Higher education institutions in Belgium offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Belgium has two types of institutions of higher education:
1- University education is offered by universities, and includes education in a selected discipline along with scientific research.
2- Non-university higher education includes both university colleges and art academies. University colleges prepare students for specific professions. Art academies teach the theory and practice of various arts.
Many masters degree courses are taught in Dutch or French, and some programs and courses are taught in English.
Why Study in Belgium?
Belgium is in the heart of Europe, just a short train ride away from major cultural cities such as Paris and Berlin. As a crossroads of Europe, Belgium is known for its multiculturalism and welcoming attitude toward international students.
Belgian institutes of higher education are recognized around the world by both the business and scientific communities for their high quality. Belgium also boats a high quality of life, including low tuition, excellent health care and a robust public transportation network.
Belgium has six universities that cover masters degrees in all fields of study, such as economics, engineering, languages and psychology.
Belgium’s 21 university colleges offer master’s programs in eight areas: agronomics, applied arts, economics, paramedical, education, social sciences, technology, and translation & interpretation.
Belgium also has 17 art academies that offer master’s degrees in one of four general areas: fine arts, music, dramatic art, and broadcasting techniques.
Tuition and Program Duration
Tuition in 2012-2013 at universities for students from EU countries is 835€. Students from non-EU countries pay additional fees of about 2,000€ to 4,000€ depending upon their program of study and university.
Tuition at university colleges and art academies is lower. The 2012-2013 tuition for a master’s program is 351€ each year except for the final year, which is 455€. Again, additional fees may apply for students from non-EU countries. The specific institution can provide information on these additional fees.
Master’s degree programs are 1 year (60 credits) or 2 years (120 credits) depending upon the field of study. In addition, students who already have a master’s degree can obtain a Complementary Master’s degree with a minimum of 60 credits in a specialized profession.
The academic year includes three terms. The first term begins in mid-September and runs through the end of December, followed by exams in January. The second term begins in early February and runs though the middle of May, followed by exams at the end of May or early June. The third term runs over the summer. Students who fail exams may retake them during a session that runs from mid-August to mid-September.
International students who obtain a master’s degree in Belgium may work for a Belgian company after graduation. However, the right to work is not automatic, so students should check the current laws if they are offered a position. At a minimum, students may be required to obtain a work permit; this applies to students from both EU and non-EU countries.
Students who wish to continue their studies may be admitted to a doctoral program and join a research team after obtaining their masters degree in Belgium.
Students from EU/EEA-member countries do not need a visa to study in Belgium. Students from other countries may require a visa; however, as requirements vary for each country, prospective students should contact the Belgian embassy or consulate in their home country.
Non-EU member students who do not have health insurance from their home country that covers a stay in Belgium are required to join a “mutuelle” to receive health care benefits. Students from EU countries must have a European health insurance card from their home country; this card allows them to join a mutuelle under the same conditions as a Belgian national. Health insurance costs about €50 per quarter for each person and must be paid during the term of study.
Since French and Dutch are the languages of choice for instruction in Belgium, prospective students for some master’s program may be required to pass a Dutch or French language proficiency exam. For specific requirements, students should ask the institution they are interested in attending. Most institutions offer additional language instruction to students who have difficulty with the language of tuition.
Although the cost of studying in Belgium is low, there are still many scholarships and grants available for students of master’s programs who need additional assistance.