Modernization of higher education institutions
During the current period, the following were adopted:
- Ordinance No. 26 of November 17, 2022 on the Register of Higher Education Institutions. The register is kept and maintained as an electronic database by the Minister of Education and Science through the National Center for Information and Documentation. It is already built and functioning.
- Ordinance No. 1 of January 13, 2023 for the Register of all Active, Interrupted and Graduated Students and Doctoral Students by Degrees and by Professional Fields. A separate part is opened in the register for each student or doctoral student, in which contain data and circumstances identifying the person, data and circumstances for previously completed education degree, data and circumstances for training in the specialty/doctoral program, data and circumstances regarding the graduation process, as well as the changes in them. A person can verify whether he is a student or PhD student and can access scanned images of their graduate documents.
- The Action Plan until 2024 for the Strategic Framework for the Development of Education, Training and Learning in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021 – 2030), with the Decision of the Council of Ministers of March 22, 2023. It envisages providing support to vulnerable groups for access to higher education. In implementation of this measure, additional trainings will be provided to students from vulnerable groups from the second high school stage, with the aim of successfully passing state matriculation exams and applying to higher schools students from vulnerable groups for the first year in the university. Under the Erasmus + program, funds are provided for educational mobility for citizens, including in higher education.
The Three-year Plan for the Implementation of the Strategy for the Development of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria 2021-2030 (for the period 2021-2024) for the current year foresees support for the development of the academic staff in higher schools and scientific organizations, including increasing interest and improving conditions for doctoral programs related to the needs of the labor market. This happens through the support of modular programs and through the implementation of the National Program "Improving the competences of teachers from public higher education institutions which prepare teachers". In the period 2021 - 2023, 18 projects under the procedure "Modernization of higher education institutions" were approved within the budget of OP SESG with the participation of 32 higher education institutions. The funds provide:
- support for content creation and provision of technological resources for the development of quality distance learning, with interactive access and virtual classrooms, incl. for attracting foreign students and Bulgarian young people who lives abroad to study in Bulgaria
- Significant increase in e-distance learning programs, improvement and updating of e-distance learning curriculums and platforms, digitization of content and creation of new interactive digital resources
- Digitization of the educational process
- Stimulation of educational cooperation between the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Agricultural Academy and higher schools for the development of master's degrees and joint doctorates, for example through the adoption of a national program in the field of higher education
- Stimulating the creation and supporting the functioning of joint educational programs between Bulgarian and foreign higher schools, as well as new forms of educational exchange within the framework of European cooperation, such as double and joint educational degrees and others.
With an amendment to the Higher Education Act, the Council of Ministers, on the proposal of the Minister of Education and Science, has adopted an annual update of the National Map of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria. The National map determines the profile and territorial structure of higher education in the country by professional fields and specialties from the regulated professions in accordance with socio-economic development and the needs of the labor market. The National Center for Information and Documentation is normatively entrusted with the maintenance of an information system for higher education institutions. The information that must be contained in this information system has also been supplemented. A register of certificates issued for the purpose of issuing a long-term residence visa (visa type "D") to citizens of third countries accepted to study in Bulgarian higher-education schools and scientific organizations is included. The National Center for Information and Documentation is also entrusted with the maintenance of an information database for the contracts concluded with an employer to ensure the internship of the student in the relevant specialty for the period of the training and at a workplace after its successful completion.
The criteria for designated a as a research higher-education school have also been added A higher education school that makes a significant contribution to the development of important public areas through top scientific research and has high research results, evaluated according to objective indicators, including the number of scientific publications in additions, referenced in international databases, number of published applications for patents, number of citations by other authors in refereed and indexed journals in international databases, may be designated as a research higher-education school. The objective indicators, the international databases and the methodology for defining higher education institutions as research institutions shall be determined by an act of the Council of Ministers. The number of agreements that this type of higher education institution can conclude with state and municipal schools to carry out joint educational activities in the subjects and/or modules for acquiring profiled, professional and specialized training at the secondary level of education has also been increased - from four at eight.
The conditions for early termination of the mandate of the Rector of the higher school have also been added:
- when plagiarism and/or unreliability of the scientific data, presented in the scientific works, on the basis of which a scientific degree has been acquired or an academic position has been occupied, is established with regard to the Rector of the higher education institution, or
- when the Rector fails to fulfill his obligation to terminate the employment relationship for the academic position held and revoke the academic degree obtained in the event of established plagiarism and/or unreliability of the scientific data of a person from the academic staff of the higher-education school.
Bulgarian higher education institutions may conclude agreements with each other to carry out joint training of students in a specialty of a non-regulated profession. The Higher Education Act regulates the mandatory content of the agreement. The agreements, as well as the amendments thereto, enter into force upon their approval by the Minister of Education and Science. The training are carried out under the coordination of one of the partner higher education institutions, within the framework of whose programme accreditation the specialization is opened, in which the joint training of the students is carried out.
The coordinating higher education institution must have programme accreditation for the professional field of the specialty, in which the joint training is carried out, and the other partner higher education institutions participate in the training of subjects from specialties in their accredited professional fields and/or specialties from regulated professions. Not less than half of the entire course of study must include subjects, related to the professional field, in which the programme is opened. The first period of training is conducted by the coordinating higher education institution. Students are admitted within the approved number for the respective professional field of the coordinating higher education institution, the number of students, admitted for joint studies being explicitly indicated in the act of the Council of Ministers.
The students are entered in the register of all active, interrupted and graduated students and doctoral students, by degrees of study and by professional fields as students of the coordinating higher education institution, noting the partner higher education institutions as well. The template of the diploma of graduated higher education and the joint study documentation for the training in the specialty is approved by the governing bodies of all partner higher schools. Individual records of the periods of study, undertaken by students are kept by the coordinating higher school.
For continuing training in a specialty of a regulated profession, periods of training completed and credits awarded may be recognized only from training undertaken in the same specialty of a regulated profession and at the same grade of higher education. It is not allowed training in abbreviated terms in specialties of regulated professions, unless this is explicitly provided for in the state requirements for the acquisition of higher education degree in the relevant specialty of a regulated profession.
The conditions for the admission of candidate students have also been supplemented. After a decision of the academic council, the higher schools are allowed to accept, even without a competitive exam, candidate students who have successfully passed a mandatory state exam for the acquisition of a professional qualification - in the theory and practice of the profession. The admission of students, doctoral students and specialists - Bulgarians living outside the Republic of Bulgaria - is carried out according to a simplified procedure, with the Council of Ministers confirming their number annually. The admission of students, PhD students and post-graduate students - persons of Bulgarian origin, citizens of the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Kosovo, the Republic of Moldova, the Republic of North Macedonia, the Republic of Serbia and Ukraine, are also carried out under reduced conditions, regardless of whether they have acquired Bulgarian citizenship or have a permanent residence permit on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. Bulgarians living outside the Republic of Bulgaria pay fees for their studies under the conditions and according to the order set for Bulgarian citizens, unless an international agreement stipulates otherwise and they are not exempted from paying such fees. The amount of fees for persons with dual citizenship, one of which is Bulgarian, and students, PhD students and specialists accepted under intergovernmental agreements, in which this issue is settled on a reciprocal basis, has also been changed.
The object of assessment for program accreditation has also been supplemented, and in addition to the profile and qualifications of the teaching staff, the completeness of the documentation on the procedures for occupying academic positions and the ensured public access is also assessed.
Doctoral programs are subject to separate accreditation. Accreditation of a newly registered PhD programme may also be made outside the schedule /every 4 years/. In this case the accreditation shall be for the period until the relevant professional field is evaluated according to the schedule, when this newly registered doctoral programme shall again be subject to accreditation under the general procedure.
The funds for additional financing from the state budget for increasing the remuneration of the academic staff in the state higher-education schools are provided to the state higher schools as a subsidy for the support of the studies, after the criteria and indicators have been brought into their regulations for the attestation of the academic staff in accordance with methodology determined by an act of the Council of Ministers. These funds are distributed on the basis of the received comprehensive assessment of the quality of education and its compliance with the needs of the labor market, by professional direction for each higher education institution.
The amendments to The Development of the Academic Staff in the Republic of Bulgaria Act are mainly related to supplementing the data and the data exchange procedure in connection with the public register, in which the persons who have acquired educational and scientific degrees "doctor" and/or "doctor of sciences" in a higher school or scientific organization, the protected dissertation works and the habilitated persons. The unreliability of the presented scientific data is equated to plagiarism under sanctions and prohibitions in connection with holding positions.
With a Decision of the 44th National Assembly of December 17, 2020, a Strategy for the Development of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria for the period 2021-2030 has been adopted. The Strategy was published in the State Gazette No. 2 of January 8, 2021. It contains an analysis of the state of the higher education system, review of the progress of the implementation of the main objectives of the Strategy for Development of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria 2014 - 2020, challenges arising from changes and processes in and outside the higher education sector education, the vision and the priority areas and goals for the development of higher education are determined:
Objective 1. Development of a sustainable mechanism for updating existing and creating new curricula
Objective 2. Introduction of modern, flexible and effective forms and methods of training
Objective 3. Improving the organization and effectiveness of education in higher education
Objective 4. Internationalization of higher education and inclusion in international educational and scientific networks
Objective 5. Stimulating the participation of young teachers
Objective 6. Activation of scientific activity in higher schools
Objective 7. Building an effective education-science-business relationship
Objective 8. Increasing the role of HEIs as an active factor for regional development
Objective 9. Improving the management and the accreditation system of HEIs
Objective 10. Improving the structure and efficiency of higher education.
The activities and measures for achieving the goals, the expected results and the organization, the control and the tools for the implementation of the strategy are indicated.
With Decision № 538 of July 22, 2021, the National Map of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria and the Methodology for preparing and updating the information on the state of the profile and territorial structure of higher education contained in the National Map of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria were adopted. According to the adopted amendments and supplements to the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 25.02.2020, the Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Minister of Education and Science, should adopt a National Map of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria (NMHERB). With the adoption of the NMHERB, the national policies regarding the development of the profile and territorial structure of higher education are introduced. The Strategy for Development of Higher Education in the Republic of Bulgaria for the period 2021 - 2030 envisages the information from the NMHERB to be used for balanced development of the network of higher schools according to the needs of the regions and according to the real possibilities, as well as for further development of the state-controlled system in accordance with national and regional needs and the forecasts for future development of the labor market.
By Decree of the Council of Ministers № 12 of 20 January, 2021, an Ordinance on the terms and conditions for ensuring the payment of tuition costs for students with concluded contracts with an employer was adopted. The ordinance regulates: the conditions and the procedure for application and inclusion of employers in the list of employers who may conclude contracts with students for providing internship of the student in the respective specialty for the period of study and at work after its successful completion by the order of the Higher Education Act (HEA); the conditions and the order for concluding, amending and terminating the contracts for providing an internship in the respective specialty of the student during his / her education and at the workplace after his / her successful completion; the conditions and the order for the provision of the information by the higher schools about the contracts; the conditions and the order for full or partial reimbursement of the funds from the state budget to the higher schools for financing the education of students with a concluded contract; the minimum period during which the employee should work for the employer after the successful completion of the training. The Minister of Education and Science has approved by order a list of specialties for the training in which funds are provided from the state budget under this Ordinance. The Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Minister of Education and Science, adopted a list of employers who have the right to conclude contracts under this procedure on July 29, 2021.
Amendments to the Development of the Academic Staff in the Republic of Bulgaria Act envisage that academic positions be opened in the scientific groups at the museums. group to the respective museum.
With Decision of the Council of Ministers № 237 of March 19, 2021 (published on March 25, 2021) the National Program “Promotion of the Bulgarian higher education and facilitation of the access for application of persons of Bulgarian nationality living abroad for trainingin Bulgarian universities ” was adopted. Its specific goals are: transformation of the digital environment in the place where every Bulgarian or foreign candidate-student will be able to find up-to-date, objective and equal information about the specialty in which he wants to study in all higher education institutions in Bulgaria; providing an opportunity for higher education institutions in Bulgaria to promote their best curricula in Bulgarian as well as in English and other foreign languages; increasing the visibility and popularity of Bulgarian higher education in Europe and in the world by conducting information campaigns and printing advertising materials of higher education institutions in English and their distribution; improving the culture of higher education institutions to advertise the training they offer, conducting advertising campaigns and printing advertising materials; providing easy and fast access to the online application for training, conducting candidate exams in a secure electronic environment at a distance or on site according to the specifics of applying for different specialties, facilitating online communication with candidates for questions, alternative proposals, additional requirements, insufficiently presented documents or request for new ones; ensuring objectivity in the ranking of candidates in higher education; participation of higher and Sunday schools in information campaigns abroad to advertise education in Bulgarian universities.
By Decision of the Council of Ministers № 47 of 19 January 2021 (published on 25.03.2021), the National Program “Increasing the Competences of Teachers in Public Higher Education Institutions Preparing Future Teachers” was adopted, under which trainers are currently being recruited. Two main groups of trainings will be conducted: application of the competence approach and modern innovative educational technologies.
With Decision of the Council of Ministers № 184 of March 5, 2021 (published on March 25, 2021) the National Program "Digital Qualification" was adopted. The program is aimed at providing the system with staff with a high level of digital competence, with attitudes for improvement throughout their professional life and teaching their own experience and knowledge.