South Korea Higher Education

In a relatively short period of time, South Korea has gone from being among the world’s poorest countries to being an economic success story. The country is today the world’s 15th largest economy, and education, research and innovation have high political priority.

Education plays a very important role in South Korean society and, in interaction with business, the state and the research world, is an important socio-economic driving force. For several years, South Korea has achieved some of the highest rates in the world for the proportion of youth in higher education, and the country has some of the highest expenditures on education, research and development.

The Korean education system is characterized by i.a. a strong focus on discipline and competition and is divided into the following levels (in addition to pre-school and kindergarten): elementary school (1st-6th grade), middle school (7th-9th grade), high school (10th- 12th grade) and post-secondary education, which make up colleges and universities.

As a country of growth and increasingly as an important Asian education center, South Korea is an important potential partner for Denmark. According to Countryaah, South Korea is today the third largest market for Denmark in Asia, and the number of Danish companies registered in South Korea is increasing.

In 2013, Denmark opened a new innovation center in the capital Seoul. It will help Danish companies and research and innovation institutions with market access, competitiveness and partnerships in the South Korean market. You can read more about the new innovation centers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The EU and South Korea signed a free trade agreement in 2011, which constitutes the first EU free trade agreement with an Asian partner country.

Worth knowing

Vocational training in South Korea

Vocational training in South Korea takes place through the so-called Vocational High Schools, which offer vocational training in agriculture, industry, trade, accounting and maritime studies. They prepare students for work in the specialized field. The educations are of three years duration.

After graduating, a Vocational High School Certificate (diploma) also qualifies for further studies at a so-called Junior College.


If you are considering taking all or part of your own internship in South Korea or elsewhere abroad, read the section on internships abroad for vocational education under the section Primary and Secondary Education.

Higher education in South Korea

South Korea has 379 official institutions of higher learning – including 179 private universities and 43 state universities.

The country is increasingly a popular destination for international students, and in 2010, over 80,000 foreign students were enrolled in Korean universities.

Higher education in South Korea is divided into

  • Universities, with educational programs of typically 4-6 years duration. South Korean universities are divided into national universities, industrial universities and open universities.
  • Junior colleges, with programs typically lasting 2-3 years that provide access to studies at universities.
  • Graduate schools that offer superstructure programs divided into generalist schools that focus on careers in academic research, and specialized schools that focus on special professions.
  • Master’s courses, which are of two years’ duration and end with a specialized dissertation.
  • Ph. D. courses that are of a minimum duration of three years and end with a PhD dissertation.
  • Post-doc courses – further research after PhD thesis.

On the website Study in Korea you can find a list and info about the existing universities and colleges in South Korea.

Korean universities generally rank quite high in global education rankings. In 2012, several Korean universities topped Quaqurelli Symond’s ranking of Asian universities.

Admission and application

In general, the Korean academic year is divided into two semesters with summer holidays from July to August and winter holidays from December to February. New students are admitted both in September and in March.

However, admission requirements, application process and deadlines may vary between individual institutions. Therefore, see specific information for the universities you are interested in via this list of South Korean educational institutions

Language proficiency

Korean is the official language of South Korea, but several universities teach English. For most Korean universities, foreign students whose mother tongue is not English or Korean must have proof of their knowledge of the language in question. Which language tests are accepted, however, varies between the individual institutions. Therefore, check with the institution or institutions you are interested in what the requirements are.

Recognition of foreign educations

If you have completed a publicly recognized education in South Korea or elsewhere abroad, you can have it assessed by the Danish Agency for Research and Education

Economics and education

South Korean universities and colleges charge tuition fees. The exact fees will vary between the different colleges and universities, and between undergraduate and graduate levels.

Several Korean universities have scholarships for international students, and these are often awarded after particularly good academic results. In the list of South Korean higher education institutions, for each institution, you can read about scholarship opportunities for international students.

As a Danish student, you can take your SU abroad. It requires that the study stay is part of your Danish education, and that your Danish educational institution approves that the study stay gives full credit. You can also apply for support through a scholarship abroad that fully or partially covers study-related expenses on approved study stays.

You can read more about the possibilities for SU abroad and a scholarship abroad at – SU abroad

At the same time, you can apply for support through private grants. You can read more about this in the section grants and foundations

Work in South Korea

The latest updated figures from the OECD report an unemployment rate of 3.4% in South Korea. The South Korean government is generally keen to attract international labor.

To work legally in South Korea, foreigners must have a work visa. These are different depending on how long you have to work in South Korea and what you have to work with.

As a foreign student, it is also possible to have a job next to the studies. However, this must not exceed 20 hours per week.

At you can get general information about the opportunities to work in South Korea, and here you will also find links to the various job bases in South Korea.

The Korean Embassy in Denmark can help you with a visa.

Practical conditions


As a student at a university in South Korea, the opportunities for student housing / dormitories are good. In the list of universities and colleges in South Korea, you can read for each institution whether this is offered.

If you need to find an apartment yourself, you can get general information and info about useful pages on

General info

The work’n’play website provides useful info for foreigners in South Korea, including a good overview of studying in South Korea.

If you are applying for education in South Korea, it is crucial that you thoroughly research the quality of the education. There can be a big difference between the educational institutions, the educations and the form of teaching internally in the country. You can obtain knowledge and experience about educations from relevant professionals in Denmark (eg teachers / researchers with knowledge of the subject area or the country), the international offices at Danish educational institutions or Danish students who have been to South Korea.

Facts about South Korea

Population: 50 million.

Languages: Korean and English.

Employment: In 2012, unemployment in South Korea was 3.2% (OECD).

Currency: South Korean won.

Visa: Applied through the Korean Embassy in Hellerup.

South Korea Higher Education