Higher Education in Belgium

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.

Types of institutions of higher education
Flanders' higher education in separated between Universities (5 universities, universiteiten) and University Colleges (hogescholen). The French Community organises higher education in Universities (6 universities), but makes a difference between the two types of schools that make up University Colleges : Hautes écoles and Écoles supérieures des Arts (a limited number of artistic institutions allowed to process selection of incoming students).

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 for the Flemish Community and in 2017 for the French Community of Belgium (where citizens of the German-speaking community can take their test in German), 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.

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 (Flanders), specialisation master's degree (French Community) 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 French-speaking institutions, their tuition is free; 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. and in French-speaking instutions, the fee must not exceed half of the full tuition fee.

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 €890,00 and €910,00. 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 (French: bachelier; Dutch: bachelor)
delivered after 3 years (180 ECTS) of Bachelor's studies (French: baccalauréat; Dutch: bacheloropleiding). Distinction is to be made between:
the professional bachelor, (French: bachelier professionnel delivered after a formation de type court; Dutch: professionele bachelor) issued only by University Colleges, which replaces the former graduate degree and which has a finality.
the academic bachelor, (French: bachelier académique; Dutch: academische bachelor) issued by Universities and some University Colleges, which replaces the candidate degree and gives access to Master's studies.
So-called Banaba (Flemish Community) or Bachelier de spécialisation (French Community), specialisation degrees offered after a professional bachelor's degree.

Master's degree
delivered after 1 or 2 years (60 or 120 ECTS) of Master's studies. Manama's (Flemish Community) or Masters de spécialisation (French Community) exist in Universities and are specialisation degrees offered after a Master's degree.

After obtaining a Master's degree, talented students can pursue research projects leading to a doctorate degree. PhDs are only awarded by Universities, but theses can be written at University Colleges or Art Schools, in collaboration with and published by a University.