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Second-cycle programmes

Belgium - French Community

7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

Branches of study

There are 26 fields of higher education : Philosophy, Theology, Languages, Letters and Translatology, History, History of Art and Archeology, Information and Communication, Political and Social Sciences, Legal Sciences, Criminology, Economics and Management, Psychological Sciences and Siences in Education, 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 sciences", "health", "sciences and techniques" and "art".

Note : Only 4 institutions of Social Advancement Higher Education are allowed to organize long-type programmes (Industrial Engineer and Master in Town and Country Planning).

The programmes of the second cycle of long-type full-time higher education represent 60 or 120 ECTS per year in the Hautes Ecoles and Arts Colleges. In the Universities, the second cycle consists of 60 ECTS, 120 ECTS (in-depth or advanced teaching master’s), or 180 ECTS (Medicine or Veterinary Medicine). Advanced master’s degrees (organised by Universities and Arts Colleges) consist of at least 60 ECTS (until 360 ECTS for the advanced master’s in the field of medical sciences).

The course leading to the upper secondary teaching qualification, organised by all three types of institution, consists of 30 ECTS.  It is an advanced academic degree aimed at complementing a master's degree with pedagogical and didactic training enabling its holder to teach at upper secondary level.  It will gradually disappear in the context of a global reform of initial teacher education.

Admission requirements

As a general rule, access to the first year of the second-cycle studies is open to students who have obtained the corresponding bachelor degree. There are also opportunities for individual admission to studies on the basis of the person's prior learning.

To gain admission to the course preparing for the upper secondary teaching qualification or for a teaching master’s, the student must hold an admission certificate or be enrolled on a master’s course. To gain admission to a teaching master’s or upper secondary teaching qualification (AESS), the student must also provide proof of an in-depth command of the French language.

Individual admission in full-time education

Under the general conditions set by the academic authorities, examination boards assess the ECTS gained by students in higher education courses or parts thereof that they have already successfully completed. Students benefiting from these ECTS are dispensed from the corresponding parts of the curriculum. The boards may also take into account in this context the knowledge and skills acquired by students through personal or professional experience (at least 5 years of activities).

Depending on the studies completed in short-type higher education, additional admission requirements to second-cycle studies in long-term higher education may be imposed.  In this respect, there is a system of legal bridges defining the minimum and maximum number of complementary ECTS that an institution can impose on the student (Decree of the Government of the French Community of 29-08-2018).


Language of instruction

The language of instruction and of assessment of educational activities is French, but a part of the activities may be given and assessed in another language :

  • in studies leading to the academic master’s degree, excluding ECTS specifically relating to the teaching master’s, for one half of the ECTS ;
  • in studies coorganised by several higher education institutions including at least one institution outside the French Community ;
  • in advanced studies ;
  • in third-cycle studies.


All curricula in full-time higher education are expressed in credits (ECTS). 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 initial second-cycle studies can be found in the appendices to the "landscape" decree. The accreditations to organize and open studies which the establishments had before the implementation of this decree are generally maintained.

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.


Orientation and possible options specify the content of the program of studies leading to the academic degree which gives these studies a particular competency profile. An orientation, possibly specified by a specialty, indicates competency guidelines and a teaching profile specific to the program of the cycle leading to it, and corresponding to a set of teaching units of more than 60 ECTS and not exceeding two thirds of the ECTS in the cycle of studies.

An option indicates the student's choice of a coherent set of specific teaching units valued for 15 to 30 ECTS that characterizes all or part of his / her program of the cycle, without the total of options may exceed half of the ECTS in this cycle of studies or that they lead to a distinct academic degree.

Second cycle master's studies in 120 ECTS or more include at least a choice of 30 specific ECTS giving this training one of the following purposes :

  • The teaching master’s that corresponds to the specific pedagogical training of the upper secondary school teachers. It is only organized for the academic degrees corresponding to the qualifications required for this profession ;
  • The in-depth master’s preparing to scientific research ; it includes both in-depth training in a specific discipline and general training in the researcher’s profession ;
  • The specialised master’s in a specific discipline in the field which the curriculum relates to and which aims at specific professional or artistic skills.

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 7 November 2013 Decree (“Landscape” Decree) and to making higher education accessible to all, in accordance with their aptitudes, without discrimination. Teaching is based on the terminal skills and the common 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 ;
  • acquisition of skills in a company as part of dual education.

Long-type higher education starts out from basic concepts, experiments and illustrations. Establishments of higher education fulfil a mission of applied research linked to the subjects they teach, in close relation to professional or artistic spheres or in collaboration with university institutions.


See First-cycle programmes - Bachelor

Hautes Ecoles

See First-cycle programmes - Bachelor

Arts Colleges

See First-cycle programmes - Bachelor

Social advancement higher education

See First-cycle programmes - Bachelor

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.

If the 60 ECTS of the annual program are validated by the board, the next academic year, the student can enroll in the teaching units of the following cycle program, with a minimum of 60 ECTS.


A lot of masters’ studies 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. In some cases (in particular in arts colleges), deliberation boards may include external experts.

Academic institutions have gradually put in place various initiatives to promote employment prospects and provide assistance in job search.

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.

The final evaluation of a teaching unit is expressed as a mark between 0 and 20, the threshold for acquiring the associated ECTS being 10/20. The ECTS are acquired definitively. 

At the end of the academic year, the board deliberates on the basis of the assessments of each student's achievements for each of the teaching units taken during the academic year. It also awards the ECTS associated with the teaching units taken outside the program and whose results it considers sufficient. At the end of a cycle of studies, the board confers the corresponding academic degree on the student when it finds that the minimum number of ECTS is acquired, that the conditions of the study program are met, that the conditions of access to the studies were satisfied and that the student was duly registered. The board also determines the possible grade on the basis of all the subjects taken during the cycle.


The authorities of the higher education institution constitute a board for each cycle leading to an academic degree. 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 procedure for admission to studies and for the validation of prior learning, as well as the members of the board responsible for this task ;
  • 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.

In the course of an academic year, a student may sit twice for examinations or assessments in the same course.

However, for properly justified exceptional reasons, the academic authorities may authorise a student to sit more than twice for assessments of the same course during the same academic year.

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.

The jury also determines the possible mention on the basis of all the lessons learned during the cycle.


Diplomas and certificates giving rise to the award of ECTS and issued in accordance with the Landscape Decree are the only qualifications recognised at Levels 5 to 8 of the French-speaking Qualification Framework. 

Bachelor's degrees are positioned at Level 6 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework and correspond to Level 6 of the European Framework of Certifications.

Master's degrees are positioned at Level 7 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework and correspond to Level 7 of the European Framework of Certifications for Lifelong Learning.

Master’s degrees may only be awarded to students who have satisfied the admission requirements to studies, and who have obtained the minimum number of ECTS for the corresponding study programme.

Degrees are awarded by examination boards including the authorities of the higher education institution. Degrees and certificates are signed by academic authorities, and by the president and the secretary of the board.

The form of degree diplomas has been determined by the Government. The minimum information appears in French on the diploma. It may be accompanied by its translation into another language in the case of a joint degree if all or part of the studies are organized in another language. The diploma refers explicitly to an accompanying supplement to the diploma. This supplement includes in particular the list of courses taken by the student, the admission requirements to the studies and the assessments certified by the awarded academic degree. The personal elements of this supplement, relating to the individual student, may be collected in an annex to the supplement. The supplement to the diploma is signed by the School Head. The personal elements of this supplement related to each student can be grouped in an annex to the supplement signed by the School Head.