5 best Scandinavian countries for prestigious yet affordable university degrees

5 best Scandinavian countries for prestigious yet affordable university degrees

The UK, US, Australia and Canada may be famous study-abroad destinations, but if you look to the north, you might find the best Scandinavian countries for the perfect blend of education and experience.

Don’t believe us? Consider these stats:

And there are probably even more figures to impress the rest of the world. For students, however, there’s another factor that makes this region so compelling: affordability.

5 best Scandinavian countries for elite yet affordable education

The best Scandinavian countries are home to some of the most learned people in the world, including 57 Nobel Prize winners. Source: AFP

The best Scandinavian countries are great for budget-strapped students

Anyone who has paid US$12 for a beer (and this was back in 2019) in Oslo or US$6 for a latte in Copenhagen (the priciest in the world) would think it’s a contradiction to say studying in the best Scandinavian countries is a cost-saving affair.

But compare them to the likes of the US, UK, Australia and Canada, and you’ll see how it’s possible to pay so much lesser for a university degree.

Public universities in these countries often offer tuition-free or low tuition to international students.

This not only reduces the financial burden on students but also allows them to access education that might have been out of their reach.

The best part is this low tuition rates are paired with some of the highest standards of living in the world.

Public services are efficient public services. It’s safe to be anywhere at any time. There are healthcare and social welfare systems for the sick and vulnerable.

Little surprises then that the best Scandinavian countries consistently perform well in global surveys.

This includes the QS World University Rankings for 2023. As many as 26 universities from the Nordic region were featured — Finland has nine, Sweden has eight, Denmark has five, and Norway has four.

These figures are notably smaller compared to countries like the UK and the US. However, this is due to the fact that the Scandinavian countries are significantly smaller in size and have fewer universities.

In fact, when you consider the combined population of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland – approximately 26 million – it’s less than half the population of the UK, which is around 67 million and nowhere close to the US, which is about 331 million.

5 Scandinavian countries with prestigious and affordable universities for students  1. Sweden

The education system in Sweden is designed to equip you with the practical skills necessary to ensure you are more employable once you graduate. 

Studying in Sweden is not the most affordable due to the high cost of living, which could go up as high as 8,824.05 Swedish Krona per month (1 Krona is approximately US$0.091 at the time of writing) – and that’s excluding rent and tuition fees. 

Your cost of living and tuition fees varies depending on the city and university you choose to study in. For example, if you choose to stay in Stockholm, you can expect to pay around 6,518 Krona for rent and around 18,6247 Krona for tuition fees at universities in the city. 

The good news is that Sweden has several tuition-free universities that are free for students from the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Union (EU) and those with a permanent Swedish residence permit.

In comparison, international students outside of those countries will pay around US$9,000 to US$17,000. 

Linköping University — ranked within the top 200 global universities for disciplines like education, electrical and electronic engineering, materials science, and sociology — charges 900 krona for standard application fees, with tuition fees ranging from 80,000 to 136,000 krona if you are not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.

Scandinavian countries

Did you know that LEGO was invented in Denmark, one of the best Scandinavian countries for international students? Source: AFP

2. Denmark

From a design-savvy capital to revitalised smaller cities, Denmark is no longer a sleepy Scandinavian country for the traveller in search of culture, food and history.

The country is now a must-go destination for tourists, and with the rise of its universities, an educational hub too.

International students will find studying in Denmark attractive as many of their courses are internationally recognised and of high quality. 

Some of the country’s top institutions include the University of Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark, Aarhus University and Aalborg University, all of which rank highly in the QS World University Rankings. 

With institutions providing 1,300 courses and over 700 degrees, the best part is that most of these programmes are taught in English. Denmark has over 600 programmes that are taught in English.

What’s more, the Danish education system shares excellent links with the industry, helping students gain critical skills.

Higher education in Denmark is free for students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. For other students, the annual tuition fee ranges from 6,000 to 16,000 euros (with one euro being approximately equivalent to US$1.09 at the time of writing).

If you calculate what you stand to earn as a graduate of Danish universities, then these are worthwhile investments to make.

In Denmark, if you have a bachelor’s degree, you can earn US$6,795 monthly. If you have a master’s or a PhD, you can stand to earn a monthly income of US$8,571 and US$9,516, respectively.

3. Finland 

Finland is one of the best Scandinavian countries for students to study in. The main reason is that the Finns are among the happiest people in the world.

This Nordic nation is the #1 happiest country in the world for six years in a row, according to the World Happiness Report

The country’s capital, Helsinki, is renowned for its high standard of living, excellent education and efficient public services. 

It is also home to the University of Helsinki, which ranks in the global top 150 of the QS World University Rankings and is one of Finland’s oldest and largest educational institutions.

The university launched the Helsinki Think Company, an initiative in collaboration with the city’s government. This innovation centre aims to bring students, academics and entrepreneurs together to fast-track the process of transforming good ideas into commercial enterprises. 

Studying in Finland will not only offer you access to initiatives like these but a world-class education that is affordable as well. 

On average, your monthly expenses in Finland would range from 700 to 900 euros. This, however, does not cover rent and tuition fees.

The amount spent on your cost of living varies depending on which city you choose to study in. For example, in Helsinki, you would pay around 980 to 1580 euros monthly for rent and other living expenses.

Tuition fees at the flagship University of Helsinki are between 13,000 and 18,000 euros per academic year.

Like most tuition-free universities in Europe, students who are citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Union (EU) or have a permanent Swedish residence permit are exempted from paying tuition fees at Finnish universities.

Scandinavian countries

Explore Norway as you study at one of the country’s many tuition-free universities. Source: AFP

4. Norway 

This may come as a shock, but Norway provides free education to all international students. The country believes that everyone should have access to quality education regardless of their background. 

Public universities in the country are fully funded, so students don’t have to pay tuition fees. However, you will have to pay the semester fees and your living expenses. 

Aside from its high-quality education, Norway has been listed as one of the best places to visit, drawing scores of students and travellers to experience its high standards of living, majestic fjords and low crime rate. 

Established in 2016, Nord University might be one of the newest educational institutions in the nation. However, despite being new, it upholds a commitment to excel in education.

The university offers a number of programmes taught in English, spanning all levels.

As part of the application process, students are only required to pay a semester fee of 725 Norwegian krone.

The best part? There are not just one but several scholarships available to help you make your study abroad dreams come true. Some of the scholarships available are: 

Scandinavian countries

Study in Iceland and enjoy the beautiful sceneries as you gain a world-class education. Source: AFP

5. Iceland 

Home to a thousand-year-old parliament, natural wonders and the Nothern LIghts, Iceland is one of the best Scandinavian countries for international students. 

Here, you will find several universities that offer world-class education that is affordable for international students. 

In the capital city stands one of the best universities in Iceland for international students, Reykjavík University.

The institution focuses on teaching and research while emphasising interdisciplinary work. There are several English-taught courses at the undergraduate level, while master’s and PhD programmes are fully taught in English.

This is the university that also opened the first Artificial Intelligence laboratory in Iceland. They work with Honda to create software for the ASIMO humanoid robot. 

As one of the friendliest cities in Europe, students from all backgrounds are always welcome here.

While the tuition fees at Reykjavik University is low at US$4,000 per year, if you are looking for the cheapest university in the country, the University of Iceland is the place for you.

Not only is it the cheapest, but it is also the largest and oldest institution for higher education in the country. International students only have to pay around US$580 annually. 

The University of Iceland was established in 1911, teaching theology, medicine, and law. 

Today it is the second-best university in the country and has expanded into five different schools, which are the schools of Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Humanities, Education, and Engineering and Natural Sciences.