University of Copenhagen or Lund University?

University of Copenhagen or Lund University? main image

If you’re an international student looking for a top undergraduate, Masters or PhD program in Scandinavia, the University of Copenhagen and Lund University are likely to be two of the names at the top of your list.

Not only are they two of Northern Europe's most historic universities, they are also at the top of the tree academically. The University of Copenhagen is Scandinavia’s top-ranked, while Lund University is the region's second.

Choosing between the University of Copenhagen and Lund University

Not too long ago, Sweden and Denmark were two of the only countries in which international students from anywhere in the world could take a full undergraduate degree completely for free.

If that sounds a little good to be true, well, that’s because it is. In the past few years tuition fees have been introduced in both countries, meaning for students based outside of the EU they are now in roughly the same price range as destinations such as the UK or US.

It’s not all bad news though – that is, if you’re a student from a country in the EU. In that case your degree will still be completely free, and in some cases you will be able to study it in English.

Lund University offers five full undergraduate degree programs taught entirely in English, and both universities have a wide range of options for English-language study at graduate level. There are also numerous English-language options for international exchange students.

Both universities are highly international, have excellent facilities and are based in historic cities in areas of stunning natural beauty. Having to choose between them is a nice problem to have!

To help, here’s a look at how University of Copenhagen and Lund University compare on key indicators, with an at-a-glance overview followed by more detailed comparison...


University of Copenhagen

Lund University

World rankings

  • 51st worldwide in 2012
  • Higher score than Lund for student/faculty ratio (20th in the world)
  • Makes global top 100 for both academic and employer reputation
  • Ranks 21= for agriculture & forestry
  • 71st worldwide in 2012
  • Higher scores than Copenhagen for both academic and employer reputation      
  • Ranks 26th for geography

Academic reputation*

  • Rated 51st for life sciences & medicine, 69th for arts & humanities and 72nd for social sciences & management
  • Rated 73rd for natural sciences, 78th for life sciences & medicine and 85th for arts & humanities


  • Campus is spread over four sites in Copenhagen (approx. pop. 1.95 million), Denmark’s capital, ranked 39th worldwide in the QS Best Student Cities
  • Located in Lund (approx. pop. 110,000), a small but lively city near to Sweden’s south-west coast

Student community

  • Total number of enrolled students: 38,867
  • Undergraduate students: 22,351
  • Graduate students: 16,516
  • International students: 5,515
  • Total number of enrolled students: 47,000
  • Undergraduate students: 35,000
  • Graduate students: 10,000
  • International students: 3,000

Tuition fees

  • Tuition is free to students from within the EU and Switzerland.
  • Tuition fees for non-EU students is generally around US$8,000-10,000 per semester.
  • There are no tuition fees for international exchange students.
  • Tuition is free to students from within the EU and Switzerland.
  • Tuition fees for non-EU students studying for full undergraduate programs varies by subject, but generally ranges from around US$13,000-20,000 per year.
  • There are no tuition fees for international exchange students.

Programs taught in English


  • A wide range of Masters and PhD programs taught in English.

  • No full undergraduate programs taught entirely in English.


  • Five full bachelor’s degrees taught in English: development studies, mathematics, physical geography and ecosystem science, physics, and fine art.
  • A wide range of courses in other subjects taught in English, many available to international exchange students.
  • A wide range of Masters and PhD programs taught in English.

What the students say…

Morgwyn Ward, international exchange student from Brisbane, Australia: “One really great thing about being an international student at University of Copenhagen is that although the students really take their studies seriously, they also make time for lots of socializing.  There are so many great activities going on all the time and heaps of opportunities to meet lots of new people which is perfect for international students.”

Rachelle Lacharité, international student from Calgary, Canada: “Lund is the perfect balance of a high quality education, proximity to an international airport and European capital, spirited student activities, just everything I was looking for. I'm sure that this is one of Lund University's slogans or the like, but it is truly a small, cozy town feel with hugely important historical and international connections!” 

*Based on QS’s annual global academic reputation survey, which in 2012/13 drew on responses from more than 48,000 academics.

World rankings

The University of Copenhagen and Lund University are Scandinavia’s two leading institutions, and among the most highly regarded universities in Europe. Copenhagen comes out ahead overall, ranking 51st, 20 places ahead of Lund in 71st.

The two are evenly matched in many respects, though Lund has the advantage for both academic and employer reputation. Employers rank Lund as the 58th best university in the world for the quality of its graduates, ahead of Copenhagen in 100th.

What swings things in Copenhagen’s favor, however, is its outstanding student/faculty ratio. Only 19 institutions in the world boast greater teaching resources per student admitted, meaning the University of Copenhagen is well placed to offer a considerable level of personal attention and small class sizes.

Both institutions also feature prominently in the QS World University Rankings by Subject. Both universities make the global top 200 in all 30 disciplines covered in the rankings, meaning they have strong departments across the full academic spectrum.

Copenhagen ranks 21= in agriculture and forestry, and makes the top 50 in a further six disciplines: communications and media studies (25th), biological sciences (36=), medicine (38=), politics (39th), linguistics (40th) and pharmacy (42nd).

Lund makes the global top 50 in four subjects: geography (26th), environmental sciences (32nd), biological sciences (46th) and linguistics (50th).

See the full QS World University Rankings by Subject >

Academic reputation

Academic reputation is measured in the QS World University Rankings through a survey of over 46,000 academics. Here the two universities are fairly evenly matched, both overall and across the five faculty areas.

Lund has a slight edge over the University of Copenhagen for overall academic reputation, ranking 69th, just four places ahead of Copenhagen in 73rd.

Lund has a broadly consistent reputation across the academic spectrum, making the top 100 in all of the five main faculty areas: natural sciences (73rd), life sciences & medicine (78th), arts & humanities (85th), social sciences & management (96th) and engineering & technology (98th).

Despite ranking slightly below Lund for its overall academic reputation, Copenhagen achieves higher rankings in life sciences and medicine (51st), arts and humanities (69th) and social sciences & management (72nd). However, it ranks lower for natural sciences (82nd), and is considerably less renowned for engineering and technology (386th).


Though the two universities are in different countries separated by a stretch of sea, they are actually only around 60 kilometres apart.

For students looking to base themselves in a big, bustling capital city, the University of Copenhagen has the upper hand. Copenhagen offers all of the cultural riches you might expect from a major European capital with a population of nearly 2 million, all set against a stunning backdrop of canals and picturesque promenades.

“I love the food, the people, the history and how beautiful the country is,” says Morgwyn Ward, an Australian exchange student currently at the University of Copenhagen. “In Copenhagen you really feel that the world and cultural experiences are so accessible.”

While Lund may be a city of more modest dimensions, for Rachelle Lacharité, a Canadian who studied for a bachelor’s degree at Lund University, it represents the best of both worlds.

“I love life in Sweden. I come from a city of over 1 million people back in Canada and was a bit afraid at first to go to a city of only about 80 000 inhabitants, but it has been perfect for me,” she says. “You have a quaint, idyllic, reasonably priced, student city, that is only a few kilometers from many other lovely cities, and actually, in Canadian terms, Stockholm and Berlin are also very close (only 4 hours by train)!”

Student communities

Both universities have large and diverse student communities, with Lund’s total of 47 000 enrolled students slightly larger than the Copenhagen figure of around 39,000. In a city whose total population stands at just 110,000, that means that Lund is perfect for those who want to retreat into a student bubble.

Rachelle describes Lund University’s commitment to its international students as “impressive”. “They have an international desk that offers all support you could ever need in all aspects of your studies, housing and social life, and they have even started to offer brilliant graduation ceremonies for some programs in the main university building (something that is not a Swedish tradition but is highly appreciated by international students),” she says.

“One really great thing about being an international student at Copenhagen University is that although the students really take their studies seriously, they also make time for lots of socialising,” says Morgwyn. “There are so many great activities going on all the time and heaps of opportunities to meet lots of new people which is perfect for international students.”

What the students say…

Morgwyn: “Do it! Apply now. Studying at the University of Copenhagen has been such an amazing experience. My entire perspective has changed and I have learnt so much since being here.”

Rachelle: “My advice would be to do not hesitate! Lund University has been around for almost 350 years, so they obviously must be doing something right! I've seen this for myself now during my Bachelor degree, and can say that I am so incredibly pleased with my education, the country of Sweden, the student life and the beautiful city of Lund!”

Are you considering studying in Scandinavia?
Connect with other students in our international student forum >

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