HIGHER EDUCATION IN BULGARIAN CONTEXT: PECULIARITIES AND CHALLENGES

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Abstract

The objective of this article is to illustrate the issues and challenges which the higher education system in Bulgaria faces, with a particular accent on the phenomenon “education per kilogram”. The latter describes, in a popular language, the up-scaling of the university graduation, related to the mass proliferation of the higher education institutions (HEIs), the facilitated access to enrolment through paid tuitions, etc. The big quantity of HEIs in the country is in a mismatch with the low percentage of GDP which the government dedicates to education. The number of HEIs is also disproportionate against its population size - 54 HEIs in Bulgaria for population of 7.2 million. The research methodology includes a desktop study based on national statistical data and data from the governmentally-supported university rating system. An empirical survey, conducted among 250 tertiary education students enrolled in four Bulgarian universities, is a valuable contribution towards disclosing the pros and cons of the teaching practices in the tertiary education in the country. The first chapter describes at large the “education per kilogram” issue with regard to its possible origins, variations and consequences for the misbalance of labour market demand for certain qualifications and the universities supplies of qualified individuals. The second chapter reveals a comparative analysis by professional fields possible through the Ministry of Education and Science’s university rating system, i.e. students’ preferences for disciplines, universities and professions; the graduates’ professional fulfilment and how the income of the recent diploma-holders is a function of attending a particular HEI. The third chapter presents a sociological survey conducted among students in four Bulgarian universities which demonstrates learners’ attitudes towards various aspects of training, teaching methods and involvement in research assignments in the context of tertiary education.

The main conclusion of the article is that the “universities per kilogram” trend brought about other corresponding characteristics, such as “students per kilogram”, “academic titles per kilogram”, etc. Hence, the large number of HEIs in Bulgaria has not led to improving the quality and efficiency of education, and yet does not respond adequately to the changing labour market demands for qualified professionals.

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