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Masters Study in Belgium – A Guide for 2024

Written by Ben Taylor

A Masters in Belgium offers a unique postgraduate study experience at the political and cultural heart of modern Europe. In fact, with three distinct regions, multiple languages and four international borders, Belgium could be said to offer the 'classic' continental study abroad experience.

This page offers a complete introduction to Masters study in Belgium, with details of universities and courses as well as advice on fees, funding and applications.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Belgium – what’s on offer for 2024?

Belgium combines high quality education, affordable tuition fees and reasonable living costs, establishing itself as a prime destination for postgraduate study. Studying a Masters in Belgium gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the centre of Europe, within easy reach of beautiful old cities and modern metropolises like Paris, London and Amsterdam.

These are some of the most compelling reasons to study in Belgium in 2024:

  • Multi-lingual society – French, Flemish / Dutch and German are widely spoken.
  • French and Flemish language universities – Many of which offer Masters courses in English.
  • A home to major European political and higher education institutions – The European Parliament, NATO headquarters, European Commission and the Council of the European Union are all based in Belgium.
  • Historic universities – Belgium’s universities are well-placed in international rankings (seven universities in the world top 400).

Masters Study in Belgium - Key Details
Dutch-speaking universities French-speaking universities
Universities 5 6
University Colleges 13 19
Oldest University KU Leuven (1425)
International Students 53,064
Course Length 2 years 2-4 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) €1,116 €835
Academic Year September to July September to July (starting and ending one week before Dutch-speaking universities)

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Belgian universities

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.

Universities

Higher education in Belgium is organised into two streams, Dutch-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.

There are:

  • Five Dutch-speaking universities
  • Six French-speaking universities
  • One transnational university between the Netherlands and Flanders (the Transnational University Limburg)

There are also five University College Associations in the Flanders region. University College Assosiations are simply an official collaboration between one university and one or more university colleges.

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.

Foreign institutions

Several universities have set up branch campuses in Belgium, mainly in the capital Brussels:

  • Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent (UK)
  • United International Business School Branch Campus Brussels

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.


Top Belgian Universities in 2024
University THE 2024 QS 2024 ARWU 2023
KU Leuven 45 61 86
Ghent University 115 =159 84
University of Antwerp =161 =248 201-300
Université Catholique de Louvain =168 =180 201-300
Université Libre de Bruxelles 201-250 =189 101-150
Vrije Universiteit Brussel 201-250 207 151-200
University of Liège 301-351 - 301-400
Hasselt University 351-400 =449 601-700
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do university rankings matter for postgraduates?

University league tables can help you in your search for a Masters degree, but you need to know what to look for. Our guide to university rankings for Masters study can help.

Course types

There are two types of Masters degrees in Belgium:

  • Initial Masters (two years – 120 ECTS)
  • Advanced Masters (1 year – 60 ECTS) for those who already have a Masters qualification or equivalent

Unlike other specialised Masters, such as those offered in Italy, the Belgian advanced Masters (as well as the two-year initial Masters) does give access to doctoral studies.

In addition to the traditional lectures and tutorials, your programme is likely to include interactive teaching such as site visits, projects, group work and placements. All Masters include a dissertation (also called a thesis) which will make up a large proportion of the programme’s credits.

The academic year runs from September to July, with holidays broadly following a Christian festival calendar.

Search for a Masters in Belgium

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Belgium on FindAMasters.com.

Masters fees and funding in Belgium

At Flemish universities, domestic, EU and EEA nationals pay a maximum fee of €1,116. Fees for all other international students range between €1,116-8,000.

At French universities, the maximum fee for domestic and EU students is €835. Non-EU international students can pay €2,505.

Courses such as the LLM (Masters of Law), MBA, Erasmus Mundus or Medicine/Dentistry-related programmes tend to charge the highest fees.

As a Masters student in Belgium you may also need to pay the following additional fees:

  • Application fee, if applicable: €50-100
  • Medical insurance (if from outside the EU): €100-150
  • Third Party Liability insurance: around €15

Funding

Applying for a Masters in Belgium

Entry requirements and admission

For entry into two-year Masters programmes, students are expected to hold a bachelor degree or its international equivalent. For advanced Masters (one year), students should have already successfully completed at least a four-year university programme or the equivalent of 240 ECTS. Most have already obtained a standalone Masters degree, or an integrated Masters such as the UK MEng. Work experience may also be required for some types of Masters.

In some cases, applicants cannot be admitted directly to a Masters programme but have to do a specific preparatory course (between 45 and 90 ECTS credits) first, depending on their previous studies.

Language requirements

If your Masters is taught in a language which is not your first language, you may have to demonstrate language proficiency, either by showing you have studied in that language previously, or through a language certificate.

Application process for Belgian Masters degrees

The application process for a Masters in Belgium is similar to that of other countries. You’ll usually have to submit the following as part of your application:

  • A completed application form, which is often submitted online (or by email)
  • An official copy of your qualifications and transcripts
  • A translation of these documents into Dutch, French, German or English by an accredited translator
  • Curriculum vitae
  • A document explaining the grading/credit system in your country
  • Proof of Dutch / English proficiency, depending on the programme that you are applying for
  • References / recommendation letters
  • Letter of motivation

Your application will be assessed by a central office to ensure you meet all the minimum entry requirements. It is then sent to the faculty/school which will assess the academic quality and suitability of your application in relation to your programme of choice.

If successful you will receive a letter of admission, which is necessary for you to:

  • Apply for a visa (if relevant)
  • Apply for a scholarship (if relevant)
  • Complete your enrolment before or at registration

Masters student visas in Belgium

Visa information for UK students in Belgium

UK students will no longer be EU citizens from the 2021-22 academic year onwards. This means you may be considered as an international student when studying in Belgium. You may be subject to different visa requirements and fee rates, unless otherwise stated.

Visa and immigration requirements for postgraduate study in Belgium will vary depending on nationality and EU citizenship. If you are from a country of the European Union, then your identity card or passport will be sufficient to enter Belgium for study purposes. You should also bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Students from non-EU countries will need to apply for autorisation de séjour provisoire (ASP) or temporary residence permit, which can be obtained from a Belgian consulate or embassy in your home country.

To apply for an APS, you will need:

  • An offer of admission letter from your institution
  • Proof of financial support during your studies, currently €789 per month OR evidence of a scholarship/bursary which would cover this amount OR a combination of the two
  • Medical certificate which shows you have been cleared of quarantinable diseases
  • A certificate of good behaviour (equivalent to a criminal record check), which can be obtained from your local police station
  • A valid passport for the duration of your studies
  • The completed visa form

Registration on arrival

Anyone who lives in Belgium for longer than three months must sign up to the registre des étrangers (foreigners’ register) – this includes both EU and non-EU students. To do that you must first obtain a déclaration d’arrivée (arrival declaration) from your local town hall. This must be done within three days of your arrival. Once this is done, you will have to go to your local Office des Etrangers (foreigners’ office) to obtain a carte d’identité d’étranger (foreigner’s identity card) and for that you will need to provide:

  • Your student visa (for non-EU students)
  • Your passport
  • Proof of enrolment at your institution
  • Proof of address
  • 3 passport-size photos

Remember your visa is a Schengen visa which allows you to freely move from one country to another in the Schengen area.

Next steps

Employability is at the heart of Belgian higher education and postgraduate degrees are designed to prepare you for the job market. Most universities will host careers fairs, often in the spring, ahead of graduation and the end of the academic year. Other universities will have guest lecturers from your professional sector and/or specialist careers counsellors. Whatever is available, we recommend you take full advantage of what is offered.

Remember that Belgium, or more specifically, Brussels, is the centre of European law, politics, lobbying and administration. Many organisations have their headquarters there so it is worth considering these in your job search.

Proximity to other European countries and the recognition of quality education in Belgium mean that you’ll also have opportunities in neighbouring countries, particularly if your stay in Belgium has given you language skills beyond your mother tongue.

Search for a Masters in Belgium

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Belgium on FindAMasters.com.



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Last updated: 22 November 2023