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Second-cycle programmes

Belgium - Flemish Community

7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

Master programmes are always academically oriented. They aim at brining students to an advanced level of knowledge and competences needed for autonomous scientific or artistic work in general and for a specific field of science or arts in particular, and which is required for the independent practice of scince or arts or for the use of this scientific or artistic knowledge in the independent practice of a professional or group of professions.

Master programmes are organised at level 7 of the Flemish and European qualification framework. They result in the degree of master.

In addition to domain specific master research universities can under strict conditions offer a number of research masters. These must comply with the following criteria:

  1. they result in a transfer to research careers in an institution for higher education or within the industrial world or social organisations;
  2. the programme is in line with the core research activities of the institution of higher education;
  3. the intended final level of the programme corresponds with the final level which is internationally common for a research master.

In addition to the initial master programmes the institutions of higher education can also offer advances master programmes (master-after-master). These aim at further supplementing / broadening or a deepening / specialising of the knowledge and/or competence acquired the initial master programme.

The study load of the master programmes comprises at least 60 credits. Most master programmes have a study load of 60 or 120 credits.

Master programmes are offered by research universities. University colleges can only offer masters in the framework of a School of Arts and this within the field of study of audiovisual and visual arts or the field of study of music and performing arts. The Higher Maritime Institute offers master programmes within the field of study of nautical sciences.

Branches of study

Research universities may offer master programmes and the accompanying degree of master in the following fields of study

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

The university colleges can within a School of Arts offer master programmes within the following areas of study

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

The Higher Maritime Institute can organise master programmes within the areas of study of nautical science.

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 master programmes.

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

Admission requirements

In addition to the general qualification conditions as laid down in legislation the institutions of higher education have the autonomy to impose language conditions. Depending on of the prior study path a preparatory programme can be imposed or the content of the study programme can be altered. The institution’s board determines the additional admission criteria in its educational regulations. 

Legislation prescribes the following aspects:

  • A bachelor degree, obtained upon completion of an academic bachelor programme, grants direct access to a master programme. Students who have obtained a professional bachelor degree must first complete a bridging programme first. A skills assessment may also be executed. A bridging programme consists of a minimum of 45 and a maximum of 90 credits. The institution may reduce the bridging programme or even grant a full exemption based on a skills assessment relating to previously acquired qualifications.
  • Enrolment in a research master can be made dependent on a skills assessment of the student. The governing board of an institution of higher education can decide to limit the number of students which is granted access to a research master on the basis of the operating means granted by the government to the institution.
  • The institutions for higher education can only offer advanced master programmes to holders of a master degree. Direct access may be restricted to graduates of master programmes with specific programme characteristics. Institutions may request holders of other master degrees to follow a preparatory programme as an admission requirement. The content and study load of the preparatory programmes are determined by the institution and may vary according to the content relatedness between students' prior education and the advanced master programme in question. Also for admission to an advanced master programme a skills assessment can be obligatory.

The institution can exempt persons holding a qualification or degree which has been issued outside the Flemish Community from the requirements with regard to prior education in as far as the institution considers the qualification or degree and the specific profile of the programme of a student of sufficient level and on the condition that a check of the authenticity of the qualifications and degrees has been performed. Admission can be made conditional upon a successful completion of a specific preparatory programme.

The governing board of an institution can grant persons who can no longer present their qualification or degree access to a programme on humanitarian grounds. Admission is granted after a skills assessment. 


The basic principles with regard to the curriculum of master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to the curriculum of bachelor programmes (see …).

In determining the curriculum of programmes leading to the professions of medical doctor, general practitioner, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist or architect, the institution’s board must comply with the requirements set out in European Directive 2005/36/EC. The accreditation body confirms in its accreditation report and decision whether the institution’s board has complied with this European Directive or not.

At the end of a master programme each student must submit (and in some cases defend) a dissertation (master thesis). The thesis represents at least 20% of the ECTS load of the master programme, with a minimum of 15 credits and a maximum of 30 credits.

Teaching methods

The basic principles with regard to the teaching methods of master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to the teaching methods of bachelor programmes.

Progression of students

The basic principles with regard to study progress in master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to study progress in bachelor programmes.


Parallel to the university colleges the research universities have developed specific services for guiding graduating master students.

Student assessment

The basic principles with regard to study assessment in master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to study assessment in bachelor programmes.


The basic principles with regard to certificates in master programmes are identical to the basic principles with regard to certificates in bachelor programmes.