Against the background of the health crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 edition of the Bulgarian University Ranking System (BURS) registers a steady trend of growing number of students studying in majors linked to the healthcare sector. The data in the newly released tenth edition of the Bulgarian rankings show that in the last 7 years the number of medical students in Bulgaria has increased from about 6,000 in 2013 to nearly 12,500 in 2020. The increase is a result of both the growing number of foreign students, who represent 56% of all medical students in Bulgaria, and the increase of nearly 14% in the number of Bulgarian students in this professional field. In total, in all professional fields linked to the healthcare sector, including the fields of Medicine, Dental medicine, Pharmacy, Health Care and Public Health, in 2020 more than 28,000 students are enrolled, representing nearly 13% of all students in the country. For comparison, in 2013 a little over 19,000 students were trained in these professional fields, representing 7% of the students in the country.
The increase in the number of students in the fields associated with the healthcare sector is part of a lasting trend of restructuring of the Bulgarian higher education and its approximation to the needs of the labor market. This trend has been registered by the BURS over the last decade, along with the trends of increasing number of internationally recognized scientific publications of Bulgarian universities, growing share of foreign students in the country, and expanding share of graduates who contribute to the Bulgarian social security system and are employed in positions requiring higher education.
The data in the Bulgarian University Ranking System show that the total number of students in Bulgarian HEIs in 2020 is 18% lower than in 2013. In 16 professional fields (PFs) the decline is over 40%. Among them are two of the three most popular professional fields – “Economics” with a decrease of 41% compared to 2013 and “Administration and Management” with a decrease of 45%. At the same time for the last 7 years in 13 PFs the number of students has increased. In 8 of them the increase is by more than 30%. The largest increase in the number of students is registered in the PFs of “Medicine” (108%), “Military Science” (59%), “Dental medicine” (52%), “Pedagogy” (42%), “National Security” (38%), “Health Care” (37%) and “Theater and Cinema Arts” (35%).
The five most popular professional fields in 2020 are “Economics” with 30,916 current students, “Pedagogy” (15,388), “Administration and Management” (13,373), “Medicine” (12,434) and “Communication and Computer Equipment” (8,316). For the first time in the Rankings, the field of “Law” with 7331 current students dropped out of the five most popular professional fields and is ranked 7th, including after the field of “Informatics and Computer Sciences”, in which 7913 current students are enrolled. In 2020, the professional field of “Pedagogy” replaced “Administration and Management” as the second most popular professional field in Bulgaria.
In the spring of 2020, most students studied at “St. Kliment Ohridski” Sofia University – over 19,200, followed by the University of National and World Economy with about 18,960 current students and “Paisii Hilendarski” Plovdiv University with about 16,000 students.
13% of the students in the country study in private universities. The professional field with the largest share of students in private universities is “Theater and Cinema Arts” – over 69%.
The share of foreign students in Bulgaria has increased from about 4% in 2013 to nearly 8% of the current students in 2020. The professional fields with the largest share of foreign students are “Medicine” (56%), “Dental medicine” (42%) and “Veterinary Medicine” (33%). Foreign students exceed 10% also in “Pharmacy” (13%), “Transport, Navigation and Aviation” (13%) and “Music and Dance Arts” (11%).
In 2020, the BURS includes indicators for the number of joint programs of Bulgarian universities with foreign HEIs issuing both Bulgarian and foreign diplomas to the graduates. The data show that 23 Bulgarian universities offer training in 88 joint programs with foreign partners, in which in the spring of 2020 nearly 3400 students were enrolled.
Against the background of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic the unemployment among the graduates of Bulgarian universities in the last 5 years has increased to 2.8% in 2020 from 2.2% in 2019. This is the highest unemployment rate recorded among graduates since 2017. In the initial stages of the pandemic in 2020, the other indicators for the labor market realization of graduates continue to improve. The share of graduates who do not contribute to the social security system has dropped to nearly 19% in 2020 from over 25% in 2014. At the same time, the share of employed graduates who in the first 5 years after graduation work in a position that requires higher education has increased to nearly 51% in 2020 from less than 46% in 2014. Among working graduates with Master’s degree in 2020 this share is 62%, while for bachelors it is 37%. The average insurable income of graduates has increased to BGN 1,373 in 2020 from BGN 1,297 last year and from BGN 867 in 2014. The data on the labor market realization used in the 2020 edition of the BURS are from February 2020 in order the effects of administratively imposed restrictions on certain sectors of the economy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to be to avoided.
The lowest unemployment (less than 1%) and the highest level of application of the acquired higher education degree (over 90%) are observed among the graduates of the professional fields “Medicine”, “Pharmacy”, “Dental medicine” and “Military Science”. Over 90% employment in a position requiring higher education is observed for the first time among the graduates in the field of “Theory and Management of Education”. Graduates in “Tourism” have the lowest application of the acquired higher education degree (21%).
The professional fields with the highest average income among the graduates are “Informatics and Computer Sciences”, “Mathematics”, “Minerals Prospecting, Extraction and Processing”, “Metallurgy” and “Communication and Computer Equipment”. The highest incomes in the country are received by the graduates of “Informatics and Computer Science” at “St. Kliment Ohridski” Sofia University.
First-year students with highest average Secondary education diploma GPA are those admitted in the fields of “Medicine” (5.56), “Pharmacy” (5.50), “Dental Medicine” (5.49), “Mathematics” (5.40) and “Philology” (5.22). The freshmen in the field of “Livestock Breeding” have the lowest Secondary education diploma GPA (4.24). The average Secondary education diploma GPA of the first-year students admitted in the Bulgarian HEIs in 2020 is 4.96.
The data in the Bulgarian Ranking System show a continuing increase in the number of scientific publications of Bulgarian universities in international bibliographic databases. The number of scientific publications of Bulgarian universities in Web of Science in the last five years (2015-2019) exceeds 17,600 and is twice as large as for the previous five-year period (2010-2014), within which there were 8,567 registered publications. The “St. Kliment Ohridski” Sofia University, the medical universities in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, as well as the University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy continue to be the HEIs in Bulgaria with the highest citation index of scientific publications in Scopus and Web of Science.
In the BURS 2020 predefined rankings the “St. Kliment Ohridski” Sofia University ranks first in 23 professional fields out of a total of 30, in which it offers training. The Technical University – Sofia ranks first in 6 professional fields out of a total of 11, in which it prepares students. The Medical University – Sofia is the first in 4 PFs. The University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy has 3 first places. The American University in Blagoevgrad, the Agricultural University in Plovdiv and the Trakia University in Stara Zagora have two first places each. Another 12 universities top one ranking each. In 8 professional fields the rankings are headed by universities outside the capital, and in 2 professional fields – by private universities.
The BURS compares the performance of 52 higher education institutions within 52 professional fields on the basis of dozens of indicators measuring various aspects of the teaching and learning process, research, learning environment, social and administrative services offered, the reputation and regional importance of higher education institutions, as well as the realization of graduates on the labor market. Information from various sources was used to form the indicators in the 2020 rankings, including information from: the higher education institutions, the National Agency for Assessment and Accreditation, the AdminUni module in the education information system, the National Center for Information and Documentation, the National Social Security Institute, the international bibliographic databases Scopus and Web of Science, as well as from conducted sociological surveys among students, teachers and managers and administrative staff in HEIs, as well as among employers.
The purpose of the BURS is to assist prospective students in their efforts to make informed choices and to navigate the variety of opportunities offered by higher education institutions in Bulgaria. Through the interactive web page of the Bulgarian University Ranking System (https://rsvu.mon.bg) users can see field based “Predefined Rankings” of Bulgarian universities, as well as to make their own “Custom Rankings” in view of their individual interests and preferences, using the indicators and functionalities available in the system. The ranking system also contains information about the most common professions among graduates of different professional fields in different universities in Bulgaria, a list of majors in which individual universities provide training, as well as a list of joint programs of Bulgarian universities with partners from abroad.
The Bulgarian University Ranking System is available in Bulgarian and in English at: https://rsvu.mon.bg
The 2020 BURS edition has been prepared by the OSI-S consortium, composed of Open Society Institute – Sofia and Sirma Solutions under contract with the Ministry of Education and Science within the project BG05M2ОP001-2.005-0001 “Maintenance and improvement of the developed university ranking system – phase 1″, funded by the Operational Program “Science and Education for Smart Growth”, co-financed by the European Union through the European Structural and Investment Funds. The contents of this publication can under no circumstances be taken as an official position of the European Union.