20 Happy Countries You Should Study in

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Hadeel Hossam

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20 March, 2021

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7 mins read

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Choosing a country to study in could be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll have to make. It would be your home for the next 4 years or more, so you must carefully consider your choice. While it’s important to consider the choice of university, you should also consider the factor of personal fulfillment by choosing a country with a happy, engaging environment that complements the academic aspect. To find a country that is both happy and academically achieved, turn to the index of the happiest countries in the world made annually by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The choice is based on material living conditions (housing, jobs, income) and quality of life (education, governance, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance). Some of the major factors are freedom to make life choices, generosity, income, perceived corruption, trust, healthy life expectancy, and social support.

1. Finland

For the third year in a row, Finland took the top spot for the happiest country in the world with a score of 7.809. Its low levels of unemployment, high-income rates, and overall relaxing lifestyle are what always brings it out on top. It was the fourth country to land on the Better Life Index top 10 with an impressive score of 2.5 for communal support among citizens. According to the index, education in Finland is considered one of the highest quality globally, with 84% of citizens with high-school degree level and the University of Helsinki ranking 69th in the world and 10 other universities in the recent World University Rankings.

2. Denmark

The clear air, free education, and healthcare put Denmark in second-ranking for the world’s happiest countries. Its highest scores are in the community and work/life balance categories. The main difference between Denmark and Finland is a relatively higher level of corruption perceived by the people, but it has a higher calculation of generosity than Finland. All EU/EEA students can attend university in Denmark for free, with 5 universities featured in the World University Rankings. The University of Copenhagen is the only one in the top 100, landing at number 68.

3. Switzerland

Home to some of the world-leading Institutes, Switzerland climbed up this year’s happiness rankings, knocking Norway from third place and surpassing Netherlands and Iceland. The ranking is well-deserved for being one of the world’s safest countries along with its strong economy and life satisfaction. The country is full of happy, healthy people with a very high median salary and the lowest rates of obesity in the world. In the OECD Better Life Index, Switzerland impressively scores highly for employment, job security, and earnings. There are two Swiss universities included in the latest World University Rankings, with two in the top 20. Its highest-ranked institution is ETH Zurich, ranked 12th globally, and there’s also the highly renowned University of Zurich.

4. Iceland

With a total score of 7.494, Iceland has its seat in the top 5 happiest countries in the world. It has the lowest amount of perceived corruption among the five countries and has impressively low crime and corruption rates. It has seven major universities and a unique social scene and natural scenes you won’t see anywhere else. 

5. Norway

Norway comes in fifth place with staggeringly low rates of crime and incarceration. High citizen satisfaction levels come from the country’s free healthcare and education and an outstanding work-life balance. Even though it’s not the cheapest country in the top 5 regarding the cost of living, it’s the most affordable university student option. Ranked 113th globally, the University of Oslo is one of the best places to study in the country. 

6. the Netherlands

The Netherlands’ robust economy and its high income and low unemployment landed it the 6th place in the happiest countries rankings. The country is also known for its heightened sense of individual freedom, and the clear air and beautiful landscapes add to its people’s satisfaction with the quality of life. The educational power of the Netherlands is quite underrated even though it has two universities in the top 100 worldwide; the Delft University of Technology, University of Amsterdam.  

7. Sweden

With a progressive political system and free education for its citizens, it was only natural for Sweden to be in the top 10 happiest countries in the world. Its education system is highly renowned worldwide, with Lund University and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in the top 100 best universities in the world.

8. New Zealand

New Zealand’s efforts in  supporting wellbeing at individual and governmental levels did not go in vain as it takes 8th place in the happiest countries list. With specific budgets dedicated to climate change, well being, social exclusion, poor health, and domestic violence. Another factor that earned New Zealand its place in the list is the people’s sense of being connected in times of distress. It also has a university ranked in the top 100 in the world, the University of Auckland.

9. Austria

After increasing its efforts towards GDP and establishing a more robust economy, Austria manages to be the 9th happiest country globally. Its score highlights are social support, healthy life expectancy, generosity, and freedom to make life decisions. With a high-quality education system, many Austrian universities are ranked among the world’s top universities like the University of Vienna and Vienna University of Technology.

10. Luxembourg

After being in 14th place last year, Luxembourg managed to snatch 10th place this year, surpassing Canada and Australia. The upgrade comes due to the country’s strong social security system and high salaries, not to mention excellent healthcare. Luxembourg also scored high in the work-life balance category and has a top-ranking university, The University of Luxembourg.

11. Canada

With the third place in the list for best countries in the world for education, it’s only right that Canada takes place in this list. It has 3 universities in the top 100 QS University Rankings 2021, the University of Toronto, McGill University, and University of British Columbia

12. Australia

It’s not just the sandy beaches and great weather that got Australia a place on this list. It has impressively low unemployment rates, and the minimum wage is double that of the United States. It also scores highly on civic engagement, health, and safety with low crime rates. Its highest-ranked university, the Australian National University, is ranked 27th in the world. It has 4 other universities in the top 100 in the world; The University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Queensland.

13. United Kingdom

Known for being one of the top education destinations for students worldwide, the United Kingdom is one of the happiest countries to study in. It’s not only for its excellent education system and housing that the UK landed a place on this list; it also had one of the best generosity scores. The UK has some of the oldest and highly renowned universities globally, including the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London

14. Israel

Israel also managed to take a spot in this list,  it is a highly recognized for its excellent education system. It has a wide range of universities you can choose from, like the University of Tel Aviv and the University of Haifa.

15. Costa Rica

The clean environment, strong social bonds, and investment in education, not to mention the stunning views, earned Costa Rica a place in the happiest countries list. The University of Costa Rica and Universidad Nacional are some of the top universities in Costa Rica and are proof of the country’s generous investment in education.

16. Ireland

With impressive GDP per capita scores, freedom to make life choices, and life expectancy, it was only natural for Ireland to earn a spot on this list. In fact, it came in the top 10 countries for generosity, social support and lack of perceived corruption. This makes it a perfect destination for international students, along with the fact that it has some of the best universities in the world like University College Dublin, National University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin

17. Germany

Germany’s excellent healthcare and education systems are the main reasons Germany features in the happiest countries list. Other factors, like the regulation of working hours, also gave it an extra boost. There’s also the support for sporting groups and hobbies, which makes it a great place for students along with the highly-acclaimed universities such as the Technical University of Munich and Heidelberg University.

18. USA

Moving up from 19th place, the United States seems to be looking forward to climbing the happiest countries list in the years to come. Despite its growing economy and high ranking for income, the country’s social issues and over-use of media gave it this lower ranking. However, the USA remains one of the top destinations for an international student with worldly acclaimed universities like Harvard University, Stanford University, and Columbia University.   

19. Czech Republic

Managing to grab one of the last few spots in the top 20 happiest countries, the Czech Republic had an impressive jump from its 23rd place in 2017. It had great scores in social support, GDP per capita, health and life expectancy. It’s also home to prestigious universities like Charles University and Czech Technical University in Prague. 

20. Belgium

Belgium snatches the last spot in the top 20 happy countries this year, knocking out France in the process. The country is widely known for its wonderful health system, high-quality public transport network, access to various sports activities, and overall high quality of life, which makes Belgians one of the happiest people in the world. Higher education in Belgium is worldly renowned for its excellence with top-ranking universities like Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University of Ghent, and Université Catholique de Louvain.

There you have it! These are the top happiest countries in the world that you can study at and guarantee a prospering life both academically and socially. Just make sure you do your research on your chosen study destination to ensure it meets your lifestyle needs, budget and take into consideration the weather as these are all important factors for a happy study abroad! 

If you have not booked your student accommodation in these countries yet, Casita will help you find your perfect room near your university in any city that suits your budget.


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