Bulgaria: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Brexit have not Reduced Interest in Education Abroad
The pandemic of COVID-19 and the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union (EU) have not reduced the interest of Bulgarian high school graduates in higher education abroad, a Dnevnik inspection showed before the new academic year starting today. According to the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), the number of people wishing to study abroad has decreased in the last year, but only slightly. A similar trend is reported by the private company Integral - one of the largest educational consultants on the market and organizer of the international exhibition "World Education". They report that the rapid adaptation of higher education institutions - with the introduction of various forms of education, financial incentives and strict antiviral measures, is the main reason why those wishing to study outside Bulgaria do not decrease, despite the unusual situation in the world.
This year, the National Center for Information and Documentation of the Ministry of Education has certified about 30% fewer Bulgarian diplomas for studying abroad, the press center of the ministry announced. However, the decline is taking into account only officially legalized diplomas, and not all universities in the world want state-certified documents.
A total of 1,536 high school graduates received an Apostille stamp in the past school year, which certifies the authenticity of their high school diploma. A total of 2652 documents have been legalized, together with those of graduates from previous grades.
For comparison, in 2020 the translated diplomas of 2210 high school graduates were certified. There are a total of 3678 graduates of those who graduated earlier. In 2019, 2823 documents of graduates in the same year were legalized, and together with the previous ones there are a total of 4683.
"Yes, there is a certain decrease in the number of candidates, but it is not so drastic. The state statistics show a bigger decrease, as it judges only the legalized diplomas, which are not the most correct criterion," Nikolay Hristanov, manager in Integral, told Dnevnik. He added that the consulting firm expects about 3,800 students to begin their studies abroad now.
The online exhibition, which the company held recently, had more than twice as many visitors as the previous year. "We expect increased interest in the present exhibitions, which begin at the end of next week," Hristanov added.
The forums of "World Education" will be held in Sofia on October 9 and 10, in Plovdiv - on October 11, Burgas - on October 12), Varna - on October 13. Registrations for them are already open.
According to the Ministry of Education, the trend of gradual decrease of those wishing to study abroad is due to:
- smaller graduates who complete secondary education
- Britain's exit from the EU
- the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years
Nikolai Hristanov pointed out similar reasons. "Undoubtedly, COVID has influenced the choice to study abroad, but more and more people are realizing that currently Western European countries are far safer than Bulgaria to conduct effective face-to-face training due to the higher vaccination rate and clear policies and rules for According to him, the withdrawal of the UK from the EU has also affected the number of applicants, but the tendency is to redirect their interest to other European countries that provide more accessible conditions for students - the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium. etc. "European universities themselves are also becoming more active and offering more opportunities to foreign students to attract those who have given up the UK," Hristanov said.
In front of "Dnevnik" high school graduates, who decided to continue their education in Bulgaria, pointed out various reasons for their decision - mostly personal and financial. However, they are unanimous that the pandemic did not stop them from studying abroad. Those who decide to study at Western universities are not worried about COVID-19.
The Netherlands is most preferred by prospective students
This year, the Netherlands is the leading destination for Bulgarian student candidates with about 35% growth in the number of candidates, Integral told Dnevnik. Among the most popular specialties are "International Business", "Economics", "Computer Science and Engineering", "Politics and International Relations", "Psychology", "Art and Design". There is also interest in more non-traditional programs such as "Physiotherapy", "Music and vocal singing", "Food processing and technology".
Last year, about 12% of applicants applied in parallel in two or more countries. This year, this percentage has risen to 15%. Some prospective students apply in 3-4 destinations at a time to have more opportunities and a better chance of admission, according to Integral's consultants. Last year, the most common combination was the Netherlands / UK. This year, the trend continues, but more and more high school graduates are submitting documents in parallel in the Netherlands and Denmark / Belgium / Italy, according to Integral.
Learning in the COVID pandemic
A survey by QS Quacquarell Symonds (one of the world's leaders in higher education analysis) among nearly 15,000 young people in the European Union in 2020 showed that 90% of potential students see their future in studying abroad. Last year, more than half of those surveyed said they wanted to postpone their studies for a year, mostly because of the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, but did not give up the idea of leaving afterwards. In 2020, universities in the European Union urgently rewrote their plans, showed flexibility and made efforts to bring back their students.
Most Western European countries and schools have adapted extremely quickly to the new environment, offering several training options - on-site (where the environment allows), a hybrid model or distance learning. For the academic year 2021-2022, education in a number of countries and universities in Europe begins in person, monitoring the situation and, if necessary, taking appropriate measures to move to hybrid or online learning.
In the UK, given the country's good vaccination campaign and the lifting of measures, universities are welcoming new students to campus, while still giving students who are unable to travel due to restrictive measures to start their studies online. For students who study physically and live in dormitories at universities, regular (preferably 2 times a week) testing by rapid or PCR test is provided. Students wishing to be vaccinated in the UK can do so free of charge.
The government of the Netherlands made a decision in mid-August, according to which from August 30 the observance of a distance of 1.5 m is abolished and physical training is possible in lectures and exercises with no more than 75 students in the hall. Masks are mandatory when moving in and between university buildings. It is recommended that students be tested twice a week, as rapid tests are free for students.
Danish higher education institutions also started the school year in person. The school year in Germany begins in October. Due to the autonomy of universities, each of them decides how to start. At one of Europe's leading research universities, the University of Mannheim, the first semester starts online, while other universities, such as the Technical Universities of Munich and Hamburg, start in person.
Most universities in Belgium, which has more than 90% of the vaccinated population, are starting the training in person, monitoring the development of the situation and, if necessary, switching to online training, according to Integral.
Fees and scholarships
For the academic year 2021-2022, nearly 50 universities in the UK have decided to "freeze" fees or offer scholarships for European students, as a result of which freshmen from the European Union will pay the current 9250 pounds, instead of the expected between 12,500 and 18,800 pounds per year. The types of financial aid are based on different criteria - to a greater extent it is granted to candidates with excellent success and achievements, as the number is limited and is provided on a competitive basis. There are also scholarships covering the dormitory, as well as those based on family income, and their size usually varies in the range of 1000-3500 pounds per year.
For the upcoming 2022-2023, Integral expects universities in the UK to announce the new prices, which will be announced at the World Education fairs in October.
For the Netherlands, the fee for 2022 is expected to be 2209 euros, while maintaining the policy of freshmen in bachelor's programs to pay half the fee. Belgium is attracting increasing interest with its affordable fees - 962 euros for a bachelor's degree and most of the master's degrees, the opportunity to choose between academic and practical orientation and programs in English.
In France, the fee for bachelor's programs is 190 euros per year. Students have the opportunity to apply for social assistance in the amount of 30% of the monthly rent, regardless of the amount and whether it is a dormitory or accommodation. From the second year, students in France can apply for additional funding of 400 euros per month based on parental income.
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