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Famous for beer, chocolate and waffles Belgium is the perfect place to broaden your academic and cultural horizons…

Students with a desire to study abroad should know that Belgium is home to world-renowned universities and the headquarters of international organisations such as the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Belgium offers low tuition fees, making it more affordable than neighbouring France and Germany. Being at the heart of Europe has its advantages, as well as being well connected to cities such as Paris and Cologne, Amsterdam and London are also just a short train journey away.

Those with ambitions to learn a second language will have plenty of opportunities to do so. This multilingual country has three official languages – Dutch, French and German. However, English-speakers needn’t panic – the majority of people in Belgium can communicate in English and a selection of institutions offer English taught courses.

In your study-free hours you’ll be able to soak up Belgium’s rich history in cities such as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels and Ghent and enjoy peaceful countryside settings.

Universities in Belgium

The higher education system in Belgium is split into two groups, Flemish (Dutch) and French, based on the country’s main languages.

Both of these communities house universities and university colleges, which work on a similar structure to those in the UK. Universities provide Bachelors, Masters and PhD programmes, but university colleges don’t offer PhDs. While Dutch and French are the standard teaching languages in each of these communities a variety of programmes are also taught in English. The country’s German speaking students tend to study in the French community, or travel to Germany to study there.

Belgium has five Dutch universities:

  • KU Leuven
  • Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Universiteit Gent
  • Universiteit Hasselt
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

And six French universities in the Wallonia-Brussels region:

  • Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Université Saint-Louis, Bruxelles
  • Université de Namur
  • Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Université de Mons
  • Université de Liège.

All universities are publicly funded. Six of the country’s institutions feature within the global top 350 according to QS World University Rankings 2020.

Degree courses in Belgium

Undergraduate courses in the country are typically split into two types:

  • professional Bachelors
  • academic Bachelors.

Professional undergraduate degrees are more vocational in nature and prepare students for the world of work; they can be studied at university colleges. The academic Bachelors prepare students for further study and are usually studied at universities.

Bachelors courses take three years to complete and can be studied in a range of subjects.

Applicants must hold a recognised secondary school leaving certificate.

Search for undergraduate courses in the Dutch and French communities.

Masters degrees

Masters programmes can be categorised into Masters and Advanced Masters.

Full-time Masters courses last two years – though programmes in some subjects, such as law, medicine, psychology and engineering may take longer. Courses usually combine teaching with research, and culminate in a dissertation.

Advanced Masters are aimed at those who already hold a postgraduate qualification or equivalent and take one year to complete.

The majority of courses are taught in either Dutch or French (depending on where you study), and to be accepted onto a course you’ll need to demonstrate your language proficiency. However, an increasing number of programmes are taught in English but if you choose to learn in English your subject and institution options may be restricted.

The academic year is September to July, although some programmes do begin in January.

Applicants typically require a Bachelors degree in a closely related field, but admissions tutors may also consider non-graduates with significant professional experience. Many Masters graduates in Belgium progress onto PhD study.

Search for Masters courses in the Dutch and French communities.

PhDs

Only awarded by universities, Doctoral programmes are the highest level of qualification available. Courses typically last between four and six years and can be studied in number of academic fields.

Programmes are based on original research and culminate in a thesis, which you will need to defend publicly.

Applicants must have a Bachelors and Masters degree, submit a draft thesis and find a supervising tutor before completing the university’s official enrolment process.

Student exchanges

Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the EU’s education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.

Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative, for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which Belgium is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.

Middlesex University London and Swansea University are just two UK institutions with links to Belgian universities, enabling students to participate in exchange programmes. Check with your UK university to see what opportunities are on offer.

Course fees

Tuition fees vary depending on where you study, what you study and if you’re eligible for financial aid. On the whole, Belgian course fees are usually quite reasonable for EU students, certainly lower than in other European countries such as France, Germany and the UK.

On average EU students can expect to pay €835 per year, with international students paying considerably more. Postgraduate students in Belgium also need to pay an application fee. For exact costs, contact individual institutions.

Students must also prove that they can afford living costs, which average at €850 to €950 per month. This includes accommodation, food, course equipment and travel expenses.

Funding to study in Belgium

In the Flemish (Dutch) region a select number of international students can benefit from the Master Mind Scholarship in. Foreign, EU students can also apply for a scholarship or grant if:

  • a parent has worked in Belgium for at least twelve months in the past two years
  • you have worked in Belgium for at least twelve months, within any given period of two consecutive years in the past
  • you have been living in Belgium for the past five consecutive years.

A range of scholarships and grants are available in the French community, to see what you might be eligible for see studyinbelgium.be – scholarship opportunities.

Individual institutions may provide sources of funding for international students, check with your university to see what your options are.

For non-EU students, a scholarship from your own country is your most likely option – especially since, unlike EU students, you cannot do part-time work without a work permit.

The Belgian Development Cooperation also funds scholarships through several channels. For more information, see the Belgian Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation website.

Student visas

EU citizens are permitted to live in any EU country while studying, as long as you:

  • are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution
  • have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support
  • have comprehensive health insurance cover.

EU nationals may also have health and social security coverage transferred to their host country, and can apply for permanent residency after living in Belgium for three years.

Non-EU nationals usually always need a visa to study in Belgium. To find out more, contact the Belgian embassy or consulate in your country, details of which can be found at Addresses of Belgian Embassies and Consulates Abroad.

Finally, all visitors must inform their local authority of their presence in Belgium within eight days of arrival. If you’re staying for longer than three months, you must apply for a registration certificate.

This visa information is still valid following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and will be updated if changes happen.

How to apply

Each university and course has different entry requirements, though all applications are submitted to each institution online, in the course’s language of instruction.

You’ll usually provide photocopies of your passport, passport photo, academic qualifications and academic transcripts, a translation of these documents into Dutch or French, proof of your language proficiency, recommendation letters and a motivation letter. You’ll also need to include your CV.

A small application fee is usually payable, and you should aim to apply at least six months in advance.

After the admissions team analyse your application, they may ask for additional documents and/or send it to the department that you’re applying to. Passing an entrance exam may be required for courses in the arts, medicine, dentistry, management and engineering. Tuition fees are paid before your course begins.

If successful, you should receive a letter of acceptance, which you will need when applying for a visa, applying for a scholarship or when enrolling/registering for your course.

Contact the institution that you’re interested in to find out more about the application process.

Language requirements

The language of instruction depends largely on whether the institution is within the Flemish or French community. Programmes delivered in these languages may require you to pass a proficiency test; thankfully, higher education institutions often organise courses during the holidays or throughout the term, and many have a dedicated language centre.

Despite this, there are a number of courses – particularly postgraduate degrees in law, economics, social science, political science, management, arts, applied science and health science – that are taught entirely in English. Such programmes are particularly common in Brussels. If English isn’t your first language, you must pass, or have already passed, an accepted English language test.

Many people of the younger generations aspire to achieve a higher quality of education in order to gain advantage in the competitive labor market. Every year, more and more Filipino students are studying abroad and embarking on a life changing experiences. Their major destinations are the US (27%), Australia (21%) and the UK (12%). However, if we look at the data, approximately only 11,500 (0.34%) students from the Philippines were attending tertiary education overseas. One major reason that I can think of is the misconception that they cannot afford the fees, or that only students with excellent marks can apply for scholarships, which is entirely wrong.

Should you study in Belgium as an international student? Absolutely. I can list you 12 good reasons for that: from top universities, costs and scholarships to Belgian culture and much more. If I had known about the possibility of studying abroad, I would have done it long time ago. Yet I believe in George Eliot’s quote, “it is never too late to be what you might have been”. So, I quit my job and chose to study in Belgium. More specifically, Brussels. An original choice, but perhaps I can convince you as well.

1. It is the capital of Europe

There’s no better place than Belgium to learn about European history, culture, customs and cuisines. Throughout history, the small country of Belgium has been invaded and occupied many times by its larger, more powerful neighboring countries. This results in Belgium, particularly Brussels, offering a mix of Western European culture. You get a nice taste of French, German, Dutch and English influences here.

In more recent history, Brussels has evolved to be the center of most European institutions, due to its central location in Europe. Many international companies have their headquarters here, resulting to a great deal of job vacancies. Thus, the city is brimming with expats and diplomats representing almost every nation.

2. There is a mix of cultures

The capital, Brussels, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It hosts 180 different nationalities and one out of three inhabitants is an expat. Recent data claims that 68% of the locals are foreign born. There is also a great number of tourists all year round. You can see Americans feasting on beer and waffles, while Japanese are filling their camera roll with pictures of the city’s scenic architecture.

Cities like Brussels, Liege, Antwerp as well as Ghent and Leuven host universities with high acceptance rate of international students. Studying here is a great opportunity to find out about another culture while acquiring new skills which you might not learn back home. As a student, you will never feel alone because there is a large community of students coming from different parts of the globe. You will have the chance to build lasting friendships and mingle with an internationally diverse community, which will broaden your perspectives in life.

3. It is full of history

Throughout the centuries, the regions that now form Belgium have been a major European battleground. During the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Germanic Franks took control of what is now the northern half of Belgium. This was the basis of Belgium’s current language division. Also the Burgundians, Spanish, Austrian Hapsburgs and the French conquered these regions at some point in time.

Fast forward to 1830, Belgium became an independent country and a pioneer of the industrial revolution on the continent. However, the country was left devastated after Germany’s invasion during the First and Second World Wars. Now, its capital host several institutions like NATO and the European Union, making it the capital of Europe. All these different influences and changes of ownership have left their mark on Belgium. The nation boasts a lot of history, an interesting cuisine, multilingual inhabitants and different styles of architecture. It’s worth exploring the history in one of the many museums, but beware, it’s extremely rich and complex.

4. Fascinating art and architecture. You won’t see this in Pinas, promise!

Belgium has a very well-preserved heritage, especially in the bigger cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. Century-old buildings reflect the nation’s rich history. You can find Gothic cathedrals and churches dating from the 14th century next to beautiful art nouveau and art deco houses. Fun fact: there are more castles in Belgium per square mile than in any other country. And of course let’s not forget Brussels’ most famous landmark: the Atomium. This 102 metres tall representation of an iron crystal was built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

As for art, Belgium’s artistic tradition goes back to the Middle Ages. Since then, world famous masters such as Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck have played a defining role in the art of painting. In more recent times, James Ensor and René Magritte were the most notable painters, while Tintin became arguably one of the most icon comic strips worldwide. You can visit the Belgium Fine Arts Museum to see all those marvellous pieces of arts.

5. Tuition fees are cheaper than top universities in Philippines

I know for a fact that public universities in the Philippines are tuition-free, but the quality is not getting any better. University of the Philippines, a top-ranking institution in the country, landed in an appalling 367th position among universities around the globe. Relative to prominent ADMU and De Lassalle University, top universities in Belgium charge lower tuition fees.

For instance, ADMU’s graduate tuition per unit costs ₱ 3,527.45 while KU Leuven (Belgium’s largest and highest-ranked university) charges € 29 (₱ 1,740) for any business-related programs. So, if you are taking a 60-unit master program, you get to pay ₱ 211,647 plus miscellaneous in ADMU and ₱ 104,400 in KU Leuven. If you have the means to pay such an amount or avail a scholarship, why not study in Belgium where students reap an unparalleled price to quality ratio? Your international experience here can equip you with knowledge and expertise that will enable you to be a far more competitive candidate in your job application.

Here is a comparison of average tuition fees of renown universities for international students. Costs may have a huge variation based on number of units, program and type of institution (public/private).

6. Cost of living is relatively lower than in big student cities

Relative to popular study destinations like United Kingdom, Australia and USA, Belgium’s cost of living is low. The big bulk of expense that students have to pay is accommodation. In London, an estimated average monthly rent is €800 (£182 per week) while you can expect to pay between €300 to €600 for a room or apartment in Brussels. Note that there is a significant variation of the amount based on the region you live and the type of accommodation.

Another perk of studying in Belgium is the affordable public transportation fare. Students aged 12-24 can avail the STIB season ticket (tram, bus & metro) for one year at a cost of €50 only. It’s even cheaper compared to Philippines, for students commuting on daily basis.

Cost of living (for one year)

  • Australia: AUD 19,000-21,000 (₱775,831-857,498)
  • Belgium: €8000-15,600 (₱511,962-998,327)
  • UK: £12,000-20,280 (₱864,371-1,460,787)
  • USA: $18,000-24,000 (₱1,296,557-1,728,742)

7. You can study for FREE in Belgium

Students from Philippines have the opportunity to apply for the scholarships offered by some universities, private institutions, government or other Belgian organizations. Most of these scholarships are given to students coming from developing countries. Hence, Philippine students are eligible to apply. Clink the links below to find a suitable academic/training program and scholarship based on your educational background.

  • Mastermind Scholarships are awarded to excellent students by the Government of Flanders (Northern region of Belgium). You can send your application to a Flemish host institution and indicate the type of scholarship you wish to apply for. Guidelines for the application can be found here.
  • VLIR-OUS scholarships are funded by the Belgian Development Cooperation. It covers all study-related costs and provides a monthly grant of €890 (₱ 53,400), as well as accommodation allowance of €390. More information on the eligible programs and criteria for acceptance can be found here.
  • Erasmus Mundus provides scholarships for students to study in at least two European countries. There are around 130 Master programs to choose from, which allows you to graduate with a double or joint Masters degree. You can find the list of Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJMDs) through this link.

8. Your diploma will have value worldwide

Belgium is not only known for its waffles and chocolates, but it is also home to some high standard educational institutions. A growing number of courses in Belgium universities are taught in English, particularly at graduate level. So, it’s easy for Filipinos to cope with the lectures. The strong research culture and global focus give rise to a higher quality of education. Your diploma from any of these top universities will surely impress your future employers and enhance job prospects. In this age of globalization, recruiters are more keen to hire individuals who are trained to be independent, resourceful, resilient and able to adapt when placed in a multicultural environment. All these traits are better honed when you study abroad. Here is the list of top 5 university in Belgium.

UniversityTotal number of StudentsQS World University RankingQs Graduate Employability Ranking
1 KU Leuven45,53871st60
2 Ghent University35,968125th151-160
3 Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)24,277153rd171-180
4 Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)9,284182nd301-500
5 Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)23,021205th191-200

9. Educational opportunities

Known for its international environment, Belgium also offers an opportunity for international students to study in other languages, namely Dutch, French and German. As it is known, knowledge in one or two languages other than your mother-tongue is an asset when applying for a job.

There are also various things you can learn outside the classroom. You can attend free seminars and training of different topics held by start-up companies and renown organizations. Grab the chance to network with experts in the field you’re studying and build international contacts which may help you in your future career. If art is your thing, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium is for free admission every 1st Wednesday of the month. For history buffs, I recommend to visit the House of European History and learn about the events in the past that shaped the present Europe. To get in the museum for free, you just need to show a big smile!

10. They speak English here and some programs are in English

Although Belgium has three national languages (Dutch, French and German), educational institutions offer English programs in various fields. Locals as well speak fluent English. Well, more or less. As a rule of thumb, most people under the age of 50 will be able to converse with you in English. According to a recent study, Belgians are the 12th best English speakers out of all non-native English-speaking countries. The Philippines takes the 15th position on the ranking. So, you can rest assured that you won’t have much trouble communicating here. If you cut Belgium in two halves – something that Belgians like to do – you can see that Flemish Belgians (they live in the Northern half and speak Dutch) are actually the 7th best, and Walloons (who reside in the Southern half and speak French) are on the 25th position.

11. It’s beer heaven and the food is pretty good too

We all know Belgium for its chocolate, waffles and fries, but are they really that good? Well, yes. Your stay in Belgium won’t be complete without trying them and the many other dishes that will wake your sleeping taste buds. Their cuisines are mostly influenced by French, German and Dutch neighbors, which makes it more unique. My personal favorites are french fries (not actually invented by the French) with stoofvlees (beef stew). If Filipinos like rice, Belgians eat potatoes as a staple food. It can be fried, boiled, mashed or mixed with other ingredients for a variety of cooking. Of course, let’s not forget the terrific variety of beers to try. Just be wary that many beers are stronger (8.5-12%) than the typical SMB you get in the Philippines. To experience beer paradise, visit Delirium bar which has over 2000 brands of beer in their list.

12. It’s a travel hub

One the best advantages of studying abroad is you get to see the world. In Belgium, you can get a reduced-price rail ticket as a student which allows you to visit any cities in the country anytime of the year. Owing to its central location in Europe, you can reach Paris and Amsterdam in more or less than two hours by train.

Ryanair, a low-cost airline, allows budget conscious students to travel Europe without breaking the bank. A round trip ticket from Brussels to Milan will cost you as low as €33 (₱1,980) when you book ahead. It’s even cheaper than the flights going to Boracay from Manila.

HOW TO APPLY

CLICK HERE TO APPLY FOR BELGIUM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE

APPLY FOR THE FOLLOWING SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY ABROAD

1. SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY IN THE UK 2020-2021

CLICK HERE TO APPLY ONLINE

2. SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY IN USA 2020-2021

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3. LATEST SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY ABROAD 2020-2021

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