DIPLOMAS FOR DUPES FROM STUDY CIRCLES AND DISTANCE EDUCATION
Bulgarians have always paid and continue to pay, even in US dollars now, in order to obtain higher education diplomas for their children. At that, a few of them think of asking if such documents are acknowledged by the Ministry of Education and Science (MES). At the same time, about 200 vacancies remain each year in the state-run institutions of higher education.According to Prof. Dimitar Kamburov, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Education Commission and MP from the UDF, the tests for admission in the institutions of higher education have degenerated and lead to devaluation of the qualification. The number of university stiudents went up from 143,000 in 1991 to 253,000 this year, and the faculties increased to 178. This rates Bulgaria among the first countries in Europe in terms of the number of institutions of higher education per capita. Prof. Kamburov has calculated that there is one university per each 200,000 people, while in Italy there is one per 1,000,000 people.Eighteen pseudo-universities, self-advertising themselves as foreign, are doing business in Bulgaria and collecting the money of dupes. They attract their victims by ads around the state-run universities after the ratings from candidate-students tests and through ads in the media, Assoc. Prof. Rumen Pranchov, Director of MES Higher Education Departnent, told the BANKER weekly. We cannot fine them as they have not been registered under the Higher Education Act, neither have they been licensed by the National Accreditation Agency, he explained.The BANKER's inquiry has established that all of these 18 universities are in compliance with effective legislation. But they comply with the Commercial Code and the Persons and Families Act, because all of them are registered as limited liability companies or as educational centres. One person can run several such structures. Mr. Assen Bogdanov, for example, is President of Business University with branches in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Stara Zagora, ensuring education according to programmes of the Sanct Petersburg State Institute of Engineering and Economics. The same person, through Balkan Centre for Management of Distance Education and Business University with branches in Sofia, Plovdiv and Bourgas, promises diplomas from the Russian State Technologies University in Moscow. Mr. Bogdanov has also registered a trade comany, called AcE Business University, which is in partnership with the Moscow State Univesrity of Economics, Statistics and Informatics, and with the European Academy of Economics.Aademician Georgi Bliznakov has registered International Educational Centre Ltd., which is a partner in education according to programmes of the International University in Moscow. And firms, headed by Prof. Sarkis Sarkisyan and Hristo Avramov, promise mediation for education from the branch of the Kiev Institute - Slavyansky University in Odessa.One of the queerest institutions of higher education is the International University in Karlovo, claiming to be a branch of the San Marino Intenational Academy of Sciences. However, the MES has not heard anything about that academy. Nevertheless, the owner, who is also President of the university gives lectures to his students (about a dozen in number) in Esperanto. The Institute of Mountain Stock-breeding in Troyan promises in ads in the press paid education of students, who will get bachelors' diplomas from the Forestry Technical University of Sofia and the Agricultural University fo Plovdiv. So far no project for such education has been presented either at the MES, or at the National Accerditation Agency, Assoc. Prof. Pranchov commented.The Help the Needy foundation offers to disabled people, Roma, and ethnic Bulgarians from abroad, mediation for admission in universities in the subjects Law and Economics, against a fee of BGN500. On MES's inquiry, the NGO denied such activities, but failed to explain the publications in several national dailies. In the words of Rumen Pranchov, these universities are not in violation of any law, as their subject of activities is distance education of students according to programmes of foreign institutions of higher education through INTERNET, CDs, audio casettes, and sending lectures by posts. After finishing such courses, some of the students really get diplomas from foreign sintitutions of higher education, but they are not acknowledged in Bulgaria.According to experts from the MES, no matter how much such education imitates university studies, it is nothing more than paid study circles. Fees are in forex and range between USD1,000 - 2,000 per year of education. From such universities on ecould not only get a diploma in traditional subjects such as Law and International Economic Relations, but also in Cosmic Ecology for example. MPs from all parliamentary groups are presently inlined to vote amandments to the Higher Education Act, stipulating fines for such universities.