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The Bulgarian Education Ministry, in conjunction with the Open Society Institute, has presented this month a ranking system portal for Bulgarian universities. Organised by a variety of criteria, the system offers a platform for prospective students and other stakeholders to analyse and compare institutions. As a new EU Member State, Bulgaria is aiming to comply with European standards, including providing more efficiency and transparency in education, as well as conformity to labour market demands. According to the minister of education, the system does not attempt to name ‘winners or losers’ but rather aims to serve as a meaningful resource for interested members of the public to access useful information.
The portal allows for the generation of two types of output tables, one standardised and the other customised. The standardised ranking is based on a pre-determined set of indicators while the custom ranking allows users to compare institutions in a more personalised fashion. Bulgaria currently has more than 50 universities offering a wide variety of majors scattered across 50 fields of study. Not all of the fields are covered by any one university. The new ranking system consists of more than 50 indicators which are divided into six groups: teaching and learning; resources for teaching and learning; science and research; social aspects and university life; prestige; and professional and career issues.
Media sources say the minister has indicated that, from mid-2011, the funding of universities will be based on the ranking results, with an inevitable decrease in support for some “useless”, less effective programs, especially in terms of producing graduates relevant to the labour market. To date, there have been no strong reactions noted from the higher education community on this issue, nor clear predictions about the implications of relying on the new rankings system for funding decisions. It will be interesting to see how (or if) ‘rankings fever’, as seen elsewhere, may affect Bulgaria as a result of these developments.