Medicine in Bulgaria: Myth vs Reality

Recently a reader inspired me to write this piece. In any case when we have little information on a certain situation then room is created for rumours to arise. Rumours pass from one person to another and before you know it we have well-known ‘facts’. So today lets focus on the 7 most common sayings that you’ll hear about studying in Bulgaria and bust myth from reality.




  1. “Getting into a medical university inBulgaria is so easy, you barely need GCSEs”

Now this is one that I hear all the time and it’s one of the most frustrating things to hear. In general, admission in european universities for medicine tends to be easier than the UK as the ministries of education have lower grade requirements, this does not mean that there are no requirements at all. So yes, you do need GCSE’S and you are also required to have science A-levels, although your grades may be lower than those required in the UK. However, in recent years as studying abroad has increased in popularity, these requirements have also started to creep up.

2. “I feel like I’m doing my A levels all over again, when will the real medical content start to be taught?”

As I previously mentioned grade requirements are lower for Bulgarian universities. So, in order to bring everyone to a foundation level which will make it easier for them to learn more complex medical content, everyone experiences a ‘foundation year’. In your first year, students re-learn basic subjects such as Chemistry, Biology, Physics (in the context of medicine). At the majority of universities you’ll also be taught some basic Bulgarian as part of your course to prepare you for your clinical years.

3. “You don’t even learn anything, I basically just teach myself”

Now regardless of which university you study at and what course you study you’ll always meet these people, it wouldn’t be university if you didn’t! I like to call them the ‘whiners’. The whiners just like to whine and whinge, if the whiners used their resources effectively they wouldn’t be complaining. Most universities have an online portal containing archives of old lectures and current material. During lessons, if you’re willing to listen I can assure you, you won’t be teaching yourself. Having said this, university is all about gaining independence and part of that is learning that you won’t be spoon-fed all the information, you have to use your initiative to research certain areas.

4. “If you’re struggling don’t worry, you can just pay your way through, there’s so much corruption”

The image of Eastern Europe overall has been tainted by corruption, despite improvements in these countries, it seems to be an image they just can’t shake-off. In medical universities across Bulgaria the GMC (General Medical Council) monitors the quality of education and standards of the university. Recently universities such as Sofia have been under audit to ensure they are meeting required standards and illicit activities such as those fuelled by corruption are eradicated. So whilst this practice may have been more prominent in the past, it is almost unknown today.

5. “The teachers don’t know the content themselves, how are we expected to learn anything?”

This is a classic case of the ‘whiners’ continued. People always want someone to blame for their faults and especially the whiners. Those who have spent a little too much time going out clubbing and enjoying the year, will almost always use this line in the build up to exams. They’ve struggled to find the balance between their work and leisure time, and so they shift the blame elsewhere. The GMC as I bought up earlier monitor the quality and standard of teaching, and a lot of the time these professors are practising doctors themselves with years of experience. In most cases, professors have taught or practised abroad themselves.

6. “We get tested all the time in Bulgaria, it’s not like this in the UK it’s so unfair!”

Studying in a different country you will no doubt be faced with a different education system. In Bulgaria universities like to test you more frequently than they do in the UK, however, it depends on how you want to take this. Take it with a glass half empty and it’s unnecessary and stressful. Take it with the glass half full and it means you can continuously assess your progress and you can stay on top of things as you go on!

7. “Graduates coming back from Bulgaria will struggle so much, the gap between them and UK graduates will be humongous”

The GMC surveillance of these Bulgarian universities is a strong and recurrent theme as you will have noticed throughout all my answers. However, it is because of this that in reality despite popular belief the gap between Bulgarian and UK graduates is not so significant.  Inevitably there will be some differences, for example, exposure to different types of patients and hence diseases will lead to different experiences. The style of teaching also varies to an extent, more traditional medical content tends to be taught in Bulgaria. As a result, you might find yourself delving into some irrelevant content at times but take this with a pinch of salt, it’s not all that bad!

I feel that the popular saying ‘there is no smoke without fire’ is quite suitable for each of these seven myths. Hopefully you can now see why you so commonly hear each of these phrases and can separate the fact from myth.