The higher education system in Belgium follows the Bologna system of the three consecutive cycles: Bachelor-Master-Doctorate. There are five types of institution in Belgium which offer Masters programmes, essentially aligned to universities or university colleges. The main difference between the two is that research exclusively takes place in universities (and not university colleges). Doctorates are therefore only awarded by universities.
Higher education in Belgium is organised into two streams, Flemish-language universities and French-language universities. Students who have come out of the German school system typically enrol in institutions in the French Community or in Germany. All universities are publicly-funded.
- Five Flemish universities
- Six French universities
- One transnational university between the Netherlands and Flanders (the Transnational University Limburg)
The Flemish community also includes five University College Associations, offering degrees up to Masters level.
Hautes Ecoles and Hogescholen
These institutions are similar to the Grandes Ecoles in France and deliver postgraduate degrees which tend to be more specialist, professional and labour market-focussed that those delivered in universities. There are around 40 Hautes Ecoles/Hogescholen.
Art Colleges (“Ecoles supérieures des arts”) in Belgium
These institutions offer undergraduate and postgraduate training in the arts, in the broader meaning of the word. One example is the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, which is one of the oldest of its kind in the world.
Registered higher education institutes
In Flanders the government recognises a number of "registered" institutes of higher education that offer specialised degrees or programmes in a foreign language. Such institutions include the College of Europe or Vesalius College.
Several universities have set up branch campuses in Belgium, mainly in the capital Brussels:
- Boston University Brussels (USA)
- Business University, Brussels (Costa Rica)
- Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent (UK)
Read our guide to studying a Masters at an international branch campus.
Belgian university cities
Perhaps unusually for a country of its size, Belgium is blessed with several historic and dynamic student cities.
You can view a selection of the Masters courses in these cities by clicking the links below.
Belgian university rankings
A multi-cultural, multi-lingual higher education system allows Belgium to punch above its weight on the international stage. Several Belgian universities feature in each of the main academic league tables for 2021.