The Belgian Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Belgium we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. Belgium has three autonomous education systems (for the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-speaking Community). The role of the federal government is limited to mandatory schooling age and indirectly the financing of the communities.

5.8% of Belgium’s gross domestic product (GDP) is invested in education from primary to tertiary levels, one of the highest shares among OECD countries. Annual expenditure per tertiary student is 18,000 EURO.

Belgium has an open tertiary education admission system and the highest first-time entry rates to tertiary education. However, completion rates at bachelor’s level are below the average across countries.

In the coming years we should see a small increase in the number of undergraduate student enrollments, especially in the Brussels region. This is largely due to demographic developments. According to UNESCO, there is still room for growth in the participation rate of 18-24-year- olds and for mature students over 25.

We should also take into account international mobility with inbound mobility leading to an increase of foreign students and outbound mobility increasing the number of Flemish students opting to study abroad. In the academic year 2011-2012, 5 % of the student population that took a degree enrolment completed their previous studies outside Belgium. In 2018-2019 this number increased to 8.5 %. Provisional figures for 2021 show a further moderate increase. All this and more in the Market Report on Belgium.

Quick facts

  • Population: 11,5 million (2020)

  • Education: 12 years compulsory

  • Academic year: September – July

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 12

  • Duration: 6 years

  • Enrollment numbers: 1,2 million (2019)

Higher education

  • Duration: 3 years (Bachelor) – 2 years (Master) – 4 years (PhD)

  • Enrollment numbers: 527,000 (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 80%

  • Universities/Polytechnics: 60. 41 public, 19 private

Belgian Education System

Education in Belgium is regulated and for the most part financed by one of the three Belgian language communities: Flemish, French and German-speaking. Each community has its own school system, with small differences among them.

Secondary education

Secondary school is divided into four general types which take 6 years to complete. Each type consists of a set of different directions that may vary from school to school.

– General Secondary Education
– Technical Secondary
– Vocational Secondary Education
– Art Secondary Education

In Belgium anybody with a qualifying diploma of secondary education is admissible to any bachelor study (university or vocational), except:

– Medicine: students must take an entrance exam
– Arts: students must take an entrance exam; mostly practical
– Engineering: students must take an entrance exam if they intent to study for a Master of Science degree
– Management studies: business schools generally conduct an admission test for students who want to pursue an MBA or Master of Financial Management.

Higher Education system

Higher education in Belgium is organized by the two main language communities, the Dutch /Flemish speaking and the French speaking community.
Higher education in Flanders (the Dutch speaking community) is organized in Universities and Polytechnics. The French Community organises higher education in Universities (6 universities), but makes a difference between the two types of schools that make up polytechnics: Hautes écoles and Écoles supérieures des Arts. (Source: wikipedia)

The following qualifications are delivered by higher education institutions in Belgium:

  • Bachelor: the duration of study is three years; 180 ECTS. There is a distinction between the bachelor degrees from universities and polytechnics.
    – Polytechnics issue ‘professional bachelor degrees
    – Universities award ‘academic bachelor degrees
  • Master: the duration of study is one or two years; 60 or 120 ECTS.
  • Doctor of Philosophy, PhD: the duration of study is 4 years.
Visual depicting the Belgian Educational System

Latest Belgian Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 16,628 Belgian students are studying abroad for a degree in higher education, according to UNESCO. The most popular study abroad destinations among students from Belgium are:

Belgian students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

IB schools in Belgium

Best performing Belgian Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Belgium? These are the best performing universities.

KU Leuven

THE Ranking: 45

Ghent University

THE ranking: 123

Universite Catholique de Louvain

THE ranking: 152

Upcoming Education Fairs in Belgium

Scholarships for Belgian students

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