The higher education system in Flanders is organised according to a bachelor/master structure. But what is a bachelor and what is a master? Below is a list of a few useful terms and concepts.
What is a Bachelor's programme?
After secondary school you are ready to start a career in higher education, beginning with an undergraduate or Bachelor's programme. There are:
- professional Bachelor's programmes
- academic Bachelor's programmes
You can take professional Bachelor's programmes only at a university of applied sciences and arts. These courses are more job orientated and practical and will prepare you for a career on the labour market.
Universities offer academic Bachelor's programmes. These are comprehensive programmes with a major theoretical component which also prepare you for scientific research.
The general idea is that you complete an academic Bachelor's programme and then take a Master's programme.
What is a Master's programme?
During a Master's programme, you develop your scientific knowledge and competencies further. By definition, a Master's programme is always academically oriented.
Besides this, however, most Master's programmes also have a professional aspect: they prepare you for one or more professions.
Each Master's programme has specific admission requirements. Generally speaking, the rule is that you can take a Master's programme:
- after an academic Bachelor's programme
- after an academic Bachelor's or Master's programme, in combination with a preparatory programme
- after a professional Bachelor's programme, in combination with a bridging programme
What is a preparatory programme?
If you have an academic Bachelor's or Master's degree that does not grant you direct admission to the Master's programme you want to take, you can sometimes still enrol by first following a preparatory programme.
In the preparatory programme, you gain the programme-specific knowledge and (research) skills that you need to be able to follow the Master's programme.
If you pass the preparatory programme, you will not receive a diploma, but a certificate. This certificate entitles you to enrol in the Master's programme you want to take.
What is a bridging programme?
A professional Bachelor's degree (from a university of applied sciences and arts) never gives you direct access to an academic Master's programme, but you can sometimes enrol through a bridging programme.
In the bridging programme, you gain the programme-specific knowledge and (research) skills you need to be able to follow the Master's programme.
If you pass the bridging programme, you will not receive a diploma, but a certificate. This certificate entitles you to enrol in the Master's programme you want to take.
What is an advanced Master's programme?
As the name suggests, an advanced Master's programme is an advanced programme: you first need to have completed a Master's programme before you can enrol in an advanced Master's programme.
An advanced Master allows you to:
- expand your knowledge of a given field of study
- specialise in a particular field
What is a postgraduate programme?
After completing a Bachelor's or Master's programme, you can take a postgraduate programme to further expand or develop your competencies.
The goal of following such a programme is often to continue professional development. Postgraduate programmes can be created when there is a specific need for it in the professional field.
After completing a postgraduate programme you will receive a certificate rather than a degree. This certificate will give your CV added value on the labour market.
What is a microcredential?
The University of Antwerp uses the definition of a microcredential as proposed by the European Union:
A micro-credential is a proof of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a short learning experience. These learning outcomes have been assessed against transparent standards.
The proof is contained in a certified document that lists the name of the holder, the achieved learning outcomes, the assessment method, the awarding body and, where applicable, the qualifications framework level and the credits gained. Micro-credentials are owned by the learner, can be shared, are portable and may be combined into larger credentials or qualifications. They are underpinned by quality assurance following agreed standards.
What does doing a PhD involve?
The title of ‘doctor’ is the highest degree you can achieve at a Flemish university. You obtain this degree by writing a PhD thesis and then defending it publicly in front of a jury.
Your thesis proves that you can make an independent contribution to scientific research in your field of study.
In order to start a PhD, you will need to have obtained at least a Master's degree already.