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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes


7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

Organisation of Doctoral Studies

The PhD degree is educational and scientific. In the course of its acquisition additional education is received. Doctoral Studies are offered in all fields of science and can be performed by universities, specialized higher education establishment or research organizations accredited for the certain program only. The higher education establishments can conduct training for obtaining of educational and scientific degree "doctor" in doctor program accredited from the National Evaluation and Accreditation Agency (NEAA) with assessment from 8,00 to 10,00. NEAA create and maintain information system with data about the accredited doctor programs in the higher education establishments and the research organisations. The specialised higher education establishment shall carry out scientific and research or artistic and creative work and shall carry out education in one of the basic spheres of the science, art, physical culture. Its name shall express the specific sphere where it prepares specialists.

 There are full-time, part-time and independent doctoral programmes. Full-time study and independent study have a duration of up to 3 years; part-time study and distance learning  have a duration of up to 4 years. In exceptional circumstances which are regulated in the statutes of the relevant institution of higher education or academic organisation, the duration can be extended, but by no more than a year. There is no differentiation in the length of study between different branches and no specific distinctions in the structure exist. The doctor studies can also be carried out through individual studies provided for which shall be education in compliance with the other forms of the doctor studies.

Admission Requirements

The procedures for admittance of regular and correspondent Doctor, as well as for occupying academic positions in the accredited by the National agency for assessment and accreditation (NAAA) professional directions and specialties shall be open by a permission of the higher school and the scientific organization for conducting a competition. The competition shall be announced in the State Gazette and on the internet site of the relevant higher school or scientific organization. Information on the competition shall also be sent to the National Centre for Information and Documentation for publication no later than 7 days after the decision to announce the competition by the relevant academic or scientific council. Applicants must submit documents within at least two months after the announcement in the State Gazette. 

The educational and scientific degree of Doctor shall be awarded to a person who meets the following requirements:

  • educational-qualification degree of Master 
  • meet minimum national requirements for scientific metrics reflecting the scientific results and their response in the scientific literature, and/or indicators reflecting measurable achievements in artistic or sporting activities 
  • meet minimum national requirements for indicators which reflect measurable academic results in teaching activity 

There are minimum number of points the candidate has to obtain according to his individual scores on these indicators.

The admission of full-time study and part-time study doctoral students is done through a competitive exam within the approved number of state procurement and paid training. Successful applicants are admitted on the basis of a decision of the faculty council or the academic council of the institution of higher education or the academic organisation. PhD students' training is based on a curriculum.

The admission of doctors - citizens of member states of the European Union and the European economic space shall be implemented under the conditions and by the order determined for the Bulgarian citizens.

Status of Doctoral Students

The Doctoral Students/Candidates are legally considered as students. Under the provisions of Higher Education Act a doctoral student is any holder of a master's degree in preparation for earning a doctorate. The healthcare taxes for the PhD students are covered by the State.

Supervision Arrangements

The supervising of PhD students is exercised by professors or associated professors from the institution. Universities and research organizations can contract for conducting joint doctoral programs with foreign universities and research organizations and in such case a co-tutoring by supervisors from different institutions is exercised.


During their studies, doctoral students can be employed under an employment contract. 

There are certain examples of the training of PhD students on demand from the business, e. g. employees of a specific company or successful students who have shown good results in the course of study and are perspective for the employers.

Many of the successful PhD students continue their academic development as university lecturers, using the knowledge, skills and qualifications acquired during their doctoral studies. Doctoral studies also provide opportunities for a wider range of educational activities, such as teaching in schools, colleges, research organizations, educational (national and international) projects, postdoctoral programs, expert work. Doctoral studies lead to obtaining an academic title and is a high scientific achievement. People who have a PhD degree are extremely successful in the labor market and work in some of the highest and most prestigious positions.


The instruction of doctoral students is based on a curriculum abided by the terms and conditions of the Higher Education Act , the Academic Staff Development Act and the Rulebook of the relevant institution. The education and scientific degree "doctor" shall be given to an applicant who has taken the examinations, provided in the study plan and has presented the dissertation thesis under the conditions and by the order of the Act on Development of the Academic Staff in the Republic of Bulgaria. The dissertation work must contain scientific or applied science results, which represent an original contribution to science. The dissertation work must show that the applicant has in-depth theoretical knowledge in the specialization and ability for independent research.


Third Cycle (PhD) degrees are certified with a certificate (diploma) issued by the relevant higher school or research organisation in a unified form approved by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science. The certificate (diploma) is issued in Bulgarian; an appendix in English shall be issued upon request. For a joint training by  Bulgarian and foreign higher education institutions or scientific organizations, they  jointly issue a diploma for the educational and scientific degree "Doctor", or individual diplomas with the mention of the joint guidance. 

The educational and scientific degrees of Doctor is termless and is in force for the territory of the whole country. Academic degrees acquired abroad might be recognized by the Minister of Education and Science through the National Center for Information and Documentation or by the higher schools or scientific organizations in the Republic of Bulgaria. The recognition shall be done in order to facilitate the access to the labour market, as well as for other purposes where the applicant has a legitimate interest and to have access to training for enhancing the qualification, contracting with post-doctoral students and for taking up academic positions in the respective higher schools and scientific organizations. For the recognized degrees a certificate shall is issued by the higher schools and scientific organizations, which is to be sent for entry of the persons in the register held by National Center for Information and Documentation.

Organizational Variation

Doctoral studies can also be carried out through independent preparation, for which training is provided in accordance with other forms of doctoral studies. Candidates for doctoral studies through independent preparation are accepted outside the approved number of state procurement and paid training. The applicants for post-graduate students at self-preparation shall propose for discussion in the relevant cathedra, departments or institute a draft of the dissertation paper, developed in its basic part and a bibliography. The enrollment of the candidates with approved projects is done by a decision of the faculty, respectively scientific council of the higher school or the scientific organization. The independent form lasts up to 3 years.