Jack Bodine

DIKU Frequently Asked Questions

June 2024

Copenhagen Computer Science image generated by DALL-E 3.

Recently, I’ve had an influx of strangers and friends contacting me with questions about the MSc program at DIKU. Maybe you are one of them and have just been directed to this page! I’m always happy to receive further questions if you can’t find what you’re looking for here.

This guide is based on my personal experience as an MSc student at the University of Copenhagen, and while I aim to provide accurate and up-to-date information, please note that some details might change over time. Your experience may vary, but I hope to give you an overview of what to expect and answer some of the most common questions I’ve received.

How is the program?

Fantastic! I’ve gained a lot from every course. Copenhagen is a great city to live in, and the DIKU professors really know their stuff. Whether or not it is right for you will vary on a lot of things and is not something I can answer.

I don’t know anyone who openly regrets joining the program. (Although I do hear complaints that courses can be too theoretical.) I am happy with my decision to come here, I have learned a lot and gained a lot of experience that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve on my own. The program has opened many new opportunities for me that I am very grateful for. Including the following,

  • Job opportunities that are outside the domain of BSc graduates.
  • Ability to specialize in Machine Learning at a pivotal moment.
  • Studying in a foreign country/continent, meeting international people from all over the world and learning from them as well.
  • Learning a new language for free.
  • Fun and interesting volunteer opportunities like KUFest and Studenterhuset.
  • A really fantastic and lively city to live in.

What is the quality of the lectures?

Lecture quality varies from professor to professor and course to course. Many courses have three or more different lecturers, so if there is a bad one, you don’t have to tolerate them for too long. Overall, I’d say they are pretty good. I rarely miss a lecture, but some students can get by on readings alone. But personally, I feel like they are missing out.

Are the courses demanding?

In my opinion, the courses are pretty rigorous. Again, this varies, and it is possible to just sign up for the easiest ones, but that would be a waste. Specifically the machine learning courses are notoriously tricky. MLA, MLB, OReL, and ATML are all taught by the same group of professors. They are very theoretical, so if math proofs aren’t your cup of tea then they will take quite a lot of time. That being said, I’ve taken the most out of these courses– the challenge is very rewarding.

Course grade statistics are all public and you can find them here.

What type of work do you do?

Many classes have you completing assignments in groups. But there are some that are entirely individual. Most of the time, you have to complete a certain number of assignments to be able to qualify for the exam. Some classes forgo the exam and just give you the average assignment grade as your course grade.

You should expect to spend 4-6 hours in lectures, a couple hours for readings and 8+ hours on assignments per class, per week.

There is also the option to do a project with a professor as a substitute for a course. I don’t know much about this option myself but it’s not uncommon. You will have to take some initiative though by finding a professor and proposing a project.

Is it possible to work part-time?

Many students work part-time, but most of them do not plan on graduating in just two years. If you’re from the EU, this isn’t too much of an issue because you can get the study grant (SU) from the Danish government if you are working more than a certain number of hours.

A lot of people, myself included, get to work a job related to their field. I’m taking up a ML engineering position soon, and I know a lot of others are in student software engineering positions. In other degree programs too, it is usual for people to find a student job related to their topic of study.

Keep in mind that 83% of KU students take at least one extra year to finish their master’s.

Do courses have a limited number of spots?

It is true that most electives do not fill up as long as you sign up during the regular registration period. If you have to change courses after they officially start, there may not be space for you. There are some classes that have a set number of spots, but those are rare, and you can see on the course catalog if that’s the case. Proactive Computer Security is one such example.

What do you think of my course plan?

It’s probably fine. You only sign up for one semester at a time, so your plan will almost surely change during your studies. The first semester is mostly compulsory courses, so don’t stress about it until you’re actually at DIKU. During the second block, there is a meeting for first-year students where professors from each course come and give an overview and have the chance to answer questions. I’d wait until that meeting before thinking too much about what you’re going to take.

While it is possible, I would not recommend taking three courses at once, especially if you are working part-time. I don’t know anyone who has attempted the triple enrollment, but I doubt it ends well.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the different recommended study tracks. You can always start with that and make adjustments. Also look at the KU Course Plan Builder Website to sketch out your study plan.

Should I take Machine Learning A (MLA)?

MLA, along with the other machine learning classes MLB, OReL, PML, and ATML, is very theoretical, and many intro to ML classes at other universities don’t prepare you for that.

Thankfully, the professors also get this question a lot and have put together a self-assessment. See if you can complete the self-preparation assessment for online and reinforcement learning. If it looks too difficult, or you’ve never applied Hoeffding’s Inequality before, take MLA.

Whats the deal with Advanced Programming (AP)?

You may have noticed that the advanced programming course has a frighteningly low pass rate (one year, only 44% of those enrolled passed!) Yes, it was a difficult exam, and the year I took it stirred up quite a bit of drama that I could rant about for a while. But what’s important to you is that the course organizer has been replaced from 2024 and onwards. So it will likely be a different and much more fair course than what was previously given.

How are classes structured?

Each class typically has two, two-to-three hour lectures a week. In addition, you’ll probably have one-to-two TA sessions or exercise sessions, also lasting two or three hours each.

The TA sessions sometimes begin with a quick overview or some tips from the TA on your assignments. But they are mostly an opportunity for you to study or work on the assignments while being able to ask the TA questions.

You will spend more time each week working on assignments and doing readings than you will in lectures.

Is it easy to find friends?

For me it was, and it probably will be for you too. It’s easy to socialize with people in your classes or at your living accommodations.

Additionally, you are offered free danish lessons when living in Copenhagen, I highly recommend you take them, and it is a good environment for meeting other international students.

Also consider volunteering at Studenterhuset!

Where are classes?

I’ve had all my classes at various buildings on Nørre Campus (North Campus). Mostly the H. C. Ørsted Institute, but also at the DIKU building, the Biocenter and Neils Bohr Building.

I think the campus is nice. Some buildings, like the DIKU building, are starting to show their age. And overall the campus is nowhere near as pristine as some newer European campuses, even the KU south campus, but I think it has more character and charm. It is a nice blend of modern and old buildings and there are a lot of spots to study.

Should I learn Danish?

If you live in Denmark and are over 18 you are offered free danish lessons. You can attend at one of several language schools, I personally take my lessons at UCplus. You will be able to find their booth at the international welcome days. Don’t worry about contacting them to register until after you arrive in Denmark and receive your CPR number.

You absolutely should learn Danish while you are here. Personally, I think it would be a waste to live in a foreign country and not put in the effort to learn the language. Especially since classes are offered at campus and are free, there is little excuse not to learn.

Do you have tips on finding housing?

Finding housing in Copenhagen is really difficult for some students, depending on your individual limitations. Most importantly, start looking early. I had arranged my housing before I had even finished my BSc, so I was able to dodge most of the scramble. Also, read this guide.

I am not that well versed when it comes to housing here, but I know its difficult. You should try to find someone else to reach out to on this matter.

Questions about the VISA/Residence Permit application process?

This information varies by country and changes frequently. I recommend you look up the most recent information on nyidanmark.dk or by contacting your faculties student services. If you are applying for a residence permit from the United States, then I might be able to give you some answers if you email me.

Like housing, it is important to get started early. There are a lot of waits between submitting forms and you need to ensure that everything is sorted out before courses start.

Where to go for more information?

Uniavisen, the university newspaper, has a number of guides for new students. Start here. If you need more specific help, call SCIENCE Student Services. They can take a while to respond to emails–calling is best.

I have more specific questions, can I reach out?

Yes! You can find my contact email on my website. I can usually respond pretty quickly. If you have a general question that’s not in this guide, I’ll likely add it here too.

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