Higher education

Higher education in Belgium is organized by the two main communities, the Flemish Community and the French Community. German speakers typically enroll in institutions in the French Community or in Germany.

Admission to universities and colleges
In Belgium anybody with a qualifying diploma of secondary education is free to enroll at any institute of higher education of their choosing. The 4 major exceptions to this rule are those wanting to pursue a degree in:

prospective medicine or dentistry students must take an entrance exam organized by the government. This exam was introduced in the 1990s to control the influx of students. The exam assesses the student's knowledge of science, their ability to think in abstract terms (IQ test) and their psychological aptitude to become a physician. This exam is now held only in Flanders.

entrance exams to arts programs, which are mainly of a practical nature, are organized by the colleges individually.

Engineering Sciences
leading to the degree of Master of Science, these faculties had a long-standing tradition of requiring an entrance exam (mainly focused on mathematics); the exam has now been abolished in the Flemish Community but is still organized in the French Community.

Management Sciences
Leading to a master's after master's degree or a Master in Business Administration degree, these management schools organise admission tests that focus on individual motivation and pre-knowledge of a specialised domain. E.g. A Master in Financial Management programme requires prior knowledge on corporate finance and management control topics.

Cost of higher education
The registration fee for any university or college is fixed by the government of the French-speaking or the Dutch-speaking community, and indexed yearly. Depending on whether the student is eligible and applies for financial aid, there are 3 prices:

A student who is receiving financial aid. In Dutch-speaking institutions, their tuition fee is between €80 and €100.

Almost-bursary student
A student who is not eligible for financial aid but has a family income below €1286.09 per month. In Dutch-speaking institutions, their tuition fee is between €333.60 and €378.60.

Non-bursary student
Anyone not eligible for financial aid with an income above €1286.09 per month. In Dutch-speaking institutions their tuition fee is between €500.40 and €567.80. and in French-speaking institutions, around €830.

The financial aid awarded by the community governments depends on the income of the student's family, and other familial circumstances, but is never more than approximately €5,000 per year. The aid is not at all based on the student's results, however, students who fail too many classes can lose their financial aid.

Bologna changes
Prior to the adoption of the Bologna process, the Belgian higher education system had the following degrees:

Graduate degree (Dutch: gegradueerde, French: gradué): typically a 3-year-long programme at a college, with a vocational character, also called short type or one cycle higher education.

Candidate degree (Dutch: kandidaat, French: candidat): the first 2 years at a University (3 years for medicine studies) or at some colleges offering long type or two cycle programs. This diploma had no finality than to give access to the licentiate studies.

Licentiate diploma (Dutch: licentiaat, French: licencié): The second cycle, leading to a degree after typically 2 years (3 years for civil engineers or lawyers, 4 years for medicine).

DEA (French:diplôme d'études approfondies) this is a 2 years postgraduate degree exists in the French speaker universities, the admission to this degree requires a Licentiate. the DEA is equivalent to the Master's degree in the American-English systems.

A University education was not considered finished until the licentiate diploma is obtained. Occasionally it was possible to switch specializations after obtaining the candidate diploma. For example, a student with a mathematics candidate diploma was often allowed to start in the third year of computer science class. Sometimes a graduate diploma was also accepted as an equivalent to a candidate diploma (with additional courses if necessary), allowing for 2 or 3 more years of education at a University.

Since the adoption of the Bologna process in most European countries, the higher education system in Belgium follows the Bachelor/Master system:
Bachelor's degree
3 years. Distinction is to be made between the professional bachelor, which replaces the former graduate degree and which has a finality, and the academic bachelor which replaces the candidate degree and which gives access to master's studies.

Master's degree
1 or 2 years.
In Belgium, both Universities and Colleges are allowed to teach Bachelor and Master classes, either professional or academic.

After obtaining a master's degree, talented students can pursue research projects leading to a doctorate degree. PhDs are only awarded by Universities.