Belgium

Belgium is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. Higher education organized or subsidized by the French Community consists of an association of higher education institutions into academic centers and coordinated by an Academy of Research and Higher Education (ARES). ARES is a public interest organization funded by the French Community and created by the decree of 7 November 2013, defining the landscape of higher education and the academic organization of studies (“Landscape Decree”).

RegionCentral Europe
CapitalBrussels
LanguageDutch
French
German
Population11,515,793
Expenditure on higher education2,48 %
Unemployment6,45 %
EuroUniversities in top 1002
EuroUniversities in top 2506
EuroUniversities in top 50011
EuroUniversities in top 100015
Students122,000
Foreigner students5,8 %
Enrollment rate in higher education78,3 %

European Country Ranking
Central European Country Ranking
YearOverallResearch EmploymentInnovationInternationalizationInfrastructureEducational potential
202085,5517,615,216,0812,911310,76
201984,1316,615,314,9513,51310,78
201885,3416,715,216,1413,2313,110,97
201784,4616,814,616,4613,7512,110,75
201684,5916,915,616,3212,9212,110,75
201587,6218,6915,616,4213,6312,4910,79
Statistics of the higher education

Belgium – French Community

Bachelor degree

Branches of study

The programmes that each higher education institution may provide are defined for each cycle and each site by its accreditation.

Courses in the first cycle of both long-type and short-type higher education mostly consist of 180 ECTS, that are generally acquired in 3 years of study. Only two high school short-type bachelors are organized in 240 ECTS (studies in nursing and midwifery).

Each of the full universities (University of Liège, Catholic University of Louvain, Free University of Brussels) has at least five traditional faculties: philosophy and humanities, law, science, medicine and applied science. Additionally, each university has a variable number of faculties, schools, or institutes, which teach other disciplines such as agricultural science, art history, archaeology, oriental studies, business and economics, social and political science, criminology, psychology, educational science, etc.

In the other university institutions, instruction is limited to a certain number of disciplines and, for some of them, to just the first cycle of studies, which leads to a bachelor degree :

  • the University of Mons organises bachelor degree courses in most disciplines ;
  • the University of Saint-Louis – Bruxelles organises courses in law, economics, social science, political science, philosophy, history, languages, etc. and mainly of first cycle ;
  • the University of Namur organises mainly courses in law, philosophy, history, languages and literature, art and archaeology, political science, social science, veterinary science, medicine, and pharmaceutical science.

In the Hautes écoles, long-type higher education may be provided in the following categories :

  • the agricultural science category ;
  • the economics category ;
  • the paramedical category ;
  • the social studies category ;
  • the technical studies category ;
  • the pedagogical category.

The arts colleges provide preparation for all artistic disciplines in four fields of study:

  • plastic, visual and spatial arts (drawing, photography, art in public spaces, etc.) ;
  • music (e.g. instrumental training – percussion; voice training – lyrical art; jazz and easy listening music – composition, etc.) ;
  • theatre and the spoken word (oratory, dramatic art) ;
  • performing arts and broadcasting and communication techniques (production for cinema, radio and television, theatre and communication techniques, radio, TV and multimedia, etc.).

The various courses of Social Advancement Higher Education are organized in the following areas :

  • Information and communication ;
  • Political and Social Sciences ;
  • Legal Sciences ;
  • Economics and management sciences ;
  • Psychological and educational sciences ;
  • Public health sciences ;
  • Motricity sciences ;
  • Sciences ;
  • Agricultural sciences and biological engineering ;
  • Engineering sciences and technology ;
  • Art of building and urbanism ;
  • Plastic, visual and spacial arts.

Admission requirements

Access to Higher education

Full-time education

The first cycle of higher education is open to students who hold a certificate of upper secondary education (CESS), that is awarded in the French Community, in the German-speaking Community, in the Flemish Community, or by the Royal Military Academy ( if it is considered as similar by the authorities of the higher education institution). The certificate of upper secondary education (CESS) may also be obtained by submitting the exams of the Examination Board of the French Community or in Social Advancement education.

No candidate may be admitted to examinations for a first-cycle study year without proving sufficient command of the French language (exemption in arts colleges for some courses). Enrollment in an establishment of tertiary education is also subject to other conditions (payment of registration fees, …).

Other qualifications to access first-cycle studies are established by the legislation : Higher education degrees attesting academic grades awarded :

  • in the French Community (by a full-time higher education institution or by a social advancement institution) ;
  • in the German-speaking Community, in the Flemish Community or by the Royal Military Academy if they are similar to those awarded in the French Community. This similarity is to be appraised by the authorities of the higher education institution where the students wants to apply for registration.

Entry to first-cycle studies in engineering sciences is subject not just to the general conditions of entry to higher education, but to the passing of an entrance examination.

Access to the Bachelor’s degree in medical sciences is conditioned by the prior and effective participation in a test of guidance of the health sector. An entry examination in the first year will be set up from the academic year 2017-2018.

Admission to Arts colleges is subject to specific conditions : the student must fulfill the general conditions of access to higher education but also pass the admission test (assessment of the artistic aptitudes of the student) organized by the institution.

A student who has obtained more than two academic degrees (same level) in the previous five years may be refused admission, except for an upper secondary teaching diploma or a doctorate.

Social advancement Higher education

From a pedagogical point of view, admission to Social Advancement higher education is subject to specific conditions. Indeed, admission to a section or to a unit of training in higher education is decided by the Council of Studies on the basis of the general regulation of studies, basing its assessment on the acquired qualifications, the results of tests, the other studies, documents or attestations of a professional nature.

Entrance examinations and customised admission in full-time education

Students who do not hold any of the qualifications authorizing access to higher education may nevertheless have access to it through the success of certain tests :

  • the admission examination organized by some higher education institutions or by a board of the French Community ;
  • the examination of the paramedical board of the French Community (for access to the first year of bachelor in nursing responsible for general care or bachelor in midwifery in a “haute école”.

The legal gateways have not existed anymore since the decree of 7 November 2013. This decree allows the reorientation of the student in terms of validation of prior learning. The boards take into account the ECTS got by the students in higher education or in parts of higher studies which they have already successfully passed, and students may thus be exempted from the corresponding parts of the new curriculum.

The boards may also take into account within this framework the knowledge and skills acquired by students through personal or professional experience (VAE : validation of prior learning).

Qualifications gained abroad

Holders of a foreign diploma or study qualification (from secondary or higher education) are also entitled to admission to higher education in the French Community provided they have obtained confirmation of equivalence for their qualification.

The legal and regulatory framework makes it possible to recognise practically all diplomas that have been earned abroad, whatever their level, the discipline concerned, or the country where they were conferred. Equivalence may be granted for diplomas and other certificates gained at a foreign institution.

Two Equivalences Services are responsible for undertaking a single, overall examination of the administrative and educational aspects of applications from pupils from foreign countries :

Choice of institution

Students freely choose the higher education institution in which they wish to enrol. The circumstances under which a university, an haute école or an arts college may refuse enrolment are defined, and an appeal procedure against enrolment refusals exists.

Admission restrictions

Generally, the French Community does not apply a restricted admissions system (numerus clausus), but there are a few exceptions to this rule.

The decree of 16 June 2006 requires the authorities running the universities and the hautes écoles to limit the number of non-resident students enrolling for certain courses at an haute école or university without having been enrolled in the French Community on the same course during a previous academic year.

In long-type higher education, for universities, this measure relates to the enrolment in the courses leading to the bachelor degree in physiotherapy and rehabilitation, in veterinary science, in psychology and education with a specialisation in speech therapy, in dentistry and in medicine.

In the Hautes écoles, for the academic year 2016-2017, this decree concerns enrollments in bachelor courses in physiotherapy (and for short-type bachelors, the bachelor in speech therapy and bachelor in audiology).

Curriculum

Language of instruction

The language of instruction and of assessment of educational activities is French, but the legislation establishes that some activities may be given and assessed in another language.

Some masters programs are partially or totally organized in English.

ECTS

All curricula in full-time higher education are expressed in credits (ECTS). The ECTS associated with a course within a curriculum are expressed in whole numbers, or exceptionally in half-units, with a minimum of 1 ECTS.

Accreditation

The list of accreditations to organize initial first-cycle studies can be found in the appendices to the “landscape” decree.

The accreditations to organize and open studies which the establishments had before the implementation of this decree are generally maintained.

In order to ensure an adequate supply of every initial curriculum in the French Community, the Government may establish for each higher education institution, after consulting the ARES (Academy for Research and Higher Education), the list of cycles of studies that it must continue to organize and the site which will receive them with respect to the accreditations, under penalty of being deprived of any subsidy and accreditation for the other studies that it would organize. This obligation must be notified two months before the beginning of the following four months.

Competency guidelines

The ARES, on the basis of proposals made by its committees and the institutions concerned, defines the competency guidelines corresponding to the academic degrees awarded and attests that they are respected by the programs of study offered by the institutions and attests their conformity with the other provisions in terms of professional access for graduates.

Teaching methods

Higher education uses adapted methods and resources, according to the specific discipline, with a view to attaining the general objectives set out in the decree of 7 November 2013 (“Landscape Decree”) and to making higher education accessible to all, in accordance with their aptitudes, without discrimination. The education which is provided is based on the final attainment levels and core knowledge required at the end of secondary education.

Being intended for adults who are participating of their own free will, higher education uses teaching methods adapted to this characteristic. Educational activities comprise: • courses organised by the institution, in particular lecture courses, monitored exercises, coursework, laboratory work, seminars, creation and research workshops, excursions, visits and internships; • individual or group activities, including preparation, coursework, documentary research, dissertations and projects; • personal study, self-training and enrichment activities.

Long-type higher education starts out from basic concepts, experiments and illustrations. Establishments of higher education fulfil a mission of applied research linked to the subjects they teach, in close relation to professional or artistic spheres or in collaboration with university institutions.

Universities

University education is based on a close link between scientific research and the subjects taught. Partnerships between the private sector and higher education have been developing since 1980. Independent centres for industrial and technological research have been created by the universities in order to promote scientific collaboration with the business sector.

Each course leader enjoys academic freedom in the exercise of his or her task. This includes the choice of teaching methods, scientific and technical content, assessment, and the various activities undertaken to meet the specific objectives, subject to compliance with certain requirements set out in decrees.

In order to ensure a suitable distribution of the study and assessment load within each study year, the academic authorities distribute the courses making up the programme evenly between the two first terms of the academic year. At the different levels, teaching encompasses lectures, coursework, internships, and supervised exercises. In the first years, university education offers basic instruction in the selected discipline together with a broad, general scientific education. Later on, it intensifies the scientific research approach and offers specialised content. Every curriculum comprises compulsory courses and courses chosen by the student.

Hautes écoles

Each haute école must adopt an educational plan: this plan is a framework for teachers and students within an institute and defines the adopted teaching methods, the assessment methods, the educational facilities needed, and the values promoted through the educational relationship.

To meet their objectives, the hautes écoles must ensure that they develop and implement appropriate methods: high-quality initial training, teacher supervision, production and provision of information media, management of a documentation centre, applied research, continuing education, collaboration with the socio-economic environment, and cooperation at an international level.

Arts colleges

The courses are grouped into three principal categories: arts courses, general courses, and technical courses. The 1999 decree provides methodological guidelines for some domains. For instance, higher education for the plastic, graphic and spatial arts must rest on a wide optional base with input from experimentation and interdisciplinary research.

Social advancement Higher education

Social Advancement Education organizes courses according to a coherent system of teaching units that can be capitalized.

Each section organized by Social Advancement Education includes traineeship (with the exception of specialization sections) and an integrated test, in addition to the teaching units. The articulation between these different teaching units is determined by a capitalization process represented by the organization chart of the section. Each of these teaching units leads to a certificate of success.

To obtain the qualification, the student must capitalize the certificates of success of each teaching unit constituting the section and show, through the integrated test, that he masters the learning outcomes aimed at, throughout the curriculum, in a synthesis form. Each institution offers a specific organization of the teaching units in accordance with the organizational chart of the section. Students have the opportunity to follow the offered curriculum or to personalize their pathway taking personal, professional and family constraints into account. In this case, they adapt their training rhythm by choosing the number of teaching units they want to follow, provided that they respect the organizational chart and the possible limit of the duration of validity of the certificates of success.

Progression of students

In general, in full-time education, the student’s annual program consists of at least 60 ECTS, which are divided into teaching units, which are themselves composed of learning activities. For the student in firs cycle’s first year, an assessment period is systematically scheduled for January. At the end of the first cycle’s first year : If the 60 ECTS of the annual program are validated by the board : the next academic year, the student can enroll in the teaching units of the following cycle program, with a minimum of 60 ECTS.

  • If at least 45 ECTS of the program are validated by the board, (and with its agreement) : of the next academic year, the student’s annual program of at least 60 credits includes :

            – the teaching units whose ECTS have not been acquired at the end of the previous academic year ;

            – teaching units of the following cycle program.

  • If at least 30 ECTS (but less than 45) of the program are validated, the student’s next annual program, with the agreement of the board, will be composed as explained above for the student who has successfully completed 45 ECTS. The student may also supplement this program with some remediation activities which may be valued if they have been evaluated (Article 148 of the Landscape Decree). However, the following annual program of this student may not exceed 60 ECTS.

In the following academic years, the student pursues his pathway until he obtains all the ECTS of the program of the cycle.

At the end of the cycle of studies, when the minimum number of ECTS is obtained by the student, the board gives him the corresponding academic degree with a possible mention.

Employability

Short-cycle bachelors’ studies include internships in a workplace or in a laboratory setting and thus familiarize young people with the world of work. Very often, the theme of the end of studies’ work implies contacts with a professional environment.

Student assessment

Success requirements

The Landscape Decree harmonized the success requirements for all full-time higher education institutions. Since the decree “landscape”, the concept of “year of study” has disappeared in favor of that of “annual program” of the student. Similarly, the notion of “course” is replaced by that of “teaching unit”. In general, the student’s annual program consists of at least 60 ECTS, which are divided into teaching units, which are themselves composed of learning activities (AA).

The single success threshold for acquiring ECTS in a teaching unit is set at 10/20. At the end of the academic year, the board validates the teaching unit (and the corresponding ECTS) of the student’s program which have reached the 10/20 threshold.

The notions of “adjournment” and “refusal” are no longer valid and that of “success” is only used to attest the completion of a cycle of studies.

The student has the right to present two assessments for each teaching unit in the same academic year. For the first-year student an additional evaluation period is scheduled for January and is compulsory, except if the absence is considered legitimate by the authorities of the institution) and constitutes an admission requirement to the other tests of the academic year.

Boards

The authorities of the higher education institution constitute a board for each cycle leading to an academic degree. A separate sub-board may be set up for the first year of the first cycle.

These authorities fix the study regulations, as well as the special rules governing the operation of the boards.

Subject to the other legal provisions, these board regulations lay down:

  • the registration procedure ;
  • the exact composition of the board, its mode of operation and publication of decisions ;
  • the organization of deliberations and granting of ECTS ;
  • the evaluation periods and the organization and conduct of the tests ;
  • the sanctions for fraud in the conduct of evaluations ;
  • the methods of introducing, investigating and resolving student complaints relating to irregularities in the conduct of evaluations.

The academic authorities fix the schedule of the tests by preserving sufficient time between successive tests during the same evaluation period. The assessment for a course may consist of an oral or written examination or any other work carried out by the student for this purpose. Oral examinations are public, but the audience may not interact in any way with the examiner or examinee during the test, nor disturb its proper conduct. Corrected copies of other tests and written works may be consulted by students within the month of publication of the test results. The boards are responsible for sanctioning the acquisition of ECTS, for proclaiming the success of a program of studies, for conferring the academic degree which sanctions the cycle of studies.

A board includes, in particular, all teachers who are responsible for a compulsory teaching unit in the higher education institution. This board deliberates validly only if more than half of those teachers who participated to the academic year’s examinations are present.

Those responsible for the other teaching units of the program followed during the academic year by at least one regularly enrolled student take part in the deliberations. In the case of higher artistic studies, the board responsible for the evaluation of the main artistic course at the end of the cycle is composed mainly of members outside the Arts Colleges. The board deliberates on the basis of the assessments of the achievements of each student for each of the teaching units followed during the academic year. The single success threshold for acquiring ECTS from a teaching unit is set at 10/20. It allocates ECTS for the teaching units whose assessment is sufficient or for those where the deficit is acceptable in the light of its overall results. The board can sovereignly proclaim the success of a teaching unit, of all the units studied during an academic year or a cycle of studies, even if the threshold of success is not reached in every teaching unit.

It also grants the ECTS associated with the teaching units followed outside the program and of which it considers the results sufficient.

At the end of a cycle of study, the board gives the student the corresponding academic grade, when it is recognized that the minimum number of ECTS has been acquired, that the requirements of the curriculum have been met, that the admission requirements to these studies were met and that the student was regularly enrolled there.

Certification

At the end of the first cycle of studies, the Bachelor’s degree is granted.

The bachelor’s degree is granted to students who :

  • acquired in-depth knowledge and skills in a field of work or study that follows and is based on an upper secondary education. This field is located at a high level of training based, among other things, on scientific publications or artistic productions as well as on knowledge gained from research and experience ;
  • are able to apply, mobilize, articulate and value this knowledge and these skills in the context of a socio-professional activity or further learning and have demonstrated their ability to elaborate and develop reasoning, arguments and solutions to problems in their field of study ;
  • are able to collect, analyze and interpret, in a relevant way, data (generally, in their field of study) in order to formulate opinions, critical judgments or artistic proposals that integrate reflection on societal, scientific, technical, artistic or ethical issues ;
  • are able to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions in a clear and structured way to informed and non-informed audiences, according to context-specific communication standards ;
  • developed the learning strategies that are necessary to continue their training with a high degree of autonomy.

The degrees are issued by the institutions in accordance with the legislation. The latter determines the models of degrees and degrees’ supplements. It also includes the instructions for their drafting to which the institutions must comply. These instructions relate in particular to the denomination of the degrees awarded, the information concerning the graduate student, the name of the institution … Bachelor’s degrees (short or long type) are positioned at Level 6 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework and correspond to Level 6 European Framework of Certifications for Lifelong Learning.

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of study

There are 26 fields of higher education : Philosophy, Theology, Languages, Letters and Translatology, History, History of Art and Archeology, Information and Communication, Political and Social Sciences, Legal Sciences, Criminology, Economics and Management, Psychological Sciences and Siences in Education, Medical Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Dentistry, Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Public Health Sciences, Motricity Sciences, Sciences, Agronomy and Biological Engineering, Engineering Sciences and Technology, Art of Building and Urban planning, Art and Art Sciences, Plastic, Visual and Space Arts, Music, Theater and Performing Arts, Performing Arts and Broadcasting and Communication Technology, Dance.

These fields are divided into 4 sectors: “human sciences”, “health”, “sciences and techniques” and “art”.

Only 4 institutions of Social Advancement Higher Education are allowed to organize long-type programmes (industrial engineer).

The programmes of the second cycle of long-type full-time higher education represent 60 or 120 ECTS per year in the hautes écoles and arts colleges. In the universities, the second cycle consists of 60 ECTS, 120 ECTS (teaching master’s, in-depth master’s or specialised master’s), 180 ECTS (master’s in veterinary medicine) and 360 ECTS (master’s in medicine). specialised master’s degrees (universities or arts colleges) consist of at least 60 ECTS.

The course leading to the upper secondary teaching qualification, organised by all three types of institution, consists of 30 ECTS.

Admission requirements

As a general rule, access to the first year of the second-cycle studies is open to students who have obtained the corresponding bachelor degree. There are also opportunities for individual admission to studies on the basis of the person’s prior learning.

To gain admission to the course preparing for the upper secondary teaching qualification or for a teaching master’s, the student must hold an admission certificate or be enrolled on a master’s course. To gain admission to a teaching master’s or upper secondary teaching qualification (AESS), the student must also provide proof of an in-depth command of the French language.

Individual admission in full-time education

Under the general conditions set by the academic authorities, examination boards assess the ECTS gained by students in higher education courses or parts thereof that they have already successfully completed. Students benefiting from these ECTS are dispensed from the corresponding parts of the curriculum. The boards may also take into account in this context the knowledge and skills acquired by students through personal or professional experience (at least 5 years of activities).

Depending on the studies completed in short-type higher education, additional admission requirements to second-cycle university studies may be imposed: one or more additional courses sometimes leading to what was previously called a “preparatory year”.

Curriculum

Language of instruction

The language of instruction and of assessment of educational activities is French, but a part of the activities may be given and assessed in another language :

  • in studies leading to the academic master’s degree, excluding ECTS specifically relating to the teaching master’s, for one half of the ECTS ;
  • in studies coorganised by several higher education institutions including at least one institution outside the French Community ;
  • in specialised studies ;
  • in third-cycle studies.

ECTS

All curricula in full-time higher education are expressed in credits (ECTS). The ECTS associated with a course within a curriculum are expressed in whole numbers, or exceptionally in half-units, with a minimum of 1 ECTS.

Accreditation

The list of accreditations to organize initial second-cycle studies can be found in the appendices to the “landscape” decree. The accreditations to organize and open studies which the establishments had before the implementation of this decree are generally maintained.

Competency guidelines

The ARES, on the basis of proposals made by its committees and the institutions concerned, defines the competency guidelines corresponding to the academic degrees awarded and attests that they are respected by the programs of study offered by the institutions and attests their conformity with the other provisions in terms of professional access for graduates.

Organization

Orientation and possible options specify the content of the program of studies leading to the academic degree which gives these studies a particular competency profile. An orientation, possibly specified by a specialty, indicates competency guidelines and a teaching profile specific to the program of the cycle leading to it, and corresponding to a set of teaching units of more than 60 ECTS and not exceeding two thirds of the ECTS in the cycle of studies.

An option indicates the student’s choice of a coherent set of specific teaching units valued for 15 to 30 ECTS that characterizes all or part of his / her program of the cycle, without the total of options may exceed half of the ECTS in this cycle of studies or that they lead to a distinct academic degree.

Second cycle master’s studies in 120 ECTS or more include at least a choice of 30 specific ECTS giving this training one of the following purposes:

  • The teaching master’s that corresponds to the specific pedagogical training of the upper secondary school teachers. It is only organized for the academic degrees corresponding to the qualifications required for this profession ;
  • The in-depth master’s preparing to scientific research ; it includes both in-depth training in a specific discipline and general training in the researcher’s profession ;
  • The specialised master’s in a specific discipline in the field which the curriculum relates to and which aims at specific professional or artistic skills.

Teaching methods

Higher education uses adapted methods and resources, according to the specific discipline, with a view to attaining the general objectives set out in the 7 November 2013 Decree (“Landscape” Decree) and to making higher education accessible to all, in accordance with their aptitudes, without discrimination. Teaching is based on the terminal skills and the common knowledge required at the end of secondary education.

Being intended for adults who are participating of their own free will, higher education uses teaching methods adapted to this characteristic. Educational activities comprise :

  • courses organised by the institution, in particular lecture courses, monitored exercises, coursework, laboratory work, seminars, creation and research workshops, excursions, visits and internships ;
  • individual or group activities, including preparation, coursework, documentary research, dissertations and projects ;
  • personal study, self-training and enrichment activities.

Long-type higher education starts out from basic concepts, experiments and illustrations. Establishments of higher education fulfil a mission of applied research linked to the subjects they teach, in close relation to professional or artistic spheres or in collaboration with university institutions.

Universities

University education is based on a close link between scientific research and the subjects taught. Partnerships between the private sector and higher education have been developing since 1980. Independent centres for industrial and technological research have been created by the universities in order to promote scientific collaboration with the business sector.

Each course leader enjoys academic freedom in the exercise of his or her task. This includes the choice of teaching methods, scientific and technical content, assessment, and the various activities undertaken to meet the specific objectives, subject to compliance with certain requirements set out in decrees.

In order to ensure a suitable distribution of the study and assessment load within each study year, the academic authorities distribute the courses making up the programme evenly between the two first terms of the academic year. At the different levels, teaching encompasses lectures, coursework, internships, and supervised exercises. In the first years, university education offers basic instruction in the selected discipline together with a broad, general scientific education. Later on, it intensifies the scientific research approach and offers specialised content. Every curriculum leading to a second-cycle academic degree includes a final dissertation, work or personal project counting for 15 to 30 ECTS. A curriculum comprises compulsory courses and courses chosen by the student.

Hautes écoles

Each haute école must adopt an educational plan : this project is a framework for teachers and students within an institute and defines the adopted teaching methods, the assessment methods, the educational facilities needed, and the values promoted through the educational relationship.

To meet their objectives, the hautes écoles must ensure that they develop and implement appropriate methods: high-quality initial training, teacher supervision, production and provision of information media, management of a documentation centre, applied research, continuing education, collaboration with the socio-economic environment, and co-operation at an international level.

Arts colleges

The courses are grouped into three principal categories: arts courses, general courses, and technical courses. The 1999 decree provides methodological guidelines for some domains. For instance, higher education for the plastic, graphic and spatial arts must rest on a wide optional base with input from experimentation and interdisciplinary research.

Social advancement higher education

Social Advancement Education organizes courses according to a coherent system of teaching units that can be capitalized.

Each section organized by Social Advancement Education includes traineeship (with the exception of specialization sections) and an integrated test, in addition to the teaching units. The articulation between these different teaching units is determined by a capitalization process represented by the organization chart of the section. Each of these teaching units leads to a certificate of success.

To obtain the qualification, the student must capitalize the certificates of success of each teaching unit constituting the section and show, through the integrated test, that he masters the learning outcomes aimed at, throughout the curriculum, in a synthesis form.

Each institution offers a specific organization of the teaching units in accordance with the organizational chart of the section. Students have the opportunity to follow the offered curriculum or to personalize their pathway taking personal, professional and family constraints into account. In this case, they adapt their training rhythm by choosing the number of teaching units they want to follow, provided that they respect the organizational chart and the possible limit of the duration of validity of the certificates of success.

Progression of students

In general, in full-time education, the student’s annual program consists of at least 60 ECTS, which are divided into teaching units, which are themselves composed of learning activities.

If the 60 ECTS of the annual program are validated by the board, the next academic year, the student can enroll in the teaching units of the following cycle program, with a minimum of 60 ECTS.

Employability

A lot of masters’ studies include internships in a workplace or in a laboratory setting and thus familiarize young people with the world of work. Very often, the theme of the end of studies’ work implies contacts with a professional environment. In some cases (in particular in arts colleges), deliberation boards may include external experts.

Academic institutions have gradually put in place various initiatives to promote employment prospects and provide assistance in job search.

Student assessment

Success requirements

The Landscape Decree harmonized the success requirements for all full-time higher education institutions.

In general, the student’s annual program consists of at least 60 ECTS, which are divided into teaching units, which are themselves composed of learning activities.

Boards

The authorities of the higher education institution constitute a board for each cycle leading to an academic degree. These authorities fix the study regulations, as well as the special rules governing the operation of the boards.

Subject to the other legal provisions, these board regulations lay down:

  • the registration procedure ;
  • the exact composition of the board, its mode of operation and publication of decisions ;
  • the organization of deliberations and granting of ECTS ;
  • the evaluation periods and the organization and conduct of the tests ;
  • the sanctions for fraud in the conduct of evaluations ;
  • the methods of introducing, investigating and resolving student complaints relating to irregularities in the conduct of evaluations.

The academic authorities fix the schedule of the tests by preserving sufficient time between successive tests during the same evaluation period.

The assessment for a course may consist of an oral or written examination or any other work carried out by the student for this purpose. Oral examinations are public, but the audience may not interact in any way with the examiner or examinee during the test, nor disturb its proper conduct. Corrected copies of other tests and written works may be consulted by students within the month of publication of the test results.

In the course of an academic year, a student may sit twice for examinations or assessments in the same course.

However, for properly justified exceptional reasons, the academic authorities may authorise a student to sit more than twice for assessments of the same course during the same academic year.

The boards are responsible for sanctioning the acquisition of ECTS, for proclaiming the success of a program of studies, for conferring the academic degree which sanctions the cycle of studies.

A board includes, in particular, all teachers who are responsible for a compulsory teaching unit in the higher education institution. This board deliberates validly only if more than half of those teachers who participated to the academic year’s examinations are present.

Those responsible for the other teaching units of the program followed during the academic year by at least one regularly enrolled student take part in the deliberations. In the case of higher artistic studies, the board responsible for the evaluation of the main artistic course at the end of the cycle is composed mainly of members outside the Arts Colleges.

The board deliberates on the basis of the assessments of the achievements of each student for each of the teaching units followed during the academic year. The single success threshold for acquiring ECTS from a teaching unit is set at 10/20. It allocates ECTS for the teaching units whose assessment is sufficient or for those where the deficit is acceptable in the light of its overall results. The board can sovereignly proclaim the success of a teaching unit, of all the units studied during an academic year or a cycle of studies, even if the threshold of success is not reached in every teaching unit.

It also grants the ECTS associated with the teaching units followed outside the program and of which it considers the results sufficient.

At the end of a cycle of study, the board gives the student the corresponding academic grade, when it is recognized that the minimum number of ECTS has been acquired, that the requirements of the curriculum have been met, that the admission requirements to these studies were met and that the student was regularly enrolled there.

The jury also determines the possible mention on the basis of all the lessons learned during the cycle.

Certification

Master’s degrees are positioned at Level 7 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework and correspond to Level 7 of the European Framework of Certifications for Lifelong Learning.

Master’s degrees may only be awarded to students who have satisfied the admission requirements to studies, and who have obtained the minimum number of ECTS for the corresponding study programme.

Degrees are awarded by examination boards including the authorities of the higher education institution. Degrees and certificates are signed by academic authorities, and by the president and the secretary of the board.

The form of degree diplomas has been determined by the Government. The minimum information appears in French on the diploma. It may be accompanied by its translation into another language in the case of a joint degree if all or part of the studies are organized in another language. The diploma refers explicitly to an accompanying supplement to the diploma. This supplement includes in particular the list of courses taken by the student, the admission requirements to the studies and the assessments certified by the awarded academic degree. The personal elements of this supplement, relating to the individual student, may be collected in an annex to the supplement. The supplement to the diploma is signed by the secretary of the board. 

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of doctoral studies

The authorization to organize the doctoral training is granted, by domain or set of fields of study, jointly with the universities hosting a thematic graduate college approved by ARES and belonging to the graduate college overseen by the corresponding FRS-FNRS. This one is unique in the French Community.

For the award of a doctorate in art and sciences of art, universities hosting an approved doctoral college belonging to the doctoral college of the field, necessarily work in collaboration with one or more Higher Schools of Arts. Postgraduate studies include doctoral training and work related to the preparation of a doctoral thesis.

Doctoral studies and doctoral preparatory work are carried out in research teams at university or in close collaboration with and under the direction of the university ; they may lead to a level 8 of certification exclusively issued by a university.

Doctoral programs are supervised by associated teams in a thematic doctoral college approved by ARES on the advice of the University Thematic Chamber. They are linked to the specific skills of the research teams and give the graduates a high scientific and professional qualification. They can lead to the issuance of a training certificate in research with a lump-sum of 60 ECTS of training. They essentially consist of specific activities related to the profession of researcher and therefore cannot include more than 30 ECTS of learning activities (courses organized by the institution, including lectures, tutorial exercises, practical work, laboratory work, seminars, creative exercises and workshop research, excursions, visits and training courses).

Holders of an in-depth master’s degree in the same field benefit from an automatic valuation of the maximum 30 ECTS for these learning activities.

Admission requirements

Under the general conditions fixed by the academic authorities, students with a scientific research master’s degree for at least 120 ECTS have access to third-cycle studies with a view to obtaining the related degree.

Moreover, in addition to a diploma, degree or second-cycle certificate issued in the French Community or elsewhere, the jury of the studies concerned may award all the higher studies successfully completed by a student for at least 300 ECTS, with any additional conditions.

By way of derogation from these general conditions and the additional conditions which they lay down, the academic authorities may also admit to postgraduate studies holders of a diploma, degree or certificate issued outside the French Community who, in this system of origin , gives direct access to doctoral courses or studies and work related to the preparation of a doctoral thesis, even if the studies sanctioned by these titles or degrees are not organized in separate cycles or in at least five years.

This admission must be exceptional and duly justified, in particular on the basis, of the formal and genuine proof of this ability to pursue doctoral studies in the original system.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

All doctoral students are students. As members of the academic community, they are represented on the different bodies of their university at which decisions about programmes and regulations are taken.

There are three possibilities for the financing of a doctoral thesis, and the status of the doctoral student depends on which option is used:

  • A student wishing to prepare a doctorate may obtain a post as an assistant at one of the universities. The contract has a maximum term of six years full-time equivalent (contract renewable every two years).
  • Doctoral grants (from the FNRS and FRIA) are awarded by the research grant funds. These fixed-term grants have a maximum term of 48 months (two times two years). They may be obtained following the favourable classification of a research project examined by a committee. These grants are subject to social security, but exempt from tax. The universities may also award grants (training grants, doctoral grants or post-doctoral grants).
  • The doctorate may also be financed by means of an employment contract as researcher within the framework of either an agreement between the university and a public body, or a university-private sector research partnership.

The position of assistant involves participation in the work of supervising students (supervision of practicals, seminars, invigilating at examinations, etc.) for up to 50% of the time, whereas doctoral students with a grant or under an employment contract are not subject to such an obligation.

Since 1996, the universities have been authorised to award doctoral grants which are not subject to  withholding tax on professional income, but are subject to social security. In principle, therefore, the doctoral student receiving a grant from a university should benefit from the same social status (in terms of sickness and invalidity cover, family allowance, unemployment benefit, pension, pension etc.) whether he or she is a scholarship holder or under an employment contract. However, the social cover (entitlement to unemployment benefit, maternity leave and holiday pay in particular) may vary depending on the type of grant.

Current expenses associated with doctoral research (operating costs, use of equipment) are normally payable by the unit to which the student is attached. Additional resources are available for certain occasional expenses, such as participation in conferences, seminars and meetings and research trips abroad.

There are two types of graduate college: graduate colleges overseen by the Scientific Research Fund – FNRS  and thematic graduate schools.

Supervision arrangements

The “landscape” decree doesn’t stipulate anything about supervision arrangements for PhD students.

Employability

The university institutions have progressively implemented various initiatives with a view to publicising employment opportunities, training PhD students in the acquisition of transversal skills, and assisting graduates in finding a job.

The universities have close links with the socio-economic world through research work conducted in collaboration with industry, a research commercialisation policy, the creation of numerous spin-offs and the development of science parks.

The website dedicated to doctoral studies in Belgium provides the latest information about collaboration between universities and businesses: Enterprise-University interface units have been created by each of the universities under their own individual arrangements.
According to the site, the interface units have the following roles:

  • to create dialogue between companies and universities in order to encourage partnerships between them;
  • to develop the universities’ scientific and technical potential;
  • to use the skills of universities and research bodies to increase companies’ technical capabilities;
  • to orient the universities’ scientific skills towards the needs of the economy;
  • to make the research activities, skills and equipment of the university’s scientific services better known to local and international companies;
  • to make universities more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Council of French-Speaking Rectors has published a guide to facilitate such partnerships, and public grants are available to finance cooperation projects.

The LIEU network brings together interface services and services for the commercialisation of research performed in universities and hautes écoles in the French Community.

Assessment

The doctoral degree is awarded to students who :

  • developed new knowledge at the most advanced frontier of a field of study and research, or at the interface of several fields, and demonstrated mastery of skills and methods of research ;
  • demonstrated the ability to design, plan, implement and adapt a comprehensive scientific or artistic research process with due respect for integrity ;
  • have contributed, through original research, to pushing the boundaries of knowledge or the field of art, developing meaningful works, some of which deserve publication or national or international diffusion according to the usual standards ;
  • are able to integrate knowledge to critically analyze, evaluate and synthesize new, complex and highly specialized scientific or artistic proposals in their field, or at the interface of several fields ;
  • are able to communicate, beginning in a critical dialogue, on their field of expertise with their peers, the scientific or artistic community in the broad sense, or with sophisticated audiences ;
  • are capable, within their academic or socio-professional environment, of contributing actively to societal, scientific, technical, artistic or ethical progress in a knowledge and sensitive society.

The academic degree of doctor is awarded after defending a thesis demonstrating the doctorand’s creativity and ability to carry out scientific research and disseminate its results. The doctoral examination consists of:

  • the production of an original dissertation in the discipline, in the form of either a thesis of personal character, or an essay by the candidate showing the value of a coherent set of publications and achievements for which the candidate is author or co-author;
  • the public presentation of this work highlighting its qualities and originality, as well as the candidate’s ability for scientific popularisation.

The faculty boards in particular are authorised to specify the prerequisites for admission to the preparatory work for a thesis or prior to the submission of a thesis, additional practical procedures relating to submission, the organisation of the private examination and the public defence, and the deliberation procedures and operational arrangements of the specific examination boards.

Certification

Third-cycle programmes in higher education comprise research training, leading to a research training certificate, and the preparation of a doctoral thesis, leading to the academic degree of doctor. These qualifications are at level 8 of the European Qualifications Framework for life long learning.

Diplomas certifying the academic degrees and certificates attesting successful completion of studies are awarded by boards made up of academic authorities.

They may only be awarded to students who have satisfied the conditions for access to studies, were regularly enrolled for a number of years corresponding to the minimum duration of studies, and have obtained the minimum number of credits for the corresponding study programme. They are delivered within three months of the announcement of awarding of the academic degree. Diplomas are signed by at least one academic authority or its delegate, and by the president and secretary of the board. Diplomas respect the form determined by the Government. They refer explicitly to the accompanying supplement to the diploma. The minimum information specified by the Government appears in French on the diploma. The supplement to the diploma includes the list of courses taken by the student, the conditions of access to studies, and the assessments certified by the awarded academic degree. The personal elements of this supplement, relating to the individual student, may be collected in an annex to the supplement. In this case, only the annex must be signed by the secretary of the board, whereas the common part of the supplement is certified by the institute.

For third-cycle university studies, the title is the name of the accredited graduate college or the research domain(s). The degree of doctor is mentioned in the title of the defended thesis.

Organisational variation

There are no organisational variants for third-cycle higher education.

Student mobility

Exchanges

In higher education, owing to the expansion of international exchange programmes in recent years and in particular the Erasmus programme, the proportion of students completing part of their curriculum in a non-EU country is growing significantly. Higher education institutes encourage student exchanges. Agreements between a higher education institute in the French Community and foreign counterparts may stipulate that certain courses or activities will be provided in the foreign institutes, and that the exams pertaining to these activities will also be organised in these institutes according to their rules. The foreign higher education institutes eligible for such agreements must be recognised by the foreign authorities competent for higher education, organise study programmes or participate in the organisation thereof, and award credentials equivalent to at least a first cycle degree. Higher education institutes form partnerships amongst themselves, as well as with other Belgian or foreign institutions or legal persons in the scientific, educational, professional or cultural spheres, and may enter into collaboration agreements with these partners. The agreements may concern the provision of studies in the domains for which they are accredited, and the awarding of academic credentials relating to these. For agreements that concern education, the partner institutions must be recognised by the national authorities competent for higher education.

In the case of universities, a curriculum may impose on students a minimum number of credits earned in a different institution from the one in which he or she is enrolled. If this mobility leads a student outside the territory of the French Community, the university must bear the additional expenses related to registration, travel and lodging.

The promotion of mobility for students in vocational education and training is essentially brought about through the European programmes (Leonardo, Socrates, Jeunesse). However, there are also bilateral actions centred on the exchange of students, some of which relate to technical and vocational education. There are also internal exchange programmes (between Belgium’s regions and linguistic communities), which allow students in vocational or technical education to participate in mobility (including through internships). 

In 2004 the French Community created a Student Mobility Assistance Fund (FAME), which complements the European subsidies. At each beneficiary institution, at least 50% of the available budget must be used for students who receive a study allowance in the year before their departure. Mobility in this context relates to the European Higher Education Area, but also to the other Communities of Belgium. The French Community also gives support to the beneficiaries of certain European mobility programmes. The amounts of grants vary between €150 and €400 per month.

The curriculum of an haute école may impose a minimum number of credits which must be taken outside the French Community. If the student has no alternative to the travel that this requires, the haute école must pay the additional enrolment fees and travel and accommodation expenses to enable the student to attend the courses concerned. The curriculum of future lower secondary teachers of Germanic languages includes hours allocated for the completion of a language stay in one of the languages studied, for at least two weeks.

Equivalence

The French Community is also well aware that the mutual recognition of study certificates, diplomas, examinations, course credits and other qualifications obtained abroad is an essential condition for intensifying mobility and exchanges. All equivalence decisions are based on the regulatory provisions related to the organisation of education that are in force on the date when the decision is made. In no case may the recognition of equivalence result in recognising studies that are not at least equal to the corresponding Belgian studies, nor may the beneficiary have access to studies, which would not be accessible to him or her in the country where the diploma was conferred.

The Equivalences Service is responsible for undertaking a single, overall examination of the administrative and educational aspects of applications from pupils from foreign countries. If an additional educational opinion is required by the Ministry of the French Community, the opinion of the General Inspection Service is requested. Equivalence enquiries relating to certificates for the fourth stage of complementary vocational secondary education, nursing care section, must form the subject of an additional examination and a preliminary opinion from the General Department of Health of the Ministry of the French Community.

For diplomas that give access to higher education, the system’s general philosophy, directly inspired by the 1953 Council of Europe Convention on the equivalence of diplomas that give access to higher education, is that for foreign students wishing to begin or continue studies in Belgium, equivalence is subject to Belgium’s own education regulations. Students may not gain more extensive rights than those they would be entitled to in the country in which they completed their studies or passed the exams that they hope to have recognised as equivalent. This ‘escape clause’ exists primarily to prevent mobility that could be construed as ‘negative’, because rather than being based on a desire for further development by taking courses in another education system, it is motivated by it being impossible to pursue such studies in the country where the secondary education diploma was conferred.

Equivalence for a diploma can also be requested in order to obtain employment.
At the higher education level, Belgium has a legal and regulatory framework which makes it possible to recognise practically all diplomas that have been earned abroad, whatever their level, the discipline concerned, and the country where they were conferred. It is the law of 19 March 1971 and the decrees that followed in its wake that determine the conditions for granting equivalence, as well as the procedure in force for handling the request. Equivalence can be granted for periods of study, exams, or diplomas and other certificates obtained in an educational institution in a foreign system. It can be full or partial, in which case the applicant may be subject to additional exams (one or several exams or even one or several years of study) applicable to subjects included in the corresponding Belgian curriculum. The Minister whose portfolio encompasses university education decides on all full equivalence requests for foreign diplomas and certificates for which there are no general measures. Under certain conditions, it is the remit of university authorities to recognise full or partial equivalence between foreign diplomas or certificates and the academic degrees that they confer. Similar provisions have been adopted for short- and long-type higher education diplomas. Depending upon the case, the Minister whose portfolio encompasses higher education or the haute école authorities decide on equivalence requests. To facilitate the process of recognition of diplomas, the French Community’s higher education establishments have been progressively adopting the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) since 2004-2005.Since February 2009, with regard to the exercise of functions in pre-primary, primary, ordinary and specialised secondary, artistic, social advancement and higher non-university, and part-time arts education institutions of the French Community and the associated boarding institutions, and in the Centres for Psychological, Medical and Social Services, the French Community has treated as equivalent to an educational qualification any qualification that is issued by a non-EU country, that is recognised by a European Union Member State and whose holder has three years’ certified professional experience in the profession concerned in the territory of that Member State.

The system of gateways is applicable to both students who completed their studies in the French Community and those who studied entirely or partly abroad and benefit from total or partial equivalence delivered in the French Community.

Academic staff mobility

At political level, there has been no specific commitment of the French Community to increase academic staff mobility. There is therefore no implementation of specific instruments. However, it’s important to mention that Higher education institutes encourage the exchange of staff: the agreements made between Belgian and foreign Higher education institutes can include provisions for the exchange of staff members.

Part 2 of the Comenius project consists of providing support to transnational projects and mobility activities aiming to promote the professional development of all categories of personnel involved in school education. The Leonardo da Vinci project includes scholarships allowing exchanges between trainers, designers and managers of training programmes, for example universities, human resource managers, vocational guidance specialists, linguistic tutors, with a view to preparing initial or in-service training programmes. These initiatives also support cooperation between companies and universities.

In addition to the various exchange and mobility possibilities offered to teaching and academic personnel by the many programmes organised by the international organisations, the French Community takes care to maintain and reinforce its own structures. The Association for the Promotion of Education and Training Abroad (APEFE) is now grouped with the other administrations of an international character within Wallonia-Brussels International (Espace international Wallonie-Bruxelles, EIWB).

The APEFE aims to fulfil 7 objectives:

  • promoting sustainable human development, international solidarity, the fight against poverty and exclusion;
  • contributing to the rule of law and international justice;
  • restoring human dignity for the most disadvantaged and contributing to gender equality;
  • protecting minorities and contributing to gender balance;
  • preventing conflicts and preserving peace;
  • deploying an ethical, equitable and balanced approach wherever it operates;
  • preserving the environment and access to natural resources.

Every year, APEFE organises 250 long- and short-term missions in 15 countries. The countries in question are among the world’s poorest as measured by the UNDP’s human development index. Its interventions prioritise sub-Saharan Africa (the Great Lakes region in particular), where at least 50% of its budgetary resources are deployed.

Eventually, even though it can not be considered “international” mobility strictly speaking, it should be noted that the “Fonds Prince Philippe” also funds projects in Higher Education between institutes of the three Belgian communities. Staff mobility is funded in this context.

Belgium – Flemish Community

Higher education comprises the following programmes:

  • Associate degree programmes (NQF Flanders 5)
  • Bachelor programmes (NQF Flanders 6)
  • Master programmes (NQF Flanders 7)
  • Doctoral programmes (NQF Flanders 8)
  • Programmes which lead to a post graduate certificate
  • Continuous education, shorter programmes in view of continuous professional development
  • Integrated teacher training programmes (Bachelor in education: pre-primary education, Bachelor in education: primary education and Bachelor in education: secondary education) and the specific teacher training programmes, organised by university colleges and research universities which lead to the qualification of teacher.

The basic programmes comprise the professional bachelor programmes, the academic programmes and the master programmes. Their study load is expressed in credits, conform with the ECTS credit system.

Professional bachelor programmes aim at impairing the students with general and specific knowledge of the competences needed for the independent execution of a profession or a group of professions. A professional bachelor programme thus offers the possibility of proceeding directly onto the labour market.

The main goal of the academic bachelor programmes is to proceed to a master programme. They thus aim at impairing students a level of knowledge and competences required for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general and for a specific field of science or arts in particular.

The master programmes aim at brining students to an advanced level of knowledge and competences needed for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general and for a specific field of science or arts in particular, and which is required for the independent practice of scince or arts or for the use of this scientific or artistic knowledge in the independent practice of a professional or group of professions. Master programmes are academic but can on top of that be professional.

Advanced bachelor programmes (bachelor-na-bacheloropleidingen) succeed another professional bachelor programme. This follow-up programme is aimed at broadening or specialising the competences acquired during the initial bachelor programme.

Advanced master programmes (master-na-masteropleidingen) succeed another master programme. This follow-up programme is aimed at a further deepening of the knowledge and/or competence acquired within a specific domain of study.

doctoral degree can be obtained after scientific research and a public presentation and defence of a doctoral thesis.

Post-graduate certificates can be granted by university colleges and research universities after a successful completion of programme with a study load of at least 20 credits. These programmes are organised in the framework of continuous professional development and aim at a broadening or deepening of the competences acquired after completing a bachelor or master programme.

The research universities and university colleges also organise, within the framework of continuous education, shorter training pathways aimed at continuous professional development.

As a result of the Bologna process higher education in Flanders has been reformed to a ‘Three Tier” system of higher education with the following basic characteristics:

  • flexible learning pathways
  • a reinforcement of the system of quality assurance by means of accreditation, which provides both students and employers with the guarantee that graduate have reached an internationally recognised minimal level of competences
  • cooperation between university colleges and research universities in associations.

Bachelor

Two kinds of bachelor programmes exist:

  1. Professional bachelor programmes aim at impairing the students with general and specific knowledge of the competences needed for the independent execution of a profession or a group of professions. A professional bachelor programme thus offers the possibility of proceeding directly onto the labour market.
  2. The main goal of the academic bachelor programmes is to proceed to a master programme. They thus aim at impairing students a level of knowledge and competences required for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general and for a specific field of science or arts in particular.

Both the professional as well as the academic bachelor programmes are listed at qualification level 6 of the Flemish and European Qualification Framework. Both result in the degree of bachelor.

Professional bachelor programmes are offered by university colleges. Academic bachelor programmes are organised by research universities. In derogation of this rule university colleges can offer academic bachelor programmes in the context of a School of Arts. These programmes pertain to the study area of audiovisual and visual arts and music and performing arts. The Higher Maritime Institute offers academic bachelor programmes within the study area of nautical sciences.

Branches of study

University colleges can organise professional bachelor programmes within the following areas of study:

  1. Architecture
  2. Health care
  3. Industrial science and technology
  4. Biotechniques
  5. Education
  6. Socio-agogic work
  7. Commercial science and business management

The university colleges can within a School of Arts offer professional and academic bachelor programmes within the following areas of study

  1. Audiovisual and visual arts
  2. Music and performing arts

The Higher Maritime Institute can organise professional and academic bachelor programmes within the areas of study of nautical science.

  1. Research universities may offer academic bachelor programmes within the following areas of study
  2. Philosophy and moral sciences
  3. Theology, religious study and canon law
  4. Philology and literature
  5. History
  6. Archaeology and art history
  7. Law, notary and criminological sciences
  8. Psychology and pedagogical sciences
  9. Economic and applied economic sciences
  10. Political and social sciences
  11. Social health sciences
  12. Human movement and revalidation sciences
  13. Sciences
  14. Applied sciences
  15. Applies biological sciences
  16. Medical science
  17. Dentistry
  18. Veterinary sciences
  19. Pharmaceutical sciences
  20. Biomedical sciences
  21. Transport studies
  22. Architecture
  23. Industrial sciences and technology
  24. Biotechnology
  25. Product development
  26. Applied philology
  27. Commercial science and business management
  28. Conservation – restoration

The Codex Higher Education contains a list of the above mentioned areas of study in which each university college and research university are granted education competence and can thus organise professional or academic bachelor programmes.

An integrated overview of all programmes can be consulted in the Register of Higher Education.

Admission requirements

The Codex Higher Education contains the general admission criteria which are valid for all initial bachelor programmes. The following Flemish qualifications and certificated grant direct access to a bachelor programme:

  • Secondary Education Certificate
  • Certificate of short cycle higher education with complete curriculum
  • Certificate of higher education for social promotion (with exception of the Certificate of Pedagogical Competence)
  • Qualification or certificate granted in the context of an associate degree programme
  • Also students holding a foreign qualification or certificate which is based on a legal norm, European directive or international agreement is recognised as equivalent to one of the qualifications or certificates listed above, are granted direct access to a bachelor programme.

In addition to these qualifications and certificates granting direct access to initial bachelor programmes, the institutions of higher education have the autonomy to admit persons in certain cases or on the basis of deviant admission criteria.

The Flemish Community does not apply a ‘numerus clausus’ system, though organises admission tests for every student who wishes to register for the programmes of Dentistry and Medicine. These tests are organised by the Ministry of Education. 

Students wishing to enter higher artistic education have to pass a skills test (artistic admission tests) organised by the individual university college. This is a prerequisite for anyone registering for the programmes and programme components in the fields of study ‘Audiovisual and Visual Arts’ and ‘Music and Performing Arts’.

An examination to assess the student’s knowledge of the teaching language may also be required.

A student who already holds a bachelor degree and who enters a different bachelor programme can be granted a reduction of the course duration or of the required study load.

University colleges may decide to admit to their advanced Bachelor’s programmes only those students who already hold a bachelor degree. They may restrict direct access to these programmes to graduates of bachelor programmes with specific programme characteristics. A preparatory programme can be imposed on graduates of other bachelor programmes as a prerequisite for admission. The content and study load of these preparatory programmes are determined by the university college and may vary according to the extent to which the content of the student’s prior education relates to the advanced bachelor programme in question.

Curriculum

University colleges and universities are free to compose their own curricula. The board of the institution sets out a programme for each course which consists of a coherent whole of course components. The higher education institutions determine the learning outcomes for each course and course component. They base themselves on the common domain specific learning outcomes which are drafted by the institutions of higher education under the coordination of the VLURH (Flemish Council of Research Universities and University Colleges). The description of the domain specific learning outcomes are validated by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).

When drafting the course programmes, the board takes into account the prevailing national and international (admission) requirements that are down by law (including the European Directive 2005/36/EC) for certain functions or professions, such as general nurse and midwife. The accreditation body indicates in its accreditation report and accreditation decision whether the board of the institution has compiled their programmes in compliance with this European Directive.

Teaching methods

The institutions of higher education are free to choose their teaching methods and tools. By default, professional bachelor programmes offered by university colleges contain theoretical classes, practical classes and a traineeship. These elements usually do not feature in research oriented programmes, offered by research universities, where the emphasis is put on theoretical aspects and scientific research.

The higher education institutions can offer a course or course component entirely or partially in the form of distance learning, i.e. by use of multimedia in order not to tie the student to a specific place of education provision. The institution’s board develops adequate study and teaching materials and organises adequate guidance.

University colleges and research universities also organise study pathways who are specifically organised for students who work.

Progression of students

Since academic year 2005-2006 regulation offers a framework within which more flexible learning paths are offered, with increased opportunities to transfer between courses and institutions, enhanced differentiation with respect to the types of programmes on offer, and more opportunities for lifelong learning. In this respect the following principles were introduced:

  • The year system is replaced by a credit system.
  • The programme remains the basic and structural unit but is no longer seen as the total sum of study years but as one whole of course components.
  • A course is subdivided into course components. A component is a well-defined unit of teaching, learning and assessment activities aimed at acquiring well-defined (sub)competences regarding knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes.
  • The overall study load is expressed in credits, in conformity with the ECTS, in which one credit represents a study load of 25 to 30 hours.
  • The volume of a course component is expressed in full credits. A course component comprises at least 3 credits.
  • Students have completed a course component when the assessment demonstrates that they have satisfactorily acquired the relevant (sub)competences. Students are usually assessed on a scale from zero to 20 (whole numbers), with 10 being the lowest number required to pass.
  • Students are entitled to two occasions to pass the exam of a course component in the course of the academic year in which the exam is organised.
  • Completion of a course component (i.e. passing the programme component) results in official recognition in the form of a proof of credit.
  • A student who passes for al course components of a certain programme is automatically granted the degree or qualification of the programme.
  • There is no expiry date on acquired proofs of credit within the programme or institution where this was acquired. In case a student wants to complete its programme within a different instutution or programme these acquired credits can be validated by the institution after a comparison between the obtained learning outcomes and the learning outcomes of the new curriculum.
  • Students can enrol in a bachelor (or master) programme in case the institution’s board decides that (s)he has acquired sufficient competences on the basis of the recognition of qualifications and/or the recognition of competences. Details on the recognition of qualifications and/or competences are included in the teaching and examination regulations of each institute for higher education. The general principles and procedures for flexible study paths are thoroughly explained in the brochure ‘Bewijs je bekwaamheid‘.

In order to monitor the study progress of each student and to be able to act in case of derailment various measures are introduced:

  • Institutions of higher education are allowed to act when students who do not reach a study efficiency of 60%. These students are monitored faster and stricter and can be obliged to transfer to a different programme in case they do not respond to the monitoring by the institution.
  • Also on the basis of the individual study progress file of a student’s admission to a certain programme can be refused.
  • The institutions of higher education are given the opportunity to consult via a database on higher education across institutions and programmes data on the study efficiency of students.
  • In addition, a system of learning credit was introduced in monitor the study progress of students. In order to express the own responsibility of students to make a well-considered choice of study and to pursue a successful study career, each student is granted at the start of its study in Flanders an individual learning credit package of 140 credits. These credits are used upon enrolment in a programme and course component. In case a student obtains credits in the course of the academic year, these credits are again added to the total of the learning credit package. Students with a negative learning credit package cannot be financed and may be refused enrolment in an initial bachelor or master programme by the institution.

Employability

Professional bachelor programmes are primarily oriented towards professional practice. They offer the possibility of proceeding directly onto the labour market. Practical training in real working conditions (companies, schools, hospitals, etc.) forms an essential part of these programmes.

Academic bachelor programmes are primarily oriented towards progression to a master programme. Some programmes however also allow to enter directly onto the labour market. 

Students are guided in various ways to facilitate their entry onto the labour market. The majority of university colleges and research universities have installed employment services. Since there are no official guidelines in this area, their operating procedures may vary. Some institutions confine themselves to collecting information on vacancies or employment statistics, whereas others keep detailed employment records on individual graduates, organise job interview training sessions and/or employment preparation seminars, etc. 

Student assessment

A large scale of autonomy is granted to institutions of higher education to determine the rules for student assessment. The university colleges and research universities determine in the examination regulation before the start of the academic year the organisation of the academic year. The Codex Higher Education determines only that an academic year takes one year, starts on 1 September at the earliest and on 31 October at the latest.

The Examination Regulation determines at least the periods in which exams are organised. Most institutions apply a semester system in which part of the courses is assessed in Januari and part in May/June. Students are offered the possibility to repeat an exam which they did not pass in the exam period in September.

Certification

The board of an institution grants a proof of credit to students who pass a particular course component.

The board grants the degree of Bachelor (or Master) to students who have successfully completed a Bachelor (or Master) programme.

NARIC Flanders, the National Academic (and Professional) Recognition and Information Centre, is part of the Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Study Allowances (AHOVOKS) of the Ministry of Education and Training. The centre is responsible for the recognition of foreign qualifications and diplomas, professional recognition of the teaching professions on the basis of European Directive 2005/36/EC, the provision of information about (the recognition of) Flemish qualifications abroad and explanatory attestations for qualifications obtained in the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and the Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft Belgien. NARIC Flanders  is the Flemish unit within the ENIC and NARIC network. NARIC centres are recognition centres of the member states of the European Economic Area (the EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and (sometimes) Switzerland). As these countries are also members of the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES, all NARIC centres are also part of the ENIC network (European Network of Information Centres of the Council of Europe and UNESCO). The ENIC Network cooperates closely with the NARIC Network.

The format of the higher education degrees and the content of the accompanying diploma supplement was officially laid down in Flemish legislation by the Flemish Governmental Decision of 11 June 2004, and has been updated on several occasions.

Flanders was the first in Europe to introduce a statutory diploma supplement in 1991. Initially this was done only for research universities but later on (in 1994) also for university colleges. This diploma supplement contains details on the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies followed and a description of the system of higher education. The current diploma supplements are based on the model developed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES who used the Flemish example as a model. The diploma supplement provides independent data with a view to improving international transparency and fair recognition of qualifications for academic and professional purposes. Every student receives the document automatically with his degree as the degree and the accompanying diploma supplement are intrinsically interlinked as one single whole. Officially registered institutions for higher education will also, on a one-off basis, issue degrees and diploma supplements in English, free of charge and at the student’s request.

Degrees and diploma supplements for programmes taught entirely in a language other than Dutch are issued both in the teaching language and in Dutch.

Self-certification in the framework of the Bologna Process was completed on 2 February 2009 when independent international experts concluded that the qualifications framework for higher education in Flanders is compatible with the overarching framework of the European Higher Education Area. This official confirmation is mentioned on the diploma supplement and on the website of NVAO and the website of the ENIC and NARIC networks.

The Flemish degree titles are legally protected. Only those to whom the degree of bachelor, master or doctor (doctor of philosophy, abbreviated as PhD or Dr) has been granted, with or without further specification are entitled to use the corresponding title of bachelor, master or doctor, with or without further specification. Violating these provisions when granting or using the titles is penalized by a fine and/or imprisonment.

The specification “of Arts”, “of Science”, “of Laws”, “of Medicine”, “of Veterinary Science”, “of Veterinary Medicine” or “of Philosophy” may be added to certain bachelor or master degrees in academic education. The addition of this specification is subject to the same legal protection as the degree itself and the title associated with it.

Second Cycle Programmes

Master programmes are always academically oriented. They aim at brining students to an advanced level of knowledge and competences needed for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general and for a specific field of science or arts in particular, and which is required for the independent practice of scince or arts or for the use of this scientific or artistic knowledge in the independent practice of a professional or group of professions.

Master programmes are organised at level 7 of the Flemish and European qualification framework. They result in the degree of master.

In addition to domain specific master research universities can under strict conditions offer a number of research masters. These must comply with the following criteria:

  1. they result in a transfer to research careers in an institution for higher education or within the industrial world or social organisations;
  2. the programme is in line with the core research activities of the institution of higher education;
  3. the intended final level of the programme corresponds with the final level which is internationally common for a research master.

In addition to the initial master programmes the institutions of higher education can also offer advances master programmes (master-after-master). These aim at further supplementing / broadening or a deepening / specialising of the knowledge and/or competence acquired the initial master programme.

The study load of the master programmes comprises at least 60 credits. Most master programmes have a study load of 60 or 120 credits.

Master programmes are offered by research universities. University colleges can only offer masters in the framework of a School of Arts and this within the field of study of audiovisual and visual arts or the field of study of music and performing arts. The Higher Maritime Institute offers master programmes within the field of study of nautical sciences.

Branches of study

Research universities may offer master programmes and the accompanying degree of master in the following fields of study

  1. Philosophy and moral sciences
  2. Theology, religious study and canon law
  3. Philology and literature
  4. History
  5. Archaeology and art history
  6. Law, notary and criminological sciences
  7. Psychology and pedagogical sciences
  8. Economic and applied economic sciences
  9. Political and social sciences
  10. Social health sciences
  11. Human movement and revalidation sciences
  12. Sciences
  13. Applied sciences
  14. Applies biological sciences
  15. Medical science
  16. Dentistry
  17. Veterinary sciences
  18. Pharmaceutical sciences
  19. Biomedical sciences
  20. Transport studies
  21. Architecture
  22. Industrial sciences and technology
  23. Biotechnology
  24. Product development
  25. Applied philology
  26. Commercial science and business management
  27. Conservation – restoration

The university colleges can within a School of Arts offer master programmes within the following areas of study

  1. Audiovisual and visual arts
  2. Music and performing arts

The Higher Maritime Institute can organise master programmes within the areas of study of nautical science.

The Codex Higher Education contains a list of the above mentioned areas of study in which each university college and research university are granted education competence and can thus organise master programmes.

An integrated overview of all programmes can be consulted in the Register of Higher Education.

Admission requirements

In addition to the general qualification conditions as laid down in legislation the institutions of higher education have the autonomy to impose language conditions. Depending on of the prior study path a preparatory programme can be imposed or the content of the study programme can be altered. The institution’s board determines the additional admission criteria in its educational regulations. 

Legislation prescribes the following aspects:

  • A bachelor degree, obtained upon completion of an academic bachelor programme, grants direct access to a master programme. Students who have obtained a professional bachelor degree must first complete a bridging programme first. A skills assessment may also be executed. A bridging programme consists of a minimum of 45 and a maximum of 90 credits. The institution may reduce the bridging programme or even grant a full exemption based on a skills assessment relating to previously acquired qualifications.
  • Enrolment in a research master can be made dependent on a skills assessment of the student. The governing board of an institution of higher education can decide to limit the number of students which is granted access to a research master on the basis of the operating means granted by the government to the institution.
  • The institutions for higher education can only offer advanced master programmes to holders of a master degree. Direct access may be restricted to graduates of master programmes with specific programme characteristics. Institutions may request holders of other master degrees to follow a preparatory programme as an admission requirement. The content and study load of the preparatory programmes are determined by the institution and may vary according to the content relatedness between students’ prior education and the advanced master programme in question. Also for admission to an advanced master programme a skills assessment can be obligatory.

The institution can exempt persons holding a qualification or degree which has been issued outside the Flemish Community from the requirements with regard to prior education in as far as the institution considers the qualification or degree and the specific profile of the programme of a student of sufficient level and on the condition that a check of the authenticity of the qualifications and degrees has been performed. Admission can be made conditional upon a successful completion of a specific preparatory programme.

The governing board of an institution can grant persons who can no longer present their qualification or degree access to a programme on humanitarian grounds. Admission is granted after a skills assessment. 

Curriculum

The basic principles with regard to the curriculum of master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to the curriculum of bachelor programmes.

In determining the curriculum of programmes leading to the professions of medical doctor, general practitioner, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist or architect, the institution’s board must comply with the requirements set out in European Directive 2005/36/EC. The accreditation body confirms in its accreditation report and decision whether the institution’s board has complied with this European Directive or not.

At the end of a master programme each student must submit (and in some cases defend) a dissertation (master thesis). The thesis represents at least 20% of the ECTS load of the master programme, with a minimum of 15 credits and a maximum of 30 credits.

Teaching methods

The basic principles with regard to the teaching methods of master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to the teaching methods of bachelor programmes.

Progression of students

The basic principles with regard to study progress in master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to study progress in bachelor programmes.

Employability

Parallel to the university colleges the research universities have developed specific services for guiding graduating master students.

Student assessment

The basic principles with regard to study assessment in master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to study assessment in bachelor programmes.

Certification

The basic principles with regard to certificates in master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to certificates in bachelor programmes.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

A degree of doctor is granted after a public presentation and defense of a doctoral thesis. The preparation of a doctoral thesis aims to contribute to the training of a research who can independently make a valuable contribution to the development and growth of scientific knowledge. The thesis must demonstrate his/her ability to create new scientific knowledge within a certain field of study or across various fields of study on the basis of independent scientific research. The doctoral thesis must result in scientific publications.

Only research universities may award the degree of doctor in Flanders. They may do so within the fields of study in which they, under the Codex of Higher Education, have the competence to offer programmes resulting in the degree of master. These universities which only offer bachelor programmes in certain fields of study can grant the degree of doctor on the condition that the public defense of the doctoral thesis takes place before an interuniversity jury which is composed in consultation with a university that under the Codex of Higher Education has education competence within the field of study in question.  

A university can within or across the fields of study of audiovisual and visual arts, music and performing arts, and nautical sciences grant the degree of doctor when the doctoral process is embedded within a common research setting of the university and one or more university college(s). The colleges involved have, under the Codex of Higher Education, the competence to organise within the field of study in question programmes leading to the degree of master.

In addition to the research universities two institutions for Protestant theology can grant doctoral degrees.

Legislation does not prescribe the length of the preparation of a doctorate. Most institutions however aim at completing a doctoral trajectory within a period of four years.

Doctoral schools stimulate and support doctoral studies. They support doctoral students to successfully complete the doctoral trajectory and prepare them for a future career within or outside of the academic world. Doctoral schools organise doctoral courses, which may or may not be obligatory for doctoral students. In addition to a comprehensive offer of courses and programmes doctoral schools also organise information sessions and other related activities for doctoral students and post-doctoral staff members. The organisation of the doctoral school belongs to the autonomy of the research university and therefore differs from one university to another.

Admission requirements

Holding a master degree is a general admission requirement for being admitted to a doctoral programme.

A university however may require additional research allowing it to assess the student capability of conducting scientific research in the field of study concerned and to record the results in a thesis.

A student who does not hold a master degree may also be admitted to a doctoral programme. In that case however a university may require the student either to undergo a competence assessment in order to ascertain his/her ability to write a doctoral thesis, or to take an examination on certain elements of academic education which are determined by the university.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

A doctoral candidate must register at a university for the preparation of a doctoral thesis and is from that point of view regarded as a student. In addition a doctoral candidate has a statute which is linked to its remuneration as a doctoral student.

A doctoral student in the position of an assistent has the statute of an employee. The doctoral candidate in question receive a pay, holiday allowances and a year-end bonus. Both the university and the doctoral student pay social security contributions. The doctoral student / assistant is entitled to all social security rights such as retirement rights, the right to an annual holiday, insurance for illness and invalidity, insurance for work-related accidents and illnesses and a right to unemployment benefits.

Doctoral students from the European Economic Area with a doctoral grant enjoy the same social security rights as a doctoral students working as an assistant. A grant is not a pay but grant recipients are granted holiday allowances and a year-end bonus. Under certain conditions a doctoral grant is exempted from personal income tax.

A doctoral student from an non-EEA country has limited access to social security rights. These students are only entitled to a yearly holiday allowance and an insurance for illness and invalidity. They do not collect rights with regard to retirement allowances or unemployment allowances.

In theory it is possible for a student to engage in doctoral studies without receiving a grant or pay. In this case this persons does not collect social security rights as a doctoral student. The social statute of this person will depend on the statute (s)he has outside the statute of doctoral student, e.g. as a regular employee or retired person.

Supervision arrangements

Every person who starts doctoral studies enrols at a research university. This university determines autonomously the content of the doctoral trajectory, the mode of guidance and the responsibilities of the doctoral students and their supervisors. Within a university the implementation may differ from one faculty to another. Each research university organises doctoral schools, but they determine themselves whether a doctoral student is obliged to take part.

Each doctoral student has at least one supervisor. Every university has drawn up a ‘charter of the doctoral student’ in which the general expectations are listed of the doctoral student, heads of research units, supervisors and sometimes the universities themselves too.

Employability

The careers of doctoral graduates are very divers and vary significantly depending on the scientific field of study of the doctoral degree. Most doctoral graduates continue working at university and aim for an academic career. In addition research institutions, the business community and the public sector attract to an increasing degree doctoral graduates.

Doctoral schools support (future) doctoral graduates in their search for a job, both within as well as outside the academic world.

Assessment

The degree of ‘doctor’ or ‘doctor of philosophy’ is awarded by a university panel after the public defence of a doctoral thesis demonstrating the student’s ability to produce original scientific knowledge on the basis of independent scientific research.

Only those to whom the degree of bachelor has been granted are entitled to use the corresponding title of doctor and the legally protected abbreviations ‘Dr’ and ‘PhD’.

Mobility in Higher Education

Erasmus Belgica – a collaboration project between the Communities of Belgium

This is a cooperation project between the three Communities of Belgium to enhance the mobility of higher-education students and to give them the opportunity to follow part of their programme at a university or university college in another Community. The programme follows the same principles as the European Erasmus programme.

An Erasmus Belgica scholarship consists of a fixed amount (premium) + a monthly allowance (minimum three months, maximum one year) if the student has to pay for accommodation. EPOS (European Programmes for Education, Training and Cooperation) is the National Agency for Flanders for the implementation of the European Lifelong Learning Programme.

Cooperation with France

In 2009, regional cooperation was started between France, the French Community and Flanders in higher education, which included starting up and extending joint Master’s programmes. More information can be found in the Joint Degree guide.

Exchanges with the Washington Center for internships and academic seminars

This programme encourages students to take up internships via the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. The students are placed in various prestigious international organisations and companies. Supervision, support and quality control is provided by the Washington Center. In 2010-2011, ten scholarships of €7,500 were allocated to Flemish students by the Flemish government to attend an internship via the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. The Washington Center has also itself provided additional scholarships for Flemish students in the past. The financing will continue in the next few academic years.

Student exchanges within ASEM-DUO

This programme involves exchanges of students between Flanders and the ASEM countries. The students are selected via cooperation agreements between Flemish and Asian institutions. Both Flemish and Asian students (from the ASEM countries) can use the scholarships; arrangements are always made on the basis of pairs of students. The students gain credit in their regular institution for their exchange.

Inter-community exchanges within the framework of the Prince Philippe Fund

The Prince Philippe Fund supports the exchange of students from university colleges and universities from at least 2 of the 3 Belgian Communities. These exchanges must run over a minimum of 5 days, can be staggered across the academic year and can even take place at several locations in Belgium. A minimum of 5 students per university college or university must take part in the project. Priority is given to projects with an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to knowledge about the 3 Communities and to projects which enhance proficiency in the three official languages. http://www.prins-filipfonds.org/

In 2009, the Prince Philippe Fund also set up a project which offers information on the launch and expansion of Joint (degree) programmes (e.g.: double degrees) between the three Communities of Belgium. Next to an inventory of the existing initiatives of Bi, Multiple and Joint (degree) programmes, there was a Colloquium in 2010 regarding the students exchanges between the three Communities and in 2011 a Joint Degree Guide was published.

Recognition and validation of foreign qualifications

Higher education qualifications may be recognised by NARIC-Flanders. Although the Law of 30 April 2004 has stipulated the access conditions, the higher education institutions in Flanders are autonomous regarding admission to their programmes. 

The Parliamentary Act on Higher Education of 4 April 2003 confirmed that the recognition of foreign higher-education degrees in Flanders follows the principles of the Lisbon Recognition Convention (Convention Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in European Region of 11 April 1997 – “LRC”) laid down by the Council of Europe and UNESCO. Belgium proceeded with ratification on the 22nd of July 2009. The LRC entered into force in Belgium on the first of September 2009. The Parliamentary Act on Higher Education of 4 April 2003 of Flanders was therefore adopted by stipulating in 2011 that the higher education institutions have to apply the principles of the LRC regarding access to their programmes and that NARIC-Flanders has to apply the principles of the LRC regarding the recognition of higher education qualifications. It furthermore stipulated that the Council for disputes about decisions on study progress is also the appeal body for recognition decisions taken by higher education institutions and recognition decisions taken by NARIC-Flanders. On the 14th of June 2013 also the conditions and the procedures of the recognition of qualifications of all levels were stipulated in the Flemish legislation.

Europass

Europass is a folder in which 5 documents can be compiled to facilitate job applications or new studies abroad: a CV, to be filled out by the candidate and a language passport, a Diploma Supplement (for people having completed higher education) and a mobility overview as proof of European learning experiences. 

Flanders was the first in Europe to introduce a statutory Diploma Supplement. This was introduced for universities in 1991 and for university colleges in 1994. The diploma supplement is obligatory. Every higher education student in flanderes automatically receives a Diploma Supplement with is degree. The degree (Associate Degree, Bachelor, Master and Doctor) and the accompanying diploma supplement are intrinsically interlinked and are regarded as one single whole. It states that the higher education qualification framework in Flanders is compatible with the overarching framework of the European Higher Education Area and that this is officially confirmed on the website of the NVAO. This confirmation is also provided on the website of the ENIC and NARIC networks. At the request of students (but most of the time automatically), the statutory registered institutions for higher education will also furnish a free once-off copy of the degree and Diploma Supplement in English. The degree and Diploma Supplement for programmes taught entirely in another language than Dutch are issued both in the teaching language and in Dutch.

Screening of Chinese students

In December 2006 Germany and Flanders signed an agreement in which the “Akademischen Prüfstelle Beijing” was empowered to screen the qualifications of Chinese students wishing to study in Flanders and Germany from the academic year 2007-2008 onwards. Austria, Switzerland, the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and the Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft Belgiens joined this cooperation.

Chinese students do need a positive AP screening attestation to obtain a student visa for Belgium from the Belgian Embassy in Beijing.

The AP screening has two phases. Phase one is the document screening. Experts check whether the qualifications are authentic and indeed awarded by the Chinese (higher) education institutions. Phase two is the interview. Experts (including Flemish ones) check during the interview whether that person is indeed the holder of that qualification and at that level.

Chinese exchange students in the framework of a bilateral agreement between a Chinese higher education institution and a Flemish one, Erasmus Mundus or the China Scholarship Council are exempted from screening phase two, the interview. 

More information is available at the website.

Benelux

Benelux is an intergovernmental cooperation between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The union’s name is formed from joining the first two or three letters of each country’s name – Belgium Netherlands Luxembourg – and was first used to name the customs agreement that initiated the union signed in 1944. It was officially founded in 1958 by Treaty and updated on the 17th of June 2008.

On the 7th of November 2012 Benelux started – on initiative of Flanders – to discuss the automatic academic general recognition of eachter other’s higher education degrees. The goal is to accept automatically each other’s higher education degrees at the corresponding level avoiding equivalence statements and individual recognition procedures.

Automatic non-individual recognition of foreign higher education qualifications

The Flemish Parliament has created the legal framework for automatic recognition of foreign higher education qualifications in Flanders on the 10th of July 2013. So, holders of foreign higher education qualifications will not always have to follow an individual academic recognition procedure. There will be two ways of automatic recognition.

Foreign higher education qualifications can be automatically legally declared equal

  • in general with the Flemish degrees “Associate degree”, “Bachelor”, “Master” or “Doctor” (= level recognition) or
  • with specific higher education qualifications in Flanders, like “Master of Science in Mathematics” (= full specific recognition).

The automatic level recognition has to be based upon:

  • the presence of a quality assurance system meeting the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area which guarantees the achievement of the learning outcomes; and
  • the presence of a higher education programme structure compatible with the Higher Education Area (EHEA) Structure; and
  • a qualifications framework well-matched, which is internationally verified, with the overarching Framework Qualifications in the EHEA, adopted at the Bergen Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education 19-20 May 2005.

For the automatic recognition with specific higher education qualifications also a comparison of the learning outcomes has to be included.

In case the programme leading to a Short cycle qualification/Associate degree, First cycle qualification/Bachelor degree or Second Cycle qualification/Master degree is accredited by an accreditation organisation listed in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), Flanders may respectively declare these degrees automatically, in general or specific, equal to the higher education degrees Associate degree, Bachelor and Master of Flanders.

Automatic recognition higher education qualifications – Flanders and the Netherlands

The Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) was established by international treaty on the first of February 2005. Thanks to the guarantee of a minimum quality of the HE programms by the same quality assurance agency holders of a Bachelor degree and holders of a Master degree obtained in the Netherlands have direct access to respectively Master programmes and the Doctorate in Flanders and vice versa.

The Flemish Governmental Decision of 17 September 2010 also officially declared the HE degrees Bachelor, Master and Doctor of the Netherlands equal respectively with the Flemish Bachelor, Master and Doctor. 

On the 16th of January 2013 the NVAO Treaty was updated and it also stipulated that the Bachelor degrees and master degrees in Flanders and the Netherlands are declared equal to each other.

Joint ‘(degree) programmes

The “transnationale Universiteit Limburg” was founded by the international Agreement between Flanders and the Netherlands singed in Maastricht on 18 January 2001 and ratified in Flanders on 13 July 2001. The transnationale Universiteit Limburg is entitled to award Bachelor and Master degrees in listed fields of study and are automatically recognised in Flanders and the Netherlands.

Joint programme

Higher education institutions in Flanders may allow their students to follow education at another institution as being part of their Bachelor or Master programme. The other higher education institution may be a Belgian institution or a foreign institution, but only if this institution is offering programmes of at least three years.

Double degrees

Higher education institutions may award a Flemish degree together with a state recognised degree from a (or several) partner institutions. The possible partners are

  • a (or several) higher education institution(s) of one of the other Communities in of Belgium
  • a (or several) foreign higher education institution(s)

The preconditions to be met are as follows:

  • agreement confirming the educational goals and the content of the programme;
  • providing details of the eduational organisation for these students at all the higher education institutions involved;
  • students will take at least 20 ECTS credits at the partner institution in case it is a programme with a load of study of 60 ECTS credits or at least 27 ECTS credits in other cases;
  • students are registered in the Flemish higher education institution at the moment the degree is awarded;
  • avoiding a double (or even more) subsidy for the same student;
  • the two (or more) names of the degrees are mentioned on the same document, unless the national legislation of the partners do not allow it.

Joint degrees

Higher education institutions may award a joint degree with one or more foreign higher education institutions or one or more institutions of the other Communities of Belgium involved.

The Flemish higher education institution may grant the Flemish legally protected “Bachelor” or “Master” title on top of it. Students have to follow a joint curriculum in the framework of an international oriented education programme, a European education (exchange) programme or a cooperation agreement between the higher education institutions involved.

Joint and double doctoral degrees

Flemish universities may award a joint or double doctoral degree with one or more universities of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and/or with one or more foreign higher education institutions.

The doctoral student has to successfully defend her/his doctoral thesis. The jury members are professors from all the higher education institutions involved. The doctoral student has to spend at least six months at the partner institution doing scientific research linked with her/his doctoral thesis.

Academic staff mobility

Erasmus Belgica – a collaboration project between the Communities of Belgium

Since academic year 2006-2007, the Erasmus Belgica programme has been extended to include exchanges between higher-education lecturers from the 3 Communities. To that end, participating university colleges and universities must conclude bilateral agreements with their partners from the other Community. The application of the programme is consistent with the terms of the Erasmus programme. Each lecturer receives a fixed amount per day with a maximum amount for five days.

Belgian Inter-Community exchanges for higher education within the framework of the Prince Philippe Fund for the development of common course material

The Prince Philippe Fund assists lecturers and professors teaching at university colleges and universities located in the three Communities of Belgium with the development of common didactic material. Per academic year, they must spend at least three meeting days on the development of common course material. These particular collaboration projects can receive funding for 2 or 3 years.

Belgium – German-Speaking Community

For obvious economic and demographic reasons, the German-speaking Community has neither set up universities of applied sciences with longer study programmes nor universities. Usually, most pupils from the GC complete their studies at French-speaking colleges or universities, but recently there has been an increase in the number deciding to study across the border in Germany.

There were three small non-universities in the German-speaking Community until 2005: two pedagogical colleges and one for training nurses. As per the decree of 27 June 2005, these three colleges were merged into one autonomous university, the Autonome Hochschule. More detailed information about Belgian universities of applied sciences and universities can be found in the Eurypedia articles from the French Community (BE fr) and the Dutch Community (BE nl).

A law from 1933 protects the title of higher education. The law of 7 July 1970 on the general higher education structure has grouped and sorted all education that is included in secondary school academics: the methods of training are classified according to curriculum and objectives.

The Royal decree of 3 November 1987 on the general rules of university short courses with a full curriculum and the Royal decree of 6 November 1987 on the determination of the term “being registered as a regular student” and “student financing in full-time education at a college, except at a university” as well as both decrees of 21 February 2005 (a special decree) and of 27 June 2005 on the creation of an autonomous university of applied sciences in the German-speaking Community are considered the most important legal basis of the three departments of the new university of applied sciences in the GC. The latter contain provisions that implicitly highlight and replace certain provisions from the Royal decrees.

Short courses at the university of applied sciences follows a curriculum that aims at a basic knowledge, a specialised, technical education and vocational qualification in a specific area. Education is organised in a very clear way and is focused on training for a career. The main objective is the conveyance of scientific knowledge and its occupational applications: Pre-school teacher, primary school teacher, nurse and accountant.

Bachelor

Branches of Study  

There is only one short course non-university in the German-speaking Community, and it only offers the following three subjects:

  • medical and health care sciences: training to become a nurse.
  • education sciences: Pre-school and primary school teacher training.
  • Finance and business administration: Accounting

If students wish to follow other courses, they have to do so at other colleges/universities in Belgium (in French and/or Dutch) or abroad.

Admission Requirements

General admission requirements

  • The student must hold a certificate of upper secondary education or a higher education certificate or an equivalent document.
  • Foreign language speakers must provide a sufficient knowledge of the German language to study in the Department of Health and Nursing Sciences and a thorough knowledge to study in the Department of Education Sciences.
  • An extract from the judicial record is submitted to clarify the reputation and trustworthiness.

Admission procedure

In the Department of Education Sciences, the decree of 27 June 2005 provides an admission test in the subjects German, French and mathematics. The admission test is organized for all candidates who want to register for preschool and primary school teacher training. The Administrative board of the higher education institutions has decided to establish a maximum number of places in the first year.

In the two other faculties there is no specific admission procedure.

Curriculum

In principle, every school authority is free to prepare and specify their curriculum while taking into account pedagogical projects at the institution, local events, the current economic situation and the job market. There is no unified, stipulated basic education at college level. Colleges have complete academic freedom and autonomy, so they themselves – in the GC within a general structure provided by the decree of 27 June 2005 for creating the Autonome Hochschule – are responsible for their curriculum.

However, there are national requirements within the medical and health care sector as stipulated by the Ministry of Health, which must be taken into account when training health care workers.

Curricula must be submitted for approval by the Minister.

Curricula at the Autonome Hochschule in the GC: see study guides and summaries at www.ahs-dg.be:

  • Curriculum for Teacher Training
  • Curriculum for Health Care Worker Training
  • Curriculum for Accountant: will be provided during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Teaching Methods

The constitution guarantees educational freedom, so there are no centralised methodical instructions for all colleges. Within the scope of any guidelines that the school authority may have put into effect, every teacher is free to use the methods suitable for his or her class.

Teaching activities include theoretical courses, application phases, practical work, lab work, a thesis and internship in the corresponding professional world.

Since internships have many educational advantages, intensive cooperation between the college and the corresponding professional world is desired. As the entire training – both teacher training and health care worker training – is based, in principle, on the connection between theory and practice, the courses are designed so that students not only learn the art of their occupation, but also become theorists of their relevant occupational experience.

The methodology is taught during the three years of training through the presentation and preparation of the typical structure of work and/or care, practical practice in groups or individual work and through internships in the respective schools and/or in various hospitals. The number of internship hours is progressively increased over the years of training.

The Autonome Hochschule is responsible for the distribution of course units and internship weeks during the academic year. Each field has its own teaching method and organises their own projects (e.g. visiting historical establishments, museums, landscapes, exchange programmes with other countries, language internships during the teacher training).

Progression of Students

At the end of each academic year, the student must pass the exams before they can progress to the next year. The testing process is determined by a series of administrative and organisational measures that are to be adhered to.

The following measures are the most important:

  • two examination periods are to be organised per academic year;
  • the student is not allowed to take the same examination before a college Board of Examiners more than twice per academic year;
  • the student submits their examinations in all subjects in the first session, except in the case of force majeure;
  • the student has passed, according to the Board of Examiners, if they have at least 50% of the total points in individual examinations and a total of 60% overall;
  • a student can be excused from any examination in the second session if they completed the first examination session with at least 60%;
  • the Board of Examiners can allow the students to progress to the next year if they have at least 60% in the examinations taken, even if they did not pass the academic year. The student receives an exemption for a class and examination;
  • the Board of Examiners can also allow the student to take part in training activities in the academic year in which they are registered and pass the respective examinations.

Employability

The bachelor’s degree awarded by the Autonome Hochschule provides the recipient with the basic right to work in Belgium – and according to European directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications in other EU countries as well.

Degrees in health care are signed by the Minister of Education and Minister of Health and are then federally registered. After this registration by the federal authority, a visa is provided on a provincial level.

Studies at the AHS are strongly job-related: in all courses and academic years, extensive internships are required in schools, hospitals and businesses. Students receive a solid connection to the working world from the very start thanks to these internships during their studies.

The AHS has been offering a special course for those starting work in education sciences for several years.

Student Assessment

Each individual college instructor evaluates student performance according to criteria that they themselves have determined in their syllabus. Normally, it concerns normative performance assessments. Internships are assessed by both the college instructor as well as internship mentors.

In addition to the evaluation of the final year project (including the internship), the results of the examinations taken in all subjects each year carry the most weight. In addition, two examinations sessions are organised; the first session in January and June, the second in June and August. Examinations can be written, oral or practical. The oral tests are public, except in health care courses if the examination requires the presence of a patient or those seeking advice. The grades received over the year can be calculated with the examination results if this is expressly approved by internal school regulations.

To successfully complete an academic year, the student has to pass all the individual examinations with at least 50% of the points and have at least 60% overall, as well as in the final exam. Each test is worth 20 points. To establish the final grade, the grades from various courses and activities are multiplied with a weighting coefficient that is calculated according to the number of teaching hours of the respective subject. This weighting coefficient is automatically provided by the number of ECTS point that are available for the course.

Each student has the right to two examination sessions per year. There is a Board of Examiners for each examination session; each college instructor participating in the student training process is a member of this Board, and is entitled to vote. Upon request of the school authority, external people can also be a member of the Board of Examiners. The director presides over final examination session.

In the third academic year, the thesis is to be written and submitted. The objective of this is that the students should, relatively independently, explain a topic that they have chosen that is associated with their vocational training.

In addition to the examinations and the thesis, practical-related performance (practice hours and internship) are very important during the normative assessment. The results from assignments written over the course of the year can also be taken into account during the calculation of the final grade – within the framework of the restrictions determined in the school regulations.

Even formative evaluation has a role in college assessment. It enables both the college instructors as well as the students themselves to form a better picture of the their personal development. It is applied, for example in – very important in teacher training – evaluating the educational practice and language mastery, both in German as well as in French: Only the targeted progress is evaluated at the end of the academic year.

Certification

Students who pass the final examination are awarded with a degree. In addition to the final examination in all subjects, the evaluation of the thesis and/or final project also forms part of the final grade. The topic of this work must relate to the objective of the studies and be approved by the Director of the college. The students may only be issued with the degree once a representative of the Minister has signed it and it has been embossed with the Ministry’s seal. The degree becomes nationally recognised with this seal, also in both other Communities. The degree states the occupational title acquired.

The following college degrees are awarded in the German-speaking Community:

  • Bachelor in medical and health care sciences: Health care worker
  • Bachelor in education sciences: Preschool or primary school teacher
  • Bachelor in finance and business administration (will be awarded as of 2014): Accountant

The German-speaking Community of Belgium doesn’t organise second and third cycle programmes.

Mobility in Higher Education

Student Mobility

Erasmus+

With their Erasmus+-Program (2014-2020), at which the GC of Belgium participates, the EU aims to improve the skill levels and employability of young people and to modernize education and youth work. Erasmus+ promotes cross-border partnerships and combines the Lifelong-Learning-Programs Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo Da Vinci and Grundtvig (2007-2013). The Youth Office of the GC coordinates Erasmus+ in the German-speaking Community of Belgium.

The program offers students two types of activities: study stays at a foreign university and practical placement in a foreign business or organization.  At the same time, there is a new opportunity of graduate placement, which must be completed within one year after graduation.

Erasmus Belgica

Since 2004, the program Erasmus Belgica offers students the opportunity to complete a practical placement or a study period within Belgium. Erasmus Belgica is a partnership project of the Flemish , French and German-speaking Communities.

Prince Philippe Fund

The Prince Philippe Fund promotes joint initiatives between French-, Dutch- and German-speaking higher education institutions in Belgium. In the higher education, the student exchange and the common development of teaching materials are in the focus of this program.

Academic Staff Mobility

The possibilities of teacher mobility also expand with the EU Erasmus+-Program. Teachers can teach at a partner institution or attend courses, seminars and trainings in other European institutions with the goal of their further professional development. Youth Office in the CG is also responsible for Teacher Mobility.

There is also the possibility of the formation of knowledge alliances with projects that promote creativity, innovation, job-related learning, entrepreneurship and employability and support for higher education. Projects that contribute to the creation of curricula, develop innovative methods of training or implement the EU recognition instruments in practice are also supported. 

Contact for the Academic Staff mobility is also the Youth Office in the CG.

European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.