Masters in Belgium? What you should know
A Master’s 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. We’re also keeping an eye on the effect of coronavirus on students in Belgium.
Postgraduate Opportunities in Belgium
Belgium combines high-quality education, affordable tuition fees, and reasonable living costs, establishing itself as a prime destination for postgraduate study. Studying for a Masters in Belgium allows you to immerse yourself in the center 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 2020:
Multi-lingual society – French, Flemish / Dutch, and German are widely spoken.
French and Flemish language universities – Many of which offer Master’s courses in English.
Home to Major European political and higher education institutions – The European Parliament and the College of Europe are both based in Belgium.
Historic universities – Belgium’s universities are well-placed in international rankings (seven universities in the world top 400).
Basic Information about Masters Study in Belgium
- Universities- 6
- Oldest University- KU Leuven (1425)
- International Students- 44,978
- Course Length- 2-4 years
- Typical Fees (Domestic / EU)- €835-€920
- Academic Year- September to August
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 programs, 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.
Higher education in Belgium is organized into two streams, Flemish-language universities and French-language universities. Students who have come out of the German school system typically enroll in institutions in the French Community of Germany. All universities are publicly-funded.
- Five Flemish universities
- Six French universities
- One transnational university between the Netherlands and Flanders (the Transnational University Limburg)
The Flemish community also includes five University College Associations, offering degrees up to Masters level.
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 labor market-focused than 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 recognizes several “registered” institutes of higher education that offer specialized degrees or programs 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:
- Boston University Brussels (USA)
- Business University, Brussels (Costa Rica)
- Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent (UK)
Top Belgian Universities
- KU Leuven
- Ghent University
- Université Catholique de Louvain
- University of Antwerp
- Université Libre de Bruxelles
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel
- Hasselt University
- University of Liège
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.
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 specialized 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 program is likely to include interactive teachings 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 program’s credits.
The academic year runs from September to July, with holidays broadly following a Christian festival calendar.
Masters Fee and Funding in Belgium
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 €800 per year, but non-EU students will pay more (around €3,000). To complicate matters, courses such as the LLM (Masters of Law), MBA, Erasmus Mundus, or Medicine/Dentistry-related programs 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
- Medical insurance (if from outside the EU): €100-150
- Third-Party Liability insurance: around €15
Regional Government scholarships
- Bilateral Cultural Agreements from Flanders
- Roger Dillemans Fund to undertake a Master’s degree at KU Leuven.
- Ghent Universiteit.
A bursary from the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) is available for international Master’s students who wish to study in an institution in a country member of AUF, other than their own. Bursaries for up to 10 months are available.
You might be eligible to receive support through the Erasmus+ scheme, which provides funding for selected programs like Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters, as well as Erasmus loans for students who want to study abroad.
The Council on International Educational Exchange have grants available for American students to study abroad:
- Global Access Initiative (GAIN).
- Various merit-based scholarships.
Fund for Education Abroad
- Fulbright scholarships for US students to Belgium.
- Belgian American Educational Foundation.
The Belgian Office for Development Co-operation also awards fellowships for students from countries which are considered by Belgium as developing countries. For more information, contact the Belgian Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Rotary Foundation Fellowships may be available. Candidates should contact the Rotary Foundation within their district.
Top 10 Scholarships in Belgium for International Students
Entry Requirements and Admission
For entry into two-year Master’s programs, students are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree or its international equivalent. For advanced Masters (one year), students should have already completed at least a four-year university program or the equivalent of 240 ECTS. Most have already obtained a standalone Master’s 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’s program but have to do a specific preparatory course (between 45 and 90 ECTS credits) first, depending on their previous studies.
If your Master’s 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 Degree
The application process for a Master’s 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 program 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 program 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 Visa in Belgium
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 authorization 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 €666 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 behavior (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 that allows you to freely move from one country to another in the Schengen area.
Finally, 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 counselors. Whatever is available, we recommend you take full advantage of what is offered.
Remember that Belgium, or more specifically, Brussels, is the center of European law, politics, lobbying, and administration. Many organizations 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 neighboring countries, particularly if your stay in Belgium has given you language skills beyond your mother tongue