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Higher education in Belgium

Chantal Kaufmann, Deputy General Director, Higher Education and Research, Head of Naric describes the procedure for the assessment of foreign higher education qualifications in the French Community of Belgium.

Authorities for Academic Recognition

The authority for the academic recognition of foreign higher education qualifications in the French Community of Belgium is shared, according to the law, between the Ministry of Education and the institutions of higher education themselves.

The applications are initially addressed by the applicants to the National Academic Recognition Centre (NARIC) within the Ministry of Education

The procedure.

1. Receipt of the application:

To be taken into consideration, the application has to be submitted in written form. To facilitate the procedure and to make it more transparent, some general information is given to the applicants, a standardised document explaining both the procedure and the criteria for the assessment of the qualification, and the possibility of appeal where applicable.

Apart from the application form, which explains the purpose of the demand, several documents are required: certificate of nationality; certified copy of the diploma; certified copy of the academic transcript in the original language; sworn translations of the diploma and the academic transcript; an official document of the issuing institution stating the entrance requirements for the study programme in question; certified curriculum of accomplished higher education studies (including, at least, a short description and the study load of each course taken) and a translation; a copy of the thesis, project of final work, accompanied by a summary in French.

2. Verification of the competent authority:

In order to determine the competent authority in each individual case, the following elements are taken into consideration:
i. The purpose of the application: To follow further studies, look for a job (de facto professional recognition), access to a regulated profession (de jure professional recognition), and to fix a scale of income.
ii. The level of the diploma: higher education outside university, university education diploma, other (secondary, vocational);
iii. To establish if the application falls into the context of a European directive (professional recognition: regulated professions).

If the applicant wishes to follow further studies, we direct them to a higher education institution (university or outside university, according to his diploma).

3. Verification as to whether the issuing institution is recognized in the original country as belonging to its system of higher education.

If the institution is completely private, not recognized by the state where the qualification has been delivered, the application, according to the regulation, can't be taken into consideration. If the institution is recognized, the qualifications from every country of the world are taken into consideration.

4. Verification of whether or not the qualification is authentic

- If we do notice any falsification, the procedure is stopped and we keep the file and the application for eventual legal proceedings.

Regarding the translation: It has to be done by a sworn translator established in Belgium.

5. Assessment of the foreign qualifications.

Academic recognition

The general rule is that the higher education institutions make the decisions regarding the recognition of part of the degree and the recognition of period of studies, when applicants wish to continue their studies at the institution concerned, and that the Ministry of Education makes the decisions on full recognition, mainly for professional purposes.

The higher education institutions and the Ministry have to take into consideration the following criteria:

  • Academic requirements to access higher education studies in the country where the diploma was obtained;
  • Type of studies (university, higher education outside university, vocational education), duration of the studies, study load, examination results, qualification delivered;
  • Content of the programme, number of hours, learning outcomes of the training, seminars, laboratory, training period, dissertation and thesis;
  • Access to further studies (PhD, specialized studies), access to the profession, activities to which the diploma gives access in the issuing country, right to use the professional title.

In principle, professional experience is not taken into account for the academic recognition of diplomas. Insufficient proficiency in French is a problem but is not taken as criteria to refuse the recognition.

At any step of the procedure, the applicant is free to ask for information about his file.

The following possibilities appear after the assessment:

  • The recognition is granted: In this case, the applicant receives a formal decision of academic recognition that gives them the same rights for academic purposes as the Belgian diploma and the same rights for professional purposes if no additional requirements are asked.
  • The recognition is refused,
  • Partial recognition is given, which means that the applicant is directed to a higher education institution to complete his education in order to obtain a Belgian qualification.

In the last two cases, the applicant may accept the decision or appeal the verdict.

To assess a foreign diploma, the Ministry of Higher Education charges fees for:

  • academic recognition decisions on university final diplomas
  • academic recognition on foreign diplomas corresponding to a higher education diploma long term course
  • academic recognition on foreign diplomas corresponding to a higher education diploma short term course.

As far as the duration of the procedure is concerned, the processing time is, according to the law, 4 months, starting from the moment when the office is in possession of all documents.

These 4 months have been fixed with reference to the European directives on professional recognition, which have established that principle.

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