Belgium is a small and densely populated country in northwestern Europe known for its stunning castles and canals, high-quality chocolate, and the best music festivals in the world. It is home to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Bordered by France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands, its strategic location made it a political hub.
Belgium offers a genuine European experience, being at the heart of the continent. But it isn’t only for tourists; it is a remarkable destination for international students, too. In this article, we will be looking at the best Belgian universities for international students.
Is Belgium good for international students to study in?
The pivotal position of Belgium makes it a strong point for internationalization. It fosters a multicultural environment that is welcoming to international students. There are three official languages in the country, namely Dutch, French, and German, while English is widely spoken as well. You can easily learn a second or third language in Belgium, which is valuable in today’s society.
There are many high-ranking universities in Belgium located in student cities like Brussels and Bruges. Programs are taught with an emphasis on collaboration, networking, and innovation. Tuition fees vary for public and private universities but are estimated to be €850 ($1001) a year for EU/EEA citizens and between €1,000 ($1178) and €4,000 ($4712) a year for other nationals.
Furthermore, you can comfortably live in Belgium for around €750 ($883) and €1,100 ($1296) per month. Belgian cities offer many cultural attractions together with accepting and friendly groups of people. These are very affordable rates for a high-quality education while living in one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world.
Can international students work in Belgium while studying?
International students can work in Belgium as long as they are enrolled with a tertiary education institution and hold a valid residence permit. You will need a fixed-term student employment contract called the “single permit.” During the regular semester, you can work up to 20 hours a week, and not in conflicting hours with classes. There is no hour limit in the holidays, including Christmas and summer (July-September).
Can international students stay in Belgium after graduation?
International graduates are generally allowed to stay in Belgium with a few varying conditions depending on nationality, purpose, and length of stay. EU/EEA and Swiss nationals only need a passport or identity card. For non-EU citizens, you need a visa, work permit, and valid residence status. You can apply for a work permit from regional employment agencies. Sometimes, your employer will process your work permit and sponsor your visa.
Belgium recently passed a motion in February 2021 that allows foreign graduates one year to find work. Unlike in previous years, you won’t have to return to your home country after your studies.
Best Universities in Belgium for International Students
1. KU Leuven
KU Leuven, or Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, has been the best university in Belgium for international students for a long time. It offers study programs in various disciplines, including natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, medicine, business, law, and humanities. Most programs are taught in Flemish, but there are many offered in English, especially at the graduate level. KU Leuven is a large university spanning 12 sites where it houses 24 libraries, a university hospital, residence halls, and learning facilities.
While one of Europe’s oldest universities, KU Leuven focuses on progressive and interdisciplinary research and was awarded by Thomas Reuters as the most innovative university in Europe. A rich history meeting cutting-edge research and facilities truly provide the best academic experience for international students.
2. Ghent University (UGent)
Ghent University is a major research university and one of the largest in Belgium. This top university in Belgium for international students has over 36,000 students pursuing degrees in a variety of subject areas, including bio-science engineering, psychology & educational sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, and arts & philosophy, among others. UGent’s campus is located at the city center, while another is at Ostend. Within the grounds are first-rate learning facilities, an extensive library, incubation centers for start-ups, and research centers mostly dealing with sustainability.
UGent engages in many partnerships with institutions in Europe and around the world. It even leads Erasmus Mundus programs in Master of Science in Rural Development and Soils and Global Change. With a global outlook and a broad academic portfolio, international students in UGent sure are provided with a high-quality education.
3. Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain)
The Université Catholique de Louvain is the largest French-speaking university in Belgium and the oldest Catholic institution in Europe. From the 15th century to the present, UCLouvain has been a leading contributor in Catholic theology development. It is often placed among the highest institutions for philosophy, theology, and religious studies. Besides these disciplines, UCLouvain offers quality programs in law & criminology, arts & literature, social & political sciences, educational sciences, engineering, pharmacy, architecture, and medicine.
UCLouvain’s main campus is located in the planned city of Louvain-la-Neuve, and five more campuses are spread throughout the country. Within these premises, student associations called Régionales and Cercles host cultural activities and trips to make international students feel at home.
4. University of Antwerp (UA/UAntwerpen)
The University of Antwerp, one of the best universities in Belgium for international students, was established as a merger of three institutions focusing on business. This history made the university known for its entrepreneurial approach besides a high standard in education. In addition to business and economics, UA offers degree programs in medicine, arts, design science, social sciences, law, engineering, science, and pharmaceutical, veterinary & biomedical sciences. These faculties are housed in six campuses throughout the city of Antwerp.
UA comprises over 20,000 students, 18% of which are international students representing 132 countries. It also has 700 professors and 3,000 tenured researchers focusing on ecology & sustainable development, infectious diseases, and socio-economic policy.
5. Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
The Université Libre de Bruxelles is one of two universities that trace their roots to the Free University of Brussels. It gained independence in 1970 as a French-speaking institution while remaining close to its Dutch-speaking affiliate, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Both universities embody the founding philosophy of freedom of inquiry and knowledge. ULB is highly regarded for its faculty and alumni who are laureates of the Nobel prize, Francqui Prize, Fields Medal, and other prestigious awards.
ULB is a global university with 32% of its study body coming from abroad. Students can choose from over 1000 programs in a broad range of subject areas, including philosophy, history, musicology, legal sciences, economics, criminology, architecture, engineering, medicine, and pharmacy.
6. Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel traces its origins from the Free University of Brussels, similar to its close affiliate, the Université Libre de Bruxelles. VUB has four campuses in Brussels that house its eight faculties: natural sciences, social sciences, life sciences, humanities, law, engineering, physical education, and medicine & pharmacy. While most programs are taught in Dutch, this top university in Belgium also offers 59 courses in English. VUB is strongly research-oriented with an international presence. It has the most cited research articles in all Flemish universities and among the top 200 in the world in research quality.
VUB stands by the principle of academic freedom where students and faculty contribute to the school management decisions. It is open to all students regardless of political, ideological, or cultural background, making international students feel more than welcome.
7. Hasselt University
Hasselt University, next on our list of best universities in Belgium for international students, started with only two faculties in 1973: the Medicine-Dentistry and Sciences. After a successful academic performance in many years, it has grown to six faculties, including architecture, engineering technology, law, and transportation services. Moreover, the institution spearheads innovative research works. It manages six research centers with a broad focus, such as visual computing, biomedicine, material research, digital media, and environmental science.
Hasselt University has gained a good reputation in the international academic stage, ranking among the top 10% worldwide in U-Multirank and 65th in the Times Higher Education Young Universities ranking.
I hope that this article on the top universities in Belgium for international students was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Europe Scholarships Page!