10 - Belgium - Branches of study, specialisation

Higher education studies are organized in 3 cycles: the first cycle leads to the bachelor degree (180 credits minimum), the second to the master’s degree (or medical or veterinary doctor, at least 60 credits following a programme of at least 180 credits) or complementary master’s degree (at least 60 additional credits after obtaining the master’s degree) and the third to the degree of doctor (at least 180 additional credits after obtaining the master’s degree). The degrees may only be earned after a minimum number of years of study, defined on basis of the number of credits. Sixty credits may be gained through such courses.

Short-type programmes are organized as a single profession-oriented cycle of 180 or 240 credits which may be earned in respectively 3 or 4 years of study at least, and lead to the academic degree of bachelor.

Long-type programmes are organized as a first transition cycle of 180 credits that may be earned in at least 3 years of study, leading to the bachelor’s degree, and a second profession-oriented cycle of 60, 120 or even 180 (veterinary doctor) or 240 credits (medical doctor). First cycle medicine and dentistry studies are structured in two parts. The first part comprises 60 credits which may be earned in one year of studies. The second part comprises 120 credits that may be earned in at least two years of study. Access to the second part is conditional on obtaining a certificate awarded following an orientation test.

Second cycle studies of 120 credits or more include a choice of at least 30 specific credits corresponding to a teaching (didactic) qualification, a scientific research qualification (in universities) or a specialized qualification in a given discipline within the domain, aiming at specific vocational or artistic skills.

Study programmes leading to the complementary master’s degree aim at the acquisition of a specialized vocational qualification corresponding to at least one of the following purposes: permitting the practice of certain professions in the health sector – in the respect of the corresponding legal requirements; answering specific training needs within the framework of development cooperation programmes; giving access to specific titles and degrees required by the law or specific skills recognized by research and teaching teams, which present a character of originality, uniqueness and specificity in the French Community. Complementary studies do not lead to an academic degree.

Third cycle programmes (in the universities) comprise doctoral courses (leading to a research training certificate) and research for a doctoral thesis which corresponds standardly to at least 180 credits. Doctoral courses are supervised by teams associated in an accredited doctoral school belonging to one or several university academies. They are linked to the specific skills of the research teams and offer graduates a high-level scientific and professional qualification.

Higher education institutions can organise ongoing education programmes targeted at higher education graduates or holders of similar diplomas. These programmes pursue one or several aims:

updating graduates’ knowledge, in particular based on the specific professional profile of students;
perfecting or specializing their knowledge and skills in one or the other particular discipline, in the same domain of their initial diploma or a different one; to this category belong in particular the job re-entry programmes;
completing and confirming their education, in direct link to their present or future professional activity.

Successful completion of these programmes is not certified by an academic degree.


The universities organise long-type higher education and third cycle studies.

University studies are organised for about twenty domains, some of which comprise several branches:

  • Criminology(criminology).
  • History, art and archaeology(history, history of art and archaeology, history of art and archaeology – archaeometry, history of art and archaeology – musicology).
  • Information and communication(performing arts, multilingual communication, information and communication, information and communication science and technology).
  • Languages and literature(classic ancient languages and literatures, oriental ancient languages and literatures, French and Romance languages and literatures, French and Romance languages and literatures – French as foreign language orientation, modern languages and literatures, Arabic languages and literatures, modern and ancient languages and literatures, modern Germanic languages and literatures, modern Oriental languages and literatures, modern Slav languages and literatures, linguistics).
  • Philosophy(ethics, philosophy, religion science).
  • Sciences(biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, neurobotics and modelling, biology of organisms and ecology, oceanography, actuarial science, biology, chemistry, environment science and management, tourism science and management, geography, geography – climatology, geography – geomatics and geometronics, geology, information science, mathematics, physics, space science, statistics, statistics – biostatistics).
  • Agricultural and biological engineering(bio-engineering: chemistry and bio-industries, bio-engineering: agronomy, bio-engineering: environment science and technology, engineering science – bio-engineering).
  • Biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences(biomedical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences).
  • Motricity science(physiotherapy and readaptation, motricity science, motricity science –physical education).
  • Engineering sciences(architect-engineer, biomedical engineering, construction engineering, mines and geology engineering, electricity engineering, electromechanics engineering, electromechanics engineering – aeronautics, chemistry and materials science engineering, information technology engineering, information technology and management engineering, applied mathematics engineering, mechanics engineering, physics engineering, engineering science – civil engineer, engineering science – architect-engineer).
  • Dentistry(dentistry).
  • Economics and business administration(cultural management, management engineering, management science, economics, economics – econometrics, economics and business administration).
  • Law(law).
  • Medical sciences(medicine, public health science).
  • Social and political sciences (public administration, anthropology, European studies, human resources management, social and economic policies, population and development sciences, labour science, human and social sciences, political science, political science – international relations, sociology, sociology and anthropology).
  • Psychology and education science(speech and language therapy, family and sexuality science, education science, psychology, educational psychology).
  • Veterinary medicine(veterinary medicine).
  • Theology(religious and secular sciences).

In addition, the universities organise doctoral courses in collaboration with the art colleges (domain: arts and art sciences).

The universities also organise studies or educational activities that do not lead to academic degrees, related in particular to retraining and ongoing education.

Hautes Écoles

The long and short type study programmes organised by the hautes écoles are subdivided in 8 categories. Each category comprises different sections, some of which correspond to different options or qualifications.

A. Short-type education

Applied arts category:fabric arts, graphic arts (options: graphic arts, graphic arts/computer graphics), advertising (options: spatial arrangement, contemporary media), specialization in fashion accessories, stylist/designer.

Economics category: insurance, foreign trade, accounting (options: banking & finance, taxation, management), law, e-business, transport management and business logistics, hotel management, real estate, management IT, marketing, public relations, administration and public management, executive secretary (options: business and administration, languages, medical), specialization in the management of homes for the elderly, specialization in hotel management, tourism (options: animation, management).

Paramedical category:midwifery, audiology, bandaging – orthetics – prosthetics, medical biology (options: clinical chemistry, cytology, specialization in medical and pharmaceutical biotechnologies), dietetics, dietetics – specialization in sports dietetics, occupational therapy, speech therapy, speech therapy – specialization in the education and re-education of the sensory handicapped, podology – podiatry, nursing, nursing (specialization in medical imaging and radiotherapy, oncology, paediatrics, operating theatre, community health, mental health and psychiatry, intensive care and emergency medical aid, interdisciplinary specialization in geriatrics and psychogeriatrics, interdisciplinary specialization in readaptation, medical imaging technology.

Education studies category: educator specializing in psycho-educational accompaniment, ordinary pre-school section, ordinary primary section, ordinary secondary section (plastic arts, physical education, French, French and foreign language, French and ethics, French and religion, Germanic languages, mathematics, economics and applied economics, humanities: history, geography, social sciences, natural sciences: biology, chemistry, physics), ordinary technical section (woodworking/construction, family and social economics, electromechanics, garments), specialization in remedial teaching, specialization in psychomotricity.

Social studies category:psychology assistant (options: clinical psychology, occupational psychology and vocational orientation, educational psychology and pschomotricity, social worker, librarian – documentalist, communication, social advisor, social ecology, multimedia writing, educator specializing in socio-sports, human resource management.

Technical studies category:aeronautics (qualifications: avionics, aeronautic construction, maintenance technique), automobile (options: expertise, mechanics-electronics), chemistry (qualifications: biochemistry, biotechnology, applied chemistry, environment), construction (options: building, civil engineering), electromechanics (qualifications: air-conditioning and refrigeration, electromechanics and maintenance, mechanics), electronics (qualifications: applied electronics, medical electronics), IT and systems (qualifications: automation, industrial IT, networks and telecommunications, information technology), technique and services (options: sales engineer, industrial techniques and services), imaging techniques (qualifications: photography, cinematography), graphic techniques (qualifications: publishing techniques, computer graphics techniques), textile – fashion techniques.

B. Long-type education

Agricultural engineering category: landscape architecture, industrial engineer in agronomy, industrial engineer in agronomy –qualification: agriculture, industrial engineer in agronomy – qualifications: agro-processing industry and biotechnologies, industrial engineer in agronomy – qualification: horticulture.

Economics category:commercial engineer, administrative science, business administration – option: finance, business administration – option: international management. Paramedical category: physiotherapy.

Social studies category:applied communication – section: public relations, applied communications – section: sociocultural animation and ongoing education, applied communication – section: advertising.

Technical studies category:industrial engineer, industrial engineer – chemistry – qualification: biochemistry, industrial engineer – construction – qualifications: construction, surveying, industrial engineer – electricity – qualifications: electronics, IT, electricity, industrial engineer – electromechanics – qualifications: automation, electromechanics, industrial engineer – physics and nuclear engineering, industrial engineer – industry, industrial engineer – mechanics, industrial engineer – textile, industrial engineer – textile, option: packaging.

Translation and interpreting category: interpreting, translation, translation – orientation: multidisciplinary translation.

The hautes écolesorganise within the second cycle one or several qualifications, possibly several specialized different qualifications:

  • teaching (didactic) qualification includes specific pedagogic training which prepares for teaching in upper secondary or higher artistic education;
  • the specialized qualification in a particular discipline within the domain addressed by the study programme, aiming at particular professional or artistic skills.

Art colleges

The studies organised by the art colleges are subdivided in four domains and each domain is further organised in sections with options. Thus, the title of ‘Bachelor in plastic, visual and spatial arts’ is awarded e.g. in the ‘plastic arts’ section, comprising the options of painting, sculpture, ceramics, and conservation of art objects.

Higher education studies of both long and short type can be organized. The short-type studies give access to the bachelor’s degree and the long-type studies to the master’s degree. After an initial study programme of at least 300 credits, the continuation of studies for at least 60 credits in at least one year may lead to the academic degree of master with artistic specialization. The degree of master with artistic specialization may be delivered in the four domains.

The degree of agrégé for teaching in lower or upper secondary school is also instituted in the four domains. However, in higher arts education, short-type courses consist of a maximum of 180 credits.

Domain of plastic, visual and spatial arts

Short-type education: spatial arts (fashion design; objects design or industrial aesthetics; architectural drawing; interior design; display), visual arts (typography or graphic design; computer graphics; photography and cartoons or cinegraphy; graphic arts; comic strips; illustration; engraving or impression, electrostatography, offset printing; silkscreen printing; advertising; fabric arts) and plastic arts (painting; sculpture; ceramics; conservation of art objects).

Long-type education: and three-dimensional research (drawing; painting; sculpture; ceramics; glassmaking; mosaic; goldsmithery; installation, performance), printed image (engraving; silkscreen printing; lithography; photography), environmental art (monumental painting; monumental sculpture; urban and rural spaces; images in the environment), fabric and fashion design (tapestry, weaving, fashion design, fineries and accessories; fabric design); books and graphic design (typography; binding and gilding; illustration; comic strips), art and communication (advertising; graphic communication or visual communication: graphic design), furniture and design (industrial design; interior architecture or interior design; urban design), representation and movement (scenography; film cartoon; cinegraphy; videography; digital arts), restoration of works of art.

Music domain

Short-type education: leading to the degree of agrégéof lower secondary education in music, without mention of specialization.

Long-type education: education in instruments (winds, percussion, keyboards, strings, chamber music), vocal education: (singing, lyrical art, chamber music), ancient music, education in instruments (winds, percussion, keyboards, strings), ancient music, vocal education (singing, lyrical art), jazz and easy listening music (instruments, singing, composition and arrangement), music writing and theory (orchestra conduction, choir conduction, composition, classical writing, musical education, musical training), electro-acoustic music (computer-performed composition, mixed composition).

Theatre and vocal arts domain

Long-type education: dramatic art, oratory art. The degree of bachelor in theatre and vocal arts is created and the corresponding diploma is awarded at the end of the first transition cycle of long-type artistic higher education.

Performing arts and broadcasting and communication techniques domain

Short-type education: image, sound, editing and script, multimedia, circus arts, dance.

Long-type education: cinema, radio/television, theatre and communication techniques, dramatic interpretation.

Architecture colleges

Architecture colleges choose from a list of authorized optional courses those that they organize and may also freely allot a maximum of 12 credits of subjects in the studies leading to the bachelor’s degree and 18 credits in the studies leading to the master’s degree. The architect’s diploma mentions the optional courses followed.

Eurydice - the information network on education in Europe

Date: 2009
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