Belgium sits at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, bordered on three sides by France, Holland and Germany.
Unique for it’s geographic divisions based on language, Belgium has three distinct communities: Dutch, French and German. All three languages are officially recognized by the state as the national languages, and signage and official documents will appear in all three languages.
The population of Belgium is around 11 million people, and although a it’s a relatively small country, Belgium boasts 35 UNESCO world heritage sites, among them the Notre Dame Cathedral in Tournai, and the Belfries of Belgium and France. Brussels, the capital city is also famous for being the capital of the European Union and is home to two of the country’s World Heritage sites.
Belgium’s reputation for the best beer and chocolate is well deserved, and it’s not hard to find breweries and chocolate factories selling their famous goods in cities like Brussels and Antwerp.
Hundreds of international students from a variety of different countries come to study in Belgium, and as the centre of the European Union, the country is very friendly to visitors. If you don’t speak French, German or Dutch, it is possible to find English speakers, particularly in the major cities. And once you're living Belgium, the chances are you will become immersed in the other languages too!
With high educational standards and universities ranked in the top 200 in the world, the capital of the European Union and hundreds of postgraduate courses and programs of study, Belgium has unlimited opportunities for postgraduates.
The currency in Belgium is the Euro.
In general the language of instruction at Belgian Universities is dependant on the language community that the institution is located in. Each community determines it’s own educational system, and it’s important that you research the entry requirements of universities in different communities carefully as they may differ substantially.
However as you the postgraduate program that you will be studying will be taught in the English language, this language issue will affect you more out of the classroom.
Although it is a relatively small country, Belgium has 5 universities in the world's top 200 as ranked by QS World University Rankings.
One of these top-rated universities - the Universite Catholique de Louvain is also the nation’s oldest university. It was founded in 1465, and almost one-fifth of its students are international students, coming from outside of Belgium. It is located just outside Brussels, and has over 100 degree courses, with several courses taught in English, although the primary language of instruction is French. The Universite Catholique de Louvain also offers French language courses for those opting to study in French, and some courses will require it.
The Universite Libre de Bruxelles is another excellent destination for international students as it hosts more than 6,000 foreign students. It's another Belgian university that tops the rankings charts, and its reputation for outstanding research has won its alumni three Nobel Prizes. ULB has formed several partnerships with prestigious universities from around the world including Berkeley, Cambridge, Montreal and Oxford. Through these partnerships, students are able to participate in exchange programs and study abroad.
The other three QS ranked universities in Belgian are Katholieké Universiteit Leuven, University of Ghent and University of Antwerp. However as Belgian places a high level of importance on its higher education, Belgian universities all tend to offer high quality postgraduate programs.
Tuition fees at Belgian universities is reasonably, with postgraduate students from countries within the EU expected to pay approximately €850 per academic year.
Students from outside the European Union will have to pay additional tuition fees and their annual university charges may well range from between €2,000-€4,000 depending on the university and the postgraduate course.
There are plenty of scholarship opportunities available to students at Belgian universities, although some research may be required. For example, although the University Catholique de Louvain does not offer grants for postgraduate students, funding is available through the University Commission for Development and Trade and Development Cooperation which offers grants to students from developing nations, and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie which provides funding to students attending French-language intuitions. So if you are interested in studying for a postgraduate program in Belgium it's important to spend a bit of time doing some online research into funding opportunities.
Belgium is a great country to be a postgraduate student. It is at the centre of modern Europe culturally, with its combination of historical traditions and rich international influence. It is also central in terms of its physical position in Europe, and is the hub of the European Union and one of the EU's founding members.
Belgian universities are generally located in the cities, where transport links by bus and train are readily available. Students are eligible to receive discounts on public transport.
The capital city of Brussels is a student-friendly city with an active and vibrant night life, historical buildings and architecture, and a wealth of international cultures bringing food, music and cultures from all over the world. Other European capital cities like Paris and Amsterdam are readily accessible and just two hours away by train.
The cost of living as a student in Belgium is in line with many other European countries. Here we have complied a list of the monthly living costs you are likely to incur as a student.
Accommodation = €400
Food = €300
Healthcare/insurance = €20
Public transport = €40
Academic books = €35
Phone/bills/etc = €55
Total of around = €850 per month
It is quite common for postgraduate students to work during their studies in Belgium. Non-Belgians are allowed to work if they are studying on a full-time course in a university recognised by the Federation Wallonia-Brussels and are in possession of a valid residence permit. Students from countries outside of the EEA may require a work permit if they want to work in Belgium.
Students who are citizens of EU countries do not need a visa to study in Belgium, but they must register with the local magistrates office within 8 days of arrival in the country.
Non-EU/EEA students must apply for an Authorization of Provisional Stay, which will allow them to stay for longer than three months.
Among the documentation that you will need to provide is:
1. Proof of financial support.
2. Permission to enrol in a higher education institution.
3. A certificate of good conduct.
With high educational standards and universities ranked in the top 200 in the world, the capital of the European Union and hundreds of courses and programs of study, Belgium has unlimited opportunities for postgraduates. However the one really unique aspect of Belgium is that it has three official languages – Dutch, French and German!
At first it may sound quite daunting trying to remember which parts of Belgium speak what languages, and how to navigate between them, but trust us, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
If your university is located in Wallonia-Brussels – located in the southern part of the country – make sure you know which part of Wallonia it’s in as this will determine whether the main language of instruction will be French or German. In Wallonia-Brussels, the main language is French. Signage, official documents, and the language used by the local people around you will most likely be French. However, this area also has a large German population of 70,000, which is found primarily in nine municipalities in eastern Wallonia. In this region, German is the main language. For the most part in Wallonia, courses will be taught in French unless you are in one of the nine German-speaking cities including the city of Eupen and the surrounding areas.
Flanders is located in north Belgium, and here, the main language is Dutch. The signage, official documents and local dialects will most likely all be Dutch. The language of instruction will also be Dutch here, so if this is where you are thinking of studying, you’ll want to be sure that you either take some introductory Dutch language courses, or choose a course taught in English. If you prefer to live around English speakers, this may be the place for you. The younger generation in Flanders tends to speak English, so living here with little Dutch is not as much of a problem as it may initially seem. This is however unique to Flanders, as much of the rest of Belgium is not typically English speaking, preferring French as the lingua franca.
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