University of Copenhagen – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, Notable Alumni, and More

The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) was founded more than five centuries ago in 1479, making it the oldest university in Denmark. It is also the #1 university in the Nordic countries and a major player in the world of higher education.

The total student population of 37,000 — 21,000 undergraduate and 16,000 graduate students — is divided among six faculties, or schools: Health and Medical Sciences, Humanities, Law, Science, Social Sciences, and Theology. All undergraduate degree programs are taught in Danish, while about 50 master’s programs are taught in English. 

The university is particularly involved in specialized research, operating over 120 research centers in Copenhagen. Notably, UCPH scholars birthed the famous Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and the Copenhagen School of security studies, a school of thought focused on the non-military components of security. Conservation is also crucial to the school, as it runs several botanical gardens in and out of the city.

It’s not just the scientists that innovate. In fact, more than half of UCPH students and alumni who start their own businesses are humanities or social science scholars. On average, UCPH students, graduates, and faculty start around 290 new businesses per year.

Given these facts and figures, it’s no wonder why this Danish university is competitive on the world stage. In this article, we’ll break down the school’s acceptance rate, rankings, alumni, tuition, and more. By the end, you’ll be able to decide for yourself if the University of Copenhagen is right for you.

University of Copenhagen Acceptance Rate

University of Copenhagen
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

UCPH doesn’t report its acceptance rate, but various sources place it anywhere from 26% to 50%. Given the school’s large student body, this range isn’t extremely selective, but it’s still fairly competitive. Applicants will definitely have to meet or, better yet, exceed admission requirements.

Those applying for a bachelor’s degree program must demonstrate academic language skills in Danish and have an average high school GPA equivalent to at least the Danish 6.0, which comes out to about a 3.0 in the U.S. 

Different degree programs have specific requirements, so make sure to check those for your chosen field. Typically you’ll need to take courses equivalent to the Danish English B, Mathematics A or B, Chemistry and Physics B, History B, and/or foreign language A or B. The equivalent courses will vary depending on the type of diploma you earned from your home institution.

On the other hand, graduate programs are primarily taught in English and require the successful completion of a degree equivalent to the Danish bachelor’s degree. The accepted subjects vary by program, so be sure to check your specific program’s requirements here.

University of Copenhagen Ranking

The University of Copenhagen is the #1 university in Denmark and the entire Nordic region. It ranks #7 in all of Europe and #34 worldwide, according to U.S. News. At #34, it’s among the likes of King’s College London, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Time Higher Education places UCPH at #84, while QS World University Rankings places it at #79, up there with Yonsei University in South Korea and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In company like this, the University of Copenhagen is definitely competitive on the world stage. 

In fact, the school has cooperative partnerships with ten other top universities: Australian National University, ETH Zurich, National University of Singapore, Peking University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Tokyo, University of Cape Town, and Yale University. 

This partnership is known as the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), dedicated to educating future leaders and driving cutting-edge research.

Despite variations across different ranking sites, the bottom line is that UCPH is a world leader in higher education, especially in specific fields. U.S. News ranks the school’s highest performing subject areas: #2 in endocrinology and metabolism, #6 in pharmacology and toxicology, and #10 in plant and animal science.

Notable Alumni

Over the course of its 500-year history, the University of Copenhagen has educated a wide range of Danish academics, performers, and athletes. In the 16th century, astronomer Tycho Brahe was the first to document the supernova scientifically. 

In the next century, physician Thomas Bartholin discovered the lymphatic system and pioneered the theory of refrigeration anesthesia.

In the 19th century, Adam Gottlob Oehlenschlager introduced romanticism to Danish literature and penned what later became the Danish national anthem. At the same time, philosopher Soren Kierkegaard was the first to write about existentialism. 

More recently, chemist Poul Bjorndahl Astrup invented the blood gas analyzer. Lightweight rower Eskild Ebbesen won five Olympic gold medals and six World Championship gold medals. Actor Lars Mikkelsen, who appeared in House of Cards and Sherlock, won an International Emmy Award in 2018 for his role in Danish TV series Herrens Veje.

UCPH has also produced two dozen Danish prime ministers, including current prime minister Mette Frederiksen, and is affiliated with 39 Nobel laureates. These include writer Johannes V. Jensen, economist William Nordhaus, and physicists Niels Bohr and Aage Bohr.


There are perks to higher education in Denmark. At UCPH, tuition is free for all bachelor’s and master’s students from the EU/EEA and Nordic countries. International students not from these countries pay between €10,000-17,000 ($11,853-20,150) per year, depending on the undergraduate program. This range also applies to master’s programs, so be sure to check your degree for exact tuition fees.

However, if you have a permanent residence permit in Denmark, you are exempt from paying tuition fees.

In Copenhagen, estimated living expenses could add an extra €1,280-1,800 ($1,517-2,133) per month and include rent, utilities, internet, food, transportation, books, and leisure activities.

International students can help fund their studies in Copenhagen by applying for country-specific loans and scholarships and/or scholarships from global institutions

For example, if you’re an American graduate student, you can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 or a fellowship of up to $23,000 from the American-Scandinavian Foundation. 

Grants are meant for short-term (3-month) study visits, while fellowships are intended for full-year programs. The full fellowship amount can potentially cover a full year of tuition plus living expenses.

In addition to these options, all non-EU/EEA applicants to UCPH master’s programs are automatically considered for Danish Government Scholarships, which grant either full or partial tuition fee waivers.

University of Copenhagen Acceptance Rate for International Students

University of Copenhagen
Rasmus81, Nyekua, CC BY-SA 2.5

With about 4,000 international students studying at Copenhagen each year, about 11% of the total student body comes from abroad. The school doesn’t publish its acceptance rate for international students, but it is comparable to their general acceptance rate, which ranges from 26-50%.

UCPH has an established graduate program for international students. They offer 50 master’s programs taught in English and have 40 Nordplus program partners, 270 Erasmus partners, and 150 bilateral agreements with other global institutions. Not only is UCPH a global leader in higher education, but they are also dedicated to the internationalization of that education.

The required application materials will vary slightly depending on your country of origin, field of study, and whether you’re applying for undergraduate or postgraduate education, but generally you will need academic transcripts, documentation of English or Danish language proficiency, letters of recommendation, supplemental essays, and financial documents. Be sure to check with your relevant academic department for specific application requirements.

Make your application as competitive as possible to stand out from other candidates from around the world. Aim to exceed the minimum GPA requirement (3.0), compile a CV of compelling work and research experiences, and seek letters of rec from people who can provide more than a generic character reference.

Is the University of Copenhagen Right For You?

Only you can answer this question. Out of all the great international universities, why Copenhagen? Do they offer a unique program that cannot be found elsewhere? Have you considered what living in Copenhagen would be like compared to your current residence? 

These are all critical considerations. Copenhagen is one of the best cities in Europe to live in — safe, clean, culturally rich. Studying at the university is highly self-directed and independent; students will get as much out of their education as they put in. 

This unique educational system fosters critical thinking and independent problem-solving skills that cannot be found in many, say, American universities. Plus, traveling throughout Europe during breaks is easy if you use Copenhagen as a home base.

At the same time, living in the Danish capital is expensive, and the weather can be gloomy. If you’re willing to make these sacrifices, though, studying at UCPH can be very rewarding. On the other hand, if you prefer studying under close faculty supervision and/or in a more affordable city, Copenhagen may not be suitable for you.

So consider carefully the specific program you want to go into, UCPH’s offerings, and the city of Copenhagen itself. Studying in a major European city can be enticing, and it may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to learn in one of the most culturally rich settings in the world.

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