Located at the heart of western Europe is Belgium, which is the current seat of the European Union and NATO. Truly a diverse and beautiful country, it is a place governed by three national languages – Flemish, German, and French.
As the home of 11.35 million people, Belgium is also the safe haven of almost 45,000 international students. Being the gateway to many other European countries, Belgium offers a quality education at a surprisingly affordable price. With this perfect combination, more and more foreign students are considering this European nation for their higher education studies.
In this article, we will go over the steps of how international students can study in Belgium.
Study in Belgium as an International Student
For international students to study in Belgium, they should do the following to maximize their chances.
- Plan ahead to finance your education in Belgium. This is the crucial step in making your study abroad experience successful. Studying in Belgium can be expensive, and you can lower your cost by attending affordable universities, working, and getting scholarships.
- Prepare to meet the application requirements. This involves meeting the language requirements and application requirements of Belgium universities.
- Then, apply to universities in Belgium.
- After that, apply for a student visa.
1. Plan to Meet the Cost of Studying in Belgium
Bachelor’s and master’s degrees usually cost about $937 to $4,712 (EUR 835 to 4,200) a year. Doctorate degrees, on the other hand, only cost about $937 (EUR 835) for the first year and $56 (EUR 50) for the succeeding years.
While tuition is cheap, the cost of living in Belgium can be quite expensive, ranging from $841 to $1,234 (EUR 770 to 1,100) a month. This is enough to cover the basic necessities, which include accommodation ($224 to $785, or EUR 200 to 700), transport ($22 or EUR 20 monthly pass), and meals ($9 to $18 or EUR 8 to 16 a day).
Planning your finances ahead of time is critical for international students wishing to study in Belgium. So, make sure to prepare ahead.
2. Meet the General Application Requirements of Belgium Universities
Belgium has 3 official languages – French, Dutch, and German. Any of these may be used as the language of instruction in most institutions.
General Language Requirements (Undergraduate)
Most bachelor’s degrees are taught in Dutch or French. As such, you need to demonstrate intermediate proficiency (B1/B2) of the language.
For French-speaking universities, applicants need to take a French proficiency exam upon registration. You may be exempted from this as long as you have a certificate that proves your knowledge of the French language.
Apart from these, the University of Namur advises its foreign applicants to improve their French language skills before starting class. They also have the option to enroll in French language courses during the orientation week or the semester proper.
At Dutch-speaking universities such as the University of Antwerp, international students need to show proof of language proficiency through any of the following:
- One year of Dutch language studies (or equivalent in credits)
- Interuniversity language test Dutch as a foreign language (level C1 for all language-related programs level B2 for all other programs).
- ‘Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal (CNaVT)’ – ‘Educatief Professioneel
- ‘Staatsexamen Nederlands als tweede taal (NT2) – programme II’
As language requirements vary widely across universities, make sure to check with your schools regarding the complete details.
General Language Requirements (Graduate)
Compared to undergraduate studies, some masters and doctorate degrees are taught in English. At these universities, foreign students need to present either their IELTS or TOEFL results.
At the University of Antwerp, you need to get any of the following minimum scores to be admitted in its English programs:
- TOEFL PBT = 550
- TOEFL CBT = 213
- TOEFL iBT = 80
- IELTS = band 6.5
The university also accepts the ITACE (Interuniversity Test of Academic English for Students).
As for Dutch-taught graduate programs, the above-mentioned requirements apply. However, the scores need to be higher though. At the University of Antwerp, Medicine applicants need to have a C1 score. Other programs, however, may accept a grade of B2.
Meanwhile, in French universities such as the Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, the minimum level of proficiency is maintained at B2.
As Dutch and French universities have various requirements, always refer to your university’s admission website for the language requirements. To be able to study in Belgium as an international student, it is critical that you meet these language requirements. So, plan ahead!
Application Requirements (Undergraduate)
The primary requirement for undergraduate students is a secondary school certificate (translated to Dutch, French, or English as necessary). Additional requirements may be levied by your university, so you should check with the officer-in-charge for the details.
For example, at the University of Antwerp, you also need to pass a curriculum vitae and motivation letter.
Some degrees also have special requirements. At the same university, Medicine applicants need to pass an admission test. Veterinary medicine hopefuls, on the other hand, have to participate in the ‘ijkingstoets diergeneeskunde’.
A skills test may also be required from students who wish to pursue a degree in music or the arts.
As for French universities, students who wish to pursue an applied sciences course may have to undergo an entrance exam.
Application Requirements (Graduate)
Post-graduate applicants need to submit the following requirements:
- Passport-sized photos
- Bachelor’s diploma
- Transcript of records
In some cases, universities may also request for other documents. At the University of Antwerp, additional requirements include a curriculum vitae and a motivation letter.
Since requirements usually vary according to university/program, always check with your university regarding its complete list of requirements.
3. Apply to Universities in Belgium
The next step for international students wanting to study in Belgium is applying to Belgium universities. Should you wish to take your undergraduate or graduate studies in Belgium, know that your submission deadline would depend on your visa status.
Belgian universities require non-EU foreign applicants to submit their documents at a much earlier time. Take the case of the University of Antwerp, which has a deadline of early March for the uploading of the electronic requirements. Hard copies, on the other hand, should be sent by the end of May.
Schools such as the University of Antwerp do not charge application fees. However, some institutions do. A good example is the Université Catholique de Louvain, which has an application fee of $94 (EUR 83.50). As the costs vary widely, make sure to check with your university regarding its fees.
As mentioned, deadlines are dependent on your need for a visa. As the visa process takes 3 to 6 months, submitting your requirements early will give you enough time to start in autumn (September to October).
Should you need a visa, as with most applicants, then you need to submit all the requirements by the end of March. If not (as is the case for EU citizens), then you may send your requirements until early June.
At the University of Antwerp, the graduate program deadline is similar to that of undergraduates (March for the electronic copies, May for the hard copies).
Meanwhile, at the Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, applicants have until the end of April to submit their documents.
With that being said, you need to check your university’s website for the application schedule.
There is no fee for applying to schools such as the University of Antwerp. In some institutions, the application fee will cost you about $56 (EUR 50).
4. Apply for a Student Visa
If you need to study in Belgium for more than 3 months as an international student, you need to apply for a long-stay visa. This will cost about $224 (EUR 200) for undergraduate and masters students. Doctorate applicants need to pay a higher fee of $393 (EUR 350).
The requirements are as follows:
- Proof of course registration or admission to a university/higher education institution
- Secondary school certificate or Bachelors/Masters diploma and transcript of records
- Proof of grant/financial support
- Medical certificate (negative for TB or other communicable diseases)
- Police certificate from your home country for applicants over the age of 21
Within 8 days of your arrival in Belgium, remember to visit the local municipality to get your residence permit.
Belgium is a place where you can learn well at a reasonable price. With its beautiful attractions and accessibility to other European countries, Belgium proves to be an excellent destination for many foreign students.
I hope that this article on how to study in Belgium for international students was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Europe Category!