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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice

Belgium - French Community

7.2.First-cycle programmes


Last update: 27 November 2023

Bachelor degree courses are provided in both long-type and short-type higher education.

Branches of study

Courses in the first cycle of both long-type and short-type higher education mostly consist of 180 ECTS. Only two high school short-type bachelors are organized in 240 ECTS (studies in nursing and midwifery).

Each of the full universities (University of Liège, Catholic University of Louvain, Free University of Brussels) has traditional faculties : philosophy and humanities, law, science, medicine and applied science. Additionally, each university has a variable number of faculties, schools, or institutes, which teach other disciplines such as agricultural science, art history, archaeology, oriental studies, business and economics, social and political science, criminology, psychology, educational science, etc.

In the other university institutions, instruction is limited to a certain number of disciplines and, for some of them, to just the first cycle of studies, which leads to a bachelor degree :

  • the University of Mons organises bachelor degree courses in most disciplines ;
  • the University of Saint-Louis - Bruxelles organises courses in law, economics, social science, political science, philosophy, history, languages, etc. and mainly of first cycle ;
  • the University of Namur organises mainly courses in law, philosophy, history, languages and literature, art and archaeology, political science, social science, veterinary science, medicine, and pharmaceutical science.

The Hautes Ecoles offer courses in different fields (agronomy, economics, paramedical, social, technical, pedagogical) which are organised either as short-type or long-type studies :

  • Short-type: one cycle, leading to a bachelor's degree (professionally-oriented or advanced bachelor) ;
  • Long-type: two cycles, leading to the Master’s degree.

The Arts Colleges provide preparation for all artistic disciplines in five fields of study :

  • plastic, visual and spatial arts (drawing, photography, art in public spaces, etc.) ;
  • music (e.g. instrumental training - percussion; voice training - lyrical art; jazz and easy listening music - composition, etc.) ;
  • theatre and the spoken word (oratory, dramatic art) ;
  • performing arts and broadcasting and communication techniques (production for cinema, radio and television, theatre and communication techniques, radio, TV and multimedia, etc.) ;
  • danse.

The various courses of Social Advancement Higher Education are organized in the following areas :

  • Languages, literatures and translation studies ;
  • Information and communication ;
  • Political and Social Sciences ;
  • Legal Sciences ;
  • Economics and management sciences ;
  • Psychological and educational sciences ;
  • Public health sciences ;
  • Motricity sciences ;
  • Sciences ;
  • Agricultural sciences and biological engineering ;
  • Engineering sciences and technology ;
  • Art of building and urbanism ;
  • Plastic, visual and spacial arts.

Admission requirements

Access to Higher education

Full-time education

The first cycle of higher education is open to students who hold a certificate of upper secondary education (CESS), that is awarded in the French Community, in the German-speaking Community, in the Flemish Community, or by the Royal Military Academy (for the latter 3 provided that the corresponding certificate is considered as similar by the authorities of the higher education institution). The certificate of upper secondary education (CESS) may also be obtained by submitting the exams of the Examination Board of the French Community or in Social Advancement education.

Enrollment in an establishment of tertiary education is also subject to other conditions (payment of registration fees, sufficient mastery of the French language for the Certified lower secondary education teachers, ...).

Other qualifications to access first-cycle studies are established by the legislation : Higher education degrees attesting academic grades awarded :

  • in the French Community (by a full-time higher education institution or by a social advancement institution) ;
  • in the German-speaking Community, in the Flemish Community or by the Royal Military Academy if they are similar to those awarded in the French Community. This similarity is to be appraised by the authorities of the higher education institution where the students wants to apply for registration.

Entry to first-cycle studies in engineering sciences is subject not just to the general conditions of entry to higher education, but to the passing of an entrance examination.

Since the 2017-2018 academic year, the student (resident or non-resident) who wishes to enroll in the first cycle of the medical science and dental science studies must pass an entrance and access examination organised by the ARES, the terms of which are laid down by the decree of 29 March 2017 on medical and dental science studies and the decree of the Government of the French Community of 19 April 2017 laying down the detailed syllabus of the entrance and access examination for the first cycle of the medical science and/or dental science studies.

Admission to Arts Colleges is subject to specific conditions : the student must fulfill the general conditions of access to higher education but also pass the admission test (assessment of the artistic aptitudes of the student) organized by the institution.

A student who has obtained more than two academic degrees (same level) in the previous five years may be refused admission, except for an upper secondary teaching diploma or a doctorate.

Social advancement Higher education

No candidate may be admitted as a regular student in Social Advancement higher education as long as he/she is subject to full-time compulsory education.

The admission to studies of a learner is decided by the Councils of Studies of the Teaching Units (Conseils des études des unités d'enseignement). The prerequisite skills or the qualifications required are defined in the pedagogical file for each Teaching Unit.

If the learner does not have the prerequisite skills or the qualifications required, the Councils of Studies will check whether the learner masters the prerequisites described in the pedagogical file, on the basis of his/her academic, professional or personal background, or by means of admission tests.

No candidate may simultaneously attend short-term courses of social advancement higher education and those of full-time higher education unless the content of the courses of social advancement does not correspond to that of his program of studies in full-time education.

Entrance examinations and customised admission in full-time education

Students who do not hold any of the qualifications authorizing access to higher education may nevertheless have access to it through the success of certain tests as :

  • the admission examination organized by some higher education institutions or by a board of the French Community ;
  • the diploma of competence to access Higher Education (Diplôme d’Aptitude à accéder à l’Enseignement Supérieur) awarded by the Board of the French Community ;
  • the examination of the paramedical board of the French Community (for access to the first year of bachelor in nursing responsible for general care or bachelor in midwifery in a “Haute Ecole”.

The legal gateways referring to the years of studies have not existed anymore since the introduction of the notion of "block" by the decree of 7 November 2013. This decree allows the reorientation of the student in terms of validation of prior learning. The boards take into account the ECTS got by the students in higher education or in parts of higher studies which they have already successfully passed, and students may thus be exempted from the corresponding parts of the new curriculum.

The boards may also take into account within this framework the knowledge and skills acquired by students through personal or professional experience (VAE : validation of prior learning).

Qualifications gained abroad

Holders of a foreign upper secondary education certificate are also entitled to admission to higher education in the French Community provided they have obtained confirmation of equivalence for their qualification.

For holders of a higher education degree obtained abroad who wish to be admitted to a bachelor's degree programme, an application for the validation of acquired ECTS may be submitted to an institution. Valorisation of 45 ECTS exempts the student from having to show an equivalence of his or her upper secondary education cerificate.

It should be noted that the French Community has two separate services for the recognition of foreign diplomas :

•    le Service des Equivalences de l’enseignement obligatoire (for secondary education degrees).  it deals in particular with applications for recognition for access to higher education ;

•    the Directorate for the Recognition of Foreign Qualifications : it assesses foreign higher education degrees (mainly for labour market integration) and ensures the professional recognition of teacher qualifications acquired within the European Economic Area (Directive 2005/36/EC).

Choice of institution

Students freely choose the higher education institution in which they wish to enrol. The circumstances under which a university, an Haute Ecole or an Arts College may refuse enrolment are defined, and an appeal procedure against enrolment refusals exists.

Admission restrictions

Generally, the French Community does not apply a restricted admissions system (numerus clausus), but there are a few exceptions to this rule.

The decree of 16 June 2006 requires the authorities running the Universities and the Hautes Ecoles to limit the number of non-resident students enrolling for certain courses at an haute école or university without having been enrolled in the French Community on the same course during a previous academic year.

In long-type higher education, for universities, this measure relates to the enrolment in the courses leading to the bachelor degree in physiotherapy and rehabilitation, in veterinary science, in psychology and education with a specialisation in speech therapy, in dentistry and in medicine.

In the Hautes Ecoles, this decree concerns enrollments in bachelor courses in physiotherapy (and for short-type bachelors, the bachelor in speech therapy and bachelor in audiology).


Language of instruction

The language of instruction and of assessment of educational activities is French, but the legislation establishes that some activities may be given and assessed in another language.

Some bachelors and masters programs are partially or totally organized in English.


All curricula in full-time higher education are expressed in credits (ECTS).

One ECTS corresponds to a flat rate of 30 hours of learning activities. This hourly load is only partly devoted to teaching directly organised by the institution, but includes other associated activities, such as work, personal exercises, preparations, studies, projects, documentary research, tests or socio-professional immersion.

The ECTS associated with a course within a curriculum are expressed in whole numbers, or exceptionally in half-units, with a minimum of 1 ECTS.


The list of accreditations to organize higher education studies and to confer academic grades that leads to them can be found in the appendices to the "landscape" decree.

In order to ensure an adequate supply of every initial curriculum in the French Community, the Government may establish for each higher education institution, after consulting the ARES (Academy for Research and Higher Education), the list of cycles of studies that it must continue to organize and the site which will receive them with respect to the accreditations, under penalty of being deprived of any subsidy and accreditation for the other studies that it would organize. This obligation must be notified two months before the beginning of the following four months.

Competency guidelines

The ARES, on the basis of proposals made by its committees and the institutions concerned, defines the competency guidelines corresponding to the academic degrees awarded.  These competency guidelines represent structured sets of competences specific to an academic degree, a title or a certification.

Teaching methods

Higher education uses adapted methods and resources, according to the specific discipline, with a view to attaining the general objectives set out in the decree of 7 November 2013 (“Landscape Decree”) and to making higher education accessible to all, in accordance with their aptitudes, without discrimination. The education which is provided is based on the final attainment levels and core knowledge required at the end of secondary education.

Being intended for adults who are participating of their own free will, higher education uses teaching methods adapted to this characteristic. Educational activities comprise :

• courses organised by the institution, in particular lecture courses, monitored exercises, coursework, laboratory work, seminars, creation and research workshops, excursions, visits and internships ;

• individual or group activities, including preparation, coursework, documentary research, dissertations and projects ;

• personal study, self-training and enrichment activities.

The purpose of higher education is to train graduates who meet its general objectives. Short-type education, which pedagogically combines theory and practice, internships in the workplace or in laboratory settings, and thus meets specific professional objectives, is provided in the Hautes Écoles, Arts Colleges or in Social Advancement education and can lead to the level 5 or 6 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework.

Long-type education, which is based on fundamental concepts, experiments and illustrations and thus provides both general and in-depth training in two cycles, is provided at Universities, Hautes Écoles, Arts Colleges or Social Advancement education and may lead to final level 7 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework. 

Doctoral training and preparatory work for the doctorate are carried out in research teams - the size of which varies according to the discipline - under the direction of a promoter, at the university or in close collaboration with the university, and may lead to a level 8 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework, exclusively awarded by a university.

Each higher education institution has the freedom to conduct and organise its teaching, research and community service activities in order to best fulfil its various missions. In the performance of his/her missions, every staff member of a higher education institution enjoys academic freedom.


University education is based on a close link between scientific research and the subjects taught.

Within the framework of their missions, Higher Education institutions develop partnerships with each other and with other institutions or legal entities from the scientific, educational, professional and cultural world (including the private sector). The partners chosen may be Belgian or foreign. They may conclude collaboration agreements with these partners. For educational agreements, the partner institutions must be recognised by their competent Higher Education authorities. 

Basic and applied scientific research is organised in the Universities.  It refers to research work resulting from observations, experiments or theories and undertaken to acquire original knowledge or the understanding of phenomena. This work aims to study properties, structures, phenomena or reasoning and to explain them by means of explanatory schemes or interpretative theories, without any practical application or use being directly foreseen or a priori determined. 

Applied scientific research refers to research aimed at identifying potential applications of basic research results or at finding new solutions or improving processes, with a view to achieving a specific, a priori determined objective.

In order to ensure a suitable distribution of the study and assessment load within each study year, the academic authorities distribute the courses making up the programme evenly between the two first terms of the academic year. At the different levels, teaching encompasses lectures, coursework, internships, and supervised exercises. In the first years, university education offers basic instruction in the selected discipline together with a broad, general scientific education. Later on, it intensifies the scientific research approach and offers specialised content. Every curriculum comprises compulsory courses and courses chosen by the student.

Hautes Ecoles

Higher education organised in Hautes Ecoles pursues a highly qualified professional objective. The institutions that organise it carry out their mission of applied research linked to their teaching in close relation with the professional world and the university institutions.

Each Haute Ecole must adopt an educational, social and cultural plan: this plan is a framework for teachers and students within an institute and defines, among others, the means implemented to integrate the missions, objectives and aims of higher education, the specificities of education linked to the nature of the higher education institution, support for success, the means implemented to contribute to students’ mobility, the methods of organising the participation of the actors of the educational community in the institution’s life, the adopted teaching methods, the quality control procedures implemented, the assessment methods, the educational facilities needed, and the values promoted through the educational relationship.

To meet their objectives, the Hautes Ecoles must ensure that they develop and implement appropriate methods: high-quality initial training, teacher supervision, production and provision of information media, management of a documentation centre, applied research, continuing education, collaboration with the socio-economic environment, and cooperation at an international level.

The Hautes Ecoles also develop applied scientific research. This refers to research aimed at identifying potential applications of basic research results or at finding new solutions or improving processes, with a view to achieving a specific, a priori determined objective.

Arts Colleges

Arts education in higher education must be a multidisciplinary place of research and creation in which the arts and their teaching are invented in an inseparable way. The arts that are developed there are not only considered as social productions but also as social agents that participate in the knowledge, evolution and transformation of society. By taking into account the lessons of past and contemporary arts, thought and science, arts education is prospective and it stimulates openness to the future, to the unprecedented.

The Arts Colleges offer training in five sectors of higher arts education : Plastic, Visual and Space Arts ; Music ; Theater and Performing Arts ; Performing Arts and Broadcasting and Communication Technology ; Dance. They train not only artists, but also pedagogues and social actors adapted to the realities of the field and today’s society.

By nature, education in Arts Colleges is based on a close link between the practice of arts and its teaching. Artistic research is carried out in direct connection with the artistic practice of the teachers, the artistic and professional environments. 

Artistic research refers to all reflective, analytical or prospective work related to artistic expression, training, practice or creation in all their forms. It is developed on the basis of the researcher's personal artistic experience and practice and is mainly organised within the Arts Colleges or in collaboration with the Universities and Hautes Ecoles.

Each school must develop a pedagogical and artistic project that specifies all the means implemented and the choices made to meet the missions of higher arts education.

Social advancement Higher education

Social Advancement Higher Education organizes courses according to a coherent system of teaching units that can be capitalized.

Each section (with the exception of advanced sections) organized by Social Advancement Education includes general, technical, ... subjects, traineeship (also in the form of teaching units) and an integrated test, in addition to the teaching units. The articulation between these different teaching units is determined by a capitalization process represented by the organization chart of the section. Each of these teaching units leads to a certificate of success.

To obtain the qualification, the student must capitalize the certificates of success of each teaching unit constituting the section and show in a synthesis form, through the integrated test, that he masters the learning outcomes (of the units noted as critical in the pedagogical file) aimed at throughout the curriculum. Each institution offers a specific organization of the teaching units in accordance with the organizational chart of the section. Students have the opportunity to follow the offered curriculum or to personalize their pathway taking personal, professional and family constraints into account. In this case, they adapt their training rhythm by choosing the number of teaching units they want to follow, provided that they respect the organizational chart and the possible limit of the duration of validity of the certificates of success of the critical teaching units.

Progression of students

In general, in full-time education, the student's annual program consists of at least 60 ECTS, which are divided into teaching units, which are themselves composed of learning activities. For the student in firs cycle’s first year, an assessment period is systematically scheduled for January.

The annual program of a student enrolling for the first time in a first-cycle program must correspond to the first 60 ECTS of the study program, unless the program is reduced. If the student acquired or upgraded ECTS for teaching units in this program, he/she may supplement his/her registration with remedial or complementary activities to increase his/her chances of success.

A student who acquired or upgraded at least 30 of the first 60 ECTS of his/her study program may, with the approval of the board, complete his/her annual program with teaching units from the rest of the cycle program for which he/she meets the prerequisites, without the annual load of his/her program exceeding 60 CTS of the cycle program. 

A student who acquired or upgraded at least 45 of the first 60 ECTS of the study program may complete the annual program of teaching units of the cycle program. 

Beyond the first 60 ECTS of the first-cycle program, a student's annual program includes  :

  1. the teaching units of the program of study in which he/she was already enrolled and for which he/she has not yet acquired the corresponding ECTS, with the exception of optional units of the program chosen by the student, which he/she may withdraw from ;
  2. teaching units from the rest of the cycle program, for which the student fulfils the prerequisites. 

The annual program of each student is subject to the approval of the board, which ensures that the prerequisites and corequisites are respected and that the student's annual load is at least 60 ECTS, except at the end of the cycle or in case of a reduction.

The student pursues his pathway until he obtains all the ECTS of the program of the cycle.

At the end of the cycle of studies, when the minimum number of ECTS is obtained by the student, the board gives him the corresponding academic degree with a possible mention.


Bachelors’ studies in short-cycle Higher Education include internships in a workplace or in a laboratory setting and thus familiarize young people with the world of work. Very often, the theme of the end of studies’ work implies contacts with a professional environment.

Student assessment

Success requirements

The Landscape Decree harmonized the success requirements for all full-time higher education institutions. Since the decree "landscape", the concept of "year of study" has disappeared in favor of that of "annual program" of the student. Similarly, the notion of "course" is replaced by that of "teaching unit". In general, the student's annual program consists of at least 60 ECTS, which are divided into teaching units, which are themselves composed of learning activities (AA).

The single success threshold for acquiring ECTS in a teaching unit is set at 10/20. At the end of the academic year, the board validates the teaching unit (and the corresponding ECTS) of the student's program which have reached the 10/20 threshold.

The notions of "adjournment" and "refusal" are no longer valid and that of "success" is only used to attest the completion of a cycle of studies.

The student has the right to present two assessments for each teaching unit in the same academic year. For the first-year student an additional evaluation period is scheduled for January and is compulsory, except if the absence is considered legitimate by the authorities of the institution) and constitutes an admission requirement to the other tests of the academic year.


The authorities of the higher education institution constitute a board for each cycle leading to an academic degree. A separate sub-board may be set up for the first year of the first cycle.

These authorities fix the study regulations, as well as the special rules governing the operation of the boards.

Subject to the other legal provisions, these board regulations lay down :

  • the registration procedure ;
  • the exact composition of the board, its mode of operation and publication of decisions ;
  • the organization of deliberations and granting of ECTS ;
  • the evaluation periods and the organization and conduct of the tests ;
  • the sanctions for fraud in the conduct of evaluations ;
  • the methods of introducing, investigating and resolving student complaints relating to irregularities in the conduct of evaluations.

The academic authorities fix the schedule of the tests by preserving sufficient time between successive tests during the same evaluation period. The assessment for a course may consist of an oral or written examination or any other work carried out by the student for this purpose. Oral examinations are public, but the audience may not interact in any way with the examiner or examinee during the test, nor disturb its proper conduct. Corrected copies of other tests and written works may be consulted by students within the month of publication of the test results. The boards are responsible for sanctioning the acquisition of ECTS, for proclaiming the success of a program of studies, for conferring the academic degree which sanctions the cycle of studies.

A board includes, in particular, all teachers who are responsible for a compulsory teaching unit in the higher education institution. This board deliberates validly only if more than half of those teachers who participated to the academic year's examinations are present.

Those responsible for the other teaching units of the program followed during the academic year by at least one regularly enrolled student take part in the deliberations. In the case of higher artistic studies, the board responsible for the evaluation of the main artistic course at the end of the cycle is composed mainly of members outside the Arts Colleges. The board deliberates on the basis of the assessments of the achievements of each student for each of the teaching units followed during the academic year. The single success threshold for acquiring ECTS from a teaching unit is set at 10/20. It allocates ECTS for the teaching units whose assessment is sufficient or for those where the deficit is acceptable in the light of its overall results. The board can sovereignly proclaim the success of a teaching unit, of all the units studied during an academic year or a cycle of studies, even if the threshold of success is not reached in every teaching unit.

It also grants the ECTS associated with the teaching units followed outside the program and of which it considers the results sufficient.

At the end of a cycle of study, the board gives the student the corresponding academic grade, when it is recognized that the minimum number of ECTS has been acquired, that the requirements of the curriculum have been met, that the admission requirements to these studies were met and that the student was regularly enrolled there.


At the end of the first cycle of studies, the Bachelor’s degree is granted.

The bachelor's degree is granted to students who :

  • acquired in-depth knowledge and skills in a field of work or study that follows and is based on an upper secondary education. This field is located at a high level of training based, among other things, on scientific publications or artistic productions as well as on knowledge gained from research and experience ;
  • are able to apply, mobilize, articulate and value this knowledge and these skills in the context of a socio-professional activity or further learning and have demonstrated their ability to elaborate and develop reasoning, arguments and solutions to problems in their field of study ;
  • are able to collect, analyze and interpret, in a relevant way, data (generally, in their field of study) in order to formulate opinions, critical judgments or artistic proposals that integrate reflection on societal, scientific, technical, artistic or ethical issues ;
  • are able to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions in a clear and structured way to informed and non-informed audiences, according to context-specific communication standards ;
  • developed the learning strategies that are necessary to continue their training with a high degree of autonomy.

The degrees are issued by the institutions in accordance with the legislation. The latter determines the models of degrees and degrees’ supplements. It also includes the instructions for their drafting to which the institutions must comply. These instructions relate in particular to the denomination of the degrees awarded, the information concerning the graduate student, the name of the institution ... Bachelor's degrees (short or long type) are positioned at Level 6 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework and correspond to Level 6 European Framework of Certifications for Lifelong Learning.