Belgium

1. Higher education in Beligum

1.1 Belgian higher education system

It is impossible to describe Belgian universities without mentioning the divide between the Flemish (Flanders) and French-speaking (Wallonia) regions of the country. The education system in each part of the country is run along completely separate lines. This does not really have any impact on the way an international student might choose a university in Belgium but it does mean that where you choose to study will have an impact on the language spoken around you.

Belgium has some excellent universities and four of them are currently to be found in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education International University Rankings.

In the French-speaking region of Wallonia-Brussels there are six universities grouped in three academies. These are:

  • Université catholique de Louvain
  • University of Saint-Louis in Brussels
  • University of Namur
  • Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Université de Mons
  • University of Liège

In the Flemish speaking region of Flanders there are five universities:

  • KU Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven)
  • Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Universiteit Gent
  • Universiteit Hasselt
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Rather unhelpfully the Université libre de Bruxelles and Vrije Universiteit Brussel are separate institutions even though they have the same name when translated into English.

In addition to universities, in Flanders you can also find University Colleges (equivalent to Universities of Applied Sciences elsewhere in Europe, Registered Institutes of Higher Education, Art Colleges and Institutes of Architecture. In the French-speaking community you will find: Universities, University Colleges, Art Colleges and Institutes of Architecture.

Belgium is ideally located at the heart of the European Union and this in itself can be one of the main attractions to studying at its excellent universities. For a head start in an international career, studying in Belgium has a lot to recommend it. You are also only a few hours away from the UK by train or aeroplane.

Bachelor degrees offered in Belgium are either professional Bachelors, which are more vocationally-focussed, or academic Bachelors, which provide a pathway to Master level study.

1.2 Entry requirements for Belgian universities

Completion of a secondary school leaving certificate that is recognised in Belgium. You may have to submit your A-Levels or IB qualifications and get them certified by the University as equivalent.

In addition, certain subjects will require you to take an entrance exam, for example art or engineering; or you may have to complete a competitive exam at the end of your first year, in courses such as medicine or dentistry.

The language of instruction at most HE institutions in Belgium will mainly be in Dutch or French.

You will be expected to prove your proficiency in either of these languages upon entry.

There are however a small number of courses that are taught entirely in English and these are listed on this website.

1.3 Application process for Belgian universities

UK/EU applicants should apply directly to the institution. There is no central admissions system for Belgian universities at undergraduate level.

1.4 Accreditation and recognition

NVAO (Netherlands and Flemish Accreditation Organisation) is responsible for recognising all degrees in Flemish-speaking Belgium. Every course is checked thoroughly upon its introduction and then once again every six years. As a result, you can rest assured that the quality of Belgian higher education is checked regularly and is expected to maintain a high standard.

The NVAO checks not only academic context of Belgian degrees but also their real-life relevance and compatibility with the needs of the local economy. The NVAO also aims to increase the international mobility of students with Belgian degrees by improving the comparability of qualifications and maximising the transparency of the subjects studied.

As a result of the European Union’s Bologna process all degrees taught within the European Union should be of a notionally similar standard so there should not be issues with Flemish or Wallonian degrees for students who wish to return to the UK upon graduation.

We are not aware of any courses taught in English that do not have NVAO accreditation but it is always worth checking.

The website for information on recognition of degrees at French-speaking universities is www.enseignement.be. It is in French.

The website provides a directory of higher education institutions recognised and/or subsidised by the Ministry of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels.

Search can be done by type of institutions or programmes here

2. How much does it cost to study in Belgium?

2.1 Tuition fees at Belgian universities

Tuition fees of public universities are determined by the Flemish or Walloonian government so they can be different in French and Flemish speaking Belgium. As public Belgium universities receive government funding, the tuition fees for EU students are relatively low (under €1,000 per year).

For private universities, the tuition fees range between €10,000 to €12,000 per year.

2.2 Loans and grants

There are no tuition fee loans available for EU students at Belgian universities.

British students can apply for a Flemish scholarship or grant if any of the following conditions are fulfilled:

  • One of your parents has worked in Belgium for at least twelve months in the past two years
  • You have worked in Belgium for a total of at least twelve months, within any given period of two consecutive years in the past
  • You have been living in Belgium with your family for the past five consecutive years.

If you are eligible for Flemish support you can find further information here: http://www.studyinflanders.be/en/scholarship-programmes/other-funding-opportunities/ and http://www.flanders.be/en/studying/study-grants-higher-education.

2.3 Costs of living

Here are a few figures that will give you some idea of the monthly expenses you will need to cover:

Courses, books €35
Accommodation €400
Food €300
Healthcare (insurance, medical costs) €20
Public transport €40
Miscellaneous (telephone, leisure …) €55
Total €850 (£615)

Here are also a few examples of prices in Belgium:

A newspaper (daily) €1.20
10 bus/tram/underground tickets €12.50
A sandwich €2.50 to €3.80
One entrance ticket to the Belgian Comic Strip Centre €6
A cinema ticket €8
A can of soft drink €1
A loaf of bread (800 gr) €2

Source: http://www.studyinbelgium.be/en/student-life?quicktabs_8=5#quicktabs-8

The following example is taken from the KU Leuven website.

Monthly housing costs single with partner
Monthly rent €350 €700
Monthly utilities included in rent included in rent
Monthly living costs €400 €650
Total €750 (£545) €1350 (£980)

Source: http://www.kuleuven.be/english/admissions/budget

3. Student life in Belgium

3.1 How do I get a visa to study in Belgium?

As Belgium is part of the European Union this is not required. However, you need to register with the city hall within 8 working days of arriving in Belgium.

3.2 On arrival

When you first arrive in Belgium, you must confirm your enrolment with the host university, university college or art academy.

You must then request an enrolment certificate, which is necessary to obtain your residence permit and report within the 8 working days following your arrival to the communal authorities of your place of residence.

3.3 Opening a bank account

This is usually straightforward and your university will assist you with any necessary documentary support required.

3.4 Mutual insurance

The Belgian medical system offers a very high level of healthcare.

Students whose stay in Belgium is not covered by the healthcare insurance of their country of origin are required to join an insurance scheme known as a “mutuelle” in order to benefit from medical cover making these treatments accessible. The “mutuelle” covers a part of the medical, pharmaceutical and hospitalisation costs.

UK students must have a European health insurance card from the insurer of their country of origin. This card will allow you to obtain cover for medical care by the mutual health insurance fund under the same conditions as a Belgian insured. The EHIC currently only has validity for up to 12 months so if you are staying for longer you will need additional insurance (this advice applies only to British nationals – terms and conditions for other EHIC holders may vary).

In order to obtain refunds for your medical cost, you must join a Belgian “mutuelle” or mutual insurance company. This is not necessary for students who take out insurance in their country of origin as long as it covers their stay in Belgium.

3.5 Working in Belgium

British and other EU nationals can work in Belgium without any difficulty.

International students can work during their studies if they follow a full time course in a higher establishment recognised by the Federation Wallonia-Brussels and if they have a valid residence permit.

Useful link: Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue


Universities in Belgium

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.