Study in Belgium

Are you planning to go abroad for higher studies? Are you curious to know about education options in Belgium? Are you willing to know about the student visa f Belgium, your living cost there, etc in detail? If yes, then you are at right place. Please get all the details from the below post.

Belgium Overview

Belgium has an official name as “Kingdom of Belgium” and it is a European country situated in Western Europe. It is surrounded by Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Belgium is a small country and occupying area of around 30,528 sq kilometers and has more than 11 million populations.
Belgium has 2 main populations- Flemish Dutch-speaking community which is around 59% of the total populations and Walloon French-speaking populations which is around 40% of the Belgians.
The largest city and the capital of Belgium is ‘Brussels’. Other main cities of the country are Ghent, Antwerp, Liege, and Charleroi.
Belgium is having a parliamentary system of governance with the federal constitutional monarchy. The whole country is divided into 3 autonomous regions and 3 different communities named as- the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders located in the North, the German-speaking cantons in the East and most of the part is occupied by French-speaking Wallonia region in the South.
The geography of Belgium consists of 3 main regions- central plateau and the coastal plains in the northwest belonging to the Anglo-Belgian Basin and the last one is Ardennes uplands in the southeast.

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About Belgium

Belgium is a small country but it still plays an important role and consistently ranks among the top countries in the world to live. It is having the multicultural lifestyle and offers various global services and facilities. It has 3 official languages- French, German and Dutch and also holds a considerable population of the international community. Other famous things here are fries, chocolates, beer, and Tintin.
The education in Belgium is financed by 3 communities- Flemish, French and German speaking and it well regulated. Each community has its own schooling system with a minute difference with each other. The federal government of Belgium has a very small role in school management end it only decides the mandatory age for schooling and looks after the financing indirectly for the communities.
The School system of Belgium has 3 groups-
  1. Subsidized Public schoolsThese schools are organized by provinces and municipalities of Belgium.

  2. Schools owned by the communities

  3. Subsidized free schoolsThese schools are mainly organized by an organization affiliated to the Catholic church of Belgium. These schools are having the largest number of students and branches.

The education is mandatory/ compulsory for the age group of 6 to 18 years or we can say till graduation the study is compulsory in Belgium.

Quick Facts

  1. The capital of Belgium is Brussels and it is the largest city of the country.

  2. It has 3 official languages- Dutch, French and German.

  3. It occupies the total area of around 30,528 sq kilometers.

  4. As per the recent data, the population is 11,358,357 of the country.

  5. The currency is Euro (EUR).

  6. The calling code is +32 and the ISO 316 code is BE.

  7. Belgium is a big world export player and it exports worth more than EUR 400 billion.

  8. It is the 5th smallest country in the European Union and Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Slovenia are smaller than Belgium.

  9. Belgium citizens are rich and for them, the work-life balance is very important.

  10. Most of Belgium’s population is educated. It ranks 8th in the world for education expenditure. They spend around 19 years in education.

Admission Process in Belgium

B>Higher educationIt is managed by only 2 communities that are Flemish and French and the German speakers go for enrollment in any of them. They have universities and university colleges for the students who are willing to pursue higher education. The available field ate medicine, Arts, dentistry, management science, engineering science, etc.

Universities in Belgium

Belgium has 2 main universities attracting international students for higher education-
Hasselt UniversityIt is a private university established in the year 1973. It has the programs following current educational concepts and an international dimension to support the international students. It has around 6 faculties to control and manage teaching and research. It has around 6500 students, 1300 staff and 525 doctoral staff including 38% of international students.
There are 3 programs available in this university-
  1. Master of Biomedical Sciences-The fee is around 2.7 Lakhs (INR) per year and requires language proficiency with score 6 in IELTS and 79 in TOEFL.

  2. Master of Management-It has around 1.8Lakhs (INR) fee per year and the eligibility criteria includes IELTS score as 6.5 and TOEFL score as 79.

  3. Master of Statistics-the annual fee is around 1.8Lakhs (INR) per year and the language proficiency is almost same as it is for Master for Biomedical Science.

Vrije Universiteit BrusselThis is again a private university, established in the year 1834. It is very old, maintaining high-quality standards of teaching and is an internationally oriented university. It is located in the heart of Europe, in Brussels.
It is the only university offering education in only English in diverse disciplines. It has more than 20% international students from around 120 countries.
Apart from these 2 universities, there are some colleges which are also playing role in creating skilled professionals. These are Erasmus University College Brussels, Odisee University, Vesalius College Brussels, United Business Institutes, etc.

Below are the main courses available in this university-
  1. Master of Science in Management

  2. Master in Applied Sciences and Engineering- Applied Computer Science

  3. M.Sc. in International Business

  4. M.Sc. in Business Engineering- Business and Technology

  5. Master of Science in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management

  6. European Euromaster in Urban Studies

The annual fee for all the courses ranges between 7Lakhs to 9Lakhs per year. Students need to score more than 6 and 75 in IELTS and TOEFL respectively to become eligible for these courses.

Student Visa Application Process

Whenever you decide to study in a foreign country, the student visa is required and it is the same with Belgium. There are some exceptions like students from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Union Member State do not require a visa to study in Belgium. They need to have a national identity card which they need to present to the customs officer after arriving in Belgium. European students just have 3 basic conditions to fulfill-
  • They need to get an acceptance or approved enrollment at the University or any other educational institution.

  • They also need to have sufficient income or financial proofs to live in Belgium without any other income support.

  • A comprehensive health cover is compulsory for all international students.

Students from some other countries like the US also do not require Visa if they intend to stay in Belgium for less than 90 days. Students from all other countries require obtaining a student visa to study in Belgium.
The student from the Republic of China need to get an academic evaluation certificate from the Academic Assessment center (APS) and this will authorize them to enroll in universities or higher education institutions in Belgium. This academic evaluation includes technical assessment and an interview and the APS certificate is must get a student visa for Belgium.

To get an approved Visa, following steps (divided into parts) to be followed-

Part 1- Application preparation

Before applying for a visa, you should first do all the preparation for the same as mentioned below-
  • Whether you need a visa or not-The requirement of visa vary depending upon different factors. If you are a student from the member state of the European Union, a visa is not your requirement to study in Belgium. If you are a native of any other country then you will require obtaining a visa.
    In case of any confusion regarding this, it is advised to contact your nearest Belgian consulate and they will determine about your visa requirement.

  • Contact your nearest Belgian Consulate-Consulates are nothing but the officials responsible for national government-related affairs abroad. They are also handling the student's visa affairs and you need to find the nearest to where you are staying. Please note that the exact application process may vary from one consulate office to another.

  • Start in advance-It takes a lot of time to prepare and to process your visa application. So, you need to plan accordingly. If you are planning for a long stay visa, you should contact your nearest consulate minimum 2 months before your departure date. So, documents preparation should be started long before that.


Part 2- Eligibility determination

This part includes checking various requisites for Belgian students visa-
  • Find out your eligibility-There are 4 main prerequisites one should fulfill to become eligible for Belgian students visa and they are- Academic enrollment, sufficient financial support, medically healthy and clean criminal record. You must check these points before applying for visa otherwise your application will be denied and you will lose all your fee.

  • Enrollment in an accredited education Belgian program-You should enroll yourself in a government recognized and accredited university/ Institute and should pay your registration fee before applying for the visa. You should enroll in a regular full-time course. If your visa does not get approved, the registration fee will be refunded to you without any issue.

  • Financial capability-This is one of the very important requirement you should meet before you apply for student visa. You should have ‘sufficient means of subsistence’ means you must be able to prove that you are able to stay in Belgium on your own. You need to prove that you have enough money to take care of your healthcare costs, traveling expenses, cost of living, tuition, etc.

  • Health certificate-You should not have any infectious diseases like tuberculosis. You need to provide a medical health certificate to prove that you do not have any such diseases. This can be obtained from any doctor.

  • A clean crime record-If you are over the age of 21 years, you need to provide a certificate mentioning about your clean criminal record.


Part 3- Arrange your application documents


  • Fill up and sign the application-The application is available in different languages including French, Dutch, and German. You need to fill in all your personal information, about your intention to stay in Belgium, your duration of stay there, etc.

  • Fill your language form-The Belgian government has the rule to reply in their official language only. So as a part of your application, you need to fill a form mentioning about the language in which you want to receive the response. It can be German, Dutch and French. The form should be filled with personal details same as mentioned on the passport.

  • Availability of your passport-For applying for student visa, the availability of valid passport is the must. The passport should have at least 2 blank pages and should have the validity of 15 months from the date of your application. It is not fulfilling the above-mentioned requirement, you must apply for the renewal before applying for visa.

  • Details of nationwide criminal record-It is required for the students with 21 years of age or above. This is just to prove that you do not have any criminal record. It can be obtained through FBI where it refers to ‘Identity History Summary Check’. This step takes a longer duration of around 12-14 weeks so you need to plan accordingly in advance. In emergency cases when you are running short on time, you can get it done through “FBI Channeler” by paying their fee. This document should be dated within 6 months of your application submission.

  • Medical examination-Once the above-mentioned steps completed, now it’s the time to go for medical examination. This certificate is to be enclosed with your visa application. A doctor who can verify your health status can complete this form. You should not have any infectious or communicable disease at the time of application.
    You may need to notarize this certificate depending upon the consulate you are applying through. The validity of this document is 3 months only.

  • Proof of financial capability-You also need to submit a proof of your financial solvency and it can be even a scholarship form if you have received. You can also include the receipt that you have already paid for your tuition fee.
    In case of scholarship, you need to get a signed declaration and get it notarized to submit. You also need to enclose it with government-issued identification documents, tax returns on your name, etc.

  • Supporting letter-You need to include a letter with the application mentioning about your desired study during the stay in Belgium. You should mention how it will be advantageous and will contribute to your successful career, why you have chosen Belgium to study, etc.

  • Passport size photos-The application needs 2-3 passport sized photos. This step does not require much time. The face must be clear and you should be simply dressed and should have a neutral expression for this photo. It should not be older than 2 months.

  • A self-addressed prepaid envelope-This envelope must be big enough to manage your application documents. It is required self-addressed because they will send your visa and other supporting documents you after processing your application.



Part 4- Finalize your application


  • Submission of form and fee payment-Once all the documents are prepared and arranged, you can submit the application at the nearest consulate and even can send all the documents through email. For personal submission, you need to call and get an appointment with the consulate. Although the personal submission of application is expensive, it is better to take this option as it simplifies to process the application. At the time of submission, check the current fee and pay the same. It is around $200 for processing your visa application.

  • Sit and wait-It takes around 5-8 weeks to application processing. You can get the definite information from the consulate. The time will be longer in case of discrepancy in documents. It is advised not to contact the officer frequently as it will not fasten the work and even frustrate them.

  • Arrival in Belgium-So finally you got your visa and arrived in Belgium. Please note that you must keep your visa and other application documents with you while traveling to Belgium. Once arrived, you need to visit local municipal administration within 8 days of your arrival and they will issue a residence permit which is required to stay and travel in Belgium.

Lifestyle

Belgium does not has any accommodation issues for those who are coming here for a limited period. There are many furnished apartments known as ‘aparthotels’.
For people with an intention of a longer stay, there is a wide range of rented and owner-occupied housing and it can be found within the city and even in suburbs. People can have as per their choice from studio apartments to villas. One can also have a choice of property in rural residential areas.

Healthcare

The Healthcare is also having an excellent standard in Belgium. You can find high-quality medical care options all over the country. Large university hospitals are also available with high-class facilities. The healthcare facilities are considered cheaper than the US in Belgium. It is expected that it will become a hotspot for medical tourism from nearby countries.

Food habits in Belgium-

Belgium has a good variety of restaurants offering quality foods. As per the Michelin guide for Belgium for the year 2016, Belgium has 3 restaurants with a 3-star rating, 20 restaurants with a 2-star rating and around 117 restaurants with a one-star rating. The street food in Belgium is also very famous and is counted among the top 10 destinations in the world for the same.
Belgium is considered as a capital of great unique beers. All the major cities and towns in Belgium have bars of different types including trendy lounges, old Flemish hostelries, etc and offer various best-tasting beers in the world.

Entertainment-

Belgium has impressive museums, attractive and lively theatre scene and have picturesque historical towns to visit. Belgium is also famous for castles and it has more castles per kilometer than any other country in the world.
They also have many colorful festivals and carnival to enjoy their life.

The weather and bureaucracy in Belgium

If we talk about the weather, Belgium has a significant amount of rainfall during the whole year and that is many times frustrating for the local citizens.
The bureaucracy is also very much complicated and challenging because of a complex government system and complicated relationships between the different language groups.

Cost of Living for Students

Belgium is neither very expensive nor very cheap with we talk about the cost of living. The actual cost always varies depending on different factors like your accommodation, your eating habits, overall lifestyle, etc.

Accommodation cost-A rented house with decent amenities like garage, balcony, etc will cost you around EUR 750 and the cost of other utilities will be extra. You will need to pay extra for hot water and heating and the charge is around EUR 125. These charges vary according to the locations and houses in Flanders are more expensive than Wallonia.
The electricity is a bit reasonable and for internet and cable, one can get different combination packages and they can buy anyone as per their suitability. The Internet is cheaper than the cable in Belgium.
People also get insurance or better say is ‘household’ insurance. It is for theft, natural disasters, etc and it costs around EUR 95 per year.

Food and GroceriesColruyt is the cheapest supermarket chain in Belgium. It is advised to shop for the entire week in one go and this will save some money for you. You can also save by preferring local water then the branded ones as the tap water is also safe and drinkable in Belgium.
For a family of 2, the grocery will be around EUR 300 to 400 per month.

Sports and hobby classesIt is the concern for people tending to stay longer in Belgium. Every sport and hobby has its own cost. In general trend, the classes for children are cheaper than the classes getting conducted for adults.
One can find good sports clubs all around the country with varying fee structures. They usually have 2 options- you can either pay for one school year or half school year depending upon your choice.

TransportPublic transport is always cheaper than other options and Belgium has bus companies and National Railroad Company as public transport options. One can have a pass for a specific route and specific period to save money as you can have many rides between those routes, many times during that period.
The train rides charge half rates from Friday evening until Sunday night.

Documents for University Admissions in Belgium

Although the details process for student visa application is mentioned above, you can get a summarized list of required documents from below-
  1. A duly filled and signed student visa application form.

  2. A passport with at least 15 months validity from the date of application is required. Any other equivalent travel documents can also be used.

  3. A proof of your financial condition that you are able to bear your expenses while staying in Belgium.

  4. A medical certificate that you are not suffering from any infectious or communicable disease.

  5. A police certificate of good conducting.

  6. A proof of enrollment in an affiliated university or institute in Belgium is required. It must be done for a full-time course.

  7. Documents for your diploma or certification from secondary school. You may also need to submit the supporting documents for your previous qualification.

  8. A supporting letter mentioning about the course you will be pursuing in Belgium, why it will be beneficial to your career and why you have selected Belgium to pursue this program.


Work permit for students in Belgium

Students can apply for a work permit known as ‘Belgian work permit C’ at the regional employment agencies in Belgium. For this, students need to have a valid residence permit and a confirmed enrollment in a full-time course. Students can work for 20 hours a week without overlapping their classes.
They also need to have a written contract from their employer which is known as ‘Student employment contract’.

The education system of Belgium has different levels and these are the same for all the community schools. Details are as mentioned below-
Preschool educationIt is free for all the students from the age of 2 and half years and goes till the age of 6 years. These schools focus on the development of kids in a playful manner, in improving cognitive skills of kids, their expressing ability, their communication skills and their creativity. There are no lessons planned or assignments designed at this level and the teaching is done in play mode only.
Although this school is not compulsory, most of the kids attend preschool education. In most of the cases, preschools are in connects with primary schools by sharing the building and other facilities. They also have some special pre-school facilities for the differently abled kids.
Primary schoolingThis level is for 6 years duration which is divided into 3 different cycles- the First cycle includes 1 and 2nd year, the Second cycle includes 3rd and 4th year and the Third cycle includes 5th and 6th year. The primary school education is free in Belgium and the admission is offered on the basis of age only.
During this stage, students get skilled in writing, reading and very basic mathematics. Some important topics from different subjects are also included in the curriculum like music, biology, history, religion, etc.
Language is also taught from the first cycle of primary education and French community schools also teach another language like Dutch or English.
Secondary SchoolAfter completing the Primary school at the age of 12, kids enter Secondary schools. It is also having 6 years span with the same 3 cycles as there in the Primary education. In secondary school education, kids have to choose the course of their interests and their skills.
The first cycle of secondary education focuses on providing the broad general basis and asks the students to choose from Latin, Mathematics, and technology. It prepares the students for second and third cycles which are more specific in subjects. Apart from all the elective subjects, students also have some compulsory subjects including first language, sports, etc.
The secondary education has 4 main types- General Secondary Education, Technical secondary Education, Vocational Secondary Education and Art Secondary Education. General education includes subjects like ancient Greek, Sciences (physics, biology, and chemistry), geography, modern languages, Economics, sociology, psychology, Mathematics.
Technical education has 2 main types- TTK and STK. TTK courses are more towards technical part and STK focuses on practical part. This education includes languages, mathematics, science, history, geography, etc. After completing this part, students can have a job and even have an option to continue their studies.
Vocational education is completely professional and students can select any job-specific field as per their interest. It can be the car machines, carpentry, masonry, jewelry, etc.
The Art education teaches about different arts fro performance arts to visual arts. It also includes dancing, acting, musical arts, etc.

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