When is an institution considered a recognised higher education institution or a university?

We receive an enormous amount of queries concerning the recognition of institutions in Belgium. All these queries receive the same answer. We have reproduced this answer below.

Regarding the status of an institution based in Belgium, we would like to state the following :

  • An institution can only be recognised as a higher education institution, by the federated entities of Belgium (Flemish Community, French Community or German-speaking Community).
  • The federal government doesn't have the competency to recognise higher education institutions or to grant university status. (The Royal Military Academy was granted university status before Belgium became a federal country and has kept that status.)
  • Unrecognised providers regularly refer to a royal decree to claim recognition. A royal decree can however never grant university status or recognise a provider as a higher education institution. A royal decree is the normal route to be granted legal status as an entity.
  • Recognised higher education institutions are always included in the Higher Education Register (Flemish Community) and the Annuaires des établissements d'enseignement supérieur (French Community).
  • An institution that is not included in these registers is not recognised as a higher education institution and cannot award recognised degrees.
    Graduates of this institution cannot claim a higher education title (e.g. Master). Using higher education titles without holding a legitimate degree is illegal.
  • According to the Belgian Constitution, anyone can establish an institution and offer education. But to be a higher education institution and to award degrees, you need to be recognised by the competent authorities.
    The Flemish higher education system is open to all types of institutions. An institution that considers itself a higher education institution can ask to be recognised as such. To be recognised, the institution’s programmes need to receive initial accreditation and the institution needs to be registered. Only then the institution is included on the official register: