Higher education in Flanders

General information

Higher education in Flanders is largely shaped by the European developments in the framework of the Bologna Process.  In the last decade the Flemish Government implemented the bachelor-master-structure, the ECTS-system and the European Qualification Framework.
Higher education contains programmes which result in the degree of bachelor, master and doctor. Also higher vocational education is part of the level of higher education.


Higher vocational education

On 1 September 2009 higher vocational education (Hoger Beroepsonderwijs - HBO5) was introduced in the Flemish educational system. HBO5 programmes are professionally oriented programmes situated in between secondary education and professionally oriented bachelor programmes.

Admission requirements:

  • You are no longer subject to partial compulsory school attendance (required age when enrolling: 18 years or turning 18 before 31/12)
  • You are a Belgian national or you meet the requirements of ‘legal residence’ .

And you possess one of the following study certificates:

  • Study certificate of the second form, third grade secondary education (6BSO), obtained 3 years ago; 
  • A diploma of secondary education;
  • a study certificate of secondary education for social promotion or of secondary adult education of at least 900 course hours;
  • an associate degree;
  • a diploma of higher education for social promotion
  • a diploma of short-type higher education with full curriculum or a bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • a study certificate declared equivalent to one of the above. 

Students not holding one of the certificates above, may take an entrance test. 
This test is to be organised upon request, at least 5 days before the enrollment deadline. 
The tests differ between institutions and aim to determine the student’s knowledge and proficiency to take the HBO5-programme. It consists of two parts: Dutch and mathematics. 


Bachelor

Bachelor programmes in Flanders may be both professionally oriented and academically oriented. 
Professionally oriented bachelor programmes are primarily aimed at practicing a profession and offer a direct access to the labour market. 
Academically oriented bachelor programmes focus on a broad academic education or an education in the arts. They aim at offering access to a master programme or to the labour market.
Both professionally and academically oriented bachelor programmes comprise at least 180 credits. In theory a student takes 60 credits a year, but variations are possible.

Admission requirements 

Professional bachelor’s programme

Students are directly admitted to a bachelor’s programme when they have :

  • a diploma of secondary education
  • a diploma of short-type higher education with full curriculum
  • a diploma of higher education for social promotion (except the certificate of pedagogical ability)
  • a foreign diploma declared equivalent to one of the above.

Exceptions:

  • There are artistic competency tests to get admitted to art studies: "Audiovisual and Fine arts" and "Music and Drama"
  • Institutions may require a proof of Dutch language proficiency for the programmes taught in Dutch. A succesful language test can be required for persons holding foreign diploma. For more information, go to language requirements

Special admission requirements
Higher education institutions may adopt special admission requirements allowing to admit persons who cannot meet the general admission requirement. These can be provided by each higher education institution. 
These individual admission decisions may be based on:

  • humanitarian grounds;  
  • medical, psychological or social grounds;
  • the individual education level of the student, assessed by the by the higher education institution.

Please note this kind of admission is not equivalent to the diploma of secondary education!

Info: http://www.hogeronderwijsregister.be/het-hoger-onderwijs/toelatingsvoorwaarden#BA

 Academic bachelor’s programme

 Students are directly admitted to a bachelor’s programme when they have :

  • a diploma of secondary education
  • a diploma of short-type higher education with full curriculum
  • a diploma of higher education for social promotion (except the certificate of pedagogical ability)
  • a foreign diploma declared equivalent to one of the above.

Exceptions:

  • Entry examinations must be passed by any student who wants to take up studies in medicine or dentistry. More information on this can be found on: http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/arts-tandarts.
  • There are artistic competency tests to get admitted to art studies:"Audiovisual and Fine arts" and "Music and Drama"
  • Institutions may require a proof of Dutch language proficiency for the programmes taught in Dutch. A succesful language test can be required for persons holding foreign diploma. For more information, go to language requirements

Special admission requirements

Higher education institutions may adopt special admission requirements allowing to admit persons who cannot meet the general admission requirement. These can be provided by each higher education institution. 
These individual admission decisions may be based on:

  • humanitarian grounds;   
  • medical, psychological or social grounds;  
  • the individual education level of the student, assessed by the by the higher education institution.

Please note this kind of admission is not equivalent to the diploma of secondary education!

Advanced bachelor programmes:

You need to possess a bachelor’s degree. Higher education institutions may restrict admission to students holding a specific bachelor’s or master’s degree. 
If your bachelor’s degree does not offer you direct access, the higher education institution may require you to complete a preparatory programme. The curriculum and study load of these programmes will be determined by the higher education institution A teaching language test can also be required.

Language requirements
Follow this link.


Master

Master programmes focus on advanced scientific or artistic knowledge or competences which are needed for the independent practice of science or arts, or for practicing a profession. They are rounded off by a master thesis.
A master programme comprises at least 180 credits. An institution of higher education can, in addition to a general master, also offer a research master, which comprises 120 credits.

Admission requirements master

Students holding an academic bachelor’s degree, have direct access to at least one master programme. 
Other ways of accessing a master programme for students holding a bachelor’s degree:

  • Students holding a professional bachelor’s degree need to complete a bridging programme
  • Students holding a bachelor’s degree from a study field different from the study field of the master’s programme may need to take a preparatory programme.

A teaching language test can also be required. 

Admission requirements advanced master's programmes

Students need to hold a master’s degree. There is always at least one master’s programme granting access directly. The higher education institutions may limit direct admission to students holding specific master’s degrees.
If your master’s degree does not offer  you direct access,  the higher education institution may require you to complete a preparatory programme., A teaching language test can also be required.  For more information: language requirements.

Specific teacher training programmes
You are no longer subject to partial compulsory school attendance (required age when enrolling: 18 years or turning 18 before 31/12) and you possess a diploma of secondary education, higher education or one declared equal to the above).

Students not holding a diploma of secondary education can take a bridging programme
Admission may be granted on the basis of an entrance test to determine the student’s knowledge and proficiency to take the specific teacher training programme. The director cannot refuse to organise an entrance test on the request of a student. At the start of the programme, the director is obliged to inform students not holding a diploma of secondary education on their employment opportunities. Students are thus prevented from failing to be employed  after completing the programme for not having graduated from secondary education. 
Your secondary education and your professional experience determine which subjects and grades you may later teach in secondary school. 

Bridging programme
The admission requirements and the study load of a bridging programme may differ in each association and may be dependent on your prior training.

From an associate degree (hbo) to a professional bachelor:
The admission requirements and the study load of a bridging programme may differ in each association and may be dependent on your prior training.

Language requirements
Follow this link.


Doctor

PhD programmes (also ‘doctoral programmes’) are open to graduates with a relevant master's degree, in some cases after a preliminary examination. Students who want to be admitted to a doctoral programme must already have obtained a master's degree. (To get a foreign master's degree recognised, you can contact NARIC-Flanders.)
A university can however demand to test a student's fitness to do research in the scientific discipline and present his/her views in a doctoral thesis.

Language requirements
Follow this link.


Higher education institutions

In Flanders, higher education is provided by universitiesuniversity colleges and a number of other accredited institutions. The universities tend to organise more academic programmes while the university colleges are more professionally oriented. Some university colleges also have a 'school of arts', which provides higher art education.


Prepatory programmes

Academic bachelor's degrees always grant admission to at least one related master's programme. In some cases, however, academic students may wish to enroll in a master's programme not directly related to their obtained degree. These students can gain admission through a preparatory programme.
Preparatory programmes also allow students with a professional degree to enroll in a master’s programme, by helping these students to acquire the necessary academic skills and background knowledge for advanced studies.  
Preparatory programmes range from 10 to 90 ECTS credits, though in most cases they consist of about 60 ECTS credits.


Post-initial degrees

Post-initial degrees exist on a bachelor and a master level.

  • Advanced bachelor’s programmes are professional post-initial courses for specialisation. Prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree.
  • Advanced master’s programmes are academic further studies in which students can enroll after obtaining a master’s degree. These aim to deepen the knowledge and/or competences in the specific field of study.

Both advanced programmes require at least 60 ECTS credits and mostly take one academic year to complete.