Belgium could be the perfect destination to develop skills in one, two or maybe even three languages. Discover what it's like to study in such a multicultural country...
Belgium is a multilingual country known for its high quality education and modest course fees (not just its waffles and chocolates).
When it comes to learning a second language you have a choice of three: Dutch, French or German. Don't panic if you're not a fluent speaker of any of these languages, the majority of Belgium's population are fluent in English so will be on hand to help you settle in.
Belgium has a rich cultural history so there will be plenty of castles to explore in your spare time, however if you fancy travelling further afield, Paris, Amsterdam and London are all less than two hours away by train from Brussels.
The Belgian education system
The education system in Belgium is based on linguistics. There are three official communities speaking either Dutch, French or German. These communities each have separate governments and parliaments and as a result, the higher education system differs depending on where you are studying:
This is also known as the Dutch-speaking Community. It is merged with one of the three Belgian federal regions - Flanders, situated in the North.
Higher education institutions here include:
- Universities - providing academic Bachelor programmes, which prepare students for continued learning, rather than a profession. Once complete, students will then take a Master programme, advanced Master programme or PhD programme.
- University colleges - offering vocational professional Bachelor programmes, as well as advanced Bachelor programmes, which are more specialist, profession-oriented courses.
- Registered institutes of higher education - accredited institutions that provide courses on specialist degree subjects.
This community is made up of French-speaking Belgians, its parliament and its government. The majority of its citizens live in Wallonia, one of the three federal regions.
Provision of higher education is split between university and non-university institutions:
- Universities - as in the Flemish Community, degrees gained from universities tend to be split into two 'cycles'. The first lasts three years, after which a Bachelors degree is attained. The next step is a two-year Masters degree. The third cycle is only available for holders of a Masters degree, and leads to a Doctorate.
- Hautes Ecoles - similar to Flemish university colleges, these institutions combine practical and academic learning and often lead directly into professional work. They offer three-year and five-year courses covering subjects such as teaching, economics and translation.
- Ecoles Supérieures des Arts - these offer courses in artistic disciplines, which last for three or five years.
This community is made up of around 77,000 citizens, the majority of whom are German speakers. Some speak French. The majority of German speakers in Belgium tend to enrol in either French or Flemish institutions, or study in Germany.
Each university has different entry requirements, regardless of the community in which it is located. Contact the institutions you are interested in to find out about their entry requirements for the course you want to take.
The majority of institutions will accept UK qualifications, but some courses may require the student to speak either French or Dutch. However, there are a number of courses taught entirely in English.
Depending on the institution you wish to attend and the subject you want to study the passing of an entrance examination may be required for entry onto specific courses.
You will also have to prove you can support yourself financially during your studies.
Citizens of the European Union (EU) are entitled to attend university in Belgium or any EU country. The same conditions apply to all EU citizens, whether a national of the country or not. This means that you are not required to pay higher course fees than students from Belgium and may be able to get help with tuition fees.
Due to how higher education is divided in Belgium, tuition fees and costs will vary from community to community and institution to institution. Therefore it's best to check what fees are payable with your individual university.
While tuition fees in Belgium are modest compared to fees in the UK, they are still payable and many universities also charge a registration fee.
Funding to study in Belgium
Grants and scholarships are available for EU students as they would be for Belgian nationals. However, they are assigned based on individual circumstances and many require qualifying students to have lived in the country for at least two years. Non-EU students also have access to a range of funding options.
For more information see Study and Training Grants on the Belgian Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation website.
Belgian exchanges and placements
Students attending UK universities can take part in the EU's education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+. The scheme replaces its predecessor 'Erasmus' and offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to millions of young people, students and adults. Opportunities last from three months to one academic year in EU countries.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative to any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation actively involved in education and training.
Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country. Check that your university is involved in the programme and offers it in your subject.
It isn't always necessary to speak the language of your host country and you can arrange intensive language courses before you go. Speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university about available opportunities.
As an EU citizen, you are permitted to live in any EU country while studying as long as you:
- are studying for more than three months;
- are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution;
- have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support;
- have comprehensive health insurance cover.
The documents you require to remain in Belgium will depend on your length of stay and your nationality. Non-EU nationals usually always need a visa.
To find out whether you require a visa, contact the Belgian embassy or consulate in your country, details of which can be found at Addresses of Belgian Embassies and Consulates Abroad.
Some countries also require you to register with the local authority after three months. Find out more at Europa - Rights, Conditions and Formalities.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Belgium.
- For information about studying in the French community see Enseignement.be.
- Read up on health insurance at Europa - Healthcare.
- Find state information about studying in Belgium at Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation - Studying in Belgium.
- Learn about studying in Flanders.