BENELUX: Affordable Tuition and Welcoming of International Students

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Quick Take: Looking for a multicultural experience when studying abroad? One of the three Benelux countries might be the right choice for you.

Low-cost universities, multilingual classes and a diverse community eager to welcome international students are all great reasons for embarking on a higher education experience in the Benelux region, formed by Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Benelux’s Demographics
Illustration Benelux’s Demographics: map and flag
Illustration Benelux’s Demographics: map

Belgium Language: Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1% Population: 11,491 million (est.) Gender: 50.7% female, 49.3% male Currency: Euro Median Age: 41.4 Biggest Industries: Services (77%), industry (22%), agriculture (1%)1,2,3

Netherlands Language: Dutch Population: 17,084,719 (July 2017 est.) Gender: 50.5% female, 49.5% male Currency: Euro Median Age: 42.6 Biggest Industries: Agroindustries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum, construction, microelectronics, fishing4,5

Luxembourg Language: Luxembourgish (official administrative and judicial language and national language [spoken vernacular]) 55.8%, Portuguese 15.7%, French (official administrative, judicial, and legislative language) 12.1%, German (official administrative and judicial language) 3.1%, Italian 2.9%, English 2.1%, other 8.4% (2011 est.) Population: 594,130 (July 2017 est.) Gender: 49.75% female, 50.25% male Currency: Euro Median Age: 39.9 Biggest Industries: Iron and steel, plastic, materials, automotive components, services6,7,8

Top 5 Education Indicators

Graphic Top 5 Education Indicators

Rich Culture, Cuisine, and Education Experiences Available in Benelux Countries

When one thinks about studying abroad, Europe often seems to be one of the most interesting options. The Benelux region offers quality universities and impressive cultural attractions – as well as a few extra bonuses such as Belgium’s famous chocolates, Netherlands’ delicious stroopwafels and Luxembourg’s traditional seafood. Let’s take a closer look into the Benelux region.

What is Benelux?
The Benelux Union unites the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Together, these three states have been working since 1947 to meet many economic, security and sustainable development related challenges. After an initial agreement, a treaty for the Benelux Economic Union was established in 1958 for a period of 50 years, renewed in 2008. This union has often served as a model for reinforcing European ties.
Source: The Official Portal of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg34

Primary and Secondary Education in Benelux

To begin, Belgium is a federal state composed of three communities and three regions. Education is the responsibility of the Flemish, French and German-speaking communities. As much as it may differ, depending on the community, education in Belgium is compulsory between ages six to 18. In the first six years (primary school), students learn the basics of mathematics, reading and writing. Secondary education starts at the age of 12, and is divided in humanities, technical, artistic, and vocational.35

In the Netherlands, children can go to primary school from the age of four, and usually spend eight years in primary school. Compulsory subjects include Dutch and English languages, arithmetic and mathematics, social and environmental studies, creative expression, sports and movement.36 After completing primary school, students move on to one of three types of secondary education: pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO), senior general secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO).37

Luxembourg has a multilingual school system and attendance is compulsory between ages four to 16. Fundamental Education covers the first nine years of schooling and is divided into four learning cycles for children between three and 11 years of age. Secondary education, depending on the chosen path, can last six or seven years.38 There are two types of secondary education: general secondary education (preparing students for higher studies) and technical secondary education (preparing students for working life).39

Higher Education in Belgium: Tradition and Affordability

Belgium’s higher education is divided into three communities. In the Dutch-speaking Flanders region, there are five universities.40 KU Leuven is one of the oldest existing Catholic university in the world, set to be celebrating its 600th anniversary in 2025.41

In the French-speaking Wallonia and Brussels regions, there are six universities, among other higher education institutions. Students can choose from 21 fields that range from human and social sciences to health, sciences, technology and art.42

Belgium is considered one of the most affordable countries in the world to obtain a higher education diploma or degree. Research conducted in 2015 by travel money company FAIRFX placed the country in 6th place when it comes to lower average studying costs, including tuition fees and living expenses. The country also holds first place in the best universities in the world ranking, among those with lowest average costs.43

It really pays off to get a university degree in Belgium. In 2012, the unemployment rate for adults with tertiary education was 3.4 percent. The country also shows more equality between men and women compared to the average. According to OECD’s Education at a Glance 2014 report, “the unemployment rate among adult women (25–64 years old) with a tertiary education in Belgium is 3.3 percent, whereas for tertiary-educated men the figure is 3.6 percent. Although the difference is quite small, this is the opposite of what happens in most OECD countries, where the unemployment rate is considerably higher for women who have attained at least an upper secondary education: The OECD average unemployment rate for tertiary-educated women is 5.5 percent and for tertiary-educated men it is 4.8 percent.”44

Higher Education in the Netherlands: A Home for International Students                

In the Netherlands, like in most countries, universities combine academic research with teaching. The country has 13 universities, including three technology universities. However, higher education in the Netherlands goes beyond traditional methods. Higher education in the country includes higher professional education (HBO) and university education (WO). These two types of education options are provided by HBO institutions (hogescholen) and universities, respectively.

There are 43 HBO institutions, teaching varying subjects in 200 programs, and which include theoretical and practical training. Students from these institutions are often employed in fields such as trade and industry, social services, health and the public sector.45

The Netherlands is known for welcoming international students. In 2014-2015 alone, students from 157 countries chose the Netherlands to pursue a degree. Most of them, however, come from nearby countries such as Germany and Belgium, although China is also among the top five countries of origin. International students are often enrolled in Economics, Behavior & Society and Engineering majors.

The Dutch are also known for their interest in attaining educational experiences abroad. No less than one in five Dutch higher education graduates indicate they have been abroad to study or for an internship during their studies.46

Higher Education in Luxembourg: Multilingual Classes and Access to Foreign Universities

In contrast to the centuries-old higher education institutions in Belgium, the only Luxembourgian university was founded in 2003. The University of Luxembourg is considered a modern institution, offering multilingual classes. There are, however, other higher education options in the Grand Duchy.

Three foreign universities have campuses in Luxembourg – Open University Luxembourg, from the United Kingdom, and Sacred Heart University Luxembourg and Miami University – John E. Dolibois European Center (MUDEC), from the United States.

A number of higher education classes are also available in technical secondary schools through three-year training courses, including Business and Management, Arts, Health Care, and Communications, among others.47,48

Luxembourg has the Europe Union’s second-highest tertiary educational attainment rate among 30-34 year-olds, and has significantly increased funding in this sector in recent years.

According to the European Commission’s Education and Training Monitor 2016 report, “the budget increase covers the University of Luxembourg’s move to its new site in the south of the country from 2015/2016. A total of EUR 800 million were earmarked for related infrastructural development for the period 2010-2019. Funding for the university’s operational costs has more than doubled from EUR 72 million in 2009, to EUR 154.1 million in 2016.”49

7 Benelux Culture and Education Highlights

1. Together, Benelux countries have had 946 Nobel Prize nominations throughout history. Among laureates are Henri La Fontaine (Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1913), François Englert (Nobel Prize in Physics winner in 2013), Willem Einthoven (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner in 1924), Paul J. Crutzen (Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner in 1995), Gabriel Lippmann (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1908), and Jules A. Hoffmann (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011).50,51,52,53,54,55,56

2. Luxembourg’s primary and secondary teachers are the best paid in the world, earning initial salaries of US$ 79,000 a year.57

3. Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, two of the world’s most renowned artists, were born in the Netherlands. Van Gogh was the subject of a 2018 Academy Award nominated animated film, titled “Loving Vincent.”58,59  

4. Belgium is the number one chocolate exporter in the world. The country is also known as the land of waffles and for their more than 800 beer brands.60

5. No less than 95% of the Dutch population speak English. Thousands of higher education courses in the country are also offered in the English language.61

6. Belgian writer Georges Simenon, the creator of fictional detective Jules Maigret, published nearly 400 novels and short stories.62

7. In Belgium, e-learning is generally part of the Flemish 2020 Education Strategy. A dedicated action plan on distance learning was drawn up for the further development of distance and blended learning within vocational training programs. Since 2007, all matters related to e-learning have been conducted by the Wallonia Telecommunications Agency (AWT), which coordinates e-learning initiatives for the Walloon Region and French community in the country.63

Infographic: TRiiBU Studio


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