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Masters in Belgium

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier

Why study for a Masters degree in Belgium?

A Masters in Belgium offers a unique postgraduate study experience at the political and cultural heart of modern Europe. You may not know much about Belgium, other than the fact it is famous for its chocolates, its beers and as the world diamond trade centre, but the country is a unique study destination and, as the home of the European Parliament, very much part of the fabric of Europe.

Not only is Belgium centrally located, it also boasts:

  • A multi-lingual society with French, Flemish/Dutch and German being widely spoken.
  • French and Flemish language universities, most of them offering masters courses in English.
  • Institutions which are often part of consortia delivering Erasmus Mundus programmes.
  • European political institutions such as the European Parliament as well as higher education institutions such as the College of Europe which all bring an international community to its midst.
  • Ancient universities which are well placed in international rankings (six universities in the world top 400).

Masters degrees at 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 institutions 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. 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.
There are:

  • Six Flemish universities.
  • Seven French universities.
  • One transnational university between the Netherlands and Flanders.

Hautes Ecoles and Hogeschool

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. One example if such institution is the Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussels. There are around 30 Hautes Ecoles/Hogeschool.

Art Colleges (“Ecoles supérieures des arts”) in Belgium

These institutions offer undergraduate and postgraduate training in the arts, in its 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. In addition, there are 3 architecture colleges.

Registered higher education institutes

In Flanders the government has recognised a number of "registered" institutes of higher education which 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:

  • Boston University Brussels (USA).
  • Business University, Brussels (Costa Rica).
  • Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent (UK).

If you'd like to learn more about studying a Masters at an international branch campus, take a look at our guide.

Structure and content of Masters degrees in Belgium

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 thesis) which will make up a large proportion of the programme’s credits.

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

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 master 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.

Visas and immigration for Masters students in Belgium

Visa and immigrations 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.

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 €525 ($670) 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 be included on the registre des étrangers (foreigners’ register), that includes EU and non-EU students. To do that you must first obtain a declaration 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.

Fees and funding for Masters degrees in Belgium

Tuition fees

Postgraduate studies in Belgium remain relatively affordable but there is a considerable range in tuition fees, even within one institution. Masters fees in Belgium can be as little as €600 ($765) per year but programmes delivered in English (or other languages than French or Dutch) will be around €1,500 ($1900) for EU students and €3,000 ($3,825) for non-EU students. To complicate matters there are exceptions, such as LLM (Masters of Law), MBA, Erasmus Mundus or medicine/dentistry-related programmes which can cost considerably more.

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

  • Application fee, if applicable: €50-100 ($64-128).
  • Medical insurance (if from outside the EU): €100-150 ($128-190).
  • Third Party Liability insurance: around &#euro;15 ($19).
  • Extracurricular activities (e.g. sports..): €20-40 ($26-51).



Our own postgraduate funding website provides a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programmes. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in Belgium, or elsewhere.

Careers and employment prospects with a Belgian Masters degree

Employability and employment are 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 searches.

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.

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