University of Copenhagen North campus in Spring

Interested in joining us at the University of Copenhagen?

Learn about life and research in the happy capital

University of Copenhagen North campus in Spring

Interested in joining us at the University of Copenhagen?

Learn about life and research in the happy capital

The University of Copenhagen is a great place if you’re both interested in high-quality NLP research (we’re ranked 2nd in Europe and 14th in the world on CSRankings for NLP) and a high quality of life (Denmark has consistently been ranked one of the three happiest countries in the world, and ranks equally highly on the quality of life). In addition to this, Copenhagen is a lively, bustling capital, while still being small enough that one can cycle nearly everwhere within a short amount of time. Intrigued? Read on!

Life in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is lively and vibrant, yet comfortably-sized capital city by the North Sea on the border to Sweden with an oceanic climate. As it is located in Scandinavia, many of the corresponding stereotypes apply. Healthcare is socialised, public transport is cheap, working hours are short, taxes are high, but so are incomes. Denmark has been voted the happiest country in the world in 2016 and has kept a spot in the top three since, becoming a world-wide cultural phenomenon with many books published on the topic (some personal recommendations: “The Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell, and “The Almost Nearly Perfect People” by Michael Booth). Popular exports are hygge, beer and pork products.

Living in Copenhagen itself is a very relaxing experience. The city is very spacious compared to other capitals (think: London, New York, Tokyo), boasting large and open public spaces. Most people cycle to work and have a short commute, as it is easily possible to afford a city centre flat on an average salary. There are many things to do and explore in Copenhagen, from cozy bars and cafés to museums, the hipster district Vesterbro, the free town Christiania, and much more, as Copenhagen has incidentally also been voted the number 1 city to visit by Lonely Planet. The Copenhagen tourist board as well as the EMNLP 2017 local guide are excellent starting points for finding out more about what to do.

NLP Research at the University of Copenhagen

The University of Copenhagen is currently home to three NLP faculty members and many postdocs and PhD students, who work on topics including natural language understanding, parsing, multi-lingual aspects, low-resource learning, machine translation and multi-modal learning.

NLP at the University of Copenhagen as a whole is highly productive and internationally well-regarded. For instance, we are ranked 2nd in Europe and 14th in the world on CSRankings for NLP) since the beginning of NLP research activities at the University of Copenhagen in 2013, and were host to EMNLP 2017.

Applying for a PhD

PhD programs at the University of Copenhagen, and in Denmark in general, are fairly compact; students are expected to submit their thesis after three years, while an extension of one year can be granted. PhD students do not have to take courses during their studies, as they are expected to have completed a Master’s degree already. There are benefits and downsides to such a program structure, of course, and a more opinionated take on this can be found in this Quora post.

There are generally three routes to applying for a PhD:

  • applying for a fully-funded position;
  • applying with external funding;
  • applying for an industrial PhD.

The first option is undoubtedly the most common one. Therein, a PhD fellowship is provided through a funded project, and the position is advertised on the KU job portal. The successful candidate becomes an employee at the University of Copenhagen, and in addition a PhD candidate registered with the PhD School. Depending on the funding source, a broad research topic is either already provided, or the topic is completely open.

The second option requires the PhD candidate to have already secured funding to cover living expenses in Denmark for a three-year period. Funding can, for instance, come from a governmental scholarship program such as CSC. The candidate then contacts the potential advisor, and given a positive resonse applies for admission to the PhD School afterwards.

The third option is something fairly special to Denmark – PhD students can study towards their PhD, while working at a company at the same time roughly one day a week. These PhD projects tend to be more applied and the topic for them is defined based on an agreement between the PhD advisor and the company. Funding for such projects is either agreed upon with or without a candidate for the position. As with the other two options, the PhD student is enrolled at the Doctoral School.

More information on the enrollment process at the Science Faculty Doctoral School is listed here.

Doing a Postdoc

Postdoc positions are available for anything between one and four years. Applicants are expected to have submitted their PhD thesis by the time they start, but it is typically not necessary for them to have been formally awarded a PhD yet, if they have sufficient evidence that this is likely to happen in the near future.

The routes to getting a postdoc position are very similar to those for a PhD position:

  • applying for a fully-funded position;
  • applying with external funding;
  • applying for an industrial PhD.

Funded postdoc positions are often advertised on the KU job portal, though 1-year postdoc contracts can be offered without open calls. The postdoc topic varies widely based on the funding source.

It is, furthermore, possible to start as a postdoc with already obtained funding, e.g. individual research fellowships. The topic for those is typically open and decided by the postdoc candidate. For some fellowship schemes, applications are made jointly with the host. Get in touch if you are interested in this option.

Lastly, industrial postdoc programs means a researcher works both at a university and at a company, roughly one day a week. The postdoc topic is typically more application-oriented and defined based on an agreement between the advisor and the company. Funding is either agreed upon with or without a candidate for the position.

CopeNLU Group

If you arrived on this page, you’ve likely already seen the rest of the CopeNLU website. We are a young research group at the Computer Science department at the University of Copenhagen, interested in natural language understanding. We are a very social and collaborative group, with weekly group meetings, breakfasts and reading groups, in addition to one-on-one adviser-advisee meetings. PhD students and postdocs are encouraged to not work on projects on their own, but rather form synergies with other group members based on common research interests.

Visiting the Group

We are always open to short or longer-term visitors to the group, but do not provide internships for Bachelor’s or Master’s students. Funding for visits can typically not be provided, with the expection of invited speakers who give a talk in the Copenhagen NLP meetup series.

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CopeNLU is a Natural Language Processing research group led by Isabelle Augenstein with a focus on researching methods for tasks that require a deep understanding of language, as opposed to shallow pattern recognition. We are affiliated with the Machine Learning Section at the Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen.