Most student bodies in Belgian universities have a strong international contingent. Some may be students on exchange from their home universities through programmes like Erasmus, but others may be taking a further degree independently. While most Bachelor level courses in Belgian universities are taught in Dutch or French, there are plenty of courses at Master’s level and above, that are entirely taught in English. Universities often offer cheap (or free) courses in Dutch or French as well.
Check carefully the requirements and deadlines of your chosen course/university. You may need to get a declaration of equivalency between your secondary education diploma and the Belgian equivalent, show how you plan to pay for your studies, or even sit a competitive exam. Unless you have a Belgian-awarded degree, the application process may take several months, so allow plenty of time. You’ll need a visa to study in Belgium, unless you’re a citizen from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco or Switzerland, so you’ll also need to get this organized as soon as possible.
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) was founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V. The oldest university in Europe is situated near Brussels, in the city of Leuven in Flanders - the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. In 1968, it split into two independent universities: the French-speaking Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), which moved in 1971 to a new campus in Louvain-la-Neuve; and the Dutch-speaking KU Leuven, which remained in the historic town of Leuven.
Today KU Leuven is Belgium's largest university, with more than 40,000 students, 6,000 staff, 14 faculties and 50 departments. It is ranked 58th in the world and 13th in Europe (the highest-ranked university in the Low Countries) in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2012-13.
Its high academic reputation and strong research orientation attracts students from all over the world – 12 per cent of students are from overseas. Whilst almost all the Bachelor degrees are taught in Dutch (theology and philosophy are the only two courses taught in English), there are still more than 2,000 other courses taught in English.
For more information on the university, its courses and how to apply, see the university website www.kuleuven.ac.be/english
UCL Université Catholique de Louvain
UCL is one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V and originally part of the University of Leuven (Université de Louvain). In 1971, the French-speaking UCL moved away to a new campus in Louvain-la-Neuve. With the recent merging with the Catholic University of Mons (FUCaM), ‘UCL Mons’ is now spread over six campuses in the French-speaking Hainault region of Belgium, including the Faculty of Medicine in Brussels Woluwe.
Working closely with private, public and international organisations, research is very strong at UCL, with the International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology (ICP) founded by Professor Christian de Duve, winner of the Nobel prize for medicine, the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) created by Professor Jacques Drèze and three science parks all based here.
There are more than 27,000 students, of whom about 20 per cent are international, spread across 122 nationalities and five continents. Latest data shows that one in three new students come from outside Belgium
The teaching language here is French but some Master’s and Advanced Master’s degree courses are taught entirely in English. These are in law, economics, social and political sciences, management, arts, applied science and health science. See the university website for a full list. In collaboration with the Centre de Louvain-la-Neuve, the university also offers intensive French language courses for international students (from beginner to advanced level) during the summer and winter holidays at a special rate.
For more information on the university, its courses and how to apply, see their website at www.uclouvain.be
ULB Université Libre de Bruxelles
Founded in 1834, the Université Libre de Bruxelles is a university with seven faculties and institutes, several university hospitals and industrial zones devoted to research. It has 24,000 students - and three Nobel Prizes (Jules Bordet for Medicine in 1919, Albert Claude for Medicine in 1974, and Ilya Prigogine for Chemistry in 1977). The ULB is now the Belgian University with the highest rate of foreign students: almost a third of the students and researchers at the university are from overseas, with 20 per cent from Europe and 10 per cent from the rest of the world.
The university also co-finances a continuing education program for adults, "EPFC." It has a reputation for its language courses for foreigners (overseas students are offered free French courses at every level before and during term time) but also offers courses in commerce, business, public relations and accounting. It is also a founding member of the International Forum of Public Universities (IFPU) and works in partnership with both the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge amongst other leading international schools.
It’s a French speaking university but many Master’s degrees are taught entirely or partially in English.
For more information on the university, its courses and how to apply, see the university website’s English pages at www.ulb.ac.be/ulb/presentation/uk.html
Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen
The University of Antwerp, situated in the northern port of Antwerp, was founded in 2003 with the merger of three university institutions RUCA, UFSIA and UIA. It has approximately 13,000 students, of whom 1,800 are international (not including exchange students). Seven faculties – Applied Economics, Arts and Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences and Sciences – and two business and a maritime management schools, are spread over four campuses in the historic city centre and to the south of the city.
All Bachelor programmes are taught in Dutch but there are 10 Master and 7 Advanced Master programmes taught in English, ranging from Linguistics to Nanophysics.
For more information on the university, its courses and how to apply, see the university website’s English pages at www.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=.ENGLISH&n=254713
University of Ghent
Founded in 1817, the University of Ghent became the first Dutch speaking-university in Belgium in 1930. There are 36,000 students in total, across 11 different faculties. The university is currently ranked 93rd in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2012-13.
All bachelor courses are taught in Dutch (for which you have to prove a certain level of proficiency) but there are a number of international courses. Disciplines include: arts & philosophy, law, sciences, engineering, economics & business administration, agricultural and applied biological sciences, pharmaceutical sciences and veterinary medicine.
For more information on the university, its courses and how to apply, see the university website www.ugent.be/en
University of Liège
The University of Liège, founded in 1817, is the public university of the Walloon Brussels Community and is part of the Wallonia-Europe University Academy. It offers a complete course of studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and there are 20,000 students across nine different faculties. Its research potential is based on 2,000 teachers/researchers.
Resolutely international, approximately 22 percent of students are foreign students, representing around 80 different nationalities from five continents. More than 20 percent of its research funding comes from international sources and the university maintains close ties with over 200 institutions in Europe.
The science park located on the large wooded campus (760 ha), houses many high-tech enterprises, including the 20 spin-offs that were created from university laboratory research.
The university website has comprehensive information on its courses and how to apply, see www.ulg.ac.be
VUB Vrije Universiteit Brussel
VUB is the Dutch language University in Brussels. It was formed as a part of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) before becoming a university in its own right through legislative changes in 1970. Many courses are available in English, including Masters and PhD degrees in Management, International and Legal Cooperation, Industrial Location and Development, Medical and Pharmaceutical Research and Fundamental Applied Marine Ecology.
To find out more, see http://www.vub.ac.be/en
Vlerick Business School
Vlerick Business School, founded in 1953 by Professor André Vlerick, is the oldest business and management school in Belgium and the first to hold triple-A accreditation (in 2001): from Equis, AMBA and AACSB. The autonomous management school of KU Leuven and University of Gent, the school has alliances with more than 40 business schools worldwide. It is ranked 70th in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2012.
There are four campuses in Ghent, Levuen, St Petersburg and opening in 2013, Brussels. Every year there are about 6,450 participants attending postgraduate management and executive development programmes, and about 380 students. Many courses are in English. The alumni are spread over 100 countries and include CEOs from several global companies such as Sara Lee, Telindus and Omega Pharma.
See www.vlerick.com/en for full information on MBAs and other courses.
Photo credit: College of Europe (hot photo).
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