The Belgian education system is based upon teaching, research and service to the community and is divided among the different regions of the country: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels region. Depending on which region you choose to study, programs will be taught either in French or Dutch. For programs offered in English, you can prove your linguistic competency through the TOEFL or IELTS language tests.
Until 1965 the Belgian education system followed a traditional French education approach. However, due to reforms and laws that took place during the 1970s, the creation of new educational institutions was enabled. Education was subsequently divided into short-term and long-term and reflects Belgium's diverse higher education character.
In Belgium you can find private universities, state universities like Ghent University, catholic Universities like KU Leuven or free universities like Vrije Universiteit van Brussel (VUB). In fact, KU Leuven is one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1425.
The academic grading in Belgium is determined by the three regions. Both the Flemish and French region’s grading system is based on a 0-20 scale, although some universities follow their own independent grading system, especially in Flanders.
French Community Grading System
Plus grande distinction: Excellent (17,50 – 20)
Grande distinction: Very Good (15,50 – 17,50)
Distinction: Good (13,50 – 15,50)
Satisfaction: Sufficient (12 – 13,50)
Réussite: Sufficient (10 – 12)
Ajourné: Failure (< 10)
Flemish Community Grading System
Grootste onderscheiding: Excellent (16,50-20)
Grote onderscheiding: Very Good (15-20)
Onderscheiding: Good (13,50-20)
Voldoening: Sufficient (at least 10 out of 20)
Niet geslaagd: Failure (below 10)
Bachelor Studies in Belgium
Bachelor’s degrees in Belgium or 1st cycle studies are completed within 3 years of full -time studies and by the completion of 180 ECTS. Distinctions might apply in the degrees awarded depending on the region of studies. For more detailed information, contact directly the university of your choice.
Bachelor’s Studies in the Flanders Region
The Flemish higher education system consists of 18 publicly funded education institutions: 5 universities and 13 small and medium-sized university colleges of applied sciences and arts. The degrees are offered primarily in the Dutch language.
In the Flemish undergraduate system you can find:
- A professional Bachelor’s Degree (180 ECTS): This type of degree combines theoretical and practical courses, including compulsory internships.
- An Academic Bachelor’s Degree (180 ECTS): This Bachelor’s degree is offered by a university, the Antwerp Maritime Academy or a School of Arts. The focus is on theoretical education and it prepares students for Master level studies.
- An Advanced Bachelor’s Degree (60 ECTS): An Advanced Bachelor’s degree is offered at a University of Applied Sciences. It provided students with more specialized knowledge in their field.
If you don’t speak Dutch but you want to study in Flanders, don’t get discouraged. Vrije University in Amsterdam offers an online Dutch language summer course that can prepare you for your studies in Belgium. If a high level of Dutch is required for your admission, then you should consider taking the Dutch NT2-II examination.
Bachelor’s Studies in the Wallonian and Brussels Region
The French-speaking part of Belgium offers degrees from universities, university colleges and schools of arts. The programs are taught in the French language.
Here you can find:
- A Professional Bachelor’s Degree (180 ECTS): This type of degree includes practical training and it qualifies you for a profession after the completion of your studies.
- A Transitional Bachelor’s Degree (180 ECTS): A more theoretical and academic oriented degree which prepares you for further studies like a Master’s degree.
- An Advanced Bachelor’s Degree (180 ECTS): This degree complements a first Bachelor’s degree which can be obtained after having successfully completed an initial Bachelor’s degree.
Seize the opportunity and learn French before you visit the Wallonian or Brussels region for your studies, by taking a French language course before. Moreover, you can prove your French language skills through the DELF or DALF examinations.
How long is a Master’s degree in the Belgium?
Master’s degrees in Belgium or 2nd cycle studies are completed between one or two years of full-time studies and by the completion of 60-120 ECTS. A lot of Belgian universities offer English-taught programs on a Master’s level, in all three regions. Both in the Dutch and French-speaking regions you can find two types of postgraduate degrees:
- A Master’s Degree (60-120 ECTS): This type of degree has a strong focus on scientific knowledge and academic research. You can enrol at a Master’s degree in Belgium after the completion of your Bachelor’s degree.
- An Advanced Master’s Degree (60-120 ECTS): An Advanced Master’s offers more specialized training to students who continue their education after having already earned an initial Master’s degree.
Doctorate studies in Belgian Education System
Doctorate degrees in Belgium or 3rd cycle studies are preferred by students with outstanding academic skills who aim to pursue an academic career. During this level of studies, a student or researcher should attend research courses and complete a PhD thesis project at the end of their studies.
After you complete your research proposal, then it is time to find a thesis supervisor for the field of studies you are interested in. A Doctorate degree lasts around four years for the majority of the programs offered in Belgium. However, there are some that can last up to six years, depending on the discipline and institution.
For the Dutch-speaking Flemish universities you can directly contact the universities of your choice or visit the official Study in Flanders website for more detailed information.
The French-speaking region has 21 PhD institutions to choose from and is supported by the Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S. - FNRS). Navigate through the official French-speaking universities regarding the Doctorate degrees they offer or visit the Study in Belgium official website.
Study in Belgium - Overview
Over 40,000 international students choose Belgium as their study abroad destination every year. Click here to learn why.
Do you need a visa to enter Belgium to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizen status. You will also be required to bring certain documents with you to passport control at the airport, which we cover as well.
Housing & Living Costs
No matter where you study abroad, it’s important to create a budget in advance so that you’re prepared. Therefore, we’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you would be paying as a student in Belgium.
Tuition Fees & Scholarships
Tuition fees for degree programs in Belgium may vary. Both international and domestic students are expected to pay tuition fees in Belgium. To cover the rest of the costs, there’s plenty of scholarship opportunities available.
Language & Culture
Belgium is a country rich in history and culture. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, and more!
All countries have specific admissions requirements for students to gain acceptance into a university. Learn more about the ins and outs of admission to programs in Belgium, and what you need to apply, depending on your citizenship.