New Structure of Bulgarian Higher Education

Margaret Dobrow-King
Senior Area Specialist

On Dec. 12, 1995, the Bulgarian National Assembly passed the Higher Education Act.

This legislation outlined the new structure of higher education and set guidelines for the new academic titles and degrees to be awarded.

It also made clear how the previously awarded degrees would fit into the new structure by specifying their correspondence to the new degrees and by granting individuals holding older degrees the right to use the new titles. The following is a brief description of the old and new structures.

Higher education is offered at three types of institutions. The poluvisshe, or semi-higher, institutes offer programs designed to train students for professional and skilled positions. The higher institutes offer very specialized programs, usually in the fields of agriculture, medicine, economics and the arts. Universities offer a wide variety of programs in their different faculties, but students always specialize from the first year of study.


Bulgarian Higher Education Degrees
1995 & LATER
Diploma Za Zavrsheno
Poluvisshe Pbrazovanie
(Diploma of Completed Semi-Higher Education)
Spetsialist (Specialist)
No corresponding award
Bakalavr (Bachelor)
Diploma Za Zavrsheno
Visshe Obrazovanie/DZVO
(Diploma of Completed Higher Education)
Magistr (Master)
Kandidat na Naukite
(Candidate of Science)
(Doctor of Science)
Doktor na Naukite
(Doctor of Science)
No corresponding award

Upon completion of secondary school, students take the written and oral National Matriculation Examination, which features questions developed by the Ministry of Education.

Those who do not take the exam receive a Certificate of Completion of Secondary School and are not eligible for entry into higher education.

Those who pass the exam receive the Diploma Za Zavrsheno Sredno Obrazovanie (DZSO), also known as the Diploma of Completed Secondary Education.

The DZSO is required for entrance into all higher and semi-higher institutions. In addition, students must take competitive entrance exams.

All students are ranked based on a combination of entrance exam performance and secondary school grades.

The universities select only the highest-ranking students for the limited spaces available. Only 13-14 percent of DZSO holders are accepted into a university.


Structure of Higher Education Before 1995


Diploma Za Zavrsheno Poluvisshe Obrazovanie (Diploma of Completed Semi-Higher Education): This diploma was awarded upon completion of a two- to three-and-one-half-year program offered at poluvisshe (semi-higher) institutes. Following completion, students could proceed (with advanced standing) to higher-institute or university programs leading to the Diploma Za Zavrsheno Visshe Obrazovanie (Diploma of Completed Higher Education). In practice, however, very few did.

Diploma Za Zavrsheno Visshe Obrazovanie/DZVO (Diploma of Completed Higher Education): This diploma, abbreviated as DZVO, was awarded upon completion of a four- to five-year program offered at universities or higher institutes. In most programs, a thesis was required for degree completion. In all programs, students were also required to pass a state exam to qualify for a diploma. This exam consisted of topics in political economy, Marxism-Leninism and the area of specialization.

Kandidat na Naukite (Candidate of Science): Students who held a DZVO and passed competitive entrance exams in their area of specialization were eligible to be admitted to a Kandidat na Naukite program. The program consisted of the aspirantura (period of research and qualifying exams) and the defense of a thesis. Full-time students usually completed the program in three years.

Doktor na Naukite (Doctor of Science): This degree was awarded to Candidates of Science after subsequent research, publication and a new contribution to the body of knowledge (recognized in Bulgaria and abroad).


Structure of Higher Education, 1995 and Later


Spetsialist (Specialist): The Higher Education Act of 1995 officially recognizes all Diploma Za Zavrsheno Poluvisshe Obrazovanie issued to this point as spetsialist degrees.

Bakalavr (Bachelor): This is a new degree established by the Higher Education Act of 1995. The DZSO is required for admission. The title is awarded after four years of study at a higher institute or university.

Magistr (Master): This new degree, created by the Higher Education Act of 1995, can be earned in two ways. Students who have the DZSO complete a five- or six-year unified program. Those who have already earned the bakalavr can receive the magistr after one to two years of additional study. Students must (usually) complete a thesis and (always) pass a state exam to be awarded the degree. The Higher Education Act of 1995 recognizes all pre-1995 DZVO as magistr degrees, regardless of the type of program or length of study.

Doktor (Doctor): This new degree is awarded after three years of research, exams and the submission and defense of a dissertation. It replaces the old Kandidat na Naukite (Candidate of Science).

The Higher Education Act of 1995 grants all Kandidat na Naukite holders the right to use the title doktor.