Key Highlights from the Bulgarian University Ranking System 2023


The 2023 edition of the Bulgarian University Ranking System (BURS) highlights ongoing trends in the improvement of graduates’ employability, the increasing presence of international students in Bulgaria, and the growing impact of scientific publications from Bulgarian higher education institutions.

The new edition of the ranking system was presented by the Minister of Education, Galin Tsokov, and the Director of the Open Society Institute – Sofia, Georgi Stoytchev, at a joint press conference held at the Ministry of Education in Sofia. Minister Tsokov highlighted that the data from the ranking system is utilized to shape national policies in higher education. “Over the last 13 years, the ranking has become part of the comprehensive assessment of the quality of Bulgaria’s HEIs, which is crucial in determining their funding. This is a significant step forward for the evaluation of Bulgarian higher education based on specific data and analyses aimed at establishing quality,” the Minister said.

The 2023 edition of BURS shows that despite the negative economic effects associated with the war in Ukraine, the percentage of registered unemployed among Bulgarian citizens who graduated from domestic higher education institutions in the last 5 years remains close to the record-low level of just above 2% achieved last year, compared to 3.5% in 2021. Other indicators of graduates’ employment outcomes continue to improve, reaching record values for the past decade. The proportion of employed graduates working in positions requiring higher education within the first 5 years after graduation has increased to over 59% in 2023, compared to 54% last year and 46% in 2014. The average taxable income of graduates also rises, reaching over 2200 leva in 2023, compared to 1839 leva last year and only 980 leva in 2015.

Despite these positive trends, the new edition of the national ranking system for another year reveals significant differences in average income levels, unemployment rates, and the application of acquired higher education among graduates depending on their completed professional field, as well as the specific higher education institution.

The lowest unemployment rates (below 1%) are observed among graduates of professional fields such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Stomatology, Military Science and Mathematics, while the highest unemployment rates are among graduates in Social Work (3.4%).

The highest rates of application of acquired higher education (over 90%) are observed among graduates in Medicine, Stomatology, Pharmacy, Military Science, and Theory and Management of Education, while the lowest rates are among graduates in Tourism (26%).

In Bulgaria, over 94% of graduates secure employment within the country, with notable variations among different fields of study. Graduates in Education Theory and Management, Military Science, and Pharmacy show the highest rates, while those in Transport, Shipping, Navigation, and Aviation and Fine Arts exhibit lower rates, below 70%.

The highest average taxable incomes are earned by graduates in Computer Science and Military Science, exceeding 4000 leva. Following closely are those in Metallurgy, Mathematics, Research, Extraction, and Development of Ores and Minerals, Communication and Computer Technology, and National Security, with incomes ranging between 3000 and 4000 leva. At the institutional level, graduates in Computer Science from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” boast the highest average taxable income at 6469 leva (compared to 5592 leva the previous year), followed by graduates in the same field at New Bulgarian University, earning 5767 leva (compared to 4333 leva the previous year).

Among first-year students for the academic year 2022-2023, the highest average GPAs from their secondary education diplomas are achieved by those enrolled in Medicine (5.63), Pharmacy (5.56), Stomatology (5.53), Mathematics (5.42), Computer Science (5.36), and Veterinary Medicine”(5.35). The lowest GPA is recorded among first-year students in Materials and Material Science (4.42). The overall average GPA for first-year students nationwide is 5.08, marking the highest level since data has been recorded in the ranking system since 2013.

Specifically, first-year students in Computer Science at Sofia University achieve the highest GPA from secondary education (5.75), followed by those in Public Communications and Information Sciences at the American University and Medicine at Medical University – Sofia, both with a GPA of 5.72.

The three most populated professional directions in 2023 are Economics with 24,906 students, Pedagogy with 16,900 students, and Medicine with 12,660 students. The least populated direction is Theory of Arts with only 48 students.

Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” has the highest number of students, totaling 19,167, followed by Plovdiv University “Paisii Hilendarski” with 16,226 and the University of National and World Economy with 14,358 students. In 13 higher education institutions in the country, the number of enrolled students is below 1000, including two with fewer than 100 students. The nine largest universities educate half of the students in the country, while the remaining half attend the other 42 accredited higher education institutions.

In private higher education institutions, slightly over 11% of students in the country are enrolled, with the highest proportion in professional fields such as Theatre and Cinema Arts (over 64%), Administration and Management (42%), and Fine Arts (41%).

Over the past decade, the share of international students in Bulgaria has doubled, increasing from approximately 4% in 2013 to over 8% of students in 2023. International students are most prevalent in fields such as Medicine (57% of students), Stomatology (46%), and Veterinary Medicine (31%). Additionally, three other professional fields have international students exceeding 10% of the total number – Transport, Shipping, Navigation, and Aviation (13%), “Pharmacy” (12%), and Music and Dance (11%).

Bulgaria offers 128 joint programs in partnership with foreign educational institutions, accounting for 2.8% of the country’s student population in 2023.

Data collected for the ranking system indicates a continuous trend of increased quantity and impact of scientific publications from Bulgarian higher education institutions in global bibliographic databases. Over the five-year period from 2018 to 2022, the number of publications in the Web of Science database exceeded 24,000, surpassing the approximately 20,500 publications in the previous five-year period (2017-2021). Similarly, in the Scopus database, there were just over 27,000 publications from 2018 to 2022, compared to around 21,000 in the previous five-year period. The H-index for Bulgarian higher education institutions has also increased from 94 to 109 in Web of Science and from 98 to 111 in Scopus when comparing the two researched periods.

In the standardized rankings for 2023, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” holds the top position in 22 out of 28 professional fields, while the Technical University of Sofia leads in 6 out of 9 fields. Medical University – Sofia claims the top spot in all five fields in which it offers education. Additionally, the University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy holds three top positions. Other institutions, including the American University in Blagoevgrad, Agricultural University in Plovdiv, and Trakia University in Stara Zagora, each have two top positions. Fourteen other universities lead in one category each, with ten professional fields topped by institutions outside the capital and three by private institutions.

BURS compares the performance of 51 accredited higher education institutions in Bulgaria across 52 professional fields, considering various aspects of the educational process, scientific activity, learning environment, social and administrative services, institutional prestige, regional significance, and the employability of graduates. The goal is to assist prospective students in making informed choices and navigating the diverse range of educational opportunities in Bulgaria.

The ranking system is available in both Bulgarian and English on its website:

The data for the 2023 ranking system has been updated and compiled by the “OSI-S” consortium, composed of the Open Society Institute – Sofia and Sirma Solutions.