The magnetic pull of Scandinavia

Apart from its solid academic credentials, Scandinavia offers countless attractions to students, including zero tuition fees

“The problem for English students wanting to learn Danish would be that they can’t,” warns Bo Kristiansen. “That’s because the Danes will always speak to them in English! They love to speak English and want to practise – everyone speaks English, from bus drivers to shop assistants.”

It’s a light-hearted comment that hints at a seriously useful aspect of culture in many parts of the Nordic countries for prospective students: English is widely spoken. According to Kristiansen, a chief consultant in the Communication department of the University of Southern Denmark, language is something that UK students need not worry about when considering studying in Scandinavia. “It won’t be a problem. Students will meet teachers who are very good at teaching in English.”

Of course there’s no real obstacle to students picking up the native tongues of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden, should they decide to make the relatively short journey across the “whale roads”, as the anonymous scribe of Old English epic Beowulf described the seas separating us from our Scandinavian neighbours. But with many courses taught in English in a range of subjects, it might be encouraging to know that they’ll be able to arrive and get on with student life first, picking up the basics as they go (battles with vengeful monsters notwithstanding).

There are plenty of other reasons to consider the Nordic countries, though, even before the region’s solid academic reputation is taken into account. “The answer to the question ‘why study in Finland?’ might depend a lot on the person asking,” says Samuli Repo of the Finnish Centre for International Mobility (CIMO). Some are fascinated by the northern climate, for instance. “We have relatively cold and dark winters but also light and warm summers, so the seasons’ change is perhaps an ‘exotic’ experience to begin with!”

Repo suggests that there’s some truth in the adage that Finns live close to nature, adding that nature “is never very far away from the doorstep” in his country, and in fact Scandinavia as a whole has a lot to offer those who venture beyond the cities. Norway’s glacier-carved topography is a popular draw, Denmark has miles of (admittedly chilly) white sand beaches, Finland has its wilderness and the midnight sun, and Sweden offers no fewer than 28 national parks.

However, for anyone not pining for the fjords there are also vibrant university towns and cities, including Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. The Danish capital is Scandinavia’s largest city, with all the benefits that brings. “Whatever you’re into, you can find it here,” says Vibeke Hempler of Denmark Technical University (DTU), pointing out that students have ready access to sports and music. “And on Friday the bars might also be of interest,” he adds with a smile.

Scandinavian universities boast some impressive statistics. BI Norwegian Business School offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses and is one of Europe’s largest dedicated business schools, with more than 20,000 students enrolled across several locations.

Stockholm University has more than 5,000 academic staff and no fewer than 85 Masters courses taught in English (those with a technological bent might be interested to know that it was Sweden that gave the world the computer mouse, ball bearings and the music streaming service Spotify), while Finland’s 25 polytechnics (also known as universities of applied science) provide more than 100 BA programmes in English. Denmark’s DTU is a high-flier in the Leiden Ranking, which measures scientific performance across 500 universities world- wide: the institution comes seventh in Europe, and first in Scandinavia.

Perhaps the most appealing number to students from the UK, though, is the smallest number of all: zero.

That’s the amount UK students pay in tuition fees in Scandinavia. “We can offer students something quite cheap,” says Kristiansen. “They can get the same quality of education as in the UK, but for free.” Of course living costs need to be taken into account and the region is known to be unforgiving on the pocket at times, but this needs to be balanced with what Hempler refers to as “the joys of living abroad”. That, and the fact that satellite TV costs are lower, which means Premier League football coverage (in Denmark at least) is much more accessible than in the UK, according to Kristiansen.

And if following the antics of Torres and co isn’t high on your list of priorities, universities and polytechnics across Scandinavia have a great deal more to offer prospective students. The variety of courses is comparable to that in the UK; one difference between the systems is that there are two types of institution: universities (which take a more traditional approach) and polytechnics/ universities of applied science (which specialise in more practical, vocational qualifications).

The teaching style can also be a little different. “We focus on educating ‘complete people’,” says Mette Samuelsen of the University College of Northern Denmark. Students learn theory but also develop social competencies and networking skills, he explains. “We teach them to take action and be of value to their employer or company from day one.”

As in Holland, the emphasis is on group work and problem-based learning alongside lectures and written work, “which can be interesting for students,” says Kristiansen.

Businesses are often closely involved with universities of applied science, setting students specific tasks to help develop commercial awareness.

There’s also a closer relationship between staff and students, according to Kristiansen, “and that’s to do with cultural things more than anything else. You can get their phone number and call them if you’re struggling, without worrying. At the end of the course the exams are still the same, but there’s a different relationship and, for many students outside Denmark, that’s quite a surprise.”

Students interested in studying in Scandinavia can visit individual university’s websites. For general information, try the following sites: Study in Sweden, CIMO, Study in Norway and Study in Denmark .

During their studies and after graduation, students are offered the same sort of help as their UK counterparts: careers fairs and services, internships, work experience and company visits are commonplace, all helping students to make the most of their academic experience. Not that there’s any need to worry, says Kristiansen; you’ll probably have embraced the Scandinavian attitude by then. “Students normally say that everything is quite calm and collected here; we do things in quite a relaxed manner. You have to work hard, but it’s still nice and relaxed.”

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull

Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.

Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
arts + ents Samuel L Jackson and Michael Madsen have taken part in a reading of Quentin Tarantino’s axed follow-up to Django Unchained.
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit