Brussels, capital of Belgium, is the seat of the European institutions, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and more than 1,000 international organisations and companies. It is the ideal place to study in an international and multilingual environment offering numerous networking opportunities.
Want to visit other European countries and cities? The main European capitals (Paris, Amsterdam, London or Berlin) are within easy reach of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, so you can effortlessly organise a trip during your studies.
For such a small country, Belgium has been a major European battleground over the centuries.
Occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II, it has experienced an economic boom in the past 50 years to become a model Western European liberal democracy.
However, there has also been a growing divide between the mainly Dutch-speaking north and the mainly French-speaking south, with some even speculating that the country could break up.
Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), making it the polyglot home of an army of international diplomats and civil servants.
Key facts – Kingdom of Belgium
- 10.8m population – similar to Somalia
- 30,528 sq km area – similar to Lesotho
- 77 – 83 years – life expectancy (men – women)
- $41,700 GDP per capita – similar to Finland
UN, World Bank, CIA World Factbook
King Philippe succeeded to the throne in July 2013 on the abdication of his father, the 79-year-old Albert II, who stepped down on health grounds.
Respect for the monarchy is one of the few factors that crosses the communal divide in Belgium, and King Albert exercised his constitutional authority in advising political leaders on the formation of a government during the 2010-2011 parliamentary stalemate.
Prime minister: Charles Michel
Following elections, Reform Movement leader Charles Michel formed a right-wing coalition in October 2014, becoming at 38 the country’s youngest prime minister since 1841.
His liberal party comes from the French-speaking community, but the other three parties in the coalition represent Flemish speakers – including the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which came first in the elections with 33% of the vote.
The Belgian education system
The education system in Belgium is based on linguistics. There are three official communities speaking either Dutch, French or German. These communities each have separate governments and parliaments and as a result, the higher education system differs depending on where you are studying:
This is also known as the Dutch-speaking Community. It is merged with one of the three Belgian federal regions – Flanders, situated in the North.
Higher education institutions here include:
- Universities – providing academic Bachelor programmes, which prepare students for continued learning, rather than a profession. Once complete, students will then take a Master programme, advanced Master programme or PhD programme.
- University colleges – offering vocational professional Bachelor programmes, as well as advanced Bachelor programmes, which are more specialist, profession-oriented courses.
- Registered institutes of higher education – accredited institutions that provide courses on specialist degree subjects.
This community is made up of French-speaking Belgians, its parliament and its government. The majority of its citizens live in Wallonia, one of the three federal regions.
Provision of higher education is split between university and non-university institutions:
- Universities – as in the Flemish Community, degrees gained from universities tend to be split into two ‘cycles’. The first lasts three years, after which a Bachelors degree is attained. The next step is a two-year Masters degree. The third cycle is only available for holders of a Masters degree, and leads to a Doctorate.
- Hautes Ecoles – similar to Flemish university colleges, these institutions combine practical and academic learning and often lead directly into professional work. They offer three-year and five-year courses covering subjects such as teaching, economics and translation.
- Ecoles Supérieures des Arts – these offer courses in artistic disciplines, which last for three or five years.
This community is made up of around 77,000 citizens, the majority of whom are German speakers. Some speak French. The majority of German speakers in Belgium tend to enrol in either French or Flemish institutions, or study in Germany.
Each university has different entry requirements, regardless of the community in which it is located. Contact the institutions you are interested in to find out about their entry requirements for the course you want to take.
The majority of institutions will accept UK qualifications, but some courses may require the student to speak either French or Dutch. However, there are a number of courses taught entirely in English.
Depending on the institution you wish to attend and the subject you want to study the passing of an entrance examination may be required for entry onto specific courses.
You will also have to prove you can support yourself financially during your studies.