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Belgium (Flemish Community) Higher Education System

Structure of the Higher Educational System in Belgium (Flemish Community)
Admissions to Higher Education in Belgium (Flemish Community)
Types of Higher Education Institutions in Belgium (Flemish Community)
Cycles of Higher Education in Belgium (Flemish Community)

Types of Higher Education Institutions

University colleges and universities

Universities organise the academic Bachelor's programmes, Master's programmes, advanced Master's programmes and doctorates.

University colleges organise the professional Bachelor’s programmes and advanced Bachelor’s programmes; within an association with one university they also organise academic Bachelor’s programmes, Master’s and advanced Master’s programmes.

After extensive public discussion, the Flemish government decided in 2010 to integrate the academic university college programmes in the universities from the academic year 2013-2014. The decree of 13 July 2012 regulates the integration process. (See also 14.2-2.3). In academic year 2013-2014, higher education in Flanders will thus undergo thorough reform. From then on, only the universities will be able to offer academic programmes. The university colleges will only be able to offer professional Bachelor's programmes (and associate degrees), as they are to transfer their academic Bachelor’s and Master's programmes to the universities or integrate them in the universities. The academic arts programmes constitute an exception to this integration process, as do the programmes offered by the Higher Maritime Institute.

• The academic and professional arts programmes will be combined with the professional arts programmes (in the branches of study of media and visual arts, and music and performing arts) in schools of arts, linked with one or more university colleges. • The Higher Maritime Institute will also continue to offer both professional and academic programmes.

In practice, the integration will not initially lead to the physical relocation of these programmes. However, the universities will be responsible for, among other areas, teaching and research policy, quality assurance for teaching and research, personnel policy and the awarding of diplomas.

Schools of arts

The decree of 13 July 2012 also regulates the establishment of schools of arts at the university colleges, starting in academic year 2013-2014. These will be responsible for organising professional and academic arts programmes. Within the context of a school of arts, arts-related programmes can thus be organised (i.e. professional Bachelor's programmes in interior design, landscape and garden design, landscape development, and audiovisual techniques: film, TV, video and photography). They may represent up to 20% of the number of Bachelor's and Master's programmes organised within the school of arts. University colleges at least 80% of whose programmes already consist of Bachelor's and Master's programmes in the branches of study of media and visual arts and music and performing arts, or of arts-related Bachelor's and Master's programmes, may be simply regarded as a school of arts.

A school of arts has the following roles:

• organising and providing higher vocational education, higher professional education and academic education in the branch of study media and visual arts or in the branch of study music and performing arts;

• developing and practising the arts in these branches of study;

• engaging in practice-oriented scientific research in relation to higher professional education in these branches of study;

• engaging in research in the arts, in collaboration with a university;

• providing social and scientific services, and transferring knowledge in order to boost the innovativeness of society and the economy.

Higher Maritime Institute

The Higher Maritime Institute in Antwerp offers HBO5 programmes in the branch of study nautical sciences leading to the associate degree, professional Bachelor's programmes leading to the degree of Bachelor, and academic Bachelor's and Master's programmes leading to the degrees of Bachelor and Master respectively.

Registered institutions for higher education

In Flanders, only institutions recognised by the Flemish government may award the degrees of Bachelor and Master. They consist of:

• officially registered institutions

• private registered institutions.

The officially registered institutions are institutions for higher education which were recognised by the authorities prior to 2004 and which can bank on government funding for their education and research. These institutions are listed in the Higher Education Register. [1]

They are:

• the university colleges;

• the universities;

• the institutions for post-initial education, scientific research and scientific services: ◦ the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School ◦ the Antwerp Management School

◦ the Institute for Tropical Medicine

• the other officially registered institutions: ◦ the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels

◦ the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Heverlee.

One special institution is the Transnational University Limburg (tUL). This university was founded under a treaty between the Netherlands and Flanders and is therefore a bi-national institution. In Flanders, it is an officially registered institution.

The private 'registered institutionsfor higher education are all the private institutions which have successfully completed a registration process and have been officially registered by the Flemish Government. To that end, the programme(s) offered by these institutions must first have passed th'e new programmes test in the NVAO accreditation process before the institutions themselves undergo registration. Candidate institutions must also demonstrate that they are financially solvent and enter into a cooperation agreement with a university college or university, among other things to guarantee that students can complete their studies at the university college or university in question should this particular institution cease to operate. Following a successful outcome, the accredited Bachelor's and Master's programmes of the registered institutions are included in the Higher Education Register.

The private registered institutions include the Continental Theological Seminary, the College of Europe Bruges, Flanders Business School, Vesalius College,, the University of Kent and the von KarmenInstituut for hydrodynamics.

Institutions which are not registered institutions for higher education belong to the strictly private education system, which in Flanders is not subject to statutory regulation, due to the constitutional principle of freedom of education.


An association is an official cooperation between one university and one or more university colleges. It has at least the following roles:

• organising the collaboration and drawing closer ties between professional Bachelor's and academic programmes, including transfer

possibilities and the development of learning pathways;

• promoting the coordination of research, and more specifically of the bidirectional links between fundamental and applied research and of innovation;

• logistical coordination in general;

• preparing as a forum for the evolution towards an integrated higher education space.

In order to fulfil these roles, the institutions assign at least the following powers to the association:

• arranging educational provision on a rational basis;

• structuring learning pathways and improving possibilities for progression;

• organising learning pathway guidance for students;

• harmonising internal rules with regard to personnel policy;

• drawing up a multi-year plan for educational renewal and improvement, for research and the provision of social and scientific services, for the mutual harmonisation of investments, infrastructure, and library and documentation facilities;

• issuing a formal opinion on the provision of new Bachelor's or Master's programmes in an institution;

• issuing a formal opinion on rationalisation plans.

There are 5 associations in Flanders. The Catholic University of Brussels is not affiliated to any association but does however work in close collaboration with the K.U.Leuven Association. The Transnational University Limburg (tUL) is a collaboration between the Maastricht University and the Hasselt University.

Higher art education institutions

Management agreements have been entered into with the Higher Institutes and other institutions for Fine Arts. Such agreements have been made with the Orpheus Institute (Advanced studies & research in music) and HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Arts) for the period 2012-2016 and with P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios, founded in 1995 by Rosas dance company and the Belgian National Opera De Munt) for the period 2012-2017. For the Opera Studio Flanders and PoPok (post-university college for performing arts), the evaluation was not positive, and it has been decided to add an extension to the existing management agreement for the period 2007-2011, running for one year (2012).

First Cycle Programmes


Admission Requirements

The following qualifications grant direct access to a Bachelor’s programme:

• the Flemish secondary school leaving certificate,

• a foreign qualification which is recognised as being equivalent by a Flemish law, Belgian law, a European directive or an international agreement.

In case a student does not hold a qualification which grants direct access to the course of study of his/her choice, (s)he may be required to finish a preparatory programme before enrolment.

The Flemish Community does not apply a 'numerus clausus' system, though organises admission tests for every student who wishes to register for the programmes of Dentistry and Medicine. These tests are organised by the Ministry of Education.

Students wishing to enter higher artistic education have to pass a skills test (artistic admission tests) organised by the individual university college. This is a prerequisite for anyone registering for the programmes and programme components in the fields of study 'Audiovisual and Visual Arts' and 'Music and Performing Arts'.

An examination to assess the student's knowledge of the teaching language may also be required.

The boards of the institutions may facilitate admission to a Bachelor's programme on the basis of deviatory admission requirements, which are defined in their education and examination regulations. These deviations are based solely on humanitarian, medical, psychological or social grounds, and on the overall level of the candidate, which is assessed by the board of the institution.

A holder of a bachelor degree, who enters a different bachelor programme, can be granted a reduction of the course duration or of the required study load.

University colleges may decide to admit to their advanced Bachelor’s programmes only those students who already hold a Bachelor’s degree. They may restrict direct access to these programmes to graduates of Bachelor’s programmes with specific programme characteristics. A preparatory programme can be imposed on graduates of other Bachelor’s programmes as a prerequisite for admission. The content and study load of these preparatory programmes are determined by the university college and may vary according to the extent to which the content of the student's prior education relates to the advanced Bachelor’s programme in question.


University colleges and universities are free to compose their own curricula. The board of the institution sets out a programme for each course which consists of a coherent whole of course components. The higher education institutions determine the learning outcomes for each course and the the programme content.

When drafting the course programmes, the board takes into account the prevailing national and international (admission) requirements that are down by law (including the European Directive 2005/36/EC) for certain functions or professions, such as general nurse and midwife. The accreditation body indicates in its accreditation report and accreditation decision whether the board of the institution has compiled their programmes in compliance with this European Directive.

Teaching Methods

The institutions of higher education are free to choose their teaching methods and tools. By default, professionally oriented Bachelor programmes offered by university colleges consist of theory, practical classes and a traineeship. These elements usually do not feature in research oriented programmes, offered by research universities, where the emphasis is put on theoretical aspects and scientific research. In general students use syllabuses and text books which they must purchase themselves. The use of electronic learning platforms is gradually introduced (e.g. e-learning).

The higher education institutions can offer a course or course component entirely or partially in the form of distance learning, i.e. using multimedia so as not to tie the student to a specific place of education provision. The institution’s board develops adequate study and teaching materials and organises adequate supervision.

At the time of registration the board of the institution offers a student the choice between a credit contract, a degree contract and an exam contract. The institutions may however stipulate in their education regulations that, because of their specific nature, certain course components cannot be followed under an exam contract. In that case the board must disclose its reasons behind the decision.

Students can thus choose between:

• a credit contract: a contract between the board of the institution and the student, who registers with a view to obtaining (a) proof(s) of credit for one or several course components;

• a degree contract: a contract between the board of the institution and the student, who registers with a view to obtaining a degree or who registers for a bridging or preparatory programme;

• an exam contract: a contract between the board of the institution and the student, who registers, under certain conditions imposed by the board of the institution, to take exams with a view to obtaining:

◦ a degree, or

◦ a proof of credit for one or more course components

Some higher education institutions offer the option of supported self-study, for which the student must ensure that he or she is available for practical training and work experience placements. In addition to the possibility of obtaining a degree via distance education or e-learning, students can take various programmes via weekend or evening classes, or all classes may be grouped together on one day in the week.

For several years now university colleges and research universities have been introducing more flexible learning paths that are specifically targeted at students who are already working. These flexible learning paths can be found in the Higher Education Register (advanced search option: "Combine work and study"). For more information about the concrete details of the programme, the student is advised to contact the university college or research university itself.

Study progress

The Parliamentary Act on Flexibilisation of 30 April 2004 allows for more flexible learning paths with increased opportunities to change between courses and institutions, enhanced differentiation in respect of the types of programmes on offer, and more opportunities for lifelong learning. In this respect the act introduces the following principles, in which the research universities and university colleges can implement the credit system at their own discretion:

• The year system is replaced by a credit system.

• The course is and remains the basic and structural unit but is no longer seen as the total sum of study years but as one whole of course components.

• A course is subdivided into course components. A component is a well-defined unit of teaching, learning and assessment activities aimed at acquiring well-defined (sub)competences regarding knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes. A course component may be filled in flexibly by the institutions and can as such consist of one subject (in the traditional sense of the word) but also of a cluster of subjects and learning activities.

• The overall study load is expressed in credits, in conformity with the ECTS, in which one credit represents a study load of 25 to 30 hours.

• The volume of a course component is expressed in full credits. A course component comprises at least 3 credits, with a maximum of 12 components per 60 credits.

• Students have completed a course component when the assessment demonstrates that they have satisfactorily acquired the relevant (sub)competences. Students are usually assessed on a scale from zero to 20 (whole numbers), with 10 being the lowest number required to pass.

• Students are entitled to register at least twice for each course component, and are entitled to two chances to pass per registration.

• Completion of a course component (i.e. passing the programme component) results in official recognition in the form of a proof of credit, which is issued for that particular component, irrespective of how students perform in the other course components that may feature in their course.

• There is no expiry date on acquired proofs of credit, which is valid for at least five calendar years after obtaining the proof. It is part of the intrinsic nature of knowledge however to develop at a very high pace, which requires institutions to update regularly. For this reasons the institutions of higher education may oblige a student, who wishes to continue or finalise its education, to take part in a special programme designed at updating the competences acquired in the course component.

• Institutions may grant students exemptions on the basis of the recognition of prior learning, i.e. the recognition of qualifications (EVK) and/or the recognition of competences (EVC). Further details on this issue can be found in the teaching and examination regulations of each institute for higher education. The general principles and procedures for flexible study paths are thoroughly explained in the brochure 'Bewijs je bekwaamheid'.

• The Parliamentary Act on Flexibilisation provides several measures to monitor study progress and to take peremptory action when things go wrong. For example, binding conditions may be imposed on students who have registered more than twice, ssuch as an interim assessment or a minimum of study performance. In addition, high-risk students may be refused after they have been given several chances.

ECTS-helpline provides information on the introduction of the European Credit Transfer System, the diploma supplement and the Bologna Process.


Professionally oriented Bachelor’s programmes are primarily oriented towards (regulated) professions, and aim to bring students both the general and specific knowledge and skills necessary for the independent exercise of a profession or group of professions. They thus offer the possibility of proceeding directly onto the labour market.

Practical training in real working conditions (businesses, schools, hospitals, etc.) forms an essential part of each programme.

Students are guided in various ways to facilitate their entry onto the labour market. The majority of university colleges have installed employment services. Since there are no official guidelines in this area, their operating procedures however may vary. Some university colleges confine themselves to collecting details of vacancies or employment statistics, whereas others keep detailed employment records on individual graduates, run job interview training sessions and/or organise employment preparation seminars, etc. Students' traineeship regularly result in a job offer once they have graduated. The interaction between the labour market and the education programmes is not always optimal, but varies according to the branch of study or the course in question.

Research oriented Bachelor’s programmes are primarily oriented towards progression to a Master's programme, and thus aim to bring students the knowledge and skills required for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general, as well as those required for a specific field of science or arts in particular. Some reserarch oriented Bachelor's degrees programmes also allow to enter directly onto the labour market.

Student assessment

Examinations take place in several exam sessions. These are usually organised in June and September. When a semester system is introduced, exams are also organised in January, at the end of the first semester. These exams are considered being part of the first exam session.

The Parliamentary Act on Participation of 19 March 2004 regulates students' legal protection in relation to decisions on study progress, such as examination decisions, exam-related disciplinary measures, the granting of certificates of competence, the granting of exemptions, decisions compelling students to follow a bridging or preparatory programme, and any measures in terms of monitoring study progress. The act also introduces the Council for Disputes over Decisions on Study Progress, which is an administrative court of law in Flanders. Any dispute first needs to be treated by the internal appeal body of the institution for higher education in question before the Council for Disputes over Decisions on Study Progress can be involved. In case the institution does not take a decision within 15 calendar days after the internal appeal was brought, the student may has five calendar days to lodge an appeal with the Council without the decision of the institution of higher education. In case the institution does take a internal decision, the student may appeal with the Council for Disputes over Decisions on Study Progress, again within five calendar days. The Council takes a final decision within 15 calendar days, which allows the student to know quickly whether and under which conditions (s)he may continue his/her studies. Thet student may appeal against a decision of the Council for Disputes over Decisions on Study Progress with the Council of State, by means of an administrative appeal.

The Council for Disputes over Decisions on Study Progress also acts as the appeal body for decisions on the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications by the institutions of higher education or by the Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Training at the Ministry of Education and Training.


The board of the institution grants a proof of credit to students who pass a particular course component.

The board of the institution grants the degree of Bachelor (or Master) to students who have successfully completed a Bachelor’s (or Master’s) programme.

People may also gain rapid entry into a Bachelor's (or Master's) programme or even obtain the degree of Bachelor and Master if the institution deems, based on the recognition of prior learning (EVC and EVK), that the person in question has acquired the necessary competences. 'EVC' stands for recognition of competences, i.e. all knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes that have been acquired through learning processes that did not lead to an official proof of study (such as non-formal and informal education). 'EVK' stands for recognition of qualifications, i.e. any Belgian or foreign proof of study that attests to the fact that its holder has successfully completed a formal learning pathway, be it through formal education or not. Comprehensive information on the general principles and procedures for flexible study progress and EVC and EVK can be found in the brochure 'Bewijs je bekwaamheid'.

NARIC-Flanders, the National Academic (and Professional) Recognition and Information Centre, is part of the Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Training (AKOV) of the Ministry of Education and Training. The centre is responsible for the recognition of foreign qualifications and diplomas, professional recognition of the teaching professions on the basis of European Directive 2005/36/EC, the provision of information about (the recognition of) Flemish qualifications abroad and explanatory attestations for qualifications obtained in the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and the Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft Belgien. NARIC-Flanders (the National Academic (& Professional) Recognition and Information Centre) is the Flemish unit within the ENIC and NARIC network. NARIC centres are recognition centres of the member states of the European Economic Area (the EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and (sometimes) Switzerland). As these countries are also members of the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES, all NARIC centres are also part of the ENIC network (European Network of Information Centres of the Council of Europe and UNESCO). The ENIC Network cooperates closely with the NARIC Network.

The format of the higher education degrees was officially laid down in Flemish legislation by the Flemish Governmental Decision of 11 June 2004, and has been updated on several occasions. Flanders was the first in Europe to introduce a statutory diploma supplement, initially (in 1991) only for research universities but later on (in 1994) also for university colleges. This diploma supplement contains details on the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies followed and a description of the system of higher education. The current diploma supplements are based on the model developed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES who used the Flemish example as a model. This diploma supplement provides independent data with a view to improving international transparency and fair recognition of qualifications for academic and professional purposes. Every student receives the document automatically with his degree as the degree and the accompanying diploma supplement are intrinsically interlinked as one single whole. Officially registered institutions for higher education will also, on a one-off basis, issue degrees and diploma supplements in English, free of charge and at the student's request.

Degrees and diploma supplements for programmes taught entirely in a language other than Dutch are issued both in the teaching language and in Dutch

Self-certification in the framework of the Bologna Process was completed on 2 February 2009 when independent international experts concluded that the qualifications framework for higher education in Flanders is compatible with the overarching framework of the European Higher Education Area. This official confirmation is mentioned on the diploma supplement and on the website of NVAO and the website of the ENIC and NARIC networks.

The Flemish degree titles are legally protected. Only those to whom the degree of bachelor, master or doctor (doctor of philosophy, abbreviated as PhD or Dr) has been granted, with or without further specification, and in accordance with the relevant Flemish parliamentary acts, are entitled to use the corresponding title of bachelor, master or doctor, with or without further specification. Violating thse provisions when granting or using the titles is penalized by a fine and/or imprisonment.

The specification "of Arts", "of Science", "of Laws", "of Medicine", "of Veterinary Science", "of Veterinary Medicine" or "of Philosophy" may be added to certain Bachelor's or Master's degrees in academic education. The addition of this specification is subject to the same legal protection as the degree itself and the title associated with it:

1.Ba for holders of the degree of Bachelor;

2.Ma for holders of the degree of Master;

3.BA for holders of the degree of Bachelor with the specification "of Arts";

4.MA for holders of the degree of Master with the specification "of Arts"; 5.BSc for holders of the degree of Bachelor with the specification "of Science";

6.MSc for holders of the degree of Master with the specification "of Science";

7.LL.B for holders of the degree of Bachelor with the specification "of Laws";

8.LL.M for holders of the degree of Master with the specification "of Laws";

9.MMed for holders of the degree of Master with the specification "of Medicine";

10.BVetSc for holders of the degree of Bachelor with the specification "of Veterinary Science";

11.MVetMed for holders of the degree of Master with the specification "of Veterinary Medicine";

12.MPhil for holders of the degree of Master with the specification "of Philosophy".

Short-Cycle Higher Education

Higher Vocational Education (HBO5, Associate Degree)

Higher vocational education was introduced on 1 September 2009.

Higher vocational education offers opportunities for pupils (referred to in these programmes as ‘trainees’) who, after their secondary education, wish to obtain a qualification at level 5 (in the Flemish and in the European framework, i.e. the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF for LLL)) via programmes of between 90 and 120 credits. These programmes lead to an Associate Degree at qualification level 5. The programmes offered by the Centres for Adult Education last six semesters.

Higher vocational education also offers flexible learning paths possibilities to working people and job-seekers. It will therefore be possible to take short, flexible courses. Dual pathways will enable working people to obtain certain competences in the workplace.

Higher vocational education is also intended to provide a means of entry into a professionally oriented Bachelor’s programme; the programmes must therefore also guarantee follow-up pathways into the relevant Bachelor’s programmes.

The NVAO, the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation, has been designated as the accreditation body for these programmes too (Flemish Governmental Decision, 15 July 2011).

In higher vocational education in adult education, the previous categories have been replaced by five branches of study:

• biotechnology,

• health care,

• commercial sciences and business management,

• industrial sciences and technology,

• social work.

The programmes are now organised on a modular basis.

Access and Admission Requirements

Holders of the following qualifications have access to higher vocational education in Flanders:

• a certificate of the 2nd grade of the 3rd stage of secondary education;

• a diploma of secondary education;

• a certificate of a programme of secondary adult education of at least 900 teaching periods;

• a foreign qualification which is recognised by Flemish law, Belgian law, a European directive or an international agreement as equivalent to one of the above mentioned diplomas.

Without these certificates, a trainee can also be admitted via an admission test organised by the institution (i.e. secondary school, Adult Education Centre or university college).

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of Study

An overview of all the accredited programmes offered by the registered institutions may be consulted in the Hogeronderwijsregister and its English-language version, Higher Education Register in Flanders.

Admission Requirements

A Bachelor’s degree, obtained through an academic Bachelor’s programme, gives direct access to a Master’s programme. Students who have obtained a professional Bachelor’s degree are asked to follow a bridging programme first. A bridging programme consists of a minimum of 45 and a maximum of 90 credits. The institution may reduce the bridging programme or even grant a full exemption based on a skills evaluation relating to previously acquired qualifications (EVK).

The institution’s board can make access to a Master's programme possible on the basis of divergent admission conditions in the light solely of humanitarian reasons. The regulations regarding divergent admission conditions can be requested from the institution and are mentioned in the study and examination regulations.

The institutions for higher education can only offer advanced Master’s programmes to holders of a Master’s degree. Direct access may be restricted to graduates of Master’s programmes with specific programme characteristics. Institutions may request holders of other Master’s degrees to follow a preparatory programme as an admission requirement. The contents and study load of the preparatory programmes are determined by the institution and may vary according to the content relatedness between students' prior education and the advanced Master’s programme in question

The brochure 'Bewijs je bekwaamheid (Prove your competence)' explains how degrees can also be obtained through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).


Analogous to Bachelor’s programmes

In determining the curriculum of programmes leading to the professions of medical doctor, general practitioner, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist or architect, the institution’s board must comply with the requirements set out in European Directive 2005/36/EC. The accreditation body confirms in its accreditation report and decision whether the institution’s board has complied with this European Directive or not.

At the end of the Master's programme, each student must submit (and in some cases defend) a dissertation (Master's thesis). This represents at least 20% of the ECTS-load of the master programme, with a minimum of 15 credits and a maximum of 30 credits.

Teaching Methods

Analogous with Bachelor's programmes

Progression of Students

Analogous with Bachelor's programmes


Like the university colleges, the universities have developed a specific infrastructure within the social sector to ensure that this more wide-ranging form of care and guidance is provided. Among other things, this includes employment services.

Depending on the institution, initiatives are taken for graduating and former students, among other things by creating a vacancy database, by organising briefing sessions on employment in different sectors, etc.

Student assessment

Analogous with Bachelor's programmes


Analogous with Bachelor's programmes

Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Within the current range of programmes, a number of variants or alternatives on the regular organisation of higher education may be distinguished.

The Dutch Open University offers academic distance learning in Flanders, supported by the Open Higher Education study centres from the Flemish universities in Flanders. However, course participants graduate with a degree from the Netherlands. Many Flemish university colleges also offer distance learning.[1]

Postgraduate certificates can be awarded by university colleges and universities after the successful completion of learning pathways with a study load of at least 20 credits. The purpose of these courses, in the context of continuing professional education, is to add further breadth or depth to the competences acquired on completion of a Bachelor's or Master's programme.

The universities and university colleges also organise shorter courses in the context of continuing education, for the purposes of in-service and advanced training.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of the Doctorate

A doctorate may be obtained after original scientific research and the public presentation and defence of the doctoral thesis. Only the universities may award the degree of doctorate in Flanders.

Doctoral schools stimulate and support doctoral studies. They organise courses tailored to the requirements of doctoral students, train researchers in general skills and monitor the employment market. Which doctoral schools are organised depends on the individual university. UGent, KU Leuven, UAntwerpen, VUB, UHasselt.

Admission Requirements

The holding of a Master’s degree is a general admission requirement for the doctorate by thesis.

However, the university may require additional research, making it possible to assess "the student’s fitness to conduct scientific research in the discipline concerned and to record the results in a thesis".

A student who does not hold a Master’s degree may also be admitted to a doctoral programme. However, the university may require the student either to undergo a competence assessment in order to ascertain his/her ability to write a doctoral thesis, or to take an examination about elements of academic education, determined by the university.

Status of Doctoral Candidates

The doctoral student may either arrange his/her own financing and try to gain a scholarship, or obtain a research contract and draw on the financial resources made available via his/her supervisor, either as an academic assistant or as a scientific researcher within a project of his/her supervisor, or via a special mandate of the Special Research Fund (BOF) [See 3.2-1]. Scholarships from the FWO, IWT, IMEC, VIB or IBBT confer on the recipient the status of employee of the foundation in question; the recipient is equated with an employee of the university where he/she is a doctoral student.

Each doctoral student must register (once) as a student and pay the registration fee.

Supervision Arrangements

In principle, the student is supervised by his/her ‘supervisor'.


ECOOM, the “Centre for R&D Monitoring” Research Group at Ghent University focuses on Human Resources in Research. This includes the production of doctoral degrees, the careers of doctoral holders and research mobility. Ghent University develops several indicators to support the monitoring of academic Human Resources in Flanders. In addition, the centre provides explanations for these indicators and offers advice to the Flemish government and universities. A permanent database for academic appointments combined with survey results also allows for prospective research into the careers of Ph.D. graduates, with particular focus on intersectoral and international mobility.

Student assessment

See certification.


The degree of 'doctor' or 'doctor of philosophy' is awarded by a university panel after the public defence of a doctoral thesis demonstrating the student’s ability to produce new scientific knowledge on the basis of independent scientific research. The doctoral thesis should also have the potential to lead to publications in scientific journals. Only those to whom the degree of bachelor, master or doctor has been granted in accordance with the Flemish structure decree of 4 April 2003 are entitled to use the corresponding title of bachelor, master or doctor, and the legally protected abbreviations 'Dr' and 'PhD'. More details can be found in the study and examination regulations of each higher education institution.

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