Bulgaria’s government proposes to waive tuition fees for university undergraduates and PhD students

The Bulgarian government is proposing to waive tuition fees for students and doctoral students in public higher education institutions accepted in places that the state subsidises, the government announced on January 29.

Amendments to the Higher Education Act will be tabled, and were being uploaded for public discussion on strategy.bg on January 29, the statement said.

“Education has always been a national priority, and with the latest amendments to the constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, it has been declared a national value,” the government statement said.

The abolition of fees will facilitate access to higher education for all Bulgarian citizens, regardless of their social status and financial capabilities, it said.

The measure is a continuation of the targeted policy of the government to ensure accessible, comprehensive and quality education.

With legislative changes from early 2022 to support parents and access to early childhood development, kindergartens became free.

School education in state and municipal schools has always been free for pupils, and from the 2024/25 school year, textbooks and reference books for all children and pupils from grades one to 12 will be free.

The measure also supports the government’s fight against the demographic crisis, the statement said.

Currently, there is a significant difference between the fees for individual specialties and in different higher schools, which hinders the even distribution of students on a territorial basis and is the reason for the shortage of specialists in some specialties at the expense of the surplus in others, it said.

“Thanks to the knowledge and skills that the young people will acquire, they will also contribute to the economic development of the region they are from,” the statement said.

A number of European countries offer the opportunity for free higher education, which attracts some of the Bulgarian high school students.

Abolition of tuition fees in public higher education institutions would make them more attractive for those prospective students who are hesitating whether to continue their education and life path abroad or in Bulgaria.

The statement said that with the complete abolition of fees for PhD students, more young people would choose to build an academic career.

The measure will come into effect this academic year, the statement said.

In the transitional and final provisions of the bill, it is assumed that the annual fee paid by students and doctoral students will be half of those already approved amount for 2023/2024.

For this purpose, within one month from the entry into force of the amendments to the Higher Education Act, the Cabinet will allocated additional funds from the budgets of state higher education institutions and academic organisations, which have the right to confer doctorates, to compensate them for the reduced income from fees.

Within two months of the promulgation of the changes, higher education institutions and research organisations must refund the differences to those students and doctoral students who have paid annual fees in an amount greater than half of the already approved amount for 2023/2024.

With the changes, the funds that public higher education institutions previously received as a fee from a student accepted to study in the places that the state subsidises will be included within the support funds that the state still pays. These funds will be increased to compensate for the drop in fees.

The proposed changes also provide that the Academic Councils of the state higher education institutions will continue to determine the amounts of the application fees, but they will no longer have to be approved by the Cabinet.

Fees for paid tuition of students and doctoral students in public higher education institutions and fees in private higher education institutions remain, the statement said.

(Photo: Mary Gober/freeimages.com)

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