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Higher education funding

Belgium - Flemish Community

3.Funding in education

3.2Higher education funding

Last update: 9 June 2022


Associate degree (HBO5, Higher Vocational Education)

Funding depends on the level of the organising institution in the case of secondary education [see 3.1.1] (but with the specific regulations for the modular education concept), adult education [3.3.1] or higher education [see below].

The required budget for the new programmes will gradually increase. The main investment relates to the planned extra programmes in the university colleges. 

Initial teacher training

Funding for the integrated teacher training programmes at university colleges is governed by the HE financing decree, like the other bachelor's degrees. The specific teacher training programme is governed by the university colleges decree if it is run at a university college, by the universities decree if run at a university and by the adult education decree if run at a Centre for Adult Education. 

University colleges and universities

In 2008, a new financing system for the whole of higher education (university colleges and universities) was introduced (decree of 14 March 2008 concerning the financing of the operations of the Flemish university colleges and universities). The system was adapted by the decree of 13 July 2012 on the integration of academic programmes in the universities.

Policy objectives

This new financing systems aims:

  • promoting the participation in and a successful completion of higher education;
  • increasing the efficiency of study itineraries and making institutions responsible for their study-progress policy;
  • enhanced democratisation and accessibility;
  • improving the chances of higher education for youths from, among others, ethnic minorities;
  • a more effective and rationalised educational provision;
  • financing of more flexible itineraries, but with due regard for study progress and successful completion;
  • successfully implementing the academisation of the former two-cycle university-college programmes;
  • stimulating the quality of scientific research.

Lump sum payment

A fully integrated method to calculate the operational resources of universities and university colleges has as yet not been achievable due to the fact that these two types of education each have a different historical background and come with their own specific finalities. For that reason, it was decided to implement a model of sub-budgets for the various types of education. (The amounts specified here are price level 2011).

  • A fixed education lump sum payment for the university colleges and universities (106 million euro);
  • A variable education part for professional programmes offered by the university colleges (388.4 million euro);
  • A variable education part for academic-oriented programmes offered by the university colleges (168.5 million euro, 60.4 million euro of which is earmarked for the academically oriented programmes in the audiovisual and visual arts and music and performing arts branches of study at the university colleges);
  • A variable education part for academic-oriented programmes offered by the universities (332.38 million euro);
  • A research lump sum payment for the universities (111.3 million euro);
  • A variable research part for the universities (186.7 million euro).

From budget year 2014 onwards, the fixed education lump sum payment will be divided among the university colleges (59.6 million euro), the schools of arts (3.8 million euro) and the universities (42.49 million euro).

We shall further elucidate these sub-budgets.

  • A fixed education lump-sum payment (for university colleges and universities):

    • this amount is divided on the basis of the number of credits taken up by students with a degree contract in the initial Bachelor's and Master's programmes. It is a degressive system, resulting in a relatively larger education lump-sum for the smaller institutions;
    • in order to qualify for an education lump-sum, an institution must reach a minimum institutional threshold of 90 000 credits in the Bachelor's and Master's programmes. Institutions that do not reach the minimum institutional threshold do not receive the guaranteed minimum amount nor a contribution from the Incentives Fund;
    • from budget year 2014 onwards, there will also be an education lump sum for arts programmes in the schools of arts.
  • A variable education part for professional programmes offered by university colleges, academically oriented programmes offered by universities and (until 2014) academically oriented programmes at the university colleges and (from budget year 2014 onwards) for arts programmes in the schools of arts:
  • the programmes which qualify for funding are:
    • accredited initial Bachelor's programmes;
    • accredited initial Master's programmes;
    • the bridging programmes;
    • the preparatory programmes;
    • post-initial Bachelor's programmes (the advanced bachelor's programmes) receive 50% of the initial-Bachelor‚Äôs-programmes funding, but the Flemish Government will be able to deviate from this under certain circumstances;
    • post-initial Master's programmes (advanced Master's programmes) are in principle no longer financed; but the Flemish Government will also be able to deviate from this, though only for programmes that meet certain criteria: the social added value, such as labour-market needs, scientific relevance and the quality of the programmes;
    • for these post-initial Bachelor's and Master's programmes, the institutions can tap into alternative sources of funding including higher tuition fees (for financed programmes maximum twice the amount, for non-financed programmes tuition fees may amount to 5 400 euros (non-index-linked) and in exceptional circumstances, they may even run into 24 790 euros (non-index-linked));
    • both degree and credit contracts qualify for funding, however, exam contracts do not;
    • degree contracts are financed on the basis of input and output data:
      • starting students are financed on input basis (= based on the number of credits taken up) until they have acquired 60 credits in one programme;
      • students who have gathered at least 60 credits within one and the same institution, are financed on the basis of acquired credits (output); a credit is a criterion for study load and corresponds to 25-30 hours of study;
      • input financing applies only to Bachelor's programmes;
      • if a generation student changes course during the academic year and registers for another programme with a degree contract at another institution, the first institution will retain the number of credits the student was registered for. So in this way, reorientation is not penalized;
    • Credit contracts will only be financed on the basis of output data (acquired credits);
    • a weighting of student characteristics is operated: students in receipt of a grant and students suffering from function disabilities carry more weight (factor 1.5);
    • every degree of professional bachelor and initial Master's programmes conferred, results in a degree bonus of 30 credits (on condition that the student has acquired half of the credits of the programme in question at the institution involved);
    • area-of-study weighting coefficients are also applied to the volume of credits;
    • bonuses to promote efficiency have also been provided for the institutions;
      • when certain programmes are discontinued or transferred, phase-out transitional funding will be provided (supplemented by a programme-discontinuation bonus, if the staff-reorganisation plan has been approved);
      • to rationalise and optimise programmes an extra budget of 5 million euros was earmarked in 2009 as a one-off measure. This rationalisation fund has been distributed amongst the institutions whose rationalisation programme was approved by the Flemish Government.
  • A fixed research lump-sum payment for the universities:
    • the amount is distributed among the universities on the basis of the number of doctorates and the number of publications, with a lower and upper limit;
    • In view of the historical underfunding of the Ghent University, this institution will receive an additional research lump sum for a period of 6 years which will be gradually cut back over a period of 4 years.
  • A variable research part which will be distributed amongst the universities on the basis of:
    • the number of academic and academic-oriented Bachelor's and initial Master's degrees conferred by the universities and university colleges affiliated to the association;
    • the number of doctorates conferred;
    • the number of publications and citations according to criteria which also play a role in the distribution of resources from the Special Research Fund (BOF);
    • the number of first appointments of external researchers and female researchers to the level of autonomous academic staff.

The associations each receive a fixed amount of 100 000 euro to be posted to a separate budget item (the association lump-sum).

Additional resources
As well as the lump sum payment there are additional resources:

  • for project-based scientific research (PWO),
  • for institutions with sites in Brussels (the Brussels norm) distributed according to a five-year average of credits taken up at sites in the Brussels-Capital Region,
  • for the academically oriented university college programmes (academisation sources). These lie outside the lump sum payment.

These will be decided upon again once the academisation process has been completed in 2013. A separate financing arrangement has been developed for the Higher Maritime Institute.
More details:

Incentives Fund for policy spearheads

University colleges and universities will be able to use the resources from the Incentives Fund to take initiatives on equal opportunities and diversity within higher education and more specifically to take measures to boost the entry, progression and completion of students coming from population groups which are currently underrepresented within higher education.

To this end, the higher education institutions conclude a management agreement with the government. The first management agreements expired at the end of 2012, and the results have been evaluated. On the basis of the results of this evaluation, the system will be modified by 2013. In 2008, this fund had €3 million at its disposal, from 2009 it will be able to bank on €6 million euro a year. 

Financing Open Higher Education study centres

The Open Higher Education study centres receive an annual contribution to the funding of their activities of 632 000 euro. This amount is distributed over the 6 centres according to a fixed component of max. 7 500 euro per centre, a fixed component of max. 15 000 euro for the centre in charge of coordination and the relations with the Dutch Open University, a variable component in which the amount remaining is divided over the centres in proportion to the number of exam-right registrations at the Dutch Open University.

Study credit for students

Henceforth, every student embarking on higher education gets a study credit of 140 credits. At the time of registration the number of credits taken up is deducted from this study credit. Acquired credits are added back onto this study credit, the first 60 even twice (in the case of degree contracts only). This is an extra reserve for students who decide to get down to work after an initial bad start in higher education, for example. Students without study credit cannot be financed. The institutions can decide for themselves whether they register these students and may seek higher tuition fees (maximum double of the normal registration fees). The study credit is not used when students register for a bridging programme or a preparatory programme. Neither is it used for registrations under an exam contract.

When a Master's degree is obtained, the initial study credit of 140 credits is once again deducted from the study credit. Within the framework of lifelong and lifewide learning the study credit of any student leaving higher education is once again, on a one-off basis, brought back up to 60 credits, regardless of the fact whether the student has any study credit left: to that effect 10 credits are added every year. These 60 credits can then once again be used when they register for an initial Bachelor's or Master's programme again.

From now on, higher-education students can follow-up their study credit online on

Student facilities

Every year, higher education institutions receive an amount for student facilities, intended to promote equal access to and participation in higher education for all students by offering material and non-material assistance and services and by removing factors which represent obstacles to studying. The decree of 29 June 2012 sets out a new, uniform system for university colleges and universities. The following have access to this system: students enrolled with a degree or credit contract and students attending a programme in the context of international mobility and exchanges; and students on an associate degree course organised by a Centre for Adult Education and pupils on an associate degree course in nursing organised by an institution for secondary education, provided these institutions have entered into a collaboration agreement concerning the associate degree course with a university college. The higher education institutions should set up a student facilities service that is easy for students to use and a student facilities council, half of whose members should be elected from among the students, pupils and those taking courses. Among other things, the student facilities council should draw up a policy plan, annual and multi-annual budget and annual report.

For the decree of 29 June 2012, see
For student facilities council resources, see

The financing decree will be evaluated before 2014. By 2018, an additional evaluation will be performed of the universities' internal allocation models in relation to the points weightings applied, with a particular focus on the programmes that have been integrated into the universities in the meantime.

Resource Distribution of the Special Research Funds (BOF)

Via the Special Research Fund, universities can pursue their own policy on fundamental and pioneering research. To that end, the government provides a total budget of 104 million euro. The funds allocated to each university are decided on the basis of a distribution code. This code consists of various components which refer to the institutions' research capacity and their research results (number of researchers, number of doctorates conferred, etc.). The number of publications and citations in highly-rated scientific journals also come into play here. To measure the number of publications and citations, the Web of Science (WoS) is employed but this international bibliographic database chiefly contains leading journals from the world of engineering, natural and life sciences. As a result, researchers involved in social and human sciences used to complain that their work was not properly valued when it came to distributing research funds and resources. So, for that reason a decision has been taken to put more store on the work of social and human-sciences researchers. This is accomplished by using a broader set of international publication and citation indexes in the BOF-funds' distribution code and by developing a Flemish Academic Bibliographic Database for the Social and Human Sciences (VABB-SHW). With the technical support from the R&D Centre of Excellence, Flemish researchers from the world of social and human sciences will build up a database containing articles and publications of high scientific value which do not feature in the existing international databases. This will also make it possible to assess Dutch-language publications on their merits. Moreover, the expansion also means that monographs and articles in books will be taken into consideration. This will also affect the basic financing of the universities. The VABB-SHW will be used to distribute the variable research funds and resources.

As a result of the rearrangement of the BOF funds, from budget year 2012 onwards the calculation and management of the BOF distribution code will be transferred to the Department for the Economy, Science and Innovation.

Financial autonomy and control

Associate degree (HBO5, Higher Vocational Education)

Financial autonomy and control depends on the level of the organising institution: secondary education [see 3.1.2], adult education [3.3.1] or higher education [see below]. 

University colleges and universities

Institutions are allocated operational resources in the form of a 'lump sum'. They decide autonomously how these resources are distributed and must draw up rules in this regard. However, they are bound by a minimum number of decree stipulations, e.g. regarding the recruitment and appointment of staff.

Compliance with these rules is supervised by a Commissioner of the Flemish Government and an inspector from the FPS Finance. The commissioner can appeal a decision from the institution and then the Flemish Government has to adjudicate on that decision. These commissioners of the Flemish Government at the university colleges and universities form one board which meets at least 6 times per year and reports to the Flemish Government on an annual basis. The commissioners are appointed for a period of five years. Their powers are limited, safeguarding the institutions' decisionmaking freedom. (Decree of the Flemish government of 5 September 2003). 

Fees within Public Higher Education

Associate degree (HBO5, Higher Vocational Education)

Registration fees depend on the level of the organising institution: secondary education [see 3.1.3], adult education [3.3.2] or higher education [see below]. 

University colleges and universities

Students who register for a number of credits enter into a study contract with a certain institution. The Decree on flexibilisation specifies three types of study contracts (see].

Tuition fees are regulated by the Decree of 30 April 2004 concerning the flexibilisation of higher education. This depends on whether

  • the student qualifies for an education grant or not,
  • the student is an EEA citizen or not,
  • the learning pathway,
  • the programme (Bachelor's, Master's, bridging programme...),
  • the number of credits.

Henceforth, students in the last year of secondary education can also register under a credit contract. Under a credit contract of up to 10 credits they pay only half of the tuition fees grant-rate students are charged.

Financial Support for Learners and/or Learners' Families

In addition to the decree of 30 april 2004 on study financing and student facilities in higher education, the decree of 8 june 2007 now regulates study financing in the whole of the education system in the Flemish Community. 

School allowances in nursery education, compulsory education and higher education are allocated on the basis of the same allocation criteria and on foot of a family file that covers all the children within one and the same family across all levels of education.

AHOVOS (the Agency for Higher Education, Adult Education and Study Allowances) has set up a specific website for school and study allowances:

Associate degree (HBO5, Higher Vocational Education)

The study allowance depends on the level of the organising institution: secondary education [3.1.1], adult education [3.3.1] or higher education [see beow].

There is no age restriction for those taking the nursing programme.

Study financing will be extended to those taking HBO5 programmes and those taking the general training in second-chance education. 

University colleges and universities

There are three groups of conditions:

  1. Nationality conditions (with specific conditions for non-nationals)
  2. Pedagogical conditions
  • students must be registered at a registered institute for higher education;
  • the programme must be accredited, recognised as a new programme or must be temporarily recognised (or must be a programme from the former structure); aside from this also the following programmes qualify:
    • preparatory programmes;
    • bridging programmes;
    • specific teacher-training programmes as a follow-up programme;
  • the programme must be followed under a degree contract;
  • all students who register can qualify for study-allowance credit, i.e.:
    • two Bachelor‚Äôs credits;
    • one Master‚Äôs credit;
    • one wild card;
    • one credit for a preparatory programme;
    • one credit for a bridging programme;
    • one credit for a specific teacher-training programme in the form of a follow-up programme;
  • when the amount of the study allowance is calculated, the number of credits the student has registered for is also taken into consideration;
    • students can receive a study allowance for a maximum of 60 credits per academic year and must register for a minimum of 30 credits;
    • the study load for full-time study itineraries (of a programme, expressed in credits) or an academic year (not expressed in credits) has been set at 60 credits;
    • the study load for part-time study itineraries has been fixed at 30 credits;
    • a wild card comprises 60 credits and is valid for the entire duration of the studies;
      • this wild card may be used to follow certain programme components of programmes the student did already follow though for which he failed the exams or, to follow a different programme;
      • it can also be used to follow a refresher's programme if the lifetime of the credits the student did acquire previously has expired;
      • moreover, it can also be used for components of a particular Bachelor's or Master's programme, if it transpires during a certain academic year or semester in which the student would be in a position to obtain a degree, that the relevant credit for the programme in question has been used up;
  • in cases where studies were followed in the French or German-speaking Communities or abroad, study financing may be portable subject to certain conditions.

Financial conditions: here the following is taken into consideration:

  • The student's 'family unit', where various categories are distinguished:

    • principal place of residence with either or both parents;
    • principal place of residence with another natural person entrusted with the student's care or with a natural person who receives tax credits for the student;
    • married students;
    • independent students;
    • students living by themselves;
  • the reference income of the 'family unit' the pupil/student belongs to;
  • the rateable value of the 'family unit' the pupil/student belongs to;
  • the composition of the 'family unit' (number of dependent persons, number of students, number of disabled persons).

In 2010-2011, 44 028 study allowances were paid out to students in higher education, for an average amount of €1,651.15. (Figures as at 30/09/2011; Study allowances - general data).

Legislative framework

Study financing is now regulated on a integrated basis for all educational levels by the decree of 8 June 2007. (See 3.1-4). 

Financial Support for Learners

Associate degree (HBO5, Higher Vocational Education)

Support options depend on the level of the organising institution: secondary [3.1.5], adult education [3.3.3] or higher education [see below]. 

University colleges and universities

Students who spend time (with a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of one academic year) abroad under the Erasmus Programme may qualify for a mobility grant from the Flemish Community.

Education grants are also provided by several authorities such as the Provincial Commissions for Foundations of Study Allowances, or within the framework of European exchange programmes and also by various private organisations and foundations. Grants are also available for studies abroad and scientific research.

Students suffering from functional disabilities can avail of financing for special learning tools.

Doctoral students may be funded by the university as university assistants or in the form of doctoral fellowships or by the Fund for Scientific Research and related funds. Doctorate students may also finance their own doctoral studies, however this is rather rare.

Study loans are granted by all kinds of private financial organisations and foundations.

The higher-education institutions also provide numerous social facilities (a.o. student restaurants and accommodation). University colleges now receive the same level of subsidies for such services as the universities.

Private education

Non-subsidised and non-recognised educational initiatives are extremely few in number. The Department of Education does not collect data concerning them.
We deal with subsidised and recognised independent education together with public education.