Equipped for the future - Belgium's top higher education programmes in English

Doing a PhD in Belgium

What is a PhD?

PhD, the highest academic qualification you can be awarded by a university in Belgium, involves undertaking an indepth study of a specific topic within a domain. You conduct independent research which contributes to the development and expansion of academic knowledge and write up the findings in a PhD thesis. You then give an oral presentation of the thesis to a panel of experts and defend the findings in response to their questions about it.

Why in Belgium?

Apart from the many general advantages of studying in Belgium previously mentioned, there are a number of other benefits to pursuing a PhD here.

1. PhD programmes in Belgium have an out-and-out research focus, meaning that, in general, you can start your research on day one and dedicate over 50 percent of your time to it from then on. This approach contrasts with that in the USA for example, where often the first year is devoted to gaining a purely theoretical knowledge of your research area.

2. The aim of any PhD is to make an innovative contribution to existing academic knowledge. To this end, you will almost always be appointed a supervisor who is not only a senior academic but is also a highly experienced researcher.

3. You will be encouraged to participate in conferences and to publish your findings, thereby enhancing your research expertise. 

4. PhD programmes in Belgium take an individual and extremely flexible approach. For instance, PhD students have the opportunity to conduct their research not only in a research group at one of Belgium's many universities, but also at a business school or a research centre with strong ties to a university, or even at a private company.

5. The training component of Belgian PhD programmes allows students to choose à la carte from a wide range of courses, thereby tailoring their learning to their own individual needs and requirements. PhD students are free to choose courses from other faculties and universities, enabling them to go beyond the limits of their research area and develop transferable skills alongside academic expertise.

6. Although the quality of PhDs in Belgium is outstanding, registration fees are relatively low due to the major investments  in research made by the country's various authorities. On top of this, many grants are available, on a competitive basis, from a wide range of bodies, which means that taking a PhD does not have to be a financial strain.

7. While PhD students in Belgium officially enrol as students at a university, on a day-to-day basis they are actually treated more like university personnel, meaning that they enjoy both the benefits of being a student and the advantages of being a member of staff.

8. Finally, universities in Belgium attach great importance to technology transfer, i.e. putting research results to practical use in business or society.

9. Universities also offer specific services that publicise research findings to representatives from the world of enterprise and help students to establish spin-off companies or to make timely patent applications.

10. With its many European and multilateral (public and private) institutions and organisations, Belgium is also the perfect place to build a professional network which will be a great advantage if you subsequently decide to join the labour market or seek new sources of funding for further research projects.

Where in Belgium?

You can conduct your research at a university of course, but also at a business school or at one of the many research institutions dotted across the country. All of them enjoy close ties with universities in Belgium and abroad.

To learn more about a PhD in Belgium and the institutions where you can conduct your research, see the following websites:

Higher Education Institutions page

Doing a PhD in Flanders

Doing a PhD in the Federation Wallonia-Brussels