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Belgium - French-speaking Community

Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1: Schematic Description of the Higher Education System

Section 1.1 Belgium FR

Source: Ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Direction Générale de l’Enseignement supérieur, de l’Enseignement tout au long de la vie et de la Recherche scientifique, Service de la gestion de la dimension internationale de l’enseignement supérieur, Overview of the structure, degrees and types of higher education in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (FWB) 2018.

Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

There are four types of higher education institution: universities, university colleges (Hautes Ecoles), arts colleges (Ecoles supérieure des Arts), and adult higher education institutions (Etablissements de promotion sociale). Each type of higher education institution pursues specific objectives which determine the various structures and teaching methods.

1) Binary system
The higher education system in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (FWB) is a binary system characterized by the coexistence of “short-type” or professionally-oriented higher education and “long-type” or academic-oriented education.
The professionally-oriented higher education system leads to certifications classified on level 5 or 6 on the European Qualification Framework while the long-type higher education system leads to certifications scaled on level 6, 7 and 8.

  • “short-type” or professionally-oriented higher education, which closely relates theory and practice in terms of pedagogy, is organised by university colleges (Hautes Ecoles), arts colleges (Ecoles supérieures des Arts) and adult higher education (Etablissements de promotion sociale) (it generally leads to Bachelor’s degrees of 180 ECTS and exceptionally 240 ECTS) ;
  • “long-type” higher education, which is based on fundamental concepts, experimentations and illustrations, is organised by universities, university colleges (Hautes Ecoles), arts colleges (Ecoles supérieures des Arts) and adult higher education (Etablissements de promotion sociale). It is organized in 2 cycles: the first cycle leads to a bachelor degree of at least 180 ECTS; the second ‘professionalized’ cycle leads to a master degree (mostly in 120 ECTS and exceptionally of 60 or 180 ECTS). 

To acquire a specific professional qualification (e.g. to enter and exercise certain professions), specialisation studies are organised in the first and second cycle (ex.: paramedical and medical specialisations) and lead to specialised/advanced Bachelor's degrees and specialised/advanced Master's degrees and correspond to the Master’s level.

The adult higher education institutions (Etablissements de promotion sociale) also offer higher education programmes (“short-type” or “long-type”) in modular structure, which lead to the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Within the first cycle, highly professional-oriented programmes are also organised, with the specific purpose of accessing a clearly identified profession. These programmes include 120 ECTS and lead to the award of the higher education diploma “(brevet d’enseignement supérieur”, BES).

Source: Verification report of the compatibility of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels with the Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area, 2014, www.enseignement.be/download.php?do_id=11338&do_check= 

 2) Three-cycle structure and higher education degrees
All higher education programmes are integrated into a three cycle structure. Upon completion of each cycle, a specific academic degree is awarded:

  • The Bachelor’s degree is awarded upon completion of a first cycle programme including at least 180 credits; 
  • The Master’s degree is awarded upon completion of a second cycle programme including at least 60 credits and, if aiming at a specific purpose, at least 120 credits;
  • The Doctorate’s degree is awarded upon completion of a third cycle programme of at least 180 ECTS. Only universities grant the PhD, which is awarded on the basis of a doctoral dissertation.

It is important to stress that no legal distinction is made between similar degrees, irrespective of the type of higher education institution awarding them.

Section 1.3.: Number of Higher Education Institutions

Recognized higher education institutions are listed in article 10 to 13 of the “Landscape Act” (The Act of November 7th, 2013 defining the higher education landscape and the academic organization of studies) and recognized programmes of studies can be consulted in the annexes (https://www.gallilex.cfwb.be/document/pdf/39681_044.pdf). Such information can  also be found  via  official online registers : www.enseignement.be and www.mesetudes.be

Currently, recognized higher education institutions include:

  • 6 universities
  • 19 university colleges (Hautes Ecoles)
  • 16 arts colleges (Ecoles supérieures des Arts)
  • 84 adult higher education institutions (Etablissements de promotion sociale)

Section 1.4: Number of Students in Higher Education 

Federation Wallonia-Brussels students

Enrolments 2016 - 2017 
Universities                            
 Student population
TOTAL    
97.409

 

Enrolments 2016 - 2017 
University Colleges (Hautes Ecoles)              
 Student population
Short type  76.125
Long type 15.229
TOTAL    
91.354 

   

 

Enrolments 2018 - 2019 
Arts colleges (Ecoles supérieures des Arts)
 Student population
 Short type  2.106
Long type 5.637
TOTAL    
7.743

   

Enrolments 2017 - 2018
Adult higher education institutions (Etablissements de promotion sociale)
 Student population
TOTAL    
31.701

 Source: CREf (www.cref.be)-situation en fin d'année académique; Ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Direction Générale de l’Enseignement supérieur, de l’Enseignement tout au long de la vie et de la Recherche scientifique.

 

Non-Belgian students 

Enrolments 2016 - 2017 
Universities                                   
 EU
(Excl. Belgians)
Non-EU
14.725 6.917

  

Enrolments 2018 - 2019
EU
(Excl. Belgians)
Non-EU 
Universities                                                            
  (no data available)
 (no data available)
University colleges (Hautes Ecoles)   11.417 3.705
Arts colleges (Ecoles supérieures des Arts)  3.115 446
Source: ARES - statistique 
 
  • Number of outgoing exchange students with credit transfer:
    • Academic year 2015-2016: 35 HEIs in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels sent a total of 2795 students for a study stay outside Belgium. Amongst these students, 1947 (70%) came from universities, 769 (27%) from university colleges and 79 (3%) from arts colleges.
    • Academic year 2015-2016: 27 HEIS organized mobility for internship purposes for a total of 936 students. Amongst these students, 364 (39%) came from universities, 561(60%) from university colleges and 11 (1%) from arts colleges.
    • Academic year 2016 – 2017: we registered 2602 mobility “out” for study purposes (outside of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels).
  • Number of incoming exchange students with credit transfer (if available)
    • Academic year 2015-2016: 36 HEIs in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels welcomed in total 2356 foreign exchange students. 1666 foreign exchange students (70%) went to universities and 690 (30%) went to university colleges and arts colleges.
Source: AEF Europe, Erasmus+, http://www.erasmusplus-fr.be/menu-expert/ressources/statistiques/
 

Section 1.5 : Structure of Academic Year

The academic year starts in September (from 14 September to 13 September of next year). Classes take place in 3 quarters (period of 3 months: 1st begin in September, the second begins in February, the 3rd begins in July). Each quarter ends with an examination period.

Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

There are two types of NQFs: A QF dedicated to higher education qualifications (aligned with the Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area QF-EHEA) and another QF covering the 8 levels of the EQF-LLL (Cadre Francophone des Certifications).

The Higher Education Qualifications Framework of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (HEQF-FWB) was established in 2008 and revised in 2013. The HEQF-FWB describes in a generic way the three cycles of the higher education to which corresponds specific knowledges, capacities and skills. Each level (from 5 to 8) is related to the academic degrees awarded by the recognized higher education institutions of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels.

The “Cadre Francophone des Certifications” (French-speaking qualifications framework, called “CFC”, http://www.cfc.cfwb.be/) ranks qualifications that are recognised and validated by the competent public authorities and that originate from public institutions or those pursuing public interest missions. As an integrative framework, the CFC targets both, education and vocational qualifications. This framework is still currently under construction.

Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

The “Landscape Act” defines a set of fundamental concepts for the implementation of the Higher Education Qualifications Framework of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels (HEQF-FWB) such as the learning outcomes. The learning outcomes are related to the list of what the student should know, understand and be able to do upon completion of a learning process, a course or a certified teaching unit; the learning outcomes are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competences. The Annex I of the “Landscape Act” defines the learning outcomes for each level of certification (level 5 to 8) of the HEQF-FWB.
The higher education institutions are responsible for defining the education profiles, their constituent teaching units, the expected learning outcomes and the learning activities.

Section 1.8 : Admission Requirements to Higher Education

Access and admission requirements
The higher education system in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels is characterised by a high degree of democratisation, in particular in terms of access to higher education studies. The usual qualification required for accessing to 1st cycle of higher education is mainly an upper secondary school-leaving certificate (certificat d’enseignement secondaire supérieur, CESS), or any other foreign qualification recognised as equivalent. Students without CESS (or equivalent) can pass an admission examination organised by the HEI or pass a jury organised by the Federation Wallonia-Brussels. Passing this examination gives access to a first-cycle programme in the section(s) chosen by the candidate. The jury is an alternative pathway allowing students to get the CESS.

To be admitted to a second-cycle programme, the student must hold the corresponding Bachelor’s degree, or any other foreign degree recognised as its equivalent.

Finally, to be admitted to a third cycle programme, the student must hold the corresponding 120 credits- Master’s degree, or any other foreign qualification recognised as its equivalent.

There are nevertheless exceptions in specific study fields such as civil engineering sciences, medical sciences, arts, veterinary sciences for which specific admission examinations or orientation tests are organized. It should be also mentioned as another exception, that since 2006, in some study fields saturated by a too large number of enrolment applications (such as medicine, veterinary sciences, physiotherapy, dental sciences, speech therapy studies and audiology) quotas have been put in place for non-Belgian resident students. Those quotas limit to 30 % the total number of non-Belgian residents enrolled in those studies (20% for veterinary sciences).

Language requirements
In principle, French is the language of instruction and evaluation. However, some activities might be provided in other foreign languages (ex.: respecting a maximum amount of ECTS delivered in French in the first cycle, or for studies leading to a master, specialized studies or doctoral studies, studies dealing with international matters in the second cycle …). Nevertheless, in order to access to the 1st cycle of study (bachelor), students have to demonstrate a sufficient knowledge of French. For studies leading to teacher qualification, an in depth knowledge of French is required.

Section 1.9: Grading System

  • Legal framework: System follows the Landscape Act requirements
  • Student target group: All students
  • Grade range: from 0 to 20. Pass grade: 10/20. Other pass grade levels: from 10 to 20.
  • Description of the grading system: Exams can be written or oral.
    The grade scale goes from 0 to 20/20. The pass grade to get the credits of a course is 10/20. At the end of the academic year the jury gives the credits for all the courses with a grade of at least 10/20. Exams are organised at the end of the semester (in January or in June). If the student fails at one or more exams, he/she can resit these exams in August/September. Specific features: besides the 10/20 pass grade, there are four other grades but those assessment systems can differ from institution to institution:

Numerical grade – Degree classification

  • 18-20 La Plus Grande Distinction (highest distinction)
  • 16-17 Grande Distinction (great distinction)
  • 14-15 Distinction
  • 12-13 Satisfaction
Source: http://egracons.eu/sites/default/files/COUNTRY_REPORTS_14.09.2015.pdf
 

Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

Cycle
Year
Universities
European
Non-European
Students from modest 
socio-economic backgrounds
Scholarship 
students
First 1 835€ 4.175€ 374€ 0€
  2 835€ 4.175€ 374€ 0€
  3 835€ 4.175€ 374€ 0€
Second 1 835€ 4.175€ 374€ 0€
  2 835€ 4.175€ 374€ 0€
 
 
Cycle 
Year
University colleges, Arts colleges (Hautes Ecoles & Ecoles supérieures des Arts)
 Adult higher education institutions (Etablissements de promotion sociale(level 5)
European
Non-European (common
tuition fee)
Students from modest 
socio-economic backgrounds
Scholarship
students
  26€/Year + (0,37€ x periods of 50 minutes). Fees might vary depending on the socio-economic situation of the student     
First
 1
175,01€ 992€ 64,01€
0€
 
 2
175,01€ 992€ 64,01€
0€
 
 3
227,24€ 992€ 116,23€
0€
Second
 1
350,03€ 1.487€ 239,02€
0€
 
 2
454,47€ 1984€ 343,47€
0€

Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

  • If the 60 credits of the annual programme are validated by the jury, the following academic year, the student can register for the teaching unit of the following cycle programme, with a minimum of 60 credits.
  • If at least 45 credits of the programme are validated by the jury, with the agreement of the jury, the following academic year, the student's annual programme of at least 60 credits includes :
    • teaching units whose credits were not acquired at the end of the previous academic year;
    • teaching units from the continuation of the cycle programme, taking into account the prerequisite and corequisite units.
    • If at least 30 credits (but less than 45) of the programme are validated, the student's next annual programme, with the agreement of the jury, will be composed as explained above for the student who has passed 45 credits without being able to move on to the next block. The student may also complete this programme with certain remediation activities which may be enhanced if they have been evaluated.

           In this case, however, the student's annual program may not exceed 60 credits.

The following academic years: The student continues his or her course until all the teaching units registered in the cycle's programme have been validated.

At the end of the study cycle, when the minimum number of credits has been earned, the jury will award the student the corresponding academic degree with a possible mention [2].

Source: https://www.mesetudes.be/enseignement-superieur/organisation-pratique/reussir/conditions-reussite/

Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

There is currently a reform of the teacher initial training.  

Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

Strictly speaking, there is no system of accreditation of higher education institutions (HEI) in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels. The recognized HEIs are strictly listed by the laws and can only organize studies in the fields for which they received an authorization. Only recognized HEIs can award recognized degrees, which have academic as well as legal effects (for example, access to regulated professions).
HEIs, by virtue of their autonomy, are free to seek accreditation by trade or sector-based organizations but this has no legal incidence (for example, on financing).

The Agency for quality assessment in higher education (AEQES)

Nevertheless there is a formative quality assurance system led by the independent Agence pour l’évaluation de la qualité de l’enseignement supérieur (AEQES, http://www.aeqes.be/english_about_us.cfm).
The AEQES created in 2008, reviews every programme organised by those HEIs with audits of international experts and in conformity with the European Standards and Guidelines for Qualty Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (http://www.enqa.eu/index.php/home/esg/). AEQES is an independent public sector agency, practising formative evaluation based on a dialogue between all stakeholders within the Federation Wallonia-Brussels.
The AEQES is a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA - http://www.enqa.eu/), and is included on the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR- https://www.eqar.eu/).

Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

 
Study programme
Institution
Further explanation
Voluntary
 
(X)
From 2019 to 2023, AEQES will launch pilot institutional evaluations. The objective is to fine tune the future institutional evaluation features: define scope, standards, criteria for robust IQA in collaboration with voluntary higher education institutions.
Compulsory
X
(X)
From 2023, institutional reviews will be compulsory.
Regularity (years) 
5
6
Two kinds of program based evaluations, each five years. From 2023 on, the evaluations will be organised on a six years basis, for programs as well for institutions, with mid-term monitorings.
External
X
(X)
Programme external evaluations are compulsory since 2002.
After the pilot period (during which the ESG part 1 will be used as the set of standards), institutional evaluations will be compulsory. AEQES will then develop its own standards in order to process external institutional evaluations.
Internal
X
(X)
By law, HEIs are to assure the quality of their activities. Moreover, after the pilot period (from 2023), internal quality assurance system at institutional level will be evaluated against AEQES institutional set of standards: this will include a formal self-evaluation.
Further information:
After the pilot phase, HEI’s will have to go through an institutional review process in which they have to demonstrate the robustness of their IQA system. If requested by the HEI, the institutional evaluation could lead to the recognition of the HEI’s capacity of managing its programs external QA.

Section 2.3: Link Programme Authorisation with Quality Assurance

Strictly speaking, there is no system of accreditation of higher education institutions (HEI) in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels. The recognized HEIs are strictly listed by the laws and can only organize studies in the fields for which they received an authorization.
The AEQES provides formative evaluations by monitoring an appropriate group of programmes with the aim of fostering the alignment of programme profiles and objectives with the missions of the institutions involved, disseminating good practice and promoting synergies. The Agency provides information on the quality of higher education by publishing on its website the review reports, the system-wide analyses and highlighting best practice. It provides the heads of the institutions reviewed and the Government with proposals on ways of enhancing quality, but those ones are not binding (no formal effects on HEIs funding or authorization to operate).

Link to Transversal Analysis : http://www.aeqes.be/rapports_list.cfm?documents_type=5

 

Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

The credit system of the FW-B is totally compatible with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). A study year corresponds to 60 ECTS. One credit corresponds on an inclusive basis to 30 hours of learning activities (teaching, personal work, seminar, paper…). All curricula in full-time higher education are expressed in credits (ECTS). The credits associated with a course within a curriculum are expressed in whole numbers, or exceptionally in half-units, with a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 60 credits for one course.

Source: Landscape Act 

Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

ECTS – European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System

Section 3.3: Additional Information

For admission to studies, students can be exempted from a course based on credits acquired elsewhere (another programme or institution), or by means of the valorisation of competencies acquired outside a formal learning context (valorisation des acquis de l’expérience-VAE). These recognitions of credits or competencies are managed directly by the higher education institutions. A VAE procedure cannot lead to the award of a degree, a minimum of 60 ECTS has to be effectively completed by the student.

Section 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?

Yes.

Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/Semester

The number of credits per standard academic year is at least 60 ECTS.

Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

Study Cycles
Level of the HEQF-FWB
Academic title
Number of ECTS
1st cycle
Level 5
Short cycle programmes (brevet de l’enseignement supérieur)
120
Level 6
Professionally-oriented bachelor
Academic-oriented bachelor
Specialised bachelor
From 180 to 240
180
60 ECTS
2nd cycle
Level 7
Master
Specialised/advanced master
From 60 to 180 ECTS
From 60 to 360 ECTS
3rd cycle
Level 8
PhD/Doctorate
180 ECTS

Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

Compatible with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), the credits system was introduced by the “Bologna” Act1, systemising the use of credits by all higher education institutions in the definition their higher education programmes. One credit corresponds on an inclusive basis to 30 hours of learning activities (teaching, personal work, seminar, paper…).

The Act of 31 March 2004 defining higher education, promoting its integration into the European Higher Education Area and refinancing the universities
 

Section 3.8: Link between Learning Outcomes and Credits

The « Landscape Act » (2013) has systemised the learning outcomes-based approach.
A student is awarded credits upon achievement of the defined learning outcomes related to the educational unit/course. Learning outcomes (ECTS-definition) are statements of what the student knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process. The achievement of learning outcomes has to be assessed through procedures based on clear and transparent criteria.

Last updated in 2020
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