Higher education in Wallonia-Brussels

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The higher education system in Wallonia-Brussels is fully integrated into the European Higher Education Area.

* For more information about this Area and about the « Bologna Process » that paved the way for its creation, please consult the Web site www.ehea.info.

It is the fruit of the efforts made by Wallonia-Brussels to uphold the quality of higher education, to ensure the promotion of student mobility, as well as the modernisation, internationalisation and democratisation of its academic system.

This also means that the degree obtained in Wallonia-Brussels will be easily recognised in the 47 countries of the European Higher Education Area and worldwide.

The higher education institutions of Wallonia-Brussels issue Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees corresponding to three levels of study and to a defined number of ECTS credits.

The higher education in Wallonia-Brussels offers a wide choice of study programs. Students have the possibility of undertaking short-term programs of study (generally more professionally-oriented) or long-term programs (academic). The courses are taught in different institutions classed according to the type of education in which they specialise:

  • University education: the universities

or

  • Non-university higher education: the university colleges and art academies.
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Universities

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The universities offer cutting-edge education in the chosen field of study as well as a solid general training and introduction to scientific research.

Recognised and subsidised by Federation Wallonia-Brussels, the universities cover all fields of study, offering courses in areas as various as economics and management, engineering, information and communication, languages and literature, history, medical sciences, politics, psychology, architecture ...

There are six universities in Wallonia-Brussels grouped in three Academies:


 Organisation of studies

The programs offered by the universities are organised into three levels of study:

  •  Undergraduate courses (transition courses) last for 3 years (180 credits) and lead to the conferral of a Bachelor’s Degree.
  •  Graduate studies (« specialisation» courses) lead to the conferral of a:

            • Master’s degree after 1 year (60 credits) or 2 years (120 credits);

            • veterinary degree after 3 years (180 credits);

            • medical degree after 4 years (240 credits).

The graduate studies can also lead to the conferral of a Complementary Master’s degree (60 credits at least). This degree makes it possible to acquire a specialised professional qualification and is only open to students who already hold a Master’s degree.

  • Postgraduate studies lead to the conferral of the academic title of doctor after defending a doctoral thesis. See Doctoral studies.

Universities play a leading role in scientific research in Wallonia-Brussels. Rewarded by numerous international prizes, research within the universities covers various fields. The excellence of the university research teams allows the students to keep their finger on the pulse of the most recent advances in science.

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University colleges

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The university colleges (hautes écoles) are non-university higher education institutions whose courses prepare for specific professional practices.

The 20 university colleges in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels offer undergraduate courses (short-term courses) or undergraduate and graduate courses (long-term courses), in eight areas of studies:

  • Agronomics;
  • Applied arts;
  • Economics;
  • Paramedical;
  • Education;
  • Social;
  • Technology;
  • Translation and Interpretation. 

Organisation of studies

The undergraduate courses (short-term courses) lead to the conferral of the Bachelor’s degree. They correspond to 180 to 240 credits which can be acquired in three or four years of study. These courses are both practical and theoretical and often lead directly to the exercise of a specific profession. Some university colleges also offer a year of specialisation at the end of this undergraduate course.

The combined undergraduate and graduate courses (long-term courses) offer cutting-edge scientific and technological programs that lead to the conferral of a:

  • Bachelor’s degree, at the end of the undergraduate course. This course of training corresponds to 180 credits vouching for the completion of three years of study. This undergraduate course offers a general scientific training and a specific training ensuring the “transition” towards the graduate course.
  • Master’s degree, at the end of the graduate course. This course of training corresponds to 60 or 120 ECTS credits that can be acquired in one or two years of study. The Master’s studies consist of a specialisation in the chosen discipline.

Please note: the long-term courses organised by the university colleges are of university level. In fact, there is equivalence between the degrees delivered by the universities and the university colleges.

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Art academies

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The art academies of Wallonia-Brussels are higher education institutions that organise courses combining theory and practical activities in the following four artistic fields:

  • fine, visual and spatial arts
  • music
  • dramatic art and art of oratory
  • performing arts and broadcasting and communication techniques.

Organisation of studies

The art academies organise their studies as an undergraduate course (short-term course) or as a combined undergraduate and graduate course (long-term course).

The undergraduate courses (short-term courses) the so-called « vocational » cycles lead to the conferral of the Bachelor’s degree. They correspond to 180 credits that can be acquired in three years of studies. These studies generally lead to the exercise of a specific profession upon completion of the course.

The combined undergraduate and graduate courses (long courses) include:

  • an initial transition program of study leading to the conferral of a Bachelor’s degree. Its duration is of three years (180 credits).
  • a second program of study leading to the conferral of a Master’s degree. This course, that ensures specialisation in a specific discipline, corresponds to 60 or 120 credits that can be acquired in one or two years of study.

To be admitted to the art academies, it is necessary to fulfil, on the one hand, the general admission requirements to higher education and, on the other hand, to pass the entrance examination organised by the institution to evaluate the artistic skills of the applicants. See How to apply

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Titles and degrees conferred

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The degrees conferred by the higher education institutions of Wallonia-Brussels are Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate.

These degrees are easily recognizable and comparable throughout the European Higher Education Area, which facilitates the mobility of students as well as their insertion in the work field.

Each higher education institution in Wallonia-Brussels issues a free copy (in French or English if the student so requests) of the Supplement to the Diploma, a document that lists the courses followed, the structure of the studies, the academic and professional outcomes, the results obtained, etc.

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Organisation of studies

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The academic year is divided up into three terms:

  • the first runs from mid September to the end of December.
  • the second runs from early February to mid May. 
  • the third is taken up by the summer break and the second examination session.

The examinations are organised at the end of each term: in January for the first term courses, and the end of May/early June for the second term courses.

Students have the possibility of retaking the examinations in which they have not obtained a satisfactory result (a grade of 10 out of 20 at least) during a second session of examinations that extends from mid August to early September.

Conditions for success To pass the academic year, the student must obtain an average grade that is equal to or higher than 10/20 over all of their exams and have no individual grade lower than 10/20.


The ECTS credits

We often talk of ECTS credits in the programs of study. An ECTS credit corresponds to a standard rate of 30 hours of learning activities (lectures, practical work, personal work, group work, projects, internships, etc.).

Generally, 1 year of studies = 60 ECTS credits. Please note: the credits are only granted to students who pass their exams.


The possibility of changing your field or type of study (Bridging or “Passerelle”)

Students following a course of higher education have the possibility of switching to another field of study or of extending it towards other training courses than those initially chosen. The bridging scheme applies both to students who have completed their studies in Wallonia-Brussels and to those that benefit from a total or partial equivalence of their foreign qualification in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels.

Example: The holder of an academic degree issued by a university college can be admitted to a graduate program at a university respecting specific conditions set by the regulations in force. To find out more, consult the Bridging website of the Ministry of Federation Wallonia-Brussels.

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Learn French

Study in Wallonia-Brussels is an excellent opportunity to improve your French language skills.

French is spoken by almost 220 million people on five continents. French is also an official language of the United Nations, of NATO, of the European Union or of the International Red Cross.

In order to improve the language skills of foreign students, higher education institutions organise French language courses during the summer holidays or throughout the entire academic year.

The majority of universities have a language centre which organises courses in French as a foreign language.

French conversation groups are also organised by various student associations. Information can be obtained from the enrolment departments of institutions.