Published on: 19 June 2023
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Studying in Belgium: The Complete Guide
A neighboring country of France, Belgium is a small and very welcoming country in which it is good to live. As the seat of the European Union, it has 3 official languages: French, Dutch, and German, which makes Belgium an internationally oriented country with a multicultural population. As a member of the European Economic Union, it is possible to study, work and reside there freely with a French passport.
Many foreign students choose to start or continue their higher education there; at least half of whom are international. In public or private institutions, it is possible to take courses in many fields. The most popular among foreign students are medical, architecture, and art programs, especially in terms of financial criteria, selection, and success, which are often more flexible than in France.
Rich in heritage, do not miss visiting the main cities: Brussels, Namur, Liège, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, etc., but also tasting beer and fries, of course!
Why study in Belgium?
Studying in Belgium is the perfect compromise to have a foreign experience while staying close to France. The main advantage is that it is a French-speaking country.
Many students choose Belgium for their higher education because the courses are more easily accessible: more flexible selection process, higher number of spots, wider choice of specialties, lower costs, etc. The most popular fields are pharmacy, physical therapy, osteopathy, architecture, paramedical and arts.
Beyond the academic field, the population is rather young depending on the cities, so it is pleasant to live there as a student and easy to meet people. There are even neighborhoods populated only by students around universities, where life is punctuated by student associations that organize events throughout the year. Belgian heritage and culture are rich, you won't have time to get bored between your studies, discovering the country and student life.
Studying in Belgium: what you need to plan for
If you wish to pursue your higher education in Belgium, you need to plan for a certain number of things.
First, you will need to define your study project, in which field do you want to study? Once your study project is clear, you will need to find suitable educational institutions. In France, the system is centralized through ParcourSup, in Belgium, each institution has its own admission system. Therefore, you will need to prepare an application for each university/school that you are aiming for. Note that registration closes at the end of March, so be sure to prepare and submit your applications from February.
You will also need to establish your budget. How will you live on site? Through your parents' pension, thanks to a student job? A scholarship or savings? This is a point not to be overlooked. Keep in mind that you are free to apply for a student job in Belgium as you would in France. You do not need a residence permit, visa, or study/work permit if you have French nationality. However, be sure to update your identity documents before departure.
The Administrative formalities
As a French national, you will have few administrative formalities to settle in Belgium. In most cases, up-to-date identity papers will suffice.
On the other hand, you will need to take care to properly prepare your files for each desired educational institution. You will find all admission requirements on the websites of each university, in the section dedicated to applications.
Before registering, consider consulting the equivalencies of your French diplomas in Belgium, as it is common that an upgrade may be necessary for them to be recognized and allow you to pursue your studies.
Also, inquire with the social security to know how it covers you during your stay. In case of need, you can make declarations of care received abroad upon your return, but depending on the length of your stay and your situation, it may be beneficial to have private insurance as a supplement.
Finally, contact your bank to be aware of banking operations that you can perform in Belgium and associated fees.
Schools and courses in Belgium
Belgium has globally renowned universities. Their international dimension allows for a wide range of courses in multiple languages as well as the hosting of teachers from all over the world to teach their classes. Here is a top 10 list of the best Belgian universities:
- Ghent University
- Catholic University of Louvain
- Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain)
- Free University of Brussels (ULB)
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
- University of Liège
- University of Antwerp
- University of Namur
- Hasselt University
- University of Mons
It is possible to pursue various different courses within these establishments including sciences, arts, languages, architecture, economics etc. There are also private schools where you can pursue the same type of course.
To study in Belgium, you will generally need to request a diploma equivalency for the degrees obtained in France. An equivalency is a document that attests to the level of education when the course was taken abroad. This document is necessary to pursue your studies in Belgium and is issued by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
You can find all the necessary information based on your situation on the Federation's website. Make sure to look into this as soon as possible to not miss the registration deadlines.
As we explained earlier, Belgium has 3 official languages: French, Dutch, and German. Each language corresponds to a community: the French-speaking community (Wallonia), the Flemish-speaking community (Flanders), and the German-speaking community (Eastern region). Each community has its own region and possesses its own customs and traditions. There are historical frictions between the French-speaking and Flemish-speaking communities. However, Belgians get along well with each other, but they appreciate highlighting the differences between the communities.
How to finance your studies in Belgium?
Depending on your situation, there are several solutions to finance your studies in Belgium as a French student.
You can, in particular, approach the CROUS (Regional Center for University and School Works) and create a DSE (Social Student File), with the aim of obtaining a Council of Europe Scholarship based on social criteria.
Erasmus+ also offers assistance to students who decide to spend one or more semesters in Belgium at a partner university of their French institution. It should be noted that eligible scholarship students for the program receive additional assistance.
It is also interesting to approach the social service of your Belgian university, depending on your situation, your tuition fees could be reduced.
Finally, consult your local authorities (region, department, city), they may offer assistance that you could benefit from.
How to find accommodation in Belgium
There are many campuses and student residences around schools in Belgium, but you can also choose to live in a standard accommodation, alone or in a flatshare. Note that the majority of rental agreements are established for 1 year, especially if you go through an agency. If you plan to stay for less than a year, you should consider other housing options: short-term rental, subletting, flatsharing, etc. Student groups can be of great help, every year students at the end of their course return their accommodations and could recommend you to their landlords.
Many agencies will be ready to assist you in your search, but it is not the most economical solution. Thanks to Studapart, it is not difficult to find accommodation in Belgium, whether in student residences, alone or in flatshares. Discover more than 200 housing ads in Brussels and other cities in Belgium. And for more information, read our article on tips for finding accommodation in Belgium.