A Masters in Belgium offers a unique postgraduate study experience at the political and cultural heart of modern Europe. In fact, with three distinct cultural 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 abroad in Belgium, with details of universities and courses as well as advice on fees, funding and applications.
|Masters Study in Belgium - Key Details|
|Oldest University||KU Leuven (1425)|
|Course Length||2 years||2-4 years|
|Typical Fees (Domestic / EU)||€890||€836|
|Academic Year||September to July||September to August|
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:
Want to know more about life for international students in Belgium? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.
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.
The Flemish community also includes five University College Associations, offering degrees up to Masters level, for a total of 11 'universities'.
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.
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.
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.
Several universities have set up branch campuses in Belgium, mainly in the capital Brussels:
If you'd like to learn more about studying a Masters at an international branch campus, take a look at our guide.
A multi-cultural, mult-lingual higher education system allows Belgium to punch above its apparent weight on the international stage. Several Belgian universities feature in each of the main academic league tables for 2017.
|The Top Belgian Universities in 2017|
|University||THE 2016-17||QS 2016-17||ARWU 2016|
|University of Ghent||118||131||62|
|Université Catholique de Louvain||128||154||151-200|
|University of Antwerp||201-250||209||201-300|
|Universite Libre de Bruxelles||201-250||216||151-200|
|University of Liège||301-350||315||301-400|
|Vrije Universiteit Brussel||301-350||182||201-300|
|Université de Mons||-||501-550||-|
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.
There are two types of Masters degrees in Belgium:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
Remember your visa is a Schengen visa which allows you to freely move from one country to another in the Schengen area.
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 ($675 USD) per year but programmes delivered in English (or other languages than French or Dutch) will be around €1,500 ($1700 USD) for EU students and €3,000 ($3,500 USD) 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:
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.
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.
Last updated - 04/11/2016