Wednesday, March 30, 2016

TRANSATLANTIC EDUCATOR'S DIALOGUE (TED) SERIES-Week Six

From January to May, the European Union Center invites educators from throughout the world to come together in an online setting and discuss important topics in modern educational practice and politics. As part of this discussion, students from the University of Illinois are invited to follow the discussion and write short posts about related topics on a country of interest. Lindsay Ozburn, a student in the EU Center’s Masters of Arts in European Union Studies program, will be contributing to this series through a multi-week study of Bulgarian politics and government. Her research will provide a thoughtful and helpful case study that will give TED participants a chance to see how their discussion topics are expressed in real life.

Week Six Prompt:How does your country approach higher education? What is the student debt situation like? How many colleges and universities does the country have? Are any of them world-renown / famous? How is the transition between their high-school analogue and university handled? Do students frequently get scholarships, or do they tend to pay for themselves? Do good students get automatic acceptance into public universities?

Bulgaria in Higher Education

Like many EU member states, Bulgaria has been steadily making progress in higher education reform in the 1990s, driven by Bulgaria’s necessity to revitalize their economy and labor force. 
According to the Fulbright Office of Bulgaria, the country has 51 accredited higher education institutions – 37 public, and 14 private. There are four different types of higher education institutions: Higher Education College, University, Specialized Higher Education Institution, and Academy. Admission to these higher schools, in general, requires entrance exams and a diploma from a completed secondary education. Admission requirements do vary, though, depending on the nature of the higher education institute (i.e., technical schools have different requirements than university).

Cost of living and attending higher education institutes in Bulgaria is very low, compared to the United States, making attending a university more feasible for individuals in the middle class. Tuition rates in the mid 2000s were between 2,500 and 5,000 euros, depending on the school (tended to be more expensive at trade schools). No recent (within the past few years) data is available on student loan debt ratios, from what I can dig up in English; but, in the early 2000s, scholars began suggesting Bulgaria implement a stronger student loan program to accommodate students from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. Since Bulgaria participates in an EU-wide education initiative that provides funding to schools for a variety of educational needs, it is likely that they provide more financial support than universities in the U.S. It is unclear to me, at this point, though, whether or not Bulgaria offers free tuition in any form to its citizens, like most other European nations.

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