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Despite the disruption caused by coronavirus, many students are looking to begin a study abroad adventure this year – or next. With universities doing all they can to accommodate the needs of international students, we think that the Nordic region has plenty to offer prospective postgraduates.
It comes as no great surprise that students from across the world flock to the Nordic nations – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – for postgraduate study. Between them, these five countries host over 95,000 international students, many of whom are on Masters courses.
But what makes the Nordic nations such appealing postgraduate destinations? In this blog we’ll take a closer look at each country, examining some of the reasons why a decision to study a Masters in the Nordic region could be the best one you’ll make this year!
Welcoming over 33,000 international students each year, Denmark is currently the most popular Nordic country for study abroad. As well as being the birthplace of Lego, Denmark is home to several world-class universities. In fact, most of Denmark’s eight universities feature across all three major academic league tables.
As part of its commitment to higher education, the Danish government covers tuition fees for Masters students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland (students from outside Europe will pay fees of around €6,000-16,000).
As an international student in Denmark, you’ll also be entitled to free Danish lessons! As long as you have a Danish ID number, you can access these lessons through your new university or a local language centre.
In recent years, the Danish concept of hygge has found prominence outside of Denmark. It’s a quintessentially Danish term that has become shorthand for a special kind of cosiness and togetherness – perhaps a Masters in Denmark could be your chance to experience the delights of hygge for yourself?
Finland is another popular option for international postgraduates, currently charging no tuition fees to EU, EEA or Swiss nationals. Along with a number of world-class universities, Finland gives adventurous Masters students the chance to immerse themselves in one of Europe’s great wildernesses. Whether you’re interested in husky sledding in Lapland or taking a dip in one of Eastern Finland’s countless pristine lakes, life in Finland offers several exciting opportunities to encounter nature first-hand.
Compared to some of its Nordic neighbours, Finland has a low cost of living while maintaining an enviously high quality of life. In fact, Helsinki is seen by some as one of the world’s most honest major cities, and it’s not unusual to notice bikes left unlocked on street corners!
Another reason to study in Finland is the high level of importance that the country places on academic freedom. Finnish society is extremely egalitarian, and this is reflected by the independence that its universities enjoy for their research output.
Just over 1,200 international students arrive in Iceland each year, making up around 5% of its total student population. It’s not hard to see why when you consider the unparalleled opportunities for research into geothermal energy, glaciers and volcanic activity that this Nordic island offers.
What’s more, public universities in Iceland don’t charge tuition fees to international students, regardless of nationality (there is an annual registration fee of around €550, however).
Geographically isolated from the rest of the Nordic region, Iceland nevertheless shares the commitment of its neighbours to equality, social freedoms and green practices. Somewhat appropriately for the home of the epic Icelandic Sagas, Iceland has the world’s highest literacy rate; it’s estimated that one in 10 Icelanders will publish a book!
International postgraduates will find in Iceland a welcoming and stable country with a high quality of life. English is widely spoken to a high standard, so you won’t necessarily have to get to grips with Icelandic, a language that has changed remarkably little since Iceland was settled in the ninth century.
Along with Iceland, Norway is the only other Nordic country that charges no tuition fees to Masters students of all nationalities. The accessibility of its higher education system, combined with Norway’s famously high standard of living, make it an excellent place to study a Masters.
Although the Norwegian university sector is relatively small, it punches above its weight on the world scene, with several institutions featuring across the three major international league tables. Higher education in Norway is characterised by its informality, and it’s not uncommon to be on first name terms with lecturers.
The cost of living in Norway is quite high, but there are plenty of sources of funding to help finance your studies. You can find a good selection of these on the Study in Norway website, which is the official portal for international students in Norway.
Norway boasts a great work-life balance, and you’ll find yourself with plenty of time to explore the country’s unparalleled opportunities for outdoor adventures. This could mean trying your hand at cross-country skiing (Norway’s national sport), hiking around the fjords or catching the elusive northern lights.
Sweden is the largest of the Nordic nations, both in terms of population and land mass. And, with over 28,000 international students, it’s also one of the most popular postgraduate destinations in the Nordic region.
There are plenty of reasons for Sweden’s popularity with international students. If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national, for example, you won’t have to pay any tuition fees for a Masters programme in Sweden. And Swedish universities have a well-earned reputation for research excellence: many of its institutions feature prominently in the top 400 according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (for more information, see our guide to postgraduate rankings in Sweden).
Sweden is also well-known as a hotbed for innovation – after all, it’s the home of Ikea, H&M and Spotify – so a Masters represents a chance to tap into this creative economy. Importantly, there aren’t any limits on the number of hours you can work as an international student in Sweden, giving you ample opportunity to gain valuable work experience during your studies.
There’s also the small matter of Sweden offering some of Europe’s most stunning outdoor scenery. Whether you want explore its myriad lakes, forests or mountains, Sweden is a premier destination for nature lovers.
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