Studying in Belgium
The higher education system in Belgium includes universities and university colleges. In some areas there are also art academies. They all work to a similar structure of that in the UK, offering first degrees, masters and PhDs.
Universities tend to offer degrees in academic subjects that lead on well to masters programmes. University colleges offer more professional subjects which aim to get students ready for certain job roles.
The universities in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, are:
- KU Leuven
- Universiteit Antwerpen
- Universiteit Gent
- Universiteit Hasselt
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
The universities in the French-speaking Wallonia-Brussels region are:
- Université catholique de Louvain
- Université de Namur
- Université Saint-Louis, Bruxelles
- Université Libre de Bruxelles
- Université de Mons
- Université de Liège.
What courses can you study?
Masters programmes can be studied in a variety of subjects, generally covering topics that are available in the UK. They combine structured teaching with research and end with a dissertation. Masters degrees typically last for one or two years. Some subjects take longer to complete however, such as medicine or veterinary science or law.
PhDs can also be carried out in a range of areas. As in the UK, they must be based on original research and a thesis must be produced at the end of the course which usually has to be publicly defended.
The majority of courses are taught in either Dutch or French, depending on which region the university is in. Foreign students are required to show they have a good knowledge of the language and may be required to take a proficiency test for some subjects. Most universities offer language courses, sometimes in the summer vacation before the course begins, for foreign students.
There are a small number of courses which are taught in English but you will be restricted to the subject you can study and the institution that you can go to. You can search for a list of available courses at the Study in Flanders and Study in Belgium sites.
How do you apply for postgraduate study?
UK qualifications are easily comparable to those in Belgium. If you want to study for a masters degree you'll need a first degree, usually in a related subject. Applications are made directly to the institution. You shouldn't need to prove the equivalence of your qualification but check with the institution for specific entrance terms.
PhDs are available to those with a masters or an equivalent level of study (which would usually have lasted five years). As in the UK, you'll need to submit a draft thesis and have agreement from a tutor that they'll supervise you.
If you're accepted onto a course you must then complete the admissions process and pay any necessary fees.
Fees and scholarships
The average cost of living for a student is around €850 per month. This includes accommodation, healthcare insurance, food, course equipment and transport. Tuition fees are in addition to this, which are paid annually.
Fees vary between institutions and may differ depending on the course. Foreign students may have to pay higher fees, although some institutions charge EU students the same amount as Belgian students. Foreign students may also be required to prove they have sufficient funds while they're studying. Contact individual institutions to find out the exact cost of fees.
Various scholarships may be available to you, including the Erasmus+ EU grant for those completing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree (JMD). For more information on the types of grants and funding that you may be eligible for see Study in Belgium – Scholarships and Study in Flanders – Funding Opportunities.
Are there any exchange programmes?
UK students on both under and postgraduate degree programmes may be interested in studying in Belgium through Erasmus+. This programme is open to all subject areas, but check with your institution's study abroad/exchange coordinator to see which countries they have links with and in what subject areas.
Will your qualifications be recognised in the UK?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), a postgraduate course from Belgium is directly comparable to the UK equivalent.
Do you need a visa to study in Belgium?
EU nationals don't need a visa to study in Belgium. Non-EU students may need a visa and should contact the Belgian Embassy or Consulate in their home country for more information on this.
All foreign students have to register at the city hall within eight days of arriving in Belgium. An identity document will be then issued to show you're a foreign student temporarily living in Belgium.
AGCAS editors, April 2014