The educational system in Belgium can best be addressed in relation to the 3 main communities there – the Flemish, French and German speaking communities, with particular emphasis on the first two communities as they are more actively involved in administering higher education in the country. A total of 297,000 students attend the Wallonia-Houte Ecoles, the Wallonia Universities, Flanders University and College institutions. The principal owners and administrators of higher education institutions are the publically funded universities and colleges and the Catholic church in both the Flemish and French communities.
Almost half of the universities offer very comprehensive courses in philosophy, letters, social sciences, economics, law, the natural sciences and medicine.
Universities in Belgium offer two levels or cycles of academic pursuit. The first cycle lasts for 2 years and the second for 4 years. In the French community, a third cycle was added, leading to a doctorate degree after further studies of up to 3 years.
In the Flemish community, the education system differs from the French community since the hogescholen system of higher education did not reach the university standards of the French community. A change occurred in 1995-96 where the Flemish curriculum for higher education was upgraded to be equivalent to courses offered in other universities. The reforms resulted in the merging of 136 institutions of higher learning into 29 additional hogescholen.
As a result, all universities, higher education institutions and arts colleges in Belgium now conformed to the Bologna Process. This effectively means that universities and colleges now offer the 3-tier award system that is recognized worldwide.