Study in Belgium | Top Universities

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 cuisines and specialties, beautiful countryside, overall high quality of life, and, of course, those fantastic Belgian waffles.

An established hub for international politics, Belgium’s capital Brussels has even more ambassadors and journalists than Washington DC, and is the headquarters of many international businesses and organisations.

As you’d expect, Belgium’s resident population is also highly international, with around a quarter of the population of 11 million known as ‘new Belgians’ – those from other countries, and their descendants, who have become permanent citizens.

If you’re keen to spend time studying in Belgium, click on the tabs below for information about top universities in Belgium, popular student cities, and what steps to take next.

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) 

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

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) 

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)

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

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 

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 

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. 

Compare the top universities in Belgium with the full ranking

Find out more about life in Belgium’s major student cities…

Brussels

Brussels

Belgium’s capital places 50th in the most recent QS Best Student Cities ranking. It has often been called the capital of Europe, due to the many international organisations that call Brussels home. 

Since World War II, Brussels has become the administrative centre of organisations including the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the World Customs Organisation and EUROCONTROL, amongst many others. So, if you intend to study politics, international relations or perhaps translation studies, Brussels should be your go-to Belgian city. 

The city itself goes beyond its reputation as a centre of administration and bureaucracy, offering a thriving nightlife, a world-class collection of restaurants, cafés, bistros and bars, and a unique selection of shopping experiences including open air markets and galleries – the latter are historic, covered shopping streets. Although it’s smaller than most European capitals, cosmopolitan and multilingual Brussels offers plenty in the way of culture and recreation. 

Notable universities in Brussels include the Dutch-speaking Vrije Universiteit Brussel, ranked joint 207th in the QS World University Rankings® 2022, and the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles which is ranked 221st.  

Other prominent universities in Brussels include Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel and the Royal Military Academy. Several international universities also have campuses in Brussels, including the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies and Boston University Brussels

Leuven 

Leuven

Home to the world’s largest brewer group (Anheuser-Busch InBev), and one of the largest hospitals in Europe (UZ Leuven), Leuven is also known for its notable medieval buildings, annual summer music festival Martrock and its famous Arenberg Orchestra – one of many orchestras based in Leuven.  

The city also has a rich beer culture, with bars offering a wide range of local and international varieties – including one bar that claims to offer more than 3,000 different beers.  

Make sure to pay a visit to the Oude Markt and its numerous pubs, bars and cafés, which have earned it the title of the longest bar in the world. While you’re there, see if you can spot the nearby Fons Sapientiae (fountain of wisdom): a famous symbol of Leuven’s student city status. Leuven is also home to one of Belgium’s most famous conservatories, the Lemmens Institute, which is especially well known for its music therapy programs. 

During term-time, students are a major presence in the city. Leuven is home to the highest-ranked Belgian university, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (currently joint 70th in the QS World University Rankings). Also known as KU Leuven or the University of Leuven, this is Belgium’s largest university, with more than 58,000 students. It’s also believed to be the oldest university in Belgium, and the oldest Catholic university still in existence. 

Other universities in Leuven include the autonomous Vlerick Business School (a management school shared by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Ghent University), as well as several vocational universities such as the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (KH Leuven) and the university college Groep T (Group T), which offers engineering and teaching courses. 

Overall, Leuven ranks 44th in the QS Best Student Cities ranking. 

Liège 

Liège

Liège is a large industrial city in Wallonia and serves as the region’s principal economic and cultural centre. While its main industries are coal, steel and gunsmithing, Liège is also well known for its crowded folk festivals, nightlife, annual jazz festival, alternative cinemas, and for hosting one of the oldest and biggest Christmas markets in Belgium. The city also boasts one of Europe’s strongest digital, technological and internet-oriented services industries. 

Other attractions in Liège include a range of museums; 16th and 17th century architecture; the 400-step stairway Montagne de Bueren; and the Saint Nicholas festival – organized by and for university students, who dress up in dirty lab-coats and beg for money for drinks. Liège has a pedestrian zone known locally as the Square, where you can find plenty of pubs, many of which stay open until 6am – or until the last customer leaves. Liège is also home to a large Italian community, along with large numbers of Moroccan, Algerian, and Turkish immigrants. 

The city is a major educational hub, home to over 20,000 students, both local and international. The University of Liège is ranked joint 480th in the QS World University Rankings 2022, and is also known for its HEC Management School.  

Other prominent higher educational institutions in Liège include ISA Lambert Lombard (the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Liège), the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Liège, an arts school offering undergraduate and graduate courses, and La Haute Ecole de la Province de Liège, a college providing undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

Antwerp 

Antwerp

The second-largest city in Belgium, Antwerp is well-known for famous Flemish painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens, diamonds (more than 70 percent of all diamonds are traded in Antwerp), fashion (of particular note are the Antwerp Six) and for having the second-largest port in Europe.  

The city also offers a range of interesting attractions, including the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and the prestigious Royal Fine Art Museum, as well as many historical buildings from different periods. Even Antwerp Zoo, one of the oldest in the world, boasts impressive 19th century design and architecture. 

As you might expect from its strong association with fashion, Antwerp is known as something of a trend-setter. Intellectuals, actors, musicians, writers and painters spend their time in the city’s many trendy bars, cafés and shops or enjoying its flourishing jazz scene. Antwerp is also famous for local products such as Bolleke (an amber beer), Elixir D’Anvers (a locally made liquor), and hand-shaped biscuits (connected to local folklore). 

Among universities in Antwerp, the most prominent is the University of Antwerp, ranked joint 233rd in the QS World University Rankings and. With 20,800 registered students it’s the third-largest university in the Flemish region. Antwerp also has several university colleges, including Charlemagne University College (Karel de Grote Hogeschool), Plantin University College (Plantijn Hogeschool), and Artesis University College Antwerp

Bruges 

Bruges

Bruges is known for being one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in Western Europe, and its historic city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Its narrow canals and ancient buildings mean Bruges is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. The city has many famous buildings and landmarks, including an impressive 13th century belfry.  

Bruges also has a collection of medieval and early modern art, along with plenty of theatres, concert halls, museums and cinemas. The city is host to a range of cultural, music and food festivals and is the starting town for one of the biggest sporting events in Belgium – the Tour of Flanders cycle race. 

While its constant influx of visitors gives Bruges a tourist town feel, there’s plenty for students too. The city is an important centre for education, with notable universities in Bruges including the Katholieke Hogeschool Brugge-Oostende (KHBO) and the Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen (HOWEST – Howest University in English).  

Bruges is also the main campus for the College of Europe, which offers postgraduate studies with a focus on European economics, law and politics. Also based in Bruges is the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), a research and training institute of the United Nations University

Ghent

Ghent

Ghent’s combination of well-preserved medieval architecture and Gothic buildings creates a charming cityscape, including a port, network of narrow canals, a wealth of quirky bars and restaurants, a range of turreted cathedrals, and a castle. There are lots of fascinating museums – with the top three being SMAK, a Museum of Contemporary Art; STAM, which explores the city’s history; and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten for fine art. 

The University of Ghent, one of the larger Flemish universities, is Belgium’s second highest-ranked institution, at 141st in the QS World University Rankings 2022. University colleges associated with the University of Ghent include Hogeschool Gent and Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen. 

Also of note for students is the city of Louvain-la-Neuve, home to Belgium’s third ranked institution, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain), ranked 188th in the QS World University Rankings 2022. In the Wallonia region, Louvain-la-Neuve was purpose-built to house its university, although recent developments such as the L'Esplanade shopping complex, the Aula Magna exhibition centre and auditorium, and a large cinema complex, have allowed it to grow beyond its academic roots. 

Find programs at top universities across Belgium with QS Course Finder

Applying to universities in Belgium

In order to apply to study in Belgium at undergraduate level, you must hold a secondary school leaving certificate that is recognized by the relevant authorities, or an equivalence statement for that certificate. There are different authorities to contact for equivalence statements, depending on whether you’re applying to attend a university in the French Communityin the Flemish Community, or in the German-speaking Community

Applications to study in Belgium are submitted individually to each university, and specific admissions requirements are set by each institution. In general, those wanting to study medicine, dentistry, arts, management and (only in the French Community) engineering sciences must take an entrance exam. You may also need to take an exam to prove your proficiency in French or Dutch. You’ll also need to pay your tuition fees before you can be fully enrolled. 

Tuition fees in Belgium

For Belgian and other EU students, higher education is financed mostly by the state. Nonetheless, students must pay an annual registration fee for every year of their studies. The amount varies depending on the higher education institution, the type of program and students’ eligibility for financial aid. 

Tuition fees in Belgium also differ depending on whether the program is offered by an institution in the Flemish, German-speaking, or French community. Students from the EU will pay around €961.90 (~£820) per year, while international students from outside the EU will pay around €3,100 (~£2,650) and may need to pay additional registration fees.  

However, the specific tuition fees you’ll pay depends on the institution and program. You can obtain specific information about the total fees amount by contacting your chosen institution. 

Student accommodation in Belgium

University accommodation in Belgium is often readily available for short-term or international students. However, if you wish to rent a private flat, it’s often necessary to sign a one-year contract. Expect to pay between €150 (£128) and €400 (£340) per month, depending on whether you prefer university housing or private accommodation, and depending on where you study in Belgium. If you rent your own one-bed apartment, this is likely to cost around €722 (~£620) per month in a city centre, or €611 (~£525) outside the centre. 

Home-stays are also popular in Belgium, and give students a chance to learn about Belgian culture first-hand, while possibly improving their language skills. However, this option is more commonly used by short-term students studying in a language school.  

Contact your university’s student support services or international student department for further information on finding student accommodation in Belgium. 

Find out how to get a student visa for Belgium

Fast Facts

  • Official name: Kingdom of Belgium
  • Capital city is Brussels – the headquarters of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • Constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy and unique federal government
  • Official languages: French, Dutch and German
  • The Flemish region (Flanders), the Walloon region (Wallonia) and the Brussels-Capital region each have autonomous regional administrations.
  • Three language communities: the Flemish (a form of Dutch) Community in the north, the French Community in the south, and the German-speaking Community in the east
  • Borders with France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the North Sea
  • Major exports include machinery and electrical equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, and foodstuffs.
  • Known for delicious chocolates, waffles, French fries and a huge selection of beers
  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Major religion: Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant)
  • An estimated 99% of the adult population is literate.
  • More castles per square mile than any other country
  • Blankenberge in the Flemish region hosts the largest sand sculpture festival in the world.
  • Internet domain: .be
  • International dialing code: +32