Education in Denmark is recognized all over the world and is an excellent foundation for a future career, especially in fields such as natural and social sciences, engineering and IT. What are the (dis)advantages of studying in Denmark, how much does it cost and how to get accepted into a Danish university?
Most Danes speak English, so students who come to Denmark do not need to know Danish. About 80% of the population understands English, and some speak German, French or Spanish. However, being able to speak Danish will benefit you both socially and in your job search. A residence permit for studies is issued to foreign students, and allows its holders to attend free Danish language classes. To do this, you only need to pay a deposit of 281 USD, which is later returned in full. Students who receive government welfare benefits are exempt from paying a deposit. Students are entitled to language studies for 42 months within 5 years after arriving in Denmark. Language training programs consist of different levels and each of them is divided into modules, which culminate in an official exam. Private, public language centers and many Danish universities offer Danish courses. Programs in universities often take place at the beginning of the academic year or as part of a university summer school.
Briefly about secondary education in Denmark
In Denmark, children go to school at the age of 6-7 and are obliged to study up until they are 15-16. Education takes place in public schools (folkeskole), which are free and open to everyone. Denmark also has a tradition of private schools, attended by about 15% of all primary-level children.
After grade 9, students can go to elective grade 10 (if recommended by the school, to improve grades) or continue their education for several years. The next school level corresponds to ages 16 to 19 and is only required for those who want to go to university. Students can choose one of two paths:
General education or gymnasium — prepares for higher education;
Professional or technical education — prepares for employment.
Teenagers wishing to study at the university must choose one of the four educational programs:
HF, Hojere Forberedelseseksamen
Higher Preparatory Examination
Natural and Social Sciences
HTX, Hojere Teknisk Eksamen
Higher Technical Examination
Mathematics and Engineering
HHX, Hojere Handelseksamen
Higher Commercial Examination
Trade, Business, Economics
Broad program covering different subjects
If students have completed 10 years of basic education, they can study in high school, known as HF only for 2 years. If they studied for 9 years, their studies must last for 3 years (STX, HHX and HTX).
Private schools in Denmark can be roughly divided into the following categories:
Small independent schools in rural districts (friskoler);
Large independent schools in urban districts (privatskoler);
Religious or Congregational Schools;
Progressive free schools;
Schools with a specific educational purpose, such as the Rudolf Steiner schools;
German minority schools;
There are about 20 such schools, 6% of all high school students study in them. The content of the curriculum is regulated in the same way as in public schools, because education leads to the unified high school exam (Studentereksamen).
Education in Denmark isrecognized all over the world and is an excellent foundation for a future career, especially in fields such as natural and social sciences, engineering and IT. Denmark encourages innovation and invests huge sums in education that exceed 6% of the country's GDP. And in terms of the number of Nobel Prizes per capita, Denmark ranks 7th in the world. Thus, the quality of education, advanced Danish culture and a high standard of living attract international students, the number of which has already exceeded 30000 people.
Advantages of education in Denmark
English. Despite the fact that Danish is the official language in the country, universities in Denmark actively accept international students, as more than 700 programs are taught in English. However, it should be noted that a limited number of English-language bachelor's programs are offered. At the Danish Technical University (DTU) there are only 3 programs in English, and in some universities (for example, the University of Copenhagen) the entirety of bachelor’s programs are taught in Danish. In everyday life, a foreigner will not have any problems — the Danes occupy the 4th place in the world in English proficiency index.
Learning approach. In Denmark, higher education is focused on finding solutions for the real world: students use the knowledge gained and turn it into innovative ideas. Here, traditional lectures are combined with open debates, project work and industry collaboration. This way of learning requires a high degree of personal initiative and independent thinking. However, thanks to the Danish methodology, students tap into their potential, learn to think critically, work with others and be creative.
Applied nature of training. Danish university professors are also researchers and often past or present practitioners in their specialties. It provides up-to-date academic knowledge and a valuable practical teaching perspective. In the history of higher education in Denmark, more than 20 Nobel laureates have held professorships, including Werner Heisenberg (one of the founders of quantum mechanics), the brothers Niels and Aage Bohr (nuclear physics), Niels Finsen (the inventor of lupus treatment). In addition, Danish higher education institutions often partner with business, industry and research institutions, providing a dynamic learning environment in which students learn directly from industry experts. Many programs also include compulsory internships, providing students with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.
Quality of life. In the OECD ranking Better Life 2019, one of the criteria in which is the quality of life, Denmark took 5th place. It successfully combines social security, an attractive business climate, a clean environment and high standards in education and research. Moreover, Denmark ranks 2nd in the ranking of the happiest countries in the world, and the term “hygge” — the recipe for Danish happiness — has resonated throughout the world. Therefore, the future student will be lucky to learn the secrets of the Danes in practice and experience the Danish hygge.
Country location. Denmark is agateway to other Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe. Berlin is just an hour's flight away, while London and Paris can be reached in less than two hours. From here you can also fly quickly to Barcelona, Rome, Vienna and Prague. Therefore, for future students, traveling not only in Denmark, but throughout Europe will become an affordable luxury: it will be possible to travel to another country for a weekend.
Disadvantages of education in Denmark
Different system. Studying in Denmark implies the independence and freedom of students. Such a system, combined with practice-oriented learning, is not suitable for everyone. There is widespread project work in teams, and individual assignments are given only a few times per semester. As a result, students receive a group grade and one final grade for the entire semester. Thus, students have no choice — they have to work in groups and find common ground with one another.
Accommodation. Danish universities do not have dorms on campus. Most of the students live in student residences (kollegier), located some distance away from the universities. Often international students rent or sub-rent rooms, some rent apartments or houses with other students. It is necessary to look for housing several months before arrival, since there are practically no options left right before the start of the semester. In August and September, it is especially difficult to find housing in large cities.
Expensive country. The standards of living in Denmark are one of the highest in the world, so living here, like in other Scandinavian countries, is quite expensive. For example, the monthly budget in Copenhagen will be around 1,341-1,886 USD. However, when cutting some corners to save money, it is quite possible to live on a budget here. For example, students buy bicycles (no wonder Copenhagen is the most suitable city for riding), cook at home and even fly to other countries to see dentists (buying air tickets and paying for services elsewhere will be cheaper than just going to a Danish dentist).
All prices and requirements must be checked on the university websites.
Options and schemes for admission in Denmark
Foundation programs in Denmark
Traditional Foundationprograms are not so prevalent in Denmark like in countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Many of those on offer prepare for certain specialties, for example, for an engineering bachelor's degree. To enter, you need a school certificate and proof of knowledge of English / Danish. The study is aimed at preparing the student in specialized subjects and improving the knowledge of a foreign language. In addition, applicants get used to the education system in the country and to Danish culture. Additionally, there are Pre-Masters programs. For admission, you need a bachelor's degree and a certificate of proficiency in a foreign language (English or Danish).
As an alternative to Foundation, in Denmark there are programs of Higher Preparatory Examination (HF). They last for 2 years and are aimed at preparing for higher education. There are required subjects (mathematics, science, etc.), electives, Danish and English. For admission, 9-10 years of secondary school are required. The Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education evaluates the diploma for equivalence to the local one, and the final word on the admission of a foreign applicant remains with the director of the program / school.
In addition, there are many summer schools in Denmark. As a rule, they teach in English. There, both Danes and foreigners study. Courses are offered at different levels and within different areas of specialization, for example, in economics, law, tourism. Here you can find a list of summer schools.
Vocational education exists in Denmark in the form of Academy Profession degrees (erhvervsakademigrad, AP). They are awarded after 1.5-2.5 years of study (90, 120 or 150 ECTS) and include compulsory employment lasting at least 3 months (15 ECTS). Most of the programs are designed for 2 years (120 ECTS) and are equivalent to 2 years of bachelor's program — in a way it is an analogue of the Associate's degree in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and some other countries. Teaching combines theory and practice. Professional programs are offered in the following disciplines: business and economics, technology, IT, laboratory technology, marketing, chemistry, biotechnology and social sciences, management, tourism, media, design and healthcare.
For admission, you will need:
General secondary education or a corresponding vocational education, supplemented by general secondary school subjects (for example, mathematics, physics or English);
Language certificate (IELTS 6.5, TOEFL 79) / Danish (level A / B).
Business academies and university colleges implement erhvervsakademigrad (AP). Graduates of certain specialties can continue their education at a professional bachelor's degree (takes 1.5 years) or go to work. Here you can find professional programs.
Bachelor's degree in Denmark — Undergraduate
In Denmark bachelor's degree is represented by:
Professional bachelor’s (professionsbachelorgrad)lasts 3-4 years (180-240 ECTS) and includes at least 6 months of internship (30 ECTS). You can apply for it after an AP (erhvervsakademigrad), in that case the study will take 1.5 years. The programs combine theoretical and practical approaches. Examples of vocational bachelor’s disciplines are nursing, teaching (usually school), some engineering specialties. Most graduates of professional bachelor's degrees find work in the public sector, for example as teachers, nurses and social workers, while programs in fields such as engineering, IT, business, media and communications are focused on the private sector.
Standard bachelor’s (bachelorgrad) lasts 3 years (180 ECTS). The programs are research-based and include a final project. Universities offer training in all scientific fields.
Bachelor of Arts (bachelorgradikunst) takes 3 years (180 ECTS), in the field of theater and cinema — 4 years (240 ECTS). Admission is carried out by entrance examinations. The programs are based on scientific and artistic research. Studies are offered in the field of visual arts: architecture, design, music, etc.
After completing any bachelor's degree, young specialists can continue their higher education or start looking for work in a profession.
Master’s in Denmark — Graduate / Postgraduate
A master's degree (masteruddannelse) is awarded after 2 (in some cases 3) years of study (60 ECTS and 90 ECTS, respectively). Some Master's programs are longer, such as Medicine — 3 years (180 ECTS) and Veterinary Medicine — 2.5 years (150 ECTS). The Master's degree is only available at universities and in higher education institutions of arts and architecture at the university level.
The curriculum consists of compulsory subjects, electives and thematic courses. The main teaching method is problem-based learning. Students attend seminars and lectures, solve theoretical and practical assignments, work in groups and individually, as well as undergo internships and participate in exchange programs. At the end of their studies, master’s students submit a dissertation, which they work on for 6-9 months in teams or independently.
There are 2 types of doctoral studies (PhD), which usually last 3 years:
Standard research doctorate at a university;
The latter is a project in the area of the company's interests. The student is simultaneously enrolled in the university and hired by the company as an employee. The system was developed for cooperation between companies and universities and promotion of research and development in Danish industry.
Study in PhD programs (180 ECTS) consists of taught courses and independent research. Within 3 months, the student and the academic supervisor create a curriculum and research project, which the university reviews and approves. The curriculum should include 6-month courses related to the research topic. PhD candidates additionally teach and/or share research results (dissertation) through presentations and publications.
Often, Danish universities send students to foreign universities or to production, so that the resulting scientific work is multifaceted and fundamental. PhD candidates defend their dissertations not only in front of academicians of the alma mater, but also in front of foreign professors and expert practitioners.
Often, PhD candidates look for funding and scholarships that cover tuition fees, book costs, travel expenses, etc. Sometimes universities and other organizations pay salaries to doctoral students (studentships). You can look for scholarships in universities, research centers, private foundations and enterprises. It should be noted that the competition for PhD in Denmark is high. Current opportunities can be found here and here.
Academic career in Denmark
Academic career in Denmark begins with positions of Assistant Professor / Researcher, which last for approximately 4 years. The main duties of an Assistant Professor are research (publications) and teaching. Researcher conducts research, teaches and sometimes gives scientific advice to the public sector. Usuallythese are temporary full-time positions. To obtain a permanent contract, you must successfully complete an intensive evaluation period, which takes place during the last 6 months of the fixed-term contract. The next positions are Associate Professor / Senior Lecturer, and then Professor. These are permanent. The university can offer especially talented Associate Professors / Senior Researchers promotions to a Professor status, if they have international recognition and research. Other qualifications may also be required, such as knowledge and technology transfer, patenting and collaboration with external partners. There are also positions: Research Assistant, Teaching Assistant, Teaching Assistant Professor / Teaching Associate Professor, Teaching Assistant Professor, Teaching Associate Professor, Part-time Lecturer, etc. Teaching experience and a good track record of research are required to advance the career. The Danish educational system is open to foreign scholars. It is desirable to know Danish, but since universities offer English-language programs, and the teachers and university administration speak English, not knowing the official language will not be an obstacle. Universities sometimes pay foreign professors more than local professors, and additionally help especially talented scientists with travel expenses. Salaries at the Danish academy range from 46,370 USD to 87,119 USD per year before tax removal.
Ability to work while studying in Denmark
EU/EEA or Swiss citizens can work in Denmark with no restriction.
For other nationals, in addition to the student residence permit, a limited work permit is issued (sticker in the passport). If you did not apply for it during the registration of the residence permit, you can obtain permission from the Danish Immigration Service. Students are allowed to work:
Up to 20 hours per week during the regular period of study from September to May;
Full time in June, July and August.
If you are under 18, you need a written job offer or contract for a specific position. The employer must also register with the Danish Immigration Office. The limited permit is additionally valid for 6 months after completing a full education program in Denmark. This time is essentially given to find a permanent job.
Working more than 20 hours is illegal and may result in a warning, a fine, cancellation of a residence permit, deportation, and even incarceration.
Read more about working conditions in Denmark here.
Finding a job in Denmark is not always easy, especially without knowing the language. Some international students find jobs in bars or restaurants. Others distribute newspapers, work as telemarketers or translators. The minimum wage is about 15 USD per hour.
Many universities have career centers that help students with job search. In addition, the official Danish website of international recruiting offers information on how to find suitable student work, how to write a resume, and how to pass interviews. Vacancies are also posted on the site.
Opportunities to stay and immigration to Denmark
Nordic, EU/EEA or Swiss citizens are eligible to stay and work in the country after studies without any limitations. However, they still need a registration certificate to live there.
Graduates from non-EU/EEA countries with a student residence permit can only look for work in Denmark for 6 months after graduation. During this time, you can work the same hours as during your studies: 20 hours a week and full time in June, July and August.
There is also an Establishment card, which gives you the right to work full time from the date of application or to run a business. The cardholder can be employed in any company and in any position in Denmark. After hiring, you do not need to apply for a separate permit, or a residence permit if you change jobs.
The Establishment card is issued for 2 years. It can be extended for 1 year if you work in your specialty. To obtain a card, you must:
Provide proof of funds, for example, with a bank statement with the amount equal to 12,559 USD (as of 2020).
Cost — 267 USD, application processing — 1 month. Here you can read more about the Establishment Card.
Denmark also has various work permits: for researchers, for shepherds and farmers, startups, Fast-track, etc. Here you can see all the possibilities presented.
To obtain Danish citizenship, you must have an unlimited residence permit and reside in Denmark. The application for Danish citizenship is reviewed by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration. Danish graduates can obtain citizenship after 5 years of continuous residence in Denmark. The main requirement is that education lasted at least 3 years. You can read more information here.
Higher education institutions in Denmark cooperate with business organizations and research institutes. Business meetings, visits to leading companies and internships are organized for students. All this prepares future specialists for professional activities in international companies.
The Danish economy is dominated by the service sector which constitutes for 80% of all jobs, while about 11% of all personnel work is in the manufacturing industry, 2% in agriculture. The main industries are electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food, furniture, fashion, machinery and equipment, tourism, oil and gas. The unemployment rate in the country as of February 2020 was 3.7%. However, finding a job here is not easy. Knowledge of the Danish language and networking can be decisive factors in finding a job.
Diplomas from Danish universities are recognized all over the world, so it is relatively easy for a young specialist to find a job in other countries.
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