Belgium welcomes students with its promise of academic excellence and rich cultural history, where diverse languages create a unique learning experience

Belgium, home to world-renowned universities and the headquarters of international organisations like the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), is an attractive study-abroad destination due to its relatively affordable tuition fees compared to neighbouring France and Germany. Its central location in Europe provides easy access to other major cities, with Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam, and London just a short train ride away.

Those with ambitions to learn a second language will have plenty of opportunities in Belgium. This linguistically diverse nation boasts three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. English speakers needn't worry, as proficiency is widespread in Belgium, and a range of institutions offer English-taught courses.

In your leisure time, you'll be able to soak up Belgium's rich history in cities such as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels and Ghent and enjoy the country's peaceful countryside settings.

Universities in Belgium

The higher education system in Belgium is split into two groups, Flemish (Dutch) and French (Walloon), based on the country's main languages.

Both the Flemish and Walloon communities host universities and university colleges, which follow a structure similar to those in the UK. While universities offer Bachelors, Masters, and PhD programmes, university colleges do not offer PhDs.

Dutch and French are the primary teaching languages in their respective communities, but a variety of programmes are also taught in English. German-speaking students in Belgium typically study in the French community or pursue their education in Germany.

Belgium has five Dutch universities:

  • KU Leuven
  • Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Universiteit Gent
  • Universiteit Hasselt
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

And six French universities in the Wallonia-Brussels region:

  • Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Université Saint-Louis, Bruxelles
  • Université de Namur
  • Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Université de Mons
  • Université de Liège.

All universities are publicly funded. Six of the country's institutions feature within the global top 350 according to QS World University Rankings 2024.

Degree courses in Belgium

Bachelors courses in the country are typically split into two types:

  • professional
  • academic.

Professional undergraduate degrees are designed for practical application in the workplace and are offered by university colleges. These vocational degrees prepare students for immediate employment. In contrast, academic Bachelors degrees are intended for further academic study and are typically pursued at universities.

Bachelors programmes require three years of full-time study and encompass a range of subjects. Applicants must possess a recognised secondary school diploma or equivalent credential.

Search for undergraduate courses in the Dutch and French communities.

Masters degrees

Masters programmes fall into two categories - Masters and Advanced Masters.

Full-time Masters programmes typically last two years, although the duration may vary for programmes in certain fields such as law, medicine, psychology, and engineering. These programmes generally combine coursework with research, culminating in a dissertation.

Advanced Masters programmes are designed for individuals who already possess a postgraduate qualification or equivalent experience and are typically completed within one year.

The majority of courses are conducted in either Dutch or French, depending on the region of study. To be admitted to a programme, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the respective language. However, an increasing number of programmes are offered in English, such as:

Nevertheless, choosing English may limit your subject and institution options.

The academic year runs from September to July, though some programmes begin in January.

Applicants typically require a Bachelors degree in a closely related field, but admissions tutors may also consider non-graduates with significant professional experience. Many Masters graduates in Belgium progress onto PhD study.

Search for Masters courses in the Dutch and French communities.


Doctoral programmes are the highest level of qualification available and are only awarded by universities. Courses typically last between four and six years and can be studied in several academic fields.

Programmes are based on original research and culminate in a thesis, which you will need to defend publicly.

Applicants must have a Bachelors and Masters degree, submit a draft thesis and find a supervising tutor before completing the university's official enrolment process.

Student exchanges

The UK government runsthe Turing Scheme for students looking to secure overseas placements and study abroad at an overseas university for the academic year.

Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in Belgium. Middlesex University London and Swansea University are just two UK institutions with links to Belgian universities, enabling students to participate in exchange programmes.

Check that your institution is involved in the programme and offers the Turing Scheme in Belgium.

Course fees

Tuition fees in Belgium vary depending on several factors, including the type of institution, the programme of study, and the student's nationality. However, in general, tuition fees in Belgium are quite reasonable for EU students, especially when compared to other European countries such as France, Germany, and the UK.

Non-EU students typically pay higher tuition fees than EU students. The average undergraduate tuition fee for non-EU students is between €2,500 and €7,500 (£2,150 - £6,456) per year. However, fees can range as high as €15,000 (£12,910) per year.

Postgraduate students in Belgium also need to pay an application fee, which is typically between €50-100 (£40-£85). Additionally, postgraduate students may be required to pay additional fees, such as tuition fees for research courses or laboratory fees.

In addition to tuition fees, students must also factor in the cost of living in Belgium. Living costs are relatively affordable, especially when compared to other European countries. On average, students can expect to pay around €850 to €950 (£730-£820) per month. This includes accommodation, food, course equipment, and travel expenses.

Funding to study in Belgium

In the Flemish (Dutch) region a select number of international students can benefit from the Master Mind Scholarship, which is a grant of €9,600 (£8,260) plus a tuition fee waiver per academic year. Foreign, EU students can also apply for a scholarship or grant if:

  • a parent has worked in Belgium for at least twelve months in the past two years
  • you have worked in Belgium for at least twelve months, within any given period of two consecutive years in the past
  • you have been living in Belgium for the past five consecutive years.

A range of scholarships and grants are available in the French community - to see what you might be eligible for see - scholarship opportunities.

Individual institutions may also provide sources of funding for international students, check with your university to see what your options are. For non-EU students, a scholarship from your own country is your most likely option - especially since you cannot partake in part-time work without a permit.

Student visas

Non-EU nationals, such as those from the UK, will need a visa to study in Belgium.

You will need to follow these steps to secure your student visa:

  • Secure admission - once accepted into an education institution or university, you're eligible to apply for your student visa.
  • Complete the visa application form - download, print, and fill out the official visa application form and ensure the accuracy of all information provided.
  • Gather essential documents - these include your passport, proof of financial status, health insurance, and admission letter.
  • Schedule your visa appointment - secure an appointment at the Belgian embassy or consulate to submit your visa application package.
  • Prepare for the interview - practice answering questions about your study plans in Belgium, future goals, and financial capabilities.

All visitors must inform their local authority of their presence in Belgium within eight days of arrival. If you stay longer than three months, you must apply for a registration certificate.

To find out more, contact the The Embassy of Belgium in the United Kingdom.

How to apply

Each university programme has specific entry requirements, but all applications are submitted online through the institution's portal. Applications are typically conducted in the language of the programme.

The standard application documents include:

  • photocopies of your passport
  • your passport photo
  • academic qualifications and transcripts (and translated copies of these documents into Dutch or French)
  • proof of language proficiency
  • recommendation letters
  • a motivation letter
  • your CV.

You may need to pay an administration fee, and it's advisable to apply at least six months in advance.

After reviewing your application, the admissions team may ask you to submit additional documents or send your application to the relevant department for further review.

It may be mandatory to pass an entrance exam for programmes in arts, medicine, dentistry, management, and engineering - depending on your institution. Tuition fees must be paid before the start of your course. After you have been accepted, you will receive a letter of acceptance. This letter is essential for visa and scholarship applications, as well as for enrolling in your course.

To gather more specific details about the application process, it's recommended to contact the institution you're interested in directly.

Language requirements

The language of instruction at Belgian universities is determined by the location of the institution, falling under either the Flemish or French community.

Fortunately, many higher education institutions offer language courses during academic terms and holidays. Many institutions also have dedicated language centres to help students achieve the necessary language proficiency.

While there is a focus on teaching in local languages, a considerable number of courses, especially advanced degrees in fields such as law, economics, social science, political science, management, arts, applied science, and health science, are taught exclusively in English. This is especially noticeable in Brussels, which is Belgium's bilingual capital.

If English is not your native language, you will be required to pass or have already passed an accepted English language test, such as the IELTS or TOEFL, to gain admission to an English-taught programme. These tests assess your proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking English.

Comparison to UK qualifications

The Bologna Process is an initiative that aims to standardise higher education qualifications across Europe. If you are a UK student seeking admission to Belgian universities, you can benefit from this process.

You do not need to go through an equivalence assessment of your UK qualification, as the process simplifies the qualification recognition. However, some institutions may require you to submit an application to recognise your high school certificate. This is a straightforward procedure that ensures that your academic background meets the necessary standards.

Find out more

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