Academic upgrades increasingly popular as student enrolments rise


There are more students enrolled in Flemish universities and colleges than ever before, with ‘transition programmes’ proving especially popular

Getting from A to B

The number of students enrolling in Flemish higher education continues to rise, according to figures released yesterday by education minister Hilde Crevits. Programmes that help students with a professional bachelor’s degree gain the academic skills to progress to a master’s degree are proving particularly popular.

In the 2018-19 academic year there were 240,332 student enrolments at Flemish universities and colleges, up half a percent on 2017-18. Strictly speaking, this is not the same as the number of students, since individuals can enrol in several courses and at several institutions, before deciding which programme to follow.

Growth is strongest in schakelprogramma’s, or transition programmes, which allow someone with a professionally oriented bachelor degree, usually from a college, to move on to a master’s degree at a university. The aim of these programmes is to give the students academic skills they will not have got in their first degree.

‘A positive evolution’

Enrolments in transition programmes rose by just over 2% to 7,770 in the present academic year. Popular subjects are industrial sciences and technology; commercial sciences and business administration; and psychology and educational sciences. Together these areas account for almost half the enrolments in transition programmes.

It’s a “positive evolution,” according to Crevits. “I can only applaud a higher education system in which ‘switching’ is encouraged, and young people are challenged to pursue their dreams and ambitions.”

Academically oriented bachelor programmes also remain popular, with enrolments rising by nearly 2%. The most popular subjects remain law, economics, and industrial sciences and technology.

Education and health care are suffering from marked declines in student numbers

However interest in professional programmes is falling, with enrolments down 0.9% compared to the previous academic year. Education and health care are both suffering from particularly marked declines.

Among the colleges, HoGent in Ghent remains the most popular, followed by Karel de Grote in Antwerp and Artevelde, also in Ghent. But Thomas More, with campuses in Mechelen and Antwerp, is the strongest climber, with enrolments rising 3.6% compared to last year.

KU Leuven remains the most popular university, followed by Ghent University and Antwerp. But VUB in Brussels is the fastest-growing, with enrolments this year shooting up by 7.6%.

Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA