14 - Belgium - Progression of students


Unless a duly justified exception is granted by the academic authorities, a student may only sit twice for exams concerning a same course during the same academic year. For each course, the academic authorities determine the examination sessions during which these assessments are organized. Assessments of activities such as coursework, internships, personal work and reports may be organized only once per academic year. A student need not sit for tests and examinations of a course for which he has obtained a mark equal to at least the pass threshold during the same academic year. Within a study programme, a student need not sit for tests and examinations of a course for which he has obtained a mark of at least 12/20 during the 5 preceding academic years (carry-forward).

The final assessment for a course is expressed in the form of a mark between 0 and 20, with the passing threshold set at 10/20. The global assessment for a year or for a cycle of studies is expressed in the same way, with the passing threshold set at 12/20 on average.

For students in the first year of study, the assessments at the end of the first term lead to exemptions: they may count for all or part of the test, but do not count in case of failure.

Except in the case of first-cycle studies structured in two parts, an examination board may pronounce successful completion of a year of study from the moment the student has acquired at least 48 credits (in this case, the residual credits must be entirely earned during the next year of studies). With a decision to certify the successful completion of a course, study year, or study cycle, an examination board definitively awards the corresponding credits to a student.

Under the general conditions determined by the academic authorities, a student may choose to spread the courses of a cycle of studies over a higher number of academic years than the standard number. This spreading out of educational activities and associated assessments is the subject of an agreement with the academic authorities of the university institute, made at the time of enrolment and subject to annual modification. If the student obtains the credits corresponding to the courses making up his customized programme, he may continue his studies without being considered to be repeating a grade.

An examination board made up of at least 5 members nominated by the academic authorities is charged with certifying successful completion of studies. It judges whether a student has successfully completed the study year in which he is enrolled, deliberating on the whole of the assessments for the activities followed, and awards the credits associated to the courses for which it judges the results to be sufficient.

Hautes Écoles

Each year culminates in tests, which must be passed to proceed to the following year. Exam arrangements are subject to a set of administrative and organisational measures, which must be observed:

  • exam sessions per academic year must be organised;
  • no one may take the same exam administered by a board of examiners more than four times in two academic years without a waiver from the competent Minister or designated representative;
  • students must sit for exams during the first session, except in case of force majeure;
  • the board of examiners passes students who score at least 50% of the points for each test and 60% of the points attributed for all exams;
  • a deferred student may take the exam in the second session;
  • in certain cases, the board of examiners may grant students who did not pass and repeat the year in the same institute, an exemption from tests for certain educational activities.

Failures and year repetition are common in higher education. The first year is characterised by particularly high failure rates. With increasing frequency, institutes offer students early diagnosis and reorientation possibilities starting in the first months of the first year.

Students enrolled for the first time in the first year may be authorised during the year to spread their first year of study across two consecutive years. Failed first-year exams may be retaken twice in the following year. This special scheme includes the obligation to attend an additional remedial course.

When deciding whether to conditionally promote a student that did not pass, the board of examiners consults with the pedagogic council, which includes all the administrative and teaching staff.

It is possible to transfer from short or long type tertiary education to university, owing to the existence of gateways, which make it possible to partially recognise previous studies.

Transferring from university to short or long type tertiary education is accompanied by the granting of exemptions for one or more courses (or even one or more years of study). These exemptions are granted on an individual basis.

Admission refusal in the case of successive failures

A student restarting the first year in higher education for the third time is still eligible for a grant if he or she reorients, even if this reorientation is in the same type of education (university or non-university); a student that fails in the 2nd year after repeating the 1st year is still eligible for a grant (but the first two years of dentistry and medicine must always be passed in 3 years). These rules apply during the five years that follow the latest failure.

A fourth enrolment in the same year of university or non-university higher education study, regardless of the discipline, is not eligible for grant-aid.

Other rules apply to students who have previously been enrolled in higher education outside the French Community.

Admission requirements for consecutive degrees

A student who has obtained two academic grades in university or non-university higher education in the five previous years can be refused admission: a third diploma is not financed within a 5-year period, except for an aggregation or a doctorate.

Art colleges

The general study regulations define the rules concerning exemptions for students that repeat the same study year, as well as the conditions and procedures to change options or type in artistic higher education or to switch from higher education to artistic higher education (a panel of teachers from the chosen option studies the student’s artistic background, submits a report to the pedagogic management council and on the basis of the latter’s opinion, the head of institute decides the required supplements to make up for any differences between the programmes). The general study regulations also define the conditions for admission to second cycle studies that apply to students who do not have a bachelor qualification, or have a foreign qualification.

Under the general conditions determined by the government, a student may choose to spread the courses of a study cycle over a higher number of academic years than the standard number foreseen in the study programme.

Architecture colleges

No legal text defines the practices of architecture colleges as regards progression of students to the next grade.

Eurydice - the information network on education in Europe

Date: 2009
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