The State Education Grant and Loan Scheme in Denmark (SU)
Danish students are entitled to public support for his or her further education - regardless of social standing. Tuition at Danish public and most private educational institutions is free for Danish students and for all EU/EEA students as well as for students participating in an exchange programme. From 2006 all other students have to pay a tuition fee. Society lends students a helping hand in covering living costs for a great variety of courses and studies.
Support for students' living costs is awarded by the State Educational Grant and Loan Scheme (Danish acronym: SU), a system managed by the Danish Agency for Institutions and Educational Grants in collaboration with the educational institutions and under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
There are two main support programmes:
- For people over 18 years following a youth education programme i.e. a general upper secondary, vocational upper secondary or vocational education and training programme. Students must attend classes, sit examinations and in other ways demonstrate that they are active in their educational programmes. No time limits are placed on this type of support. Students are eligible for support for any number of courses, with the exception of certain upper secondary programmes. Until students are 20, their grants depend upon their parents' income. When that exceeds a certain amount the grants are reduced on a sliding scale, ending in a minimum grant.
- For students enrolled in higher education courses. Every student enrolled in a higher education course is entitled to a number of monthly grants corresponding to the prescribed duration of the chosen study, plus 12 months. Inside a maximum of 70 grants, students can change from one course to another.
All students living with their parents are supported with a lower grant than students living in lodgings. Students under 20 enrolled in a youth education programme are supported as if they are living with their parents whether they do so or not, but may apply for an exemption.
Students who accept support in a year in which their private earnings exceed a set amount have to repay some of the grants and loans received that year plus 7 %. However, they have the option of not accepting support for a period of time thus enlarging the set amount.
Students in higher education (under a time limitation) have the choice of using these grants later, either to prolong their studies (for instance, to prepare for re-examination after a failed exam) or under certain circumstances to obtain double grants for a period of time at the end of their studies.
In particular situations - mainly sickness and childbirth - students can apply for extra monthly grants. New mothers are eligible for 12 and new fathers for 6 extra monthly grants with certain stipulations.
Altogether the rules make for a flexible system. Students have the option of organising their studies according to their personal preferences and earning possibilities. At the same time, however, they incur a measure of personal accountability for managing their financial situation.
In combination with both types of grants, students are offered supplementary state loans (grants 2/3, loans 1/3 of total support). The interest rate for these loans is set by Parliament.
Students must start paying back state loans no later than one year after the end of the year in which they graduate or give up their studies. The loan must be repaid within 15 years.
About half of all students make use of state loans.
Over 400,000 (2011) Danes benefit from these two types of educational support every year. The annual budget amounts to over DKK 18 billion (2011), around 1 per cent of the Gross National Product (2011). The average after-tax annual income of students receiving support and earning an average private income - corresponding to roughly 10 hours paid work a week - is about 60 % of that of typical industrial workers.
Danes can obtain support for studies abroad. Courses of study have to meet the same conditions for recognition as Danish ones. Furthermore, the qualifications acquired must be usable in Denmark.
For studies in the Nordic countries support is awarded for the prescribed duration of the chosen study, plus 12 months. For studies in other foreign countries, students are supported for four-year courses or for the last four years of longer ones.
Support granted for studies in Denmark can be used to finance studies abroad when they are accepted as part of a study programme at a Danish institution.
As a rule, foreign students enrolled in Danish courses of study are not eligible for educational support. Exceptions are made on the basis of specific conditions for refugees and relatives of refugees and for other foreign citizens provided - among other stipulations - that they have been living and working in Denmark long enough.
As far as EU rules and regulations make it possible, EU citizens can gain support from the Danish system.
The educational institutions
Schools and universities receive applications in minSU for support from students, check them and pass them on to the agency. They offer general and personal information and guidance to students. They check that students observe study requirements.
Prepares amendments of the scheme, registers applications, pays out grants and loans, offers guidance and information to the educational institutions, deals with complaints and appeals (which are decided by a Board of Appeal), draws up budgets and collects statistics for the use of the Ministry.
Presents bills providing for amendments to the scheme and is responsible for overall planning and budgeting for grants and loans.