So you’re interested in studying in Belgium or Luxembourg? You’ve come to the right place.
This information has been compiled by the staff of the Fulbright Commission in order to provide prospective Fulbright grantees with an overview of the academic systems in Belgium and Luxembourg; please consult the Belgian and Luxembourgish authorities for the most updated information.
STUDY IN BELGIUM
Education in Belgium is regulated and for the larger part financed by one of the three language communities. All three communities have a unified school system with small differences from one to another. The national government plays a very small role in deciding the age for mandatory schooling and indirectly financing the communities. On the whole, Belgium offers very high-quality education, which is something Belgians are proud of as well.
Belgium’s school system is relatively straightforward. Compulsory education starts with primary school at the age of six. It consists of six years of basic education in reading, writing, and mathematics. Classes are held in the community language and learning a second language begins during the next-to-last year of primary education (usually the second official language, i.e. either Dutch or French, but also English). Secondary education starts at the age of twelve. It is divided into four branches: humanities, technical, artistic and professional. With the exemption of the professional track, all branches prepare students for university. The technical and artistic branches differ from the general humanities branch to the extent they offer students the possibility to specialize earlier on in their academic career.
In Belgium, any student with a qualifying diploma of secondary education is free to enroll at any institute of higher education of their choosing. With some exceptions (polytechnic schools and performing arts programs), students do not have to apply and be admitted to a university before enrolling. In addition, the cost of higher education in Belgium is relatively low in comparison to the cost of study in the U.S.
Universities offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, whereas university colleges (known as hautes écoles or hogescholen) offer professional bachelor’s and some master’s degrees. Most U.S. Fulbright grantees to Belgium are affiliated with universities, but university colleges are also eligible as host institutions.
Classroom and teaching styles in higher education are very different from those in the U.S., as it tends to be more formal or traditional. Depending on your field, courses can be heavily lecture-based, which creates a distance between professors and students and it is expected that students respect that. While discussion and participation is increasingly becoming more customary, it is not always the norm. Classes usually last 1 to 2 hours, ending on the hour, but are irregularly scheduled and usually only given once a week (instead of shorter classes multiple times a week). Finals occur twice a year, in January and in June, and are absolutely crucial for Belgian students as they often do not have as many assignments or participation marks to fall back on like American students do. Classes end several weeks before the examination period begins to allow students time to study. Most exams are scheduled within a period of approximately two weeks. The grading system gives the student one mark for the entire duration of the course, usually a mark out of 20. In most cases, there is no helpful “curve”. If students fail one or more exams, they are given the chance to retake them in August or September. If they fail again, they have to retake the entire course the next year.
For more information about Belgium, please consider the following resources:
- Study in Wallonia/Brussels | www.studyinbelgium.be
- Study in Flanders | www.studyinflanders.be
- U.S. Embassy to Belgium | be.usembassy.gov
- Embassy of Belgium
STUDY IN LUXEMBOURG
The Luxembourgish school system is very different from most schools in the United States. Students who choose to attend lycées classiques begin their high school studies in septième, or “seventh year,” at the age of 12 or 13. The numbers decrease with age; therefore, students in their final year of high school study are called premiers. Students in Luxembourgish high schools take their classes primarily in German and French and begin studying English in their second year (sixième). Schools in Luxembourg begin in mid-September. In addition to the occasional public holiday, students receive long breaks for Toussaint (one week at the beginning of November), Christmas (two weeks at the end of December), Carnival (one week at the beginning of February) Easter (two weeks in March/April), and Pentecost (one week in May). Note that the University of Luxembourg does not follow this schedule.
While several other higher learning institutions existed in the country prior to its establishment, the University of Luxembourg stands as the first and only official university in the country. Established in August 2003, the university prides itself on its capacities for significant research and international reach despite its small size. Its size, with eleven Bachelors and twenty-seven Masters degrees offered, just over 6000 students, and three campuses, is reflective of Luxembourg itself, and it is precisely for this reason that the University has seemed to intentionally keep the institution within certain bounds despite its ongoing and rapid growth.
For more information about Luxembourg, please consider the following resources: