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The Belgium Higher Education System

Belgian higher education is managed by two main language communities. Education  enjoys high priority in Belgium and the largest share of government's' annual regional budget. Since the adoption of the Bologna process, higher education in Belgium is organised as per the bachelor and master system. In Belgium, there are 104 Colleges and Universities that provide pupils, many courses/programmes to choose from.  In general terms, higher education in Belgium can be classified into University, higher education institutions and Colleges of Arts. The universities provide long term courses for bachelor’s, master’s and postgraduate studies. The higher education institutions and Colleges of Arts provide long-term programmes for bachelor’s and Master’s studies or short-term courses for vocational bachelor’s degree. 

The Belgian government control and manages the tuition fees for higher education institutions. Pupils who possess a secondary school diploma are eligible for higher education in Belgium. 

Flemish Community Main Laws Governing Higher Education

Law: Higher Education Act Year: 2003
Deals: Higher Education in Flanders

Law: Higher Education Act Year: 2004
Deals: Flexible organisation of Education

French Community Main Laws Governing Higher Education

Law: Decree of 17 May 1999 on the higher arts education (Decret du 17 mai 1999 relatif a l'enseignement superieur artistique)
Deals: Arts studies

Law: Decree of 31 March 2004 defining higher education, favoring its integration into the European space and refinancing universities (Decret du 31 mars 2004 definissant l'enseignement superieur, favorisant son integration a l'espace europeen et refinancant les universities)
Deals: Higher education

Law: Decree of 5 August 1995 setting the general organization of higher education in High Schools (Decret du 5 aout 1995 fixant l'organisation generale de l'enseignement superieur en Hautes Ecoles)
Deals:  Hautes ecoles (Colleges)

Law: Decree of 5 September 1994 on the system of university and academic degrees (Decret du 5 septembre 1994 relatif au regime des etudes universitaires et des grades academiques)
Deals: Universities and degrees

Law: Act of 7 July 1970 on the general structure of higher education (Loi du 7 juillet 1970 relative a la structure generale de l'enseignement superieur)
Deals: Higher education system

The European Framework

The Belgium higher education system is part of the European Higher Education framework set up by the Bologna Process, which introduced a uniform European framework for higher education. It consist of 3 cycles:
  • First Cycle includes the Bachelor programmes
  • Second Cycle includes the Master programmes
  • Third Cycle includes PhDs studies
These programmes are assessed by European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits, wherein 1 credit is equal to between 25 and 30 hours of pupils study. 

Belgium Higher Educational Statistical Facts

Flemish Community

No. of Universities: 6 Flemish Universities in Belgium. 
No. of University Colleges:  22 Flemish University Colleges in Belgium.
Registered Institutes of Higher Education: 9 Flemish “Registered” Institutes of Higher Education in Belgium.

French Community

No. of Universities:  7 Universities in Wallonia-Brussels, Belgium
No. of Colleges:  20 Colleges in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, Belgium
No. of Art Academies: 17 Art Academies in Belgium. 

Other Universities: 1 transnational University
Foreign Institutions: 3

Belgium Higher Education Profile 

Flemish Community Higher Education

As of the adoption of the Bologna Process, the higher education system of Flemish Community comprises of-
  • Professional Bachelor degree
  • Academic Bachelor degree
  • Master’s degree programmes
The Flemish Community higher education institutions are-

Universities: The Universities in Belgium provide academic Bachelor programmes, a Master programme, advanced Master programme and a PhD programmes.

University Colleges: The University Colleges in Belgium provide vocational professional Bachelor programmes and advanced Bachelor programmes that concentrate on a particular professional field study. 

Registered Institutes of Higher Education: The Registered Institutes of Higher Education in Belgium offers courses in foreign languages and provide specialised degree. 

The oldest Flemish university is the University of Ghent, established by King William 1st of the Netherlands in 1817. 

Language of Instruction: Dutch

French Community Higher Education

The French Community Higher Education is integrated into the European Higher Education Area. 

Degree Structure:

The 3 levels of study are-
  • Bachelor’s degree: This degree lasts for 3 years
  • Master’s degree: This degree lasts for 1-2 years
  • Doctoral degree: This degree lasts for 3 years

Higher Education Institutions-

The higher education is divided into- University Institutions and Non-university institutions, which consists of-

Universities: The Universities offers bachelor, Masters Degree and a doctorate degree. 

University Colleges (In French: Hautes Ecoles): The University Colleges are non-university higher education institutions that provide professional-oriented education. Students graduating from these institutions can directly go into professional field. 

Ecoles Superieures des Arts (Graduate School of Arts/Art Academies): These institutions provide courses in artistic field of study-fine and visual arts, performing arts, music and dramatic arts. 

Language of Instruction: French

German Community Higher Education

The majority of German-speaking community people in Belgium take admittance in either Flemish or French higher education institutions. The German-speaking community consists of 77,000 citizens. 

Admission Requirements

Each Higher Education Institution admission requirements vary, regardless of the community in which it is situated. 

General Admission Requirement

Students should possess a Secondary School diploma in order to apply into higher education institutions in Belgium.

Specific Admission Requirements

Depending upon the higher education institution and course you want to take up, the passing of an entrance exam may be required for admittance into a specific course/programme.

For Medicine or Dentistry Course
Students are required to take an entrance exam that is organised by the Government in order to gain admittance into the course/programme. The examination evaluates the pupil’s science knowledge, their IQ and their psychological ability to become a physician. 

For Arts 
To gain admittance to arts courses, students are required to sit in an entrance examination that is primarily of a practical nature and are coordinated by the colleges separately. 

For Engineering Sciences 
Students who wish to study Engineering Science courses in Belgium must take an entrance examination that concentrates on mathematics. This examination is organized in the French Community. After successful completion of the course, students are awarded the degree of Master of Science (Dutch: Burgerlijk ingenieur, French: Ingenieur Civil).

For Management Sciences 
The Management Schools in Belgium conduct admission tests that emphasise on individual motivation and pre-cognition of a specialised field.

To know about the Admission Requirements of different higher education institution click through the following links:


Language Requirements

Proficiency in Dutch-

Certificate of Dutch as Foreign Language (Certificaat Nederlands als vreemde taal, or CNaVT): The CNaVT tests the Dutch language proficiency of the students and is accepted by many higher education institutions in Belgium.

Proficiency in French

DELF-B1 level: The DELF-B1 Level tests the French language competency of the students and is accepted by French Community Higher education institutions in Belgium. 

Tuition Fees

The tuition fees in Belgium vary from community to community and institution to institution. 

Scholarships and Grants

There are many scholarship programmes available for students-local as well as international students in Belgium.  Click through to see the Scholarships offered-



Recognition of Qualification

Students who have received their higher education degree overseas and want to enroll at a higher education institution in Belgium must contact the respective institutions for the recognition of qualifications or contact the National Academic Recognition and Information Centre (NARIC) in the Community where they wish to study, find below links to each one:

In Flanders (Flemish Community)

In the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (French Community)
NARIC of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels of Belgium

In the German-speaking Community

Academic Year

The higher education academic year in Belgium commences between mid-September and 1st October, depending upon the programme. The higher education institutions in Belgium have semester system. The Universities and Colleges academic year are split into two equal semesters of 14 weeks of classes. 

To know more about the academic term of higher education institutions in Belgium, click here.
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