020 Open Doors Reports shows that percentage of Bulgarian students in the U.S. is decreasing by 8.4% comparing to the previous academic year and the total number of Bulgarian students in USA is 730. In comparison, for the 2018/2019 academic year there were 757 students in the U.S., in 2017/2018 – 826 Bulgarian students in the U.S., and in 2016/2017 – 929.
The only U.S. university in the country — the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) – is located in two cities – Blagoevgrad and the capital – Sofia. It offers excellent service to international students and strong academic programs. Since its opening in 1991 AUBG has consistently ranked number one among universities in Bulgaria for its Business Administration, Management and PR/Mass Communication programs. AUBG has approximately 1000 students. In 2017 AUBG started, at their campus in Sofia, the first Executive Master program in Banking, Finance and Real Estate as a joint venture program with together with SDA School of Business Bocconi University in Italy.
AUBG has an active International Student Exchange Program and currently has an agreement with The University of Maine, Orono, Maine for a semester or for a full academic year for outgoing students. For incoming students – they have to be enrolled at the University of Maine, Orono, Maine or the State University of New York, Fredonia, New York. The academic credits are recognized in Europe and in the USA.
There are total of 54 higher school institutions in Bulgaria. 22 out of 54 are colleges for professional education in sectors such as tourism, business and management, and marketing. College education in Bulgaria is approximately 3 years long, as some institutions provides diplomas equivalent to universities.
Another established American education institution in Bulgaria is The American College of Sofia (ACS) – a secondary school based in the capital Sofia. The college was founded in 1860 and is one of the oldest American educational institutions outside the United States. Every year the ACS students score the highest results for the final state exam.
Since 2018, a new trend in the secondary education is the so-called distance learning platforms. American High School in Varna partners with Florida-based school to provide an online program that gives the opportunity to get an American diploma by taking only courses that are required by the State of Florida’s Education Department. When enrolled in the American High School program, the students are able to sign up for the whole gamut of middle and high school subjects which vary from English literature, to business, to programming, to psychology and anthropology.
Most Bulgarian students willing to study abroad are proficient in English and are usually very well-prepared academically, which facilitates their learning experience abroad. About 98% of the high school students study a foreign language (usually English) and 73% study a second language (mainly German, French, Spanish, Russian).
In Bulgaria there are many public schools that are fully licensed for teaching in English language. There are 42 foreign language schools in the country (mostly English language schools plus other foreign languages). Great examples are First English Language School and Secondary English Language School, “Thomas Jefferson” based in the capital – Sofia and the English Language School in the town of Plovdiv. The entire first year in those high schools is fully focused on intense learning of English language. Grades 9th to 12th study almost every subject in English and have the opportunity to learn a second language (German, Spanish, Russian). The majority of the graduating students prefer to continue their studies abroad.
Online Programs were not so popular in Bulgaria until 2020. Leading universities such as Sofia University, Varna University, and New Bulgarian University already provided different online education programs. Traditionally, the online programs are an alternative for many students with full-time jobs. The prices for these programs vary from USD 700 to USD 5,000 per year.
Due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic, schools and universities in Bulgaria were forced to have the classes online. Preferable online platforms are: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Shkolo, Moodle, Ucha.se, and Google Classroom. Out of these Shkolo and Ucha.se are Bulgarian online platforms. Shkolo is used by 70% of the schools in the country, and it was just developed in March 2020. Ucha.se – has more than 16 000 video lessons. DOX.bg . Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Zoom, and Moodle are mostly used by the Bulgarian universities.
Two of the biggest publishing houses in the country announced they would guarantee free access to the electronic version of all textbooks they published for the grades 1-12. Electronic diaries, e-mails, and social media are also used in order to provide students with instructions on how to better prepare their self-learning activities and homework exercises.
A1, which is one of the leading providers of digital services and telecommunications solutions in Bulgaria, teamed up with Prosveta Publishing House to give Bulgarian students, parents, and teachers fast, convenient, and secure access to modern digital education. They offer over 425 interactive textbooks in all subjects from 1st to 12th grade, textbooks, manuals, and dozens of notebooks for them. They include over 33,000 additional resources to help the student, teacher, and parent – videos, audio files, presentations, photo galleries, 360-degree panoramic photos, animations, puzzles, crosswords and 3D visualizations, interactive tests, and tasks and exercises – along with hundreds of video tutorials on the curriculum and tests for testing knowledge, as well as entire sections – for preparation for tests and class work.
During these pandemic times, the US Ivy League Universities had 500 classes that students could take online to improve their knowledge on different topics and that’s thanks to online education. Many Bulgarian students took advantage of that unique opportunity.
Research and Development
Another EU funded program, besides the Operational Program, is Research and Innovation Performance and Horizon 2020, which is focused on national research programs and innovation systems. Research and Development investment is mainly supported by private businesses in Bulgaria. In 2015, 0.96 % of GDP was spent for R&D, less than 0.4% from public spending. The goal of Horizon 2020 program is 1.50% of GDP by 2020, equally shared by government and business.
In the new 7-year EU budget framework Bulgaria is set to receive around USD 33.2 billion. The sum is also meant to help with the recovery from Covid-19. Bulgaria is also allowed to apply for an additional USD 237.3 million for its underdeveloped regions.
The Ministry of Education and Science and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The cooperation will also support the development of innovation through education in natural sciences, digital technologies, engineering thinking, and mathematics (STEM) to shape the skills of the future and prepare future generations to be successful in their careers. The activities in implementation of the Memorandum will support the more active participation of Bulgaria in the Framework Program, as well as in the future most ambitious program for research and innovation of the European Union - “Horizon Europe.”
In 2020 Bulgaria applied for funds from “React EU” to buy at least 80,000 tablets – 20,000 for teachers, and a minimum of 60,000 for students. They will be distributed for e-learning purposes only and will guarantee the educational process for those who do not have the opportunity to acquire their own devices.
Best prospects within the education sector for Bulgarians, studying in the U.S. include intensive English language training programs (e.g. summer programs for both students and adults), programs in business administration; Work, Study and Travel programs (around 5,500 Bulgarian students participating in 2019); e-learning; and undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Summer courses in the U.S. and year-round on-line courses could present good opportunities for U.S. universities and schools looking to attract Bulgarian students. The summer English language programs are suitable for local students and fit well with Bulgaria’s semester structure. Distance learning courses and e-learning are getting more popular among younger generation students.
Educational consulting agencies in Bulgaria provide great assistance to Bulgarians who plan to study abroad. The opportunities for students are numerous. They can be sent there to boarding school or after they graduate high school, also university graduates can take up an internship. These consulting agencies inform students about requirements and documentation, while facilitating the whole process. They include such entities as Integral Educational Programs Ltd., Darbi ESH Study Abroad, Orange Education, Skylines Ltd. SRT, Edlanta Education Abroad, Miotrade/Edumarket, and more.
To assist U.S. universities in sharing ‘their story’ to South East European (SEE) countries – CS Sofia supported and organized four regional virtual educational fairs (VEF) – back in 2015, 2016, 2018 and the latest one in October 2019, together with Albania, Greece, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia, attracting over 120 educational consultants, universities representatives, and college councilors from the SEE region.
- World Education Fair
- International fair Education Beyond Borders
- U.S. Commercial Service – Bulgaria: https://www.trade.gov/bulgaria
- U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service Global Education Team: www.trade.gov/education-industry
- Industry and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services: www.trade.gov/professional-and-business-services
- Ministry of Education and Science: https://www.mon.bg/en/
- Fulbright Commission: https://www.fulbright.bg/en/
- National Statistics Institute: https://www.nsi.bg/en
- OP Science and Education for Smart Growth 2014-2020: http://sf.mon.bg/?go=page&pageId=84
- Horizon 2020: https://horizon2020.mon.bg/en
- American University in Bulgaria: https://www.aubg.edu/
- American College of Sofia: https://www.acs.bg/
- Eurostat: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat
U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACT
Peter Delin, Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Bulgaria
Phone: +359 2 939 5784