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Adult education and training funding

Belgium - Flemish Community

3.Funding in education

3.3Adult education and training funding

Last update: 27 November 2023


Adult Education (AE)

The Centres for Adult Basic Education (CABEs) and Centres for Adult Education (CAEs) are subsidised/funded by the government. They receive their funding/subsidisation on the basis of the quantity of teaching provided expressed in trainee teaching hours. For the appointment of teachers, the CAEs receive teacher periods and the CABEs full-time equivalents. For the appointment of support and management staff, the CAEs and CABEs receive a point lump sum. Each centre is entitled to one full-time director’s function.

The CABEs are entitled to an operational allowance of 1.90 euros per trainee teaching hour. The CAEs do not receive an operational allowance, but derive their operating funds from trainees’ registration fees. The government reimburses to the CAEs the registration fees foregone from trainees with a complete or partial registration fee exemption. The sum of 0.75 euros per trainee teaching hour of operating funds is guaranteed to the CAEs. For technical industrial programmes, the CAEs receive an extra operational allowance of 0.30 euros per trainee teaching hour. The centres must spend at least 5% of their operating funds on quality assurance and the development of teaching resources.

Extra funding is provided to support and encourage centres that want to offer programmes in the form of combined education [see 8.2].

The adult education consortia [see 8.1] together receive a subsidy budget for personnel costs, operating costs and investments. A consortium's subsidy consists of three parts: a core amount, a portion that is allocated on the basis of the total volume of trainee teaching hours generated by the affiliated centres and a portion on the basis of the volume of detainees held in the penal institutions within the consortium's operating area. This latter portion must be used exclusively to support and coordinate the development of an education and training policy for detainees, identify their education and training requirements and supervise their educational pathway.

VOCVO, the Flemish Support Centre for Adult Education, receives an annual subsidy budget for personnel costs, operating costs and investments. VOCVO is responsible for the provision of support and guidance to all CABEs and those CAEs not taken into account when determining the staff training needs of the network-specific pedagogical counselling services [see]. The four network-specific pedagogical counselling services also receive a (similar) amount for the provision of support and guidance to the CAEs affiliated with them.

The new financing system underwent an interim evaluation in 2009-2010. A thorough evaluation will follow in 2012-2013.

Part-time artistic education (PAE)

The academies for part-time artistic education receive a teaching-periods package based on the number of students counted on 1 February of the previous school year. In addition, the Flemish Community also pays operational resources.

Vocational training VDAB

The VDAB (Flemish Public Employment and Vocational Training Service) is an external autonomous agency, and is thus not directly controlled by the minister (who does, however, determine the policy priorities), but run by an Executive Board [see 1.2.2]. The work of the VDAB is largely funded by the Flemish government. The VDAB operates under a management agreement with the Flemish government in this connection. As well as the grant from the Flemish Community, there is also income from the European Union and from invoicing to employers.

Entrepreneurial training SYNTRA Flanders

The SYNTRA Flanders agency is subsidised by the Flemish Government - policy area Work and also receives European and Flemish contributions for specific projects. It subsidises the 5 recognised training centres for the self-employed and SMEs (SYNTRA). The centres receive

  • an operating subsidy for apprenticeships and certified and non-certified programmes. Those programmes that are recognised receive funding on the basis of the number of trainee hours of the trainees that take the exam. This is thus a form of output funding;
  • an investment subsidy for the hire, construction or acquisition and owner maintenance of the buildings;
  • where applicable, project funding.

SYNTRA must justify its activities in the form of an organisation plan which must also be ratified by the SYNTRA Flanders Executive Board.

Courses are only subsidised if they meet the recognition requirements.

SYNTRA must supplement its subsidies out of its own resources, mainly derived from trainees’ registration fees.

Training in Agriculture

Training provision is organised by recognised centres subsidised by the Flemish government via the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Section for Sustainable Agricultural Development. The subsidy is partly paid for by the European Union under the Flemish Rural Development Programme.

Each year, the recognised training centres for agriculture must submit a year programme specifying the number of hours they would like to see subsidised. The minister approves these programmes in function of the budgetary resources available. The centres submit a subsidy application per course (via the Internet). They only receive a fixed subsidy per teaching period, subdivided into a trainer allowance and an operational allowance. A course can only be subsidised if it meets the subvention conditions, such as, for example, attract a sufficient number of valid course participants.

Socio-cultural adult work (SCAW)

Lump-sum funding

The government supports the socio-cultural organisations by providing financial resources but to qualify for these funds they must meet the pre-set requirements. The decree forms the legal basis for recognition and/or for the structural subsidy they receive if they meet the requirements. The decree of 4 April 2003 no longer strictly differentiates between subsidies for staff costs, running costs and basic costs. The organisations receive a lump-sum payment. Apart from indexations and sanctions, if applicable, they receive the same yearly amount throughout a specific policy period.

Unlike before, the full amount does not have to be spent in the year for which it was granted. Organisations are allowed to build a reserve, provided that they actually spend the money during the policy period in course and that they justify their course of action in their policy plan.

Basic and variable amounts

The lump-sum payment granted to associations and specialised training institutions, consists of a basic amount and a variable amount. The original amount of the subsidies was determined on the basis of the size of the organisations (number of departments in the case of associations, number of course hours on a specific topic in the case of specialised training institutions) prior to the 2003 Decree. As from 2011, these amounts will be index-linked per policy period. This amount can increase or decrease on the basis of the evaluation of the workings of these organisations which is a.o. conducted on the basis of an external review by a joint committee seating representatives from the Agency Socio-Cultural Work for Youths and Adults and a number of external experts. In the case of associations, the amount decreases by 10% (from the third policy period, 2011-2015, at the earliest) for a first and 20% (from the fourth policy period, 2016-2020, at the earliest) for each subsequent negative evaluation of its work. In the case of specialised training institutions, the subsidy budget in the third policy period is limited to the hours which are completely consistent with the decree. From the fourth policy period, in the event of a final evaluation whose conclusion is negative, the subsidy budget of specialised training institutions will be reduced by 10%, and in the event of a subsequent negative final evaluation by 20%. An organisation with a positive final valuation may receive a supplementary subsidy if it plans to respond to the policy priorities set by the Flemish government. These priorities are determined after social debate about needs that are reported by the sector and the policy intentions of the Flemish government itself.

The movements are granted an amount, based on how their application file is evaluated. The decree specifies minimum and maximum amounts per organisation. The minister sets the amount on the basis of the advice he receives from an advisory committee. Further subsidies may be granted or denied on the basis of an external review by a mixed commission and the evaluation of their activities by the Agency Socio-Cultural Work for Youths and Adults. In the event of a positive evaluation of the activities, movements may submit a new application file for the subsequent policy period.

From 1 January 2013, the amount that the movements receive will be dependent on the final evaluation and the financial needs statement.

  • In the event of a positive final evaluation, movements will receive at least the same subsidy budget as in the previous policy period. If the movement wants a higher subsidy budget, a financial needs statement will be submitted. The minister will then decide on the budget on the basis of advice from the advisory committee.
  • In the event of a negative final evaluation, the movement will lose 20% of its subsidy budget (a transitional measure for the policy period 2011-2015 stipulates that movement only lose 10%). In the event of two successive negative final evaluations, the movement will lose its subsidy budget and recognition.
  • New movements will submit an application that is assessed by the advisory committee. The minister will then decide on the budget on the basis of advice from the committee.

The People’s High Schools (Volkshogescholen) receive an amount per inhabitant in their operating area, regardless of the evaluation of their work. The trade union training institutions and the training institutions for the disabled receive the sum of the amounts that the members of these federations received before 2003, and the training institutions for the disabled also receive a fixed amount. The evaluation of their work again does not have direct consequences for the subsidy budget of these training institutions.

Other subsidies

Aside from the subsidies the socio-cultural adult organisations receive from the Minister for Culture, they more often than not also generate their own income (such as contributions from participants and donations) and also benefit from other subsidies. These may for instance be provincial subsidies (each province has its own regulations), subsidies from other Flemish or Federal Ministers (if the organisation's theme or target group qualifies under another policy area) and European-project subsidies.

Fees paid by learners

Adult Education (AE)

Trainees attending a programme at a CABE do not have to pay a registration fee.

Trainees attending a programme at a CAE do have to pay a registration fee, of 1 euro per teaching period. However, there is a system of partial or complete exemptions from the registration fee.

The following categories of trainee receive a complete exemption:

  • those enrolled on a programme in the general training branch of study, in the experiential expert in poverty and social exclusion programme of the special educational needs branch of study and in Dutch as a second language programmes in adult basic education provided by a CAE;
  • those eligible for the ‘integration income’ (basic state benefits);
  • certain categories of asylum-seeker;
  • those undergoing civic integration who have signed a civic integration contract, who have obtained a civic integration certificate or who have been exempted from this via EVC for a programme in Dutch as a second language;
  • detainees held in a Belgian penal institution (but not those who are electronically tagged);
  • job-seekers receiving a waiting allowance or an unemployment allowance for a programme within a VDAB-recognised pathway to work;
  • non-working, compulsorily registered job-seekers who are not yet entitled to a waiting allowance;
  • those of full-time school-age.

Trainees on Dutch as a second language programmes, orientation stages 1 and 2, pay a reduced registration fee of 0.50 euros per teaching period.

The following trainees pay a reduced registration fee of 0.25 euros per teaching period:

  • certain categories of disabled people and people who are incapacitated for work;
  • job-seekers receiving a waiting allowance or an unemployment allowance for a programme outside a VDAB-recognised pathway to work;
  • trainees who have previously taken at least 120 teaching periods at a CABE during two successive school years.

The CABEs and CAEs are also permitted to charge trainees the costs exclusively related to course material, at cost price.

In 2011-2012, a survey is being conducted of study costs in adult education.

Part-time artistic education (PAE)

Programmes in part-time arts education do not fall within compulsory education, and consequently a registration fee is payable.

  • The fee for adults is 197 euros for the school year 2012-2013.
  • There is a reduced fee of 114 euros for the following categories of adult:

the unemployed, the disabled, people on a subsistence income, political refugees, students aged 18 to 24 years who receive child allowance and those dependent on anyone in these five categories.

  • Young people (under 18) pay 60 euros per school year, with a reduced rate of 39 euros if more than one member of the same family enrols or if the young people are dependents of an adult in the categories of adults eligible for the reduced fee.

Although all PAE programmes are in principle equally accessible, children cannot always choose the arts programme that suits their talents or interests best. Some programmes are too costly. This is the finding of a DKO Definitief.pdf PAE study report by HIVA, the Research Institute for Work and Society (2011).

Vocational training VDAB

For unemployed job-seekers all VDAB training programmes are free. This also applies to e-learning courses. Moreover, other categories of unemployed people may also qualify for a fee exemption for e-learning courses.

Any employee who follows a programme at his own initiative only pays a fee for the course's teaching materials. Depending on the category of the training programme, this fee ranges between 25, 40 and 50 euro/day with a maximum of 250 euro per course. Web courses are currently free of charge, both for job-seekers and for employees who request to take them. Moreover, the web courses, like the VDAB’s other educational material, are provided free of charge to the education system and to non-commercial training-providers.

The employers’ fees for training programmes depend on the type of course, the duration, the location (in-house or at a VDAB centre), the number of participants etc. This price is negotiated and contractually agreed with the head of training of the VDAB centre in question. Employee training programmes which are provided at the request of employers cost between € 80 and € 160 per participant and per training day. In addition to this there is the stimulation policy which provides for discounts for certain categories of companies and employees [see 12.7 support measures for trainees in continuing training]. 

Entrepreneurial training SYNTRA Flanders

The prices for entrepreneurial training by SYNTRA depend on the duration and on the type of programme offered. Proportionally speaking, course participants pay a higher fee for short-term courses as these are not subsidised to the same extent.

Training in Agriculture

Course participants register via the recognised centres and the centres set their own registration fees.

Socio-cultural adult work (SCAW)

Usually small contributions are sought for the educational programmes organised by socio-cultural adult organisations and the level of those contributions is set by the organisations themselves.

Financial Support for Adult Learners

Cross-programme and cross-sector

To encourage ‘lifelong and life-wide’ learning in adults, the government has created various systems of allowances, and in particular paid educational leave, training vouchers for employees and the SME support portfolio for SME entrepreneurs and the self-employed.

Paid Educational Leave is intended to encourage social advancement for employees in the private sector. To this end, they receive extra hours of leave for training that they attend in their free time, or leave is granted to them to actually attend classes if they fall within working hours. The employer can obtain reimbursement for the hours of granted leave from a specially established fund. The programmes that are attended may have a professional purpose, although there need not be any connection with the profession currently exercised, but they may also be of a general educational nature (albeit with numerous restrictions). Moreover, specific regulations also exist for employees who are preparing for the exams set by the examination board of the Flemish Community, for SME employees and for certain part-time employees. See the brochure "Wegwijs in het BEV" (2011) by the General Directorate for Employment and the Labour Market.

The system of Paid Educational Leave (BEV) is regulated by the Recovery Law of 22 January 1985 laying down the social provisions and by the Royal Decisions of 23 July 1985 and 27 August 1993. Paid

Employees or temping staff who are living in Flanders or in the Brussels Region (where also Actiris operates), can purchase training vouchers to the value of maximum € 250 per calendar year. They can use these to pay for training programmes organised by recognised training providers. The beneficiaries themselves only need to pay half of the registration fees in training vouchers. Training vouchers may only be used for career guidance, or for programmes that are recognised under the part-time educational leave system or that form part of a personal development plan in connection with career guidance.

People who never obtained a diploma of general, vocational or technical secondary education can even get a full refund for the training vouchers they purchased. This applies to:

  • all courses of study which cater specifically for adults 18 years of age and older who as yet wish to obtain a diploma or certificate of general, vocational or technical secondary education,
  • all courses of study offered by the centres for adult basic education and the centres for adult education and recognized in the framework of the BEV.
  • initial IT programmes:
  • initial programmes Dutch for non-native Dutch speakers.

Entrepreneurs from SMEs and the self-employed can receive support via the SME portfolio for:

  • programmes whose purpose is to improve the functioning of the business and which are run by a recognised service-provider,
  • advice on entrepreneurship,
  • advice on innovation,
  • advice on internationalisation.

They can receive subsidies of up to 50% of the cost of such programmes or advice (75% in the case of advice on innovation), up to a maximum of 15,000 euros per year.

Adult Education (AE)

People attending adult education do not qualify for a school or study allowance. They may however qualify for Paid Educational Leave, but only for that part of the programme which is taught in the form of face-to-face instruction.

Trainees who obtain their diploma of secondary education via adult education receive a premium of the value of the entire registration fee. 

Trainees with a hearing or visual disability can apply for special educational resources (SER), in particular for the use of interpreters in Flemish sign language and/or speech-to-text reporters and for the adaptation of teaching materials (conversion into braille and large print as required). (Circular VWO/2008/01).

Part-time artistic education (PAE)

Some part-time arts education programmes (architectural drawing, industrial art, applied graphics and advertising art) are recognised for Paid Educational Leave. This means that trainees can use training vouchers for employees for these programmes.

Vocational training VDAB

VDAB voorziet voor werkzoekende cursisten naast kosteloze opleidingen nog verschillende soorten vergoedingen en opleidingspremies: een verplaatsingsvergoeding, kinderopvangvergoeding, stimulanspremie, verblijfsvergoeding, werkloosheidsuitkering (= federaal RVA), premie einde opleiding en sectorpremie.

In addition there are also a number of allowances for people involved in on-the-job-learning: for individual vocational in-company training (IBO), IBO temporary-staff induction training and GIBO (IBO for employment-impaired persons).

  • During the training period the company does not pay any salary or social-security contributions, only a productivity allowance. Moreover, the company receives an extra reduction for guidance if the candidate is poorly educated (no Higher-Secondary Education (HSO) diploma).
  • The job-seeking candidate receives an extra allowance on top of his benefits (the difference between his normal salary and the benefits).

Furthermore, there are numerous training allowances available from the Flemish, Federal and European authorities (esp. via the European Social Fund). In addition, a whole range of vocational-sector specific measures have been introduced. An overview of these measures can be found on the VDAB website. Moreover, VDAB provides advice and guidance in relation to the allocation of subsidies.

Entrepreneurial training SYNTRA Flanders

Course participants 18 years of age and older, who signed up for an apprenticeship under the terms of which they combine entrepreneurial training at a SYNTRA campus with practical training in a company of their own choice, can qualify for a work-experience allowance. The amount of this allowance depends on their level of prior education.

Initiatives which specifically focus on target groups very much factor in the fact that a low threshold is essential. This implies that these initiatives receive subsidies tailored to their course-participant population so that the level of registration fees can be minimised.

Training in Agriculture

Course participants are paid an allowance in the form of a social-advancement allowance on condition that they can produce (course and work-experience placement) certificates demonstrating that they have signed up for at least 75 teaching periods. An 8-hour work-experience day is counted as 4 teaching periods.

Who can qualify for this premium?

  • self-employed business managers (full-time or part-time) of agricultural and horticultural enterprises, their collaborating family members, free-lance assistants and agricultural employees;
  • employees of agricultural and horticultural business-management organisations;
  • agricultural contractors, florists, garden contractors and their collaborating family members and employees;
  • employees of public-park departments;
  • recognised sellers and users of phytocides and recognised users of biocides for agricultural use;
  • beekeepers.

Socio-cultural adult work (SCAW)

Associations usually operate reduced rates for their own members; training institutions often take the (family) income and/or the family circumstances or work conditions of the participants into account when setting the registration fees.

Private education

Non-subsidised and non-recognised educational initiatives are extremely few in number. The Department of Education does not collect data concerning them.

Subsidised and recognised independent education are dealt with together with public education.