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Reforms and previous systems

The qualification structure of Danish higher education has changed significantly since the 1980s.

University education

As a result of reforms in the late 1980s, Danish university education has switched from a one-tier qualification structure to a two-tier structure with Bachelor’s and Master’s (candidatus). Before then, all university study programmes lasted between 4 and 6 ½ years, and led to the award of the candidatus (candidata) degree (Master’s degree).

From 1988, students completing 3 years of a candidatus programme were awarded the Bachelor’s degree and could use the title B.A. (Humanities, Theology, Social Science) or B.S. (Natural Science, Health Science).

The 1993 university reform introduced a general Bachelor/Master degree structure. Subsequent legislation has established the structure based on two main cycles in all university disciplines in accordance with the Bologna process.


The candidatus/candidata philosophiae (cand.phil.) was awarded after 4 years of study concentrating on one subject and including a thesis (speciale).

As a result of the new degree structure, the cand.phil. degree was abandoned in 1995/96.

Magistergrad (mag.art.)

The magistergrad (magister artium or magisterkonferens) was a research-based degree in the humanities. It was awarded after 6 years of study concentrating on one subject: three years for the Bachelor's degree and three years for the magistergrad.

The degree required the public defence of a thesis (speciale), which was scheduled for 12 months’ study (60 ECTS). The programme prepared the student for research. Holders of the magistergrad can complete a PhD in the humanities in 2 years instead of 3 years.

The degree has been discontinued with no new students admitted after 1 September 2007.

College education

In Denmark, professionally oriented higher education programmes have traditionally been offered by specialised colleges.

Short-cycle professional higher education

In August 2000, a new act on short-cycle higher education (Act no. 1115 of 29 December 1997) was implemented, making the access routes broader and more transparent, with better possibilities for the students of being awarded credits in a medium- or long-cycle higher education programme.

15 academy profession (erhvervsakademi) programmes replaced the previously existing 70 short-cycle programmes of varying lengths between 1 and 3 years. In many cases, this meant extending the course from 1½ to 2 years.

Medium-cycle professional higher education

In 2000 the Act on medium-cycle higher education created a common framework for all of these programmes. One of the main features of this reform was the creation of the title of professional bachelor (professionsbachelor) indicating, in relation to university bachelor’s degrees, a similar level of education combined with a stronger focus on professional practice.

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last modified March 02, 2023