Whilst Danes are descended from Vikings, a formidable seafaring people who once ravaged Europe, modern-day Denmark is internationally considered the pinnacle of a civilized society – its politics are progressive, its economy developed, and its people cheerful exponents of the concept of hygge (‘coziness’). Here, old-world Nordic charm meets an avowedly forward-looking society – the nation regularly places on lists of most livable, safest and happiest places on earth thanks to its high quality of life, per capita incomes and advanced education, health care and civil liberties. Undertaking an education in Denmark places you right in the center of this socially developed utopia.
Denmark operates within the Nordic model, which combines free market capitalism with generous social welfare programs. The country’s communal, egalitarian worldview keeps social mobility high, minimum wage at $18 per hour and only a tiny percentage of residences under the poverty line. It is safe to say that Denmark gets it right – it is one of the most modern, innovative and advanced societies in the world and is, unsurprisingly, frequently cited as being one of the happiest.
This bold spirit of innovation can equally be felt in the education system. Danish universities promote personal initiative and problem-based learning, combining traditional lectures with industrial placements that allow for the practical application of studies and prepare students to meet the needs of the global labor market. After their education in Denmark, students are set loose in a market rife with opportunity, especially in the science and technology industries, all of which begs the question – where better to study abroad than this innovation-driven environment within an education system of high international quality?
As of 2003, the Danish education system follows the same two-cycle model as the rest of Europe, dividing study into undergraduate (Bachelor’s) and postgraduate (Master’s and PhD/Doctorate). This system serves to facilitate and encourage international mobility within Europe, as the qualifications are equivalent throughout all countries involved in the Bologna agreement.
Danish institutions of higher education are categorized according to level of study and field of teaching:
- Academies of professional higher education (Erhvervsakademier)offer short-cycle pre-Bachelor programs called Academy Profession degrees (detailed below)
- University colleges offer 3-4 year professionally orientated programs (Professionshøjskoler)at a level corresponding to a Bachelor’s
- Universities offer long-cycle programs and are either multi-faculty or specialize in fields such as engineering, technology and business
- Universities of the arts offer long-cycle programs – they are regulated by the Danish Ministry of Culture and offer courses in visual arts, music, film, theatre and media
The types of degree available to you in Denmark are as follows:
Academy Profession degree (erhvervsakademigrad)
This is a pre-Bachelor’s qualification obtained after 1.5-2.5 years of study, depending on the amount of ECTS (European credits) required. Programs are geared towards employment in business, industry and science, and entail a work placement of a minimum of three months. Sometimes the Academy Profession qualification can be ‘topped up’ to become a Bachelor’s with a further 1.5 years of study.
Professional Bachelor’s degree (professionsbachelorgrad)
This degree takes 3 to 4 years to complete, depending on the chosen program. It caters to vocational professions, and all programs include a compulsory period of in-service training (for a minimum of 6 months). Taking a Professional Bachelor’s provides a gateway to a Master’s program in the same or a similar field. This is the degree that is awarded after ‘topping up’ an Academy Profession degree with an extra 1.5 years of study.
- Bachelor’s degree: This takes 3 years to complete, and is awarded after 180 ECTS have been obtained. A Bachelor’s degree can be awarded in all disciplines apart from the liberal arts and leads onto a Master’s qualification in a similar field.
- Bachelor’s degree within the arts: This program is also takes 3 years and is awarded after 180 ECTS. It is a qualification in liberal arts such as fine art, architecture or music. A degree in filmmaking or musical theatre is awarded after 4 years or 240 ECTS, and admission is usually conditional on passing an entrance exam.
Diploma degree (diplomuddannelse)
These are preparatory courses for students pursuing highly qualified occupational or vocational fields. A Diploma degree must be undertaken before admission to a Master’s in such a field. The qualification is awarded after 2 years or 60 ECTS, and admission to the course requires a relevant educational qualification and at least 2 years of work experience.
- Master’s degree (kandidatgrad) :A Master’s usually takes 2 years to complete and requires 120 ECTS, however certain programs such as medicine and veterinary medicine are longer, taking between 2.5 and 3 years to complete
- Master’s degree within the arts: This qualification caters to the arts, is 2-3 years long and requires 120-180 ECTS. Music academies also offer a specialist degree of 2 to 4 years.
- Master’s degree (adult/continuing higher education): This is the postgraduate equivalent of the diploma degree. It prepares students for highly qualified occupational or vocational pursuits such as engineering, technology and business. You are required to have completed a Bachelor’s in the relevant subject matter, as well 2 years of work experience.
PhDs involve a research project undertaken independently. You need to have completed a relevant Master’s degree (PhDs are usually the culmination of 8 years of study), and the qualification itself usually takes 3 years (180 ECTS).
The documentation required for studying in Denmark depends on your country of origin and the duration of your stay. Nordic and EU/EEA citizens do not require anything more than valid passport to enter Denmark (although some action may need to be taken on arrival), whilst international students will need a visa/residence permit. See below for further details:
If you are from outside the EU/EEA, then the kind of permit you need to study in Denmark will depend on the duration of your stay. For a short stay of less than three months students will require a visa, and for a long stay of more than three months a residence permit is required. The details are as follows:
- Visa (short-term stay)
Those studying in Denmark for less than three months will need to apply for a tourist visa (this is not necessary for some non-EU countries). You can apply for a visa at any authorized Danish mission in your country of origin, including all Danish embassies and consulates abroad – to find out where to apply for a visa, visit the website of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Obtaining a visa does not enable students to work in Denmark.
- Residence permit (long-term stay)
Those studying in Denmark for more than three months will need to apply for a residence permit, which you can do at the Danish embassy in your home country. This permit allows non-EU/EEA citizens to work part-time in Denmark for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Once granted, the residence permit will be valid for the duration of your program, so you do not need to worry about renewing it. You will be provided with an application form at the Danish mission in your home country, which you must fill out and return with the supporting documentation – it is advisable to begin the application process about three months prior to your arrival date. Please note that if you apply for a visa and a residence permit at the same time, your application will be turned down.
You should enquire at the Danish consulate as to what specific documentation will be required, but you could be asked for the following:
- An acceptance letter from your university
- Proof of language proficiency (in English or Danish, depending which language you are undertaking your studies in)
- Proof that you have the financial resources to live (deemed to be around 1000 EUR per month and taking the form of paid tuition for you first semester, or a bank statement that is less than 30 days old)
- Proof that you have purchased travel insurance
- Proof regarding accommodation arrangements during your studies
- A valid passport and a passport photo
- You will need to pay a visa fee
Most students in Denmark live in off-campus student halls of residence, as it is usually very easy to commute into Danish city centers. If the idea of student halls does not appeal to you, then you can choose to rent a room from an independent landlord or through an estate agent.
The cost of living in Denmark is generally high. Living in Copenhagen can cost up to 1,150 EUR per month, whilst smaller cities such as Aalborg average about 800-900 EUR per month. However, it is worth remembering that Danish universities do not charge tuition fees to EU/EEA students, so you significantly save on cost here.
Here are some details about the different housing options available to you:
Student halls of residence (kollogier)
Living in student halls is a great way to make friends and settle in, especially during your first year. It is also the cheapest option – an estimate of the cost of living in halls would be about 240-460 EUR per month (this does not include catering, cleaning and laundry services which will be your own responsibility). Students should apply for a room through either the ‘Student and Youth Accommodation Office Copenhagen’ (KKIK) or the ‘Central Nomination Committee’ (CIU) – you need to be staying in Denmark for a minimum of two semesters to qualify for this accommodation.
University-owned student accommodation
Many universities also own housing that they rent to their students. You can only apply for this accommodation if you are an admitted student (you often need a student number which should be sent to you soon after your acceptance letter). Most institutes have an Accommodation Office where you can direct applications and queries. Please note, not all universities are able to guarantee all students a place with their university-owned accommodation – student housing is competitive with only 11% of students obtaining housing so it is advisable to start the process as soon as possible.
Privately rented room in a house/apartment
Prices for privately rented accommodation fluctuate greatly depending on location, size and quality. However, renting accommodation independently will always be more expensive, averaging around 270-600 EUR per month in Denmark. Housing in Danish cities are especially pricey – a room in central Copenhagen could cost between 670 – 1350 EUR per month – so it is often a good idea to search the suburbs of a city. Here you can find cheap hidden gems, and commuting into city centers is usually very easy.
Alternatively, platforms like HousingAnywhere.com can help you find accommodation in Copenhagen and other major Danish cities.
Bachelor’s and Master’s programs
Nordic students and EU/EEA citizens receive the same treatment as home students when it comes to tuition fees – higher education in Denmark is free for both Bachelor’s and Master’s programs. For international students, fees can range from 6,000 to 16,000 EUR per year depending on the institution and the program of study. Cheaper degrees such as social sciences start from about 600 EUR per year, while specialist degrees like medicine can cost up to 35,000 EUR per year. The average cost of a degree in Denmark is around 12,000 to 15,000 EUR per year. You do not pay tuition fees in Denmark if you have a permanent residence permit (despite your country of origin), or if you have a parent who holds a residence permit.
Many Danish PhD programs are developed as partnerships between universities and private companies, research institutions and business enterprises and are therefore fully funded. Self-financed PhD programs usually cost between 10,000 and 16,000 EUR per year.
Entry requirements vary depending on institution and program, however there are a few constants which will be covered here:
For admission to a Bachelor’s, you will need certificates of prior educational qualifications, complete with original stamps and signatures. Qualifications from other countries are usually eligible, however to improve your application you might want to assess how your educational qualifications correspond to Danish ones at ufm.dk/en/recognition. You may also be able to tell how your prior education compares to the Danish system by doing a transfer of credits. If this is not possible, non-EU students may be required to take an entrance exam.
To embark on a Master’s program in Denmark, a Bachelor’s that is relevant to your chosen subject matter and worth the same number of credits as a Danish degree (180 ECTS) is required. For admission to a PhD, you usually need to have a recognized Master’s or the equivalent in ECTS. In some cases, a longer four-year PhD program is offered to students who have a Bachelor’s degree plus one year of postgraduate study.
Proof of language proficiency
Because Denmark is a small country with a relatively small number of native speakers, many programs in Danish universities are taught in English. Entry onto these courses requires proof of a high level of English. Applicants to undergraduate and postgraduate programs must prove proficiency comparable to ‘English B’ in the Danish secondary school system as a minimum. Proficiency is determined by international language tests TOEFL, IELTS and Cambridge ESOL (CAE). If you wish to undertake your degree in Danish, you will need to prove your proficiency in Danish by taking the ‘Danish as a Foreign Language’ test (Studieprøven i dansk som andetsprog) or ‘Danish Test 2’ (Danskprøve 2).
How to apply
For those applying to study a Bachelor’s degree starting at the beginning of the academic year (August/September), the deadline for admissions is 15 March. A few institutions have the option for students to commence their studies half way through the year at the start of the spring semester (January/February), in which case the deadline for applications is 1 September. Applications are submitted to the national admission website rather than to individual institutions. Application forms can be found here, and can be submitted from 1 February for the 15 March deadline. Responses to applications are received by 28 July.
Deadlines for applications to postgraduate study may vary as programs are run by individual institutions. It is recommended that you contact your chosen institution directly for details.