Bulgaria is becoming an increasingly attractive study-abroad destination for international students, with the latest figures from the Bulgarian National Statistics Institute (NSI) showing that nearly 18,000 international students chose to study at Bulgarian higher education institutions in the 2022/23 academic year.

The NSI data reports there were 17,593 international students pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees in Bulgaria, accounting for 8.5% of all students. This figure is comparable to the 2021/22 academic year when Bulgarian higher education institutions hosted 17,616 international students.

The major sending country was neighbouring Greece (22%), followed by the United Kingdom (14.4%), Germany (9.8%), Ukraine (9.8%) and neighbouring North Macedonia (5.5%).

International students in Bulgaria primarily study health-related courses (62.4%), with 48.8% of all international students in Bulgaria studying Medicine.

A University World Times report suggests that the number of British students studying in Bulgaria could be even higher this year, according to figures shared at a recent webinar organised as part of the British Council’s Transnational Education (TNE) programme. Attendees at the British Council TNE webinar heard that there are currently 5,000 students from the UK studying at Bulgarian higher education institutions.

Depending on the course they choose, some UK students studying in Bulgaria will be able to gain a double degree – one from a Bulgarian university and another from a British university while paying much lower fees than they would have if they had studied in the UK.  This means that students will obtain qualifications that are recognised both within the European Union and the UK.

The comparatively low cost of living, the availability of a range of programmes taught in the English language and the relatively stable geo-political situation in Bulgaria, which is also a member of the European Union are also drawcards for international students.

According to the University World News report, British students are primarily drawn to Bulgaria by the opportunity to study medicine and dentistry, both programmes for which entry is highly competitive and attract very high tuition fees.  

It seems likely that international student numbers in Bulgaria will continue to grow. In October 2023, Bulgaria and the UK signed a joint declaration of strategic partnership which aims for closer cooperation in the areas of technology, science and education. Part-time work rights for international students in Bulgaria are comparable to those of major sending countries, which may see Bulgaria attract increased interest from students looking for more affordable destinations as the cost of living crisis continues.