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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice

Belgium - Flemish Community

7.2.First-cycle programmes


Last update: 27 November 2023

Two kinds of bachelor programmes exist:

  1. Professional bachelor programmes aim at impairing the students with general and specific knowledge of the competences needed for the independent execution of a profession or a group of professions. A professional bachelor programme thus offers the possibility of proceeding directly onto the labour market.
  2. The main goal of the academic bachelor programmes is to proceed to a master programme. They thus aim at impairing students a level of knowledge and competences required for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general and for a specific field of science or arts in particular.

Both the professional as well as the academic bachelor programmes are listed at qualification level 6 of the Flemish and European Qualification Framework. Both result in the degree of bachelor.

Professional bachelor programmes are offered by university colleges. Academic bachelor programmes are organised by research universities. In derogation of this rule university colleges can offer academic bachelor programmes in the context of a School of Arts. These programmes pertain to the study area of audiovisual and visual arts and music and performing arts. The Higher Maritime Institute offers academic bachelor programmes within the study area of nautical sciences.

Branches of study

University colleges can organise professional bachelor programmes within the following areas of study:

  1. Architecture
  2. Health care
  3. Industrial science and technology
  4. Biotechniques
  5. Education
  6. Socio-agogic work
  7. Commercial science and business management

The university colleges can within a School of Arts offer professional and academic bachelor programmes within the following areas of study

  1. Audiovisual and visual arts
  2. Music and performing arts

The Higher Maritime Institute can organise professional and academic bachelor programmes within the areas of study of nautical science.

  1. Research universities may offer academic bachelor programmes within the following areas of study
  2. Philosophy and moral sciences
  3. Theology, religious study and canon law
  4. Philology and literature
  5. History
  6. Archaeology and art history
  7. Law, notary and criminological sciences
  8. Psychology and pedagogical sciences
  9. Economic and applied economic sciences
  10. Political and social sciences
  11. Social health sciences
  12. Human movement and revalidation sciences
  13. Sciences
  14. Applied sciences
  15. Applies biological sciences
  16. Medical science
  17. Dentistry
  18. Veterinary sciences
  19. Pharmaceutical sciences
  20. Biomedical sciences
  21. Transport studies
  22. Architecture
  23. Industrial sciences and technology
  24. Biotechnology
  25. Product development
  26. Applied philology
  27. Commercial science and business management
  28. Conservation - restoration

The Codex Higher Education contains a list of the above mentioned areas of study in which each university college and research university are granted education competence and can thus organise professional or academic bachelor programmes.

An integrated overview of all programmes can be consulted in the Register of Higher Education.

Admission requirements

The Codex Higher Education contains the general admission criteria which are valid for all initial bachelor programmes. The following Flemish qualifications and certificated grant direct access to a bachelor programme:

  • Secondary Education Certificate
  • Certificate of short cycle higher education with complete curriculum
  • Certificate of higher education for social promotion (with exception of the Certificate of Pedagogical Competence)
  • Qualification or certificate granted in the context of an associate degree programme
  • Also students holding a foreign qualification or certificate which is based on a legal norm, European directive or international agreement is recognised as equivalent to one of the qualifications or certificates listed above, are granted direct access to a bachelor programme.

In addition to these qualifications and certificates granting direct access to initial bachelor programmes, the institutions of higher education have the autonomy to admit persons in certain cases or on the basis of deviant admission criteria.

The Flemish Community does not apply a 'numerus clausus' system, though organises admission tests for every student who wishes to register for the programmes of Dentistry and Medicine. These tests are organised by the Ministry of Education. 

Students wishing to enter higher artistic education have to pass a skills test (artistic admission tests) organised by the individual university college. This is a prerequisite for anyone registering for the programmes and programme components in the fields of study 'Audiovisual and Visual Arts' and 'Music and Performing Arts'.

An examination to assess the student's knowledge of the teaching language may also be required.

A student who already holds a bachelor degree and who enters a different bachelor programme can be granted a reduction of the course duration or of the required study load.

University colleges may decide to admit to their advanced Bachelor’s programmes only those students who already hold a bachelor degree. They may restrict direct access to these programmes to graduates of bachelor programmes with specific programme characteristics. A preparatory programme can be imposed on graduates of other bachelor programmes as a prerequisite for admission. The content and study load of these preparatory programmes are determined by the university college and may vary according to the extent to which the content of the student's prior education relates to the advanced bachelor programme in question.


University colleges and universities are free to compose their own curricula. The board of the institution sets out a programme for each course which consists of a coherent whole of course components. The higher education institutions determine the learning outcomes for each course and course component. They base themselves on the common domain specific learning outcomes which are drafted by the institutions of higher education under the coordination of the VLURH (Flemish Council of Research Universities and University Colleges). The description of the domain specific learning outcomes are validated by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).

When drafting the course programmes, the board takes into account the prevailing national and international (admission) requirements that are down by law (including the European Directive 2005/36/EC) for certain functions or professions, such as general nurse and midwife. The accreditation body indicates in its accreditation report and accreditation decision whether the board of the institution has compiled their programmes in compliance with this European Directive.

Teaching methods

The institutions of higher education are free to choose their teaching methods and tools. By default, professional bachelor programmes offered by university colleges contain theoretical classes, practical classes and a traineeship. These elements usually do not feature in research oriented programmes, offered by research universities, where the emphasis is put on theoretical aspects and scientific research.

The higher education institutions can offer a course or course component entirely or partially in the form of distance learning, i.e. by use of multimedia in order not to tie the student to a specific place of education provision. The institution’s board develops adequate study and teaching materials and organises adequate guidance.

University colleges and research universities also organise study pathways who are specifically organised for students who work.

Progression of students

Since academic year 2005-2006 regulation offers a framework within which more flexible learning paths are offered, with increased opportunities to transfer between courses and institutions, enhanced differentiation with respect to the types of programmes on offer, and more opportunities for lifelong learning. In this respect the following principles were introduced:

  • The year system is replaced by a credit system.
  • The programme remains the basic and structural unit but is no longer seen as the total sum of study years but as one whole of course components.
  • A course is subdivided into course components. A component is a well-defined unit of teaching, learning and assessment activities aimed at acquiring well-defined (sub)competences regarding knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes.
  • The overall study load is expressed in credits, in conformity with the ECTS, in which one credit represents a study load of 25 to 30 hours.
  • The volume of a course component is expressed in full credits. A course component comprises at least 3 credits.
  • Students have completed a course component when the assessment demonstrates that they have satisfactorily acquired the relevant (sub)competences. Students are usually assessed on a scale from zero to 20 (whole numbers), with 10 being the lowest number required to pass.
  • Students are entitled to two occasions to pass the exam of a course component in the course of the academic year in which the exam is organised.
  • Completion of a course component (i.e. passing the programme component) results in official recognition in the form of a proof of credit.
  • A student who passes for al course components of a certain programme is automatically granted the degree or qualification of the programme.
  • There is no expiry date on acquired proofs of credit within the programme or institution where this was acquired. In case a student wants to complete its programme within a different instutution or programme these acquired credits can be validated by the institution after a comparison between the obtained learning outcomes and the learning outcomes of the new curriculum.
  • Students can enrol in a bachelor (or master) programme in case the institution’s board decides that (s)he has acquired sufficient competences on the basis of the recognition of qualifications and/or the recognition of competences. Details on the recognition of qualifications and/or competences are included in the teaching and examination regulations of each institute for higher education. The general principles and procedures for flexible study paths are thoroughly explained in the brochure 'Bewijs je bekwaamheid'.

In order to monitor the study progress of each student and to be able to act in case of derailment various measures are introduced:

  • Institutions of higher education are allowed to act when students who do not reach a study efficiency of 60%. These students are monitored faster and stricter and can be obliged to transfer to a different programme in case they do not respond to the monitoring by the institution.
  • Also on the basis of the individual study progress file of a student’s admission to a certain programme can be refused.
  • The institutions of higher education are given the opportunity to consult via a database on higher education across institutions and programmes data on the study efficiency of students.
  • In addition, a system of learning credit was introduced in monitor the study progress of students. In order to express the own responsibility of students to make a well-considered choice of study and to pursue a successful study career, each student is granted at the start of its study in Flanders an individual learning credit package of 140 credits. These credits are used upon enrolment in a programme and course component. In case a student obtains credits in the course of the academic year, these credits are again added to the total of the learning credit package. Students with a negative learning credit package cannot be financed and may be refused enrolment in an initial bachelor or master programme by the institution.


Professional bachelor programmes are primarily oriented towards professional practice. They offer the possibility of proceeding directly onto the labour market. Practical training in real working conditions (companies, schools, hospitals, etc.) forms an essential part of these programmes.

Academic bachelor programmes are primarily oriented towards progression to a master programme. Some programmes however also allow to enter directly onto the labour market. 

Students are guided in various ways to facilitate their entry onto the labour market. The majority of university colleges and research universities have installed employment services. Since there are no official guidelines in this area, their operating procedures may vary. Some institutions confine themselves to collecting information on vacancies or employment statistics, whereas others keep detailed employment records on individual graduates, organise job interview training sessions and/or employment preparation seminars, etc. 

Student assessment

A large scale of autonomy is granted to institutions of higher education to determine the rules for student assessment. The university colleges and research universities determine in the examination regulation before the start of the academic year the organisation of the academic year. The Codex Higher Education determines only that an academic year takes one year, starts on 1 September at the earliest and on 31 October at the latest.

The Examination Regulation determines at least the periods in which exams are organised. Most institutions apply a semester system in which part of the courses is assessed in Januari and part in May/June. Students are offered the possibility to repeat an exam which they did not pass in the exam period in September.


The board of an institution grants a proof of credit to students who pass a particular course component.

The board grants the degree of Bachelor (or Master) to students who have successfully completed a Bachelor (or Master) programme.

NARIC Flanders, the National Academic (and Professional) Recognition and Information Centre, is part of the Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education, Qualifications and Study Allowances (AHOVOKS) of the Ministry of Education and Training. The centre is responsible for the recognition of foreign qualifications and diplomas, professional recognition of the teaching professions on the basis of European Directive 2005/36/EC, the provision of information about (the recognition of) Flemish qualifications abroad and explanatory attestations for qualifications obtained in the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and the Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft Belgien. NARIC Flanders  is the Flemish unit within the ENIC and NARIC network. NARIC centres are recognition centres of the member states of the European Economic Area (the EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and (sometimes) Switzerland). As these countries are also members of the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES, all NARIC centres are also part of the ENIC network (European Network of Information Centres of the Council of Europe and UNESCO). The ENIC Network cooperates closely with the NARIC Network.

The format of the higher education degrees and the content of the accompanying diploma supplement was officially laid down in Flemish legislation by the Flemish Governmental Decision of 11 June 2004, and has been updated on several occasions.

Flanders was the first in Europe to introduce a statutory diploma supplement in 1991. Initially this was done only for research universities but later on (in 1994) also for university colleges. This diploma supplement contains details on the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies followed and a description of the system of higher education. The current diploma supplements are based on the model developed by the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES who used the Flemish example as a model. The diploma supplement provides independent data with a view to improving international transparency and fair recognition of qualifications for academic and professional purposes. Every student receives the document automatically with his degree as the degree and the accompanying diploma supplement are intrinsically interlinked as one single whole. Officially registered institutions for higher education will also, on a one-off basis, issue degrees and diploma supplements in English, free of charge and at the student's request.

Degrees and diploma supplements for programmes taught entirely in a language other than Dutch are issued both in the teaching language and in Dutch (see also Europass 13.2.1).

Self-certification in the framework of the Bologna Process was completed on 2 February 2009 when independent international experts concluded that the qualifications framework for higher education in Flanders is compatible with the overarching framework of the European Higher Education Area. This official confirmation is mentioned on the diploma supplement and on the website of NVAO and the website of the ENIC and NARIC networks.

The Flemish degree titles are legally protected. Only those to whom the degree of bachelor, master or doctor (doctor of philosophy, abbreviated as PhD or Dr) has been granted, with or without further specification are entitled to use the corresponding title of bachelor, master or doctor, with or without further specification. Violating these provisions when granting or using the titles is penalized by a fine and/or imprisonment.

The specification "of Arts", "of Science", "of Laws", "of Medicine", "of Veterinary Science", "of Veterinary Medicine" or "of Philosophy" may be added to certain bachelor or master degrees in academic education. The addition of this specification is subject to the same legal protection as the degree itself and the title associated with it.