There are many reasons to study in Belgium: world-renowned universities, excellent opportunities for international networking, famously multicultural and multilingual cities, a host of regional cui.
Universities in Belgium
Many Belgium universities have a strong international outlook and composition, as well as a strong position in the international rankings. A total of nine universities in Belgium are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2022, with all but one ranked within the global top 500.
Higher education in Belgium is generally categorised into two groups, split along the lines of the country’s two main language communities: the Flemish (a variety of Dutch) community and the French community. Alongside Dutch and French, German is also an official language of the country, though spoken by a far smaller percentage of the population. German-speaking students typically attend a university in the French community, or travel to study in Germany. While French and Dutch are the standard languages of teaching, there are also many international programs taught in English.
Higher education institutions in Belgium include universities; university colleges (called hautes écoles in the French community); art colleges (called écoles supérieures des arts and only offered in the French community); institutes of architecture (only available in the French community) and the Royal Military Academy.
As in most European countries, a bachelor’s degree usually takes three years to complete, and a master’s degree takes one to two years. Bachelor’s degrees are categorised as either a professional bachelor or an academic bachelor. The first of these has a vocational element, while the second is more academic and designed to prepare students for a master’s degree.
Having obtained a master’s degree, students can then pursue research projects leading to a doctorate degree. Bachelor and master’s degrees can be awarded by both colleges and universities in Belgium, while PhDs are only awarded by universities.
The top universities in Belgium are:
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)
The highest-ranked Belgian university is KU Leuven, ranked joint 70th in the world in the 2022 rankings. Translated into English, its full name is Catholic University of Leuven, but it’s more often referred to by its Dutch name.
KU Leuven was Belgium’s first university, founded in 1425 (although it was closed during the Napoleonic period and reopened in 1834). KU Leuven taught around 58,000 students in 2019, making it the largest university in Belgium.
University of Ghent
Ranked 141st in the world, the University of Ghent was established in 1817 as the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium. The university ranks joint 52nd for engineering and technology and joint 55th for life sciences in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021. The University of Ghent is another large university, teaching around 48,570 students across 11 faculties.
Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
UCLouvain is Belgium’s largest French-speaking university, and its main campus is in Louvain-la-Neuve: a city built to house the university. The school has satellite campuses in Brussels, Charleroi, Mons and Tournai. It currently ranks at 188th in the world, and performs particularly well (22nd) in the subject rankings for theology, divinity & religious studies.
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Ranked joint 221st in the world, VUB was formed when the Université Libre de Bruxelles split in 1970. Both universities have the same name when translated into English (Free University of Brussels), so both avoid this version to prevent confusion. VUB is known for its high research activity, with its research teams internationally recognised in many disciplines of fundamental and applied research.
University of Antwerp
Located in the city of Antwerp in the heart of Belgium, the University of Antwerp is ranked joint 233rd in the world in 2022. The school was founded in 2003 and today has around 20,800 students, of which nearly 20 percent are international. The University of Antwerp scores particularly well in the arts and humanities subjects – it ranks joint 249th in the world for the subject area.
Université de Liège
With 11 faculties spread over four campuses, the Université de Liège ranks joint 480th globally. Founded in 1817, today the school boasts 25,421 students. Université de Liège performs best for its life sciences and medicine subjects, for which it ranks joint 287th. Its highest ranked subject is agriculture and forestry, ranking 151-200.
University of Mons
Université de Mons has around 10,000 students, seven faculty and three schools. The university is French-speaking and its main campus is in the province of Hainaut, Belgium, near the French-Belgian border. The school was founded in 2009, following a merger between the University of Mons-Hainaut and the Faculty of Engineering of Mons. Today it ranks 651-700 globally.