Making sense of all the hoops you have to jump through when applying to university can be tricky, especially when that university is in another country. Fortunately, we’ve put everything you need to know in one place to make it as easy as possible.
The universities and university colleges in Belgium are separated into 2 groups depending on whether they’re located in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders (also called the Flemish region) or the French-speaking region known as the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. These groups of universities are controlled by different organisations, so they can vary in factors such as their language requirements. For more information on the difference between the French and Flemish regions see our article titled 'Study in Belgium: the two regions explained'.
The majority of courses in the Flemish and French regions are taught in their respective native languages, but an increasing number are provided in English as well.
- If you're applying for a course taught in English, you will need to prove you have sufficient English language skills if you haven’t completed secondary school in English in Australia, English-speaking Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK or the USA. This can be done by taking an IELTS test, TOEFL test or Cambridge English Exam.
- If you're applying for a course taught in French, you will need to pass a French Language proficiency exam. A sufficient level of French is considered a B1-2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).
- If you're applying for a course taught in Dutch in the Flemish region, you’ll need to prove your Dutch language ability. This will vary between courses. For example, at the University of Antwerp, languages-based courses require a C1 level in the ITNA or “Educatief Professioneel” level in the Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal. Non-language-related courses require B2 level at the ITNA, “Educatief Startbekwaam” level in the Certificaat Nederlands als Vreemde Taal, or Program II in the Dutch NT2 exams.
As the requirements can vary slightly course-to-course, it is recommended you check the web-page for the specific courses you are thinking of applying to.
Luckily, if you are struggling to get your language skills up to scratch, both the Flemish and French Universities offer language courses, running through school summer holidays and throughout the year to help you.
Lastly, it is possible to acquire an exemption to taking a language test, for example, if you have completed a year of secondary schooling in the language.
Foreign academic entry requirements for some courses in Belgium are explicitly published on their course web page. For example, to study Engineering (in English) at the University of Leuven, it is stated that the minimum grades in foreign countries include 3 Bs at A level, including maths and one science subject.
However, many universities and courses do not explicitly state required grades. In the Wallonia-Brussels federation, applicants are required to obtain an ‘Equivalence’. This is a document that assesses the level of the qualifications you have obtained in another country. You can apply for an Equivalence from the Equivalence department of the Ministry of The Wallonia-Brussels Federation. In Flanders, the equivalence is assessed by the university you are applying to.
Foreign qualifications allow direct access to bachelor’s programmes if they are recognised by a European directive or an international convention. This means that, while it may seem daunting, there is little need to worry about your secondary school qualifications.