Studying in Belgium
The higher education system in Belgium includes universities and university colleges. In some areas there are also art colleges. They are similar in structure to UK universities, 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 are available in a range of subjects in one of the main four areas:
- human and social sciences
- science and technology
- the arts.
Masters courses typically combine structured teaching with research and end with a dissertation. Masters degrees usually last for one or two years. Some subjects such as medicine, veterinary science or law take longer to complete.
As in the UK, PhDs must be based on original research and you’ll need to produce a thesis 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 must have a good knowledge of the language and may have 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, or in English and French, 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
Fees vary between institutions and will also differ depending on the course. Annual tuition fees are typically a maximum of €835, although students from outside the EU will usually have to pay higher fees. Contact individual institutions to find out the exact cost of fees for the course you’re interested in.
The average cost of living for a student is around €950 per month. This includes accommodation, healthcare insurance, food, course equipment and transport.
You may be eligible to apply for a range of scholarships, including the Erasmus+ EU grant for those completing an Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree (EMJMD). For more information on the types of grants and funding that you may be eligible for, see Study in Belgium and Study in Flanders.
Are there any exchange programmes?
UK students on both undergraduate 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?
As an EU national you have the right to live in Belgium for the duration of your studies as long as you’re enrolled at an approved educational establishment, have sufficient income to live on (without needing income support) and have comprehensive health insurance cover.
If you're planning a temporary stay of less than three months, you should register with the local authority on your arrival. You'll need your passport to do this and will be granted a 'notification of presence’.
If your course is longer than three months, you must apply for a registration certificate from your local communal authorities to show that you meet the conditions to stay as a student.You must carry your registration certificate at all times.
Non-EU students may need a visa and should contact the Belgian Embassy or Consulate in their home country for more information.
AGCAS editors, March 2017