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Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Higher Education

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Overview Belgium (Flemish Community)

Contents

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Historical Development

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Political and Economic Situation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation and Governance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Private Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Qualifications Framework

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Funding in Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Higher Education Funding

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Adult Education and Training Funding

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Early Childhood Education and Care

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Childcare

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Childcare

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Childcare

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Pre-Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Pre-Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Pre-Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of the First Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in the First Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in the First Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of the Second and Third Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in the Second and Third Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in the Second and Third Stage of Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of Vocational Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in Vocational Secondary Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Organisation of secondary-after-secondary education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teaching and learning in secondary-after-secondary education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Assessment in secondary-after-secondary education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Belgium-Flemish-Community:First Cycle Programmes

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Bachelor

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Second Cycle Programmes

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Distribution of Responsibilities

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Main Providers

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Main Types of Provision

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Teachers and Education Staff

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management and Other Education Staff

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management Staff for Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Educational Support and Guidance

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility and Internationalisation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in School Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms in Higher Education

Belgium-Flemish-Community:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Belgium-Flemish-Community:European Perspective

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Legislation

Belgium-Flemish-Community:Glossary

2017

Reform of higher vocational education

In cooperation with all parties involved the Flemish Government is working on an optimisation of the landscape of higher vocational education (HVE). On 25 March 2016 the Flemish Government approved the concept note ‘Developing higher education’. The goal of the note is to developed HVE into a fully-fledged component of higher education.

The principles of the concept note are currently being converted into regulation. An Emergency Ordinance on adult education and higher vocational education, approved by the Flemish Government in December 2016, introduces three larger changes in the sector of higher vocational education:

  1. A limitation of the educational competence by establishment
  2. The defining of a new relation between the professional and educational competence
  3. The introduction of a procedure for keeping HVE programmes up to date.

In a later phase additional regulatory work will result in a new chapter on higher vocational education in the Codex on Higher Education.

2016

New statute for student entrepreneurs

On 18 November 2016 the Federal Government approved two implementing orders for the statute of ‘student-entrepreneur'. The law is currently discussed in parliament, but the approval of the two implementing orders allow the statute to already become operational as of the first of January 2017. From then on students can:

  • benefit from a more favourable system of taxation and social contributions;
  • build rights in sickness and disability benefit;
  • remain dependent on their parents.

To benefit from these advantages a student should be between 18 and 25 and follow a training course in which he can obtain a recognized qualification. The new statute will make entrepreneurship more attractive for students.

Supervision in higher education

Quality assurance in higher education in Flanders relies on several actors and mechanisms. One of the actors involved are the government commissioners, who check whether university colleges and research universities do not take decisions which contradict the law or which endanger the financial stability of the institution. Since these tasks are also carried out by other actors, the Flemish Government prepares changes in the supervision of higher education.

In this context the Flemish government approved on 30 September 2016 the concept note ‘A slimmer model of supervision for Flemish Higher Education’. As a token of confidence in the university colleges and research universities, and in order to reduce their administrative burden, the concept note suggests adjustments which will grant more freedom to the institutions of higher education:

  • From 2019 on there will be fewer government commissioners, who supervise the colleges and universities.
  • The commissioners will cooperate more intensively, which will further reduce their financial burden on the government.
  • In addition, the tasks of the government commissioners will be further reduced by identifying the tasks already undertaken by other actors.

Other initiatives that will be necessary for the implementation of the new regulatory model will be bundled into a transition plan. This plan will be further elaborated and made concrete by the Flemish Minister of Education.

Orientation and guidance

In the spring of 2016 the Flemish Minister of Education and Training Hilde Crevits launched Columbus. Columbus is the compulsory, non-binding exploration test for pupils in the third stage of secondary education who wish to continue studying. The instrument fits within a broader pathway to qualitatively guide pupils in their choice of study to higher education. In the future the focus of the instrument will be broadened to include the transition to the labour market.

Columbus comprises various important elements of a choice of studies: study skills, motivation, interests, mathematics, languages and reasoning. In the spring of 2016 a number of schools already took part in the test that will step by step be introduced in secondary education. Amongst others on the basis of the results of the pupils in the first year of higher education the instrument will be gradually validated and developed further.

Columbus is developed by a group of experts within the Flemish Council of Universities and University Colleges (VLUHR). This takes place in consultation with the SOHO platform of the Flemish Education Council (VLOR). This platform, which provides a bridge between secondary and higher education, elaborated a first version of a scenario which supports schools to imbed Columbus in their own school career guidance. 

In the framework of good diagnostics at the start of higher education Flanders is also developing compulsory, non-binding tests per programme or cluster of programmes. An institution-neutral calibration test for the engineering programmes has been organized on 29 June and 12 September 2016. A generic, institution-neutral orientation tests for the integrated teacher trainings will be organized for the first time between 12 September and 15 October 2016 for those students who start in academic year 2016-2017. From academic year 2017-2018 onwards the tests will be taken prior to the enrolment of the students. The tests for the programmes of engineering and the integrated teacher trainings are respectively developed by the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) and the Flemish Council of University Colleges (VLHORA). At a later stage orientation tests can also be developed for other programmes in higher education.

Higher vocational education

On 25 March 2016 the Flemish Government approved the concept note ‘Developing higher education’. The goal of the note is to developed Higher vocational education (HBO 5) into a fully-fledged component of higher education.

Higher vocational education, which is currently organized by university colleges, centres for adult education and secondary schools (for HBO5 in nursing), will in the future only be offered by university colleges. As a departure from the rule the HBO5 programme in nursing will continue to be organised by secondary schools. The concept note foresees a fully-fledged student statute for young people in higher vocational education, which will allow them to get access to study allowances, student facilities, etc. The programme offer of higher vocational education will in the future match better with higher education, but at the same time the unique character of the current offer (work-based learning, intricate structure, flexibility) will be maintained.

A more strongly developed HBO5 must attract students who nowadays do not find their way to higher education yet, and contribute to a further democratisation of higher education. The Flemish minister of Education and Training will now further develop the principles of the concept note.

Enhance teacher training

On the basis of the results of various recent reviews the Flemish Minister of Education wants, in consultation with all stakeholders involved (teachers, students, schools, providers of teacher training programmes, support, …) stimulate the institutions offering programmes of teacher training to continue developing their strengths. Potential students must again with conviction choose to become a teacher.

On 29 February 2016 the minister of Education, together with the King Badouin Foundation, launched the project ‘small children, big opportunities’. This professionalization pathway for the bachelor programmes for pre-primary education focuses on dealing better with diversity and poverty amongst children.

In March 2016 the concept note ‘Enhancing teacher trainings: recruiting and qualitative teacher trainings as a cornerstone for qualitative education’ was approved. This note establishes the framework for the reform of the teacher trainings where a better cooperation between the various providers is an important point of attention. This framework is being further elaborated in seven working groups with representatives of various teacher training institutions, the field of work and the trade unions. On the basis of the results of the working groups a parliamentary act will be prepared.

In order to guarantee a good diagnostics at the start of higher education a compulsory, non-binding orientation testfor the integrated teacher training programmes has been developed by the Flemish Council of University Colleges (VLHORA). This test will be organized for the first time between 12 September and 15 October 2016 for students who start in academic year 2016-2017. From academic year 2017-2018 onwards the tests will be taken prior to the enrolment of the students.

2015

Flexibility in higher education

In recent years research universities and university colleges have introduced far-reaching flexibility in their curricula and organisation. Although this increased flexibility had considerable positive effects, it also enhanced complexity within higher education and lead to a number of adverse consequences such as an increase in the duration of the studies. For these reasons an adaptation was carried out which allows institutions of higher education to monitor more closely across programmes and institutions the study progress of their students and, when deemed necessary, to incite their students to reorient faster than in the past. 

From academic year 2015-2016 on institutions of higher education can across institutions and programmes consult the study results of their students. This allows them to faster organise needed guidance and to take reorientation measures. From this academic year onwards the Database Higher Education (DKO) also allows for data on the study performance of students to be shared between institutions.  

In the spring of 2015 the system of ‘learning credit’ was further examined in order to be optimized. In the first half of 2016 a discussion note on the topic will be drafted which can be followed, when deemed necessary, by adjustments to the legal framework.

Enhance the teacher training

On the basis of the results of various recent reviews the Flemish Minister of Education wants, in consultation with all stakeholders involved (teachers, students, schools, providers of teacher training programmes, support, …) stimulate the institutions offering programmes of teacher training to continue developing their strengths. Potential students must again with conviction choose to become a teacher.

In order to guarantee good diagnostics at the start of a teacher training, compulsory non-binding entrance tests are being developed. In July 2015 an assignment was given to the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) to develop this entrance test.

Work placement constitutes an important part of the teacher training. For the school year 2015-2106 a subsidy was granted to two large providers of a registration system for work placements (‘Mentorant’ and ‘stageaanvraag.be’) to continue temporarily the existing systems and to develop one registration system for work placements across Flanders.

On 9 September 2015 the Minister of Education and the Flemish Council of University Colleges (VLHORA) signed a platform text ‘Learning by societal engagement’. With this text the university colleges commit themselves to involve every student of the teacher training in a project of societal engagement. This engagement enriches the learning experience of the student in dealing with a more diverse society, strengthens the future teacher in its sense of civic responsibility and also strengthens society itself.

At the moment a reform of the expertise networks and the regional platform for the teacher training is being considered. These networks and platform of universities, university colleges and centres for teacher trainings aim to collect and develop the expertise of the teacher training programmes with the view of enhancing their quality.

To conclude a rationalisation of the study offer is also on the table. Today Flanders has two kinds of teacher training programmes offered by three types of institutions (research universities, university colleges or Adult Education Centres). The goal is to develop a less fragmented offer and to realise a better mutual cooperation between the providers.

A concept note on the landscape and reform of the teacher training programmes is currently under construction. To this aim a task force was established in October 2015, which consists of representatives of the cabinet, the teacher training programmes and the wider field.

Higher vocational education

Higher vocational education (HBO5) will be developed into a fully-fledged component of higher education. Since September 2014 university colleges, centres for adult education and secondary schools with HBO5 nursing are jointly responsible for offering the HBO5 programmes. Together with these partners an optimisation of the HBO5 landscape is being prepared. To this aim a concept note will be presented in spring 2016, which at a later stage must result in a new chapter on HBO5 in the Codex on Higher Education. This adaptation must allow for each student to be (re)oriented towards the programme which proves to be most suitable for him/her. In addition higher vocational education must be – more than it is the case right now – a stepping stone towards professionally oriented bachelor programmes. But also adults must maintain their access to HBO5. A flexible, easily accessible offer must allow a broad target group to obtain a qualification.

Orientation and guidance towards higher education and the teacher training

Completing a solid pathway with regard to the choice of his/her studies enables a pupil to make focused choices and to follow courses of studies which align with his/her talents. In September 2015 the Flemish Council of Universities and University Colleges (VLUHR), at the request of the Flemish Minister of Education, formulated a concluding advisory note on the reinforcement of the study choice process when moving from secondary to higher education . New is the orientation test at the end of secondary education, which constitutes the final piece of the pathway of each pupil concerning his/her choice of studies. A group of experts was appointed to develop a generic, institution-neutral orientation test which will be compulsory but non-binding.

In addition to this orientation test attention is paid to good diagnostics at the start of higher education and compulsory, non-binding entrance tests per programme or cluster of programmes. Because of the complexity of developing valid entrance tests the focus lies in a first stage on developing an orientation test for the integrated teacher training programmes and a test for the academic STEM-programmes. An assignment was given to the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) and the Flemish Council of University Colleges (VLHORA) to develop these respective entrance tests. At a later stage entrance tests for other courses of study in higher education can also be developed.

Quality assurance and accreditation in higher education

On 19 June 2015 the Flemish Government approved an adjustment to the Codex of Higher Education with respect to the system of quality assurance and accreditation in higher education. With the adjusted system more autonomy and responsibility for internal quality assurance is granted to the institutions of higher education. In addition, the system was simplified and the administrative burden diminished.

In the upcoming two academic years (2015-2016 and 2016-2017) the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) will evaluate the quality of the educational policy of the institutions of higher education by means of an institutional review. This review is centred around four questions:

  • Which is the vision of the institution on the quality of its education?
  • How does the institution wants to realise this vision?
  • How is the institution aware of in how far the vision on quality is being realized?
  • How does the institution work on improving the quality of its educational policy? 

Parallel with the institutional review an external evaluation of the way in which the institutions guarantee and improve the quality of their programmes will be carried out. The NVAO has set up a quality code in which the general points of departure are determined as well as the way in which the institutions are held accountable. In this quality code eight features of quality are derived from part one of the adjusted European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. These features can be used to demonstrate the quality of the programmes.

In the framework of these adjustments the Flemish Government approved on 19 June 2015 the adjusted frameworks for the institutional reviews and the programme accreditations as well as the test for new programmes (ex ante external quality assessment).

In 2017-2018 a thorough evaluation of the system of quality assurance and accreditation will be carried out on the basis of the experiences with the adjusted system. On the basis of this evaluation the system will be revised more definitively.  

The study offer and financing in higher education

In April 2015 the ‘Evaluation of a number of aspects of the financing mechanism in higher education’ was presented. The results of this examination will be used as a point of departure for a further debate on the financing of higher education. A vision statement is being prepared with the aim of making the financing of higher education and the existing regulations simpler and more transparent. In the vision statement the following aspects will be addressed: the planned additional evaluation of the system of weighed points for the research universities, the weighed points for the professional programs, the financial aspects of the rationalization and strengthening of higher education in the arts, a simplification of the distribution mechanisms of the research socle, and a simplification of the legal texts in general.

Together with the associations, university colleges and research universities the Flemish Minister of Education wants to work on the rationalisation of the programme offer within Flemish higher education. The various partners strive for transparency in the content of the offer (a clear number of basic programmes, clear naming) as well as for organisational optimisation (economy of scale, geographical coverage, structural cooperation between the institutions).

With Education Decree XXV, approved in June 2015, the Flemish Parliament declared in 2015 a moratorium on organising new programmes of higher education. As a result the institutions of higher education cannot submit a request for a new programme in 2015 and 2016. The period of the moratorium will be used to renew the legislative framework on the instalment of new programmes and to critically reflect on the programme offer in higher education.

In June 2015 potential courses of action for a further rationalisation of higher education were discussed during a round table with the institutions of higher education. The Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) and the Flemish Council of University Colleges (VLHORA) are currently elaborating proposals for the rationalisation of the programme offer. The minister is currently consulting with the institutions and keeps track of the progress made on this topic.

Mobility and internationalisation

Flanders continues to implement the Action Plan on Mobility in Higher Education and to further elaborate the internationalization of the Flemish higher education. Flanders aims at providing 33% of all graduates with an international experience by 2020.

Also in 2015 a number of new initiatives were set up, such as the ‘Master Mind Scholarship’ programme for incoming master students from the entire world and the EQUATIC project which works on the elaboration of a system of quality assurance for international partnerships in higher education. The functioning of the mobility programmes for students financed by the policy domain of education and training was geared to one another and in addition the amounts of all mobility scholarships were determined.

To that aim the Flemish Government approved on 23 October 2015 the ‘Decision by the Flemish Government determining the amount of the mobility grant for students or course participants who spend a period abroad in the framework of their training (‘Besluit van de Vlaamse Regering houdende vaststelling van de hoogte van de mobiliteitstoelage voor studenten of cursisten die een periode in het buitenland doorbrengen in het kader van hun opleiding’). This decision stipulates the amount of financial mobility support provided to students within the framework of various mobility programmes.

Encouraging entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial initiative

Please see 14.5.1.2.

2014

Master programme Islamic Theology

From academic year 2014-2015 on the course ‘Islamic Theology and Religious Studies’ is offered as a one-year master at the Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven). For the implementation of the master programme, which was approved by the Flemish Government in May 2013, KULeuven cooperates with Ghent University and Antwerp University.

The new academic programme aims amongst others to stimulate reflection on Islam in relation to the Western culture and other religions. The master course is open to holders of an academic bachelor degree who want to continue their studies in order to take on the role of e.g. Islamic religious counsellor. Today the authorities in the Muslim communities are not always sufficiently acquainted with the local language and culture in Flanders, and so address the Muslims in Flanders departing from a different cultural frame of reference. Young people in the Muslim communities can insufficiently turn to these authorities when faced with questions derived from their everyday experiences. They subsequently need to look for religious ministers who speak their language and understand their living environment.

Students who wish so may also enrol in a specific teacher training course in order to be employed as a teacher in the second (year 3-4) and third (year 5-6) stage of secondary education and in higher education.

Additional information (in Dutch) may be found on the website.