Studying in Brussels

Universities in Brussels
Updated 2023-10-03 07:10

Brussels is a great city to live and work in, and consequently, it also has a lot to offer prospective students, whether an Erasmus experience or a long-term course of study. There are many different universities to choose from, with lots of courses and master's on offer. These are available in French, Dutch, and English, and you can always take a language course alongside your program of study. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about studying in Brussels.

A very cosmopolitan place, it should come as no surprise to learn that Brussels universities are just as diverse as the city itself and people come from all around Europe and further afield to study at its higher education institutions. While most of the Bachelor courses are taught in either French or Dutch, an increasing number of Masters are taught in English. As Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, many courses look at business, economics, and politics in Europe.

Universities in Brussels

There is quite a wide range of universities for prospective students to choose from, so it is a good idea to carefully research your options before diving into a course of study. The following are some of the city's most well-known universities, and each has lots of international students attending classes.

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) is one of the most popular universities amongst international students, making up over a third of the student body. Founded back in 1834, it has a very comprehensive list of courses for you to choose from, and over the years, six Nobel Prize winners have studied or researched at ULB. It has around 40 undergraduate programmes and 250 graduate programmes for you. Most of the courses are in French, although some of the Masters are in English. There are 12 faculties, and you can study most of the sciences, including medicine and engineering.
If you want to join a forward-looking university, ULB is an excellent choice. What's more, the university is known for its interest in debate and is one of Belgium's leading advocates of women's rights and reproductive rights, so you'll be right at the heart of all the action.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) split off from ULB in 1970, and most people who go there study in Dutch, although there are now lots of Masters courses in English which appeal to international students. It is a very innovative university, and many people also come here to research various fields. Whether it is nuclear engineering, football business, or European policymaking you're interested in, VUB should have a course ideally suited to your learning needs.

VUB has four main campuses: Health, Technology, Humanities, Engineering and Photonics. These four campuses are located in Jette, Anderlecht, Elsene, and Gooik, respectively. There are eight faculties, all striving to educate, research, and serve the community.
If you're looking for a university with a strong research focus, the VUB is the place to be.

Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles offers several Bachelor's programs in law, economics, social sciencestranslation, and interpreting, as well as some interesting Master's courses and specialized Doctorate programmes. However, the emphasis is on the social sciences and humanities. If you're interested in these subjects, this could be the university for you. Université Saint-Louis de Bruxelles is also renowned for its research facilities. It boasts 17 research centers frequented by regional, federal, and even international organizations.
Four thousand students of over 70 different nationalities attend the university, located in the center of Brussels, every year. Some courses are taught in all three languages: English, French and Dutch! Note that before 2012, this university was known as Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis, but at the end of 2018, they adopted the name Université Saint-Louis, or UCLouvain.

Brussels School of International Studies is actually a part of the University of Kent in the UK that is based in Brussels. It has a very international outlook, so all its programmes examine such subjects as conflict analysis, human rights law, migration, and international development. You can study for Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate degrees. All courses are in English, and conferences are often organized with guest speakers from the European Commission and NATO. Students of over 45 nationalities from five continents attend the Brussels School of International Studies. Thus, you'll find a very diverse atmosphere. One of the unique features of the Brussels School of International Studies is that its library is entirely digital. You won't have to worry about borrowing books at a physical library. You can access all resources directly online.

Vlerick Business School is one of the top-rated business schools in Europe. It's the best university in the Benelux for executive education. It ranks in the top 20 for all of Europe. It is a triple-accredited university, meaning its teaching is of the highest quality.
The school offers a wide range of business programs to attract international students — from digital transformation and entrepreneurship to marketing and sales and human resources management and leadership. Only 650 students take courses here each year, and these MBA and Masters students come from over 40 different countries. Courses are organized to maintain small, dynamic classes. The Vlerick Business School has three physical campuses in Brussels, Leuven, and Ghent. Many courses are also organized online, so you don't always have to attend them in person.

The Royal Conservatory of Brussels ("Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel" in Dutch and "Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles" in French) offers top-quality teaching in music and drama. Many famous and talented musicians, artists, and actors have attended this university in the past. It is a higher arts school run by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Today, more than 650 students come here from all five continents.
What's interesting to note is that since 1967, this university has existed in two distinct parts: one where combinations are taught in Dutch and the other in French. Consequently, it could be a little complicated if you don't speak either of these two languages, as courses will be administered in a language you don't understand.

The European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) is a university specializing in European affairs. If you're interested in a career in this field, seriously consider applying to this university, primarily as it strongly focuses on lobbying. It also offers Master's programs in legal studies.
EIPA is not only located in Brussels. You'll also find it in Maastricht (Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain) and Luxembourg.

Interested in a career in business? The United Business Institutes Brussels campus offers BA, DBA, and MBA programmes. The advantage of attending this university is that it can issue you a European validation from Middlesex University London. It will be straightforward to transfer your academic credits in business from one university to another if necessary.

The United International Business School is another business school you may want to consider. It has campuses in Brussels and Antwerp. As with the United Business Institutes, you can transfer your academic business credits to and from different universities. You can do so quarterly, making it a very flexible university. This private, accredited institution offers both Bachelor's and Master's programmes in business management and language and cultural studies, which will undoubtedly come in handy in business matters.

Living in Brussels and studying elsewhere

As Belgium is relatively small, it is feasible to live in Brussels and study at a university in one of the neighboring cities. Ghent and Leuven, for instance, are just short train journeys away, and both cities have a very vibrant student life. The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) is the top-rated university in the country. It has fifteen faculties teach a range of courses, with around 60,000 students attending its programmes. While it is very international, it also offers many scholarships to students from developing countries. Ghent University is another large university with around 49,000 students. It's one of the top 100 universities in the world and one of the best in Belgium. With 11 faculties and over 200 courses, you'll be spoilt for choice. Although many of the courses in its 11 faculties are taught in Dutch, the university also offers a growing number of courses in English.

How to study in Belgium

Once you decide on a university and course, it's time to apply. Each programme of study has its own requirements for admissions, so take a careful look and see if you meet the criteria or send the university staff an email if you're not sure. While most Bachelor's courses require a secondary school diploma from either Belgium or abroad, you may need to take an entrance exam for some. Depending on where you come from, you may also get tested on your language skills.

Once you get accepted, you can apply for a visa if you need one to study in Belgium. Here, you'll need your acceptance letter from the university, proof of your qualifications, and a statement concerning your finances to show that you have enough money to support yourself for the duration of your course. If you are from outside the European Union, then you may have to get your school qualifications legalized in Belgium beforehand. For more information regarding how to apply for your student visa, the Belgian Immigration Office has everything that you'll need.

University fees in Belgium

While university fees fluctuate quite substantially depending on your course and whether it's a Bachelor's, Master's, or PhD, in general, prices in Brussels are very cheap and affordable. At VUB, for instance, fees for the 2019-2020 academic year stand at less than 250 euros for many of its Bachelor's and Master's courses. Prices barely rise for students from outside the European Union as courses cost around 300 euros, although some masters at VUB do cost about 1,500 euros. At the other end of the scale, Vlerick Business School's MBA costs 38,000 euros for the year, not including accommodation, food, or transport over your time in Brussels. As you can see, there is a vast difference between the two universities, so it is best to thoroughly research all the options available before making your choice.

Student accommodation in Brussels

The good news is that most Brussels universities have on-campus accommodation. However, applying well in advance is always a good idea, as they're always in high demand. If you don't act quickly enough, you could be placed on the waiting list, which means you'll have to be lucky to get accommodation in the campus dorms.
And if you're unlucky or don't like living on campus, you can rent off campus. The most popular choice for students is an apartment. It's nice and generally cheap. However, you'll lose out in terms of privacy, but it's still an excellent compromise. Another option is to rent a studio apartment. It's more expensive, but you'll have your personal space. You can even rent a 1-bedroom apartment with a roommate. The downside of living off-campus is that you'll have to travel for your classes. Depending on how far away you are, this can mean wasting time traveling when you could be studying instead.

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