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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice

Belgium - French Community

7.2.First-cycle programmes


Last update: 21 June 2024

Branches of study

The fields of Higher education are the following : Philosophy ; Theology ; Languages, Literatures and Translation studies ; History, History of Art and Archeology ; Information and Communication ; Political and Social Sciences ; Legal Sciences ; Criminology ; Economics and Management ; Psychology and Education ; Education and Teaching (since 2023-2024) ; Medical Sciences ; Veterinary Sciences ; Dentistry ; Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences ; Public Health Sciences ; Motricity Sciences ; Sciences ; Agronomy and Biological Engineering ; Engineering Sciences and Technology ; Art of Building and Urban planning ; Art and Art Sciences ; Plastic, Visual and Space Arts ; Music ; Theater and Performing Arts ; Performing Arts and Broadcasting and Communication Technology ; Dance.
These fields are divided into 4 sectors: "human and social sciences", "health", "sciences and techniques" and "art".

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).

The accreditation defines the studies that each higher education institution may organise.

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 some pedagogical trainings, ...).

Other qualifications to access first-cycle studies are established by the legislation such as : Higher education degrees attesting academic grades awarded in the French Community, in another Community or by the Royal Military Academy, the diploma of aptitude for access to higher education (DAES = diplôme d'aptitude à accéder à l'enseignement supérieur), a decision on the equivalence of a foreign diploma, etc.

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

In addition to the general admission requirements, the decree of March 29, 2017 introduces special admission requirements for students wishing to enroll in the first cycle of medical and dental science curricula. From the 2023-2024 academic year, an entrance examination has been introduced, in the form of a single exam organized once a year between August 16 and 31. For each of the two streams, candidates are ranked in descending order of the overall mark they obtained in the entrance and access examinations. The candidate with the highest overall score is ranked first.

Admission to Arts Colleges is also 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 in which the student wishes to enroll.

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 ;
  • 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 decree of 7 November 2013 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 giving access to higher education in their home system 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.
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 the 1st cycle of 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.

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

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, organized into a cycle of studies, pedagogically combines theory and practice, internships in the workplace or in laboratory settings, and thus meets specific professional objectives.
Long-type education is based on fundamental concepts, experiments and illustrations and thus provides both general and in-depth training in two cycles.

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.

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. 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.
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.

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.
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.
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 full-time training, each program of study consists of an accumulation of ECTS that, upon completion, leads to an academic degree.
This program is generally presented in annual blocks of 60 ECTS.
The student's annual program (PAE = Programme Annuel de l’Etudiant) is divided into Teaching Units, themselves made up of Learning Activities. Each student's PAE is subject to approval by the jury, which ensures that prerequisites and corequisites are met.
A single pass mark of 10/20 is required to acquire ECTS for a Teaching Unit. At the end of the academic year, the jury validates the Teaching Units (and corresponding ECTS) of the student's PAE that have reached this threshold.

Assessment periods are organized at the end of each term of the academic year.
All Learning Activities for each Teaching Unit in the curricula are generally spread over one of the first two terms of the academic year.
For pedagogical reasons, some Teaching Units may be spread over the first two terms of the academic year. In this case, for 1st cycle students, a partial assessment is organized at the end of the first term.
For each Teaching Unit, the student is entitled to submit two assessments during the same academic year.

The annual program (PAE) of a student enrolling for the first time in a 1st cycle program consists of the first 60 ECTS of that program. These 60 ECTS are equivalent to Block 1 (BA1). The acquisition of these first 60 ECTS leads to the successful completion of Block 1 (BA1). Students who have successfully completed Block 1 (BA1) may continue their studies with an annual program of at least 60 ECTS.
Starting with the 2022/2023 academic year, students who have not acquired their 60 Block 1 ECTS by the end of the academic year will be considered to have failed and will remain enrolled in Block 1 (BA1).

They will continue their studies, giving priority in their annual program to the Teaching Units in Block 1 that they have not acquired, although they may, in certain cases and under certain conditions, already take Teaching Units beyond Block 1.



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. 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.

For each Teaching Unit, the student is entitled to take two assessments during the same academic year.

Students in their first year of 1st cycle studies who have not reached the pass threshold of one or more Teaching Units at the January assessment may take again their exams at the other two periods.


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 teacher or student 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.

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. 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.


The bachelor's certificate is granted at the end of the first cycle of studies.

The degrees are issued by the institutions in accordance with the legislation. The latter determines the models of degrees and degrees’ supplements. 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.