There are numerous reasons to study in Belgium, including world-class universities, excellent opportunities for international networking, famously multicultural and multilingual cities, a diverse range of regional cuisines and specialties, beautiful countryside, an overall high quality of life, and, of course, those fantastic Belgian waffles.
Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is an established hub for international politics, with more diplomats and journalists than Washington DC, as well as the headquarters of many multinational firms and organizations. As one might imagine, Belgium’s resident population is highly international, with almost a quarter of the 11 million people referred to as “new Belgians” — individuals who have immigrated from other countries and their descendants who have become permanent citizens.
Let’s discuss briefly how to apply to universities in Belgium before we talk about some of the best universities in Belgium.
Applying to Belgian universities
You must have a secondary school leaving certificate recognized by the competent authorities, or an equivalence statement for that certificate, in order to apply to study in Belgium at the undergraduate level. Depending on whether you’re applying to a university in the French Community, the Flemish Community, or the German-speaking Community, you’ll need to contact separate agencies for equivalency statements.
Individual applications to study in Belgium are submitted to each university, and each institution has its own admissions procedures. Entrance exams are required for students wishing to study medicine/dentistry, arts, administration, and engineering sciences (only in the French Community). You may also be required to take an exam to demonstrate your French or Dutch ability. Before you may be fully enrolled, you must also pay your tuition payments.
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Belgium’s tuition fees
Higher education is mostly funded by the state for Belgian and other EU students. Students must, however, pay an annual registration fee for each year of study. The sum varies depending on the type of program, the higher education institution, and the students’ financial aid eligibility.
In Belgium, tuition fees vary depending on whether the program is given by a Flemish, German-speaking, or French-speaking institution. Students from the EU will pay a maximum of €835 (US$910) each year, while international students from outside the EU will pay €835-4,175 (US$910-4,560) per year and may be required to pay additional registration costs, depending on the school and program. You can find out more about the overall fees by contacting the institution of your choice (s).
Short-term or overseas students can easily find university housing in Belgium; but, if you want to rent a private flat, you will most likely need to sign a one-year contract. Depending on whether you prefer university housing or private housing, and where you study in Belgium, expect to pay between €150 (US$200) and €400 (US$540) a month. Renting a one-bed apartment in the city center will cost roughly €675 (US$740) per month, or €500 (US$550) outside the city center.
Homestays are also popular in Belgium, as they allow students to get a firsthand look at Belgian culture while simultaneously strengthening their language abilities. Short-term students, such as those learning at a language school, are more likely to choose this option. For further information on seeking student housing in Belgium, contact your university’s student assistance services or international student department.
Because of the many international organizations that call Brussels home, Belgium’s city has been dubbed the “Capital of Europe.” Since World War II, it has served as the administrative center for a number of organizations, including the European Union (EU), NATO, the World Customs Organization, and EUROCONTROL, to mention a few. So, whether you want to study politics, international relations, or translation studies, Brussels is likely to be your first choice in Belgium.
The city offers a vibrant nightlife, a world-class collection of restaurants, cafés, bistros, and bars, and a unique assortment of shopping experiences, including open-air markets and galleries – the latter of which are historic, covered shopping streets. Despite being smaller than most European capitals, cosmopolitan and multilingual Brussels has a lot of culture and recreation to offer.
Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, and the Royal Military Academy are among the city’s other notable universities. Several international universities, like the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies and Boston University Brussels, have campuses in Brussels.
Leuven is noted for its significant medieval structures, annual summer music festival Martrock, and the famed Arenberg Orchestra, one of many orchestras headquartered in Leuven. It is also home to the world’s largest brewer group (Anheuser-Busch InBev) and one of Europe’s largest hospitals (UZ Leuven). The city also boasts a thriving beer culture, with bars serving a wide range of local and international beers, including one that claims to have over 3,000 different beers on tap. Make a point of visiting the Oude Markt and its various pubs, taverns, and cafés, which have given it the distinction of “world’s longest bar.” While you’re there, look for the neighboring Fons Sapientiae (Wisdom Fountain), a well-known symbol of Leuven’s student status.
Other universities in Leuven include the Vlerick Business School (a management school shared by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Ghent University), as well as a number of vocational universities such as the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (KH Leuven) and the university college Groep T (Group T), which offers engineering and teaching courses. The Lemmens Institute, one of Belgium’s most well-known conservatories, is based in Leuven and is particularly well-known for its music therapy programs.
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Liège is a big industrial city in the Belgian province of Wallonia that serves as the region’s economic and cultural hub. While coal, steel, and gunsmithing are the city’s principal industries, Liège is also noted for its crowded folk festivals, nightlife, yearly jazz festival, alternative cinemas, and one of Belgium’s oldest and largest Christmas markets. In addition, the city has one of Europe’s most powerful digital, technology, and internet-related services businesses.
Other attractions in Liège include museums, architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries, the 400-step Montagne de Bueren stairs, and the Saint Nicholas celebration, which is organized by and for university students who dress up in soiled lab coats and beg for money for beverages. Liège boasts a pedestrian zone known as the Square, which is lined with pubs, many of which stay open until 6 a.m. — or until the last client has left. Liège also has a sizable Italian population, as well as considerable populations of Moroccan, Algerian, and Turkish immigrants.
The city is a major educational center, with over 20,000 local and international students. The University of Liège, which is particularly recognized for its HEC Management School, is ranked joint 319th in the QS World University Rankings 2018. ISA Lambert Lombard (the University of Liège’s Faculty of Architecture), the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Liège (an arts school offering undergraduate and graduate studies), and La Haute Ecole de la Province de Liège are some of Liège’s other notable higher educational institutions (college providing undergraduate and graduate degrees).
Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, is recognized for legendary Flemish painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens, diamonds (more than 70% of all diamonds are handled in Antwerp), fashion (the Antwerp Six in particular), and having Europe’s second-largest port. The Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and the famed Royal Fine Art Museum, as well as many historical structures from various centuries, are among the city’s many notable attractions. Even Antwerp Zoo, one of the world’s oldest, features stunning 19th-century design and architecture.
Antwerp is regarded for being a trend-setter, as one might assume given its strong ties to fashion. Intellectuals, actors, singers, writers, and painters hang out at the city’s stylish pubs, cafés, and boutiques – or enjoy the city’s thriving jazz scene. Local items like as Bolleke (an amber beer), Elixir D’Anvers (a locally manufactured liquor), and hand-shaped biscuits are also popular in Antwerp (connected to local folklore).
The Institution of Antwerp, ranked joint 210th in the QS World University Rankings and the third-largest university in the Flemish region with 14,000 registered students, is the most renowned among Antwerp’s universities. Charlemagne University College (Karel de Grote Hogeschool), Plantin University College (Plantijn Hogeschool), and Artesis University College Antwerp are among the city’s university colleges.
Bruges is regarded for being one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Western Europe, with a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its old city center. Bruges is known as the Venice of the North because of its narrow canals and historic buildings. Many noteworthy buildings and sites may be found in the city, including an amazing 13th century belfry. Bruges also contains a number of theaters, concert venues, museums, and theatres, as well as a collection of medieval and early modern art. The city hosts a number of cultural, music, and cuisine festivals, as well as being the starting point for one of Belgium’s most prestigious athletic events, the Tour of Flanders cycle race.
While Bruges has a touristy vibe to it due to its regular influx of visitors, there is plenty to do for students as well. The Katholieke Hogeschool Brugge-Oostende (KHBO) and the Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen (HOWEST – Howest University in English) are two of the city’s most major educational institutions. The College of Europe’s main campus is in Bruges, and it provides postgraduate programs in European economics, law, and politics.
Ghent’s charming cityscape includes a port, network of narrow canals, a plethora of quirky bars and restaurants, a plethora of fascinating museums (the top three being SMAK, a Museum of Contemporary Art; STAM, which explores the city’s history; and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten for fine art), a variety of turreted catacombs, and a range of turreted catacombs.
The University of Ghent, one of the main Flemish universities, is placed equal 125th in the QS World University Rankings 2018, making it Belgium’s second highest-ranked university. Hogeschool Gent and Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen are two university colleges affiliated with the University of Ghent.
List of Belgian Universities
Leuven Katholieke Universiteit (KU Leuven)
Its full name is Catholic University of Leuven in English, but it is more well known by its Dutch name. It was created in 1425 and was Belgium’s first university (although it was closed during the Napoleonic period and reopened in 1834). In 2015, KU Leuven had roughly 57,300 students, making it Belgium’s largest university.
Ghent University is a university in Ghent, Belgium.
The University of Ghent was founded in 1817 as Belgium’s first Dutch-language university. The university is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world for biological sciences, and 20th for veterinary science. It is another huge institution with over 41,000 students enrolled in 11 faculties.
Université Catholique de Louvain is a catholic university in Louvain, Belgium (UCL)
UCL is the largest French-speaking university in Belgium, and it is located in Louvain-la-Neuve, a planned city established specifically for the university. Brussels, Charleroi, Mons, and Tournai are all home to satellite campuses. It is now ranked 153rd in the world, with theology, divinity, and religious studies performing exceptionally well (17th).
Brussel’s Vrije Universiteit (VUB)
VUB, which is ranked joint 182nd in the world, was created in 1970 when the Université Libre de Bruxelles split. Because both universities have the same name in English (Free University of Brussels), they avoid using this version to avoid misunderstanding. VUB is noted for its high research activity, with internationally recognized research teams in a variety of basic and applied fields.
Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) is ranked joint 205th in the QS World University Rankings 2018, and has the highest internationalization scores in Belgium, with about a third of its students and staff members coming from outside the country. It was founded in 1834 and is a prestigious research university with three Nobel Laureates, one Fields Medal, three Wolf Prizes, and two Marie Curie Prizes among its alumni.
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