With hundreds of courses taught in English, the opportunity to learn a language for free and zero tuition fees for many students, it's easy to see why Denmark is such an attractive study abroad destination
People in the northern European nation of Denmark are happier than anywhere else, according to the UN World Happiness Report 2016. Like the rest of Scandinavia the standard of living is high and, despite being famous for its television crime dramas, it is one of the safest countries in the world.
It may not be the cheapest place to live on a student budget, but high-quality public services - including free healthcare and an efficient transport system - will help to take the stress out of moving abroad. There are also plenty of sights to see when you're not studying, from the historic capital city of Copenhagen to the stunning scenery of more than 400 islands.
This lifestyle, coupled with a strong reputation for academic excellence in its higher education system, makes it a great choice for international students.
Universities in Denmark
There are three main types of higher education institution in Denmark:
- Universities offer Bachelors, Masters and PhD programmes in all academic areas. There are eight in total, including the University of Copenhagen, which achieved 68th position in the QS World University Rankings 2016-17. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017, Aarhus University was the best-placed Danish institution at 98th.
- University colleges provide vocational courses, known as Professional Bachelors, in fields such as engineering, business, teacher training, nursing and social work. There are eight of these, including the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX) and University College Zealand.
- Danish business academies allow you to study two and two-and-a-half year Academy Profession programmes and Professional Bachelors degrees. There are ten institutions, including Copenhagen Business Academy and Lillebaelt Academy of Professional Higher Education.
In addition, Denmark has 11 artistic higher education institutions, such as The Royal Danish Academy of Music and Aarhus School of Architecture. There are also four schools of maritime education and training. A full list is available at Study in Denmark - Higher education institutions.
Students attending a UK university who want to study in Denmark can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which Denmark is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.
This information remains valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if any changes occur.
Degree courses in Denmark
There are three main types of undergraduate qualification in Denmark:
- Academy Profession degree - for students who want a career in business and industry, these two-year programmes (taught at Danish business academies) involve lectures, group projects and work placements.
- Professional Bachelors degree - primarily taught at university colleges, these take three to four-and-a-half years to complete. Consisting of lectures, seminars, work placements and a final project, they prepare you to enter a specific profession such as teaching or journalism.
- University Bachelors degree - three-year academic programmes in one or two subjects, these are equivalent to a UK undergraduate Bachelors degree. After graduation you can move into employment or go on to postgraduate study.
You can search for Danish degree courses using the Study in Denmark - Find your study programme tool. Applications are made through the centralised website Optagelse.dk, which has a dedicated section for those applying for courses taught in English. The deadline for applications is usually in March for courses starting in August or September.
Danish Masters degrees (known as Candidatus) are research-based courses that take one or two years to complete, and prepare you for entering the workplace or progressing to a PhD. They are equivalent to a Masters degree in the UK. You will usually have to complete a final dissertation, although in some subjects this is replaced by a practical project.
The academic year in Denmark runs from August/September to June, with exams usually taking place in January and June.
Entry requirements for a Masters include an internationally recognised Bachelors degree and proof of proficiency in the language your chosen course is taught in (English or Danish). There may be additional entry requirements for certain subjects - you should check with the institutions that offer the course you are interested in before applying.
Search for courses using the Study in Denmark - Find your study programme tool.
PhDs in Denmark typically last for three years and consist of in-depth independent research into a specific subject. You will participate in research networks, undertake placements at foreign institutions and take part in teaching related to your PhD - in addition to completing your thesis.
To be eligible for a PhD you will need to hold a postgraduate qualification equivalent to a Danish Masters degree, such as a UK Masters degree. Tuition fees range from €10,000 to €16,000 (75,000-120,000 Danish krone), although studentships or scholarships are available. Search for a PhD in Denmark or look for fully-funded PhD positions.
If you are doing a PhD in another country you can apply to become a visiting PhD student at a Danish university by contacting the institution you are interested in.
Students from the EU/European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can attend higher education courses at Danish universities for free.
You are also exempt from fees if you have a permanent residence permit, a temporary residence permit that can be upgraded, or a parent who is from outside the EU/EEA but works in Denmark.
All other students must pay for their tuition. Fees vary but are typically between €6,000 and €16,000 per year (45,000-120,000 Danish krone). You should check with individual universities for information about specific courses.
Funding to study in Denmark
While only EU/EEA and Swiss students can study in Denmark without paying tuition fees, financial support is widely available.
For example, American students can apply for a Fulbright scholarship, while highly qualified candidates may be eligible for a Danish government scholarship. Visit Study in Denmark - Tuition fees and scholarships for a full list of what's available and how to apply.
It is worth remembering that, even if you do not have to pay tuition fees, living costs in Denmark are high. You will therefore need to ensure that you have sufficient funds before deciding to study in the country. Study in Denmark - Bank and budget includes a table showing typical living costs such as rent and food, and advice on budgeting. For example, it is recommended that you begin your search for accommodation months ahead of your course start date.
How to apply
The deadline for Masters applications often falls in the January (non-EU students) or April (EU students) before the course starts. However, this varies and you will need to check with the university that you want to apply to. Applications are made directly to the institution.
In most cases you will have to submit proof of your qualifications, an up-to-date CV, a completed application form, evidence of your proficiency in the language the course is taught in (English or Danish), and a photocopy of your passport.
More than 700 courses in Denmark are taught in English. To be eligible for one of these, you will need to have a high standard of English, demonstrated by completing an official test such as IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge Advanced English. Individual institutions will set the precise test scores that are required for entry onto their courses. Native English speakers are exempt from the test requirements.
If you are applying for a course taught in Danish, you will have to take a 'Danish as a foreign language' test, 'Danish Test 2' or 'Danish Test 3' to demonstrate your ability.
For students who are studying in English but would like to learn Danish while living in the country, lessons are available for free. See Study in Denmark - Learn Danish for free for more information.
As an EU citizen you're permitted to live in any EU country while studying, without needing a visa, as long as you:
- are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution;
- are studying for more than three months;
- have comprehensive health insurance cover;
- have sufficient funds to live without needing income support.
Citizens of the EU/EEA and Switzerland do not need a visa to enter Denmark and can stay for up to three months (six months if you're employed). However, to stay for longer than this you will require a registration certificate or registration card.
If you're from a non-EU country you may need a visa to enter Denmark. You can find out whether you require a visa by reading the official government list. You will also need to obtain a residence permit in order to study in Denmark.
Both EU and non-EU students should register their residence in Denmark to obtain a Civil Registration System (CPR) number.
This visa information remains valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if any changes occur.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Existing higher education qualifications gained in other European countries will usually be accepted by Danish institutions. Equally, undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications taken in Denmark should be internationally recognised, including by employers in the UK.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Denmark.