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General organisation and administration

This page describes the organisation, governance and financing of the Danish education system.

The Danish education system consists of integrated primary and lower secondary education, upper secondary education and higher education, as well as a system of adult and continuing education.

Education is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen. Compulsory education consists of ten years of primary and lower secondary education, including one pre-school year (grade 0) and years (grades) 1 – 9. Public school education also offers the pupils an optional year (grade) 10.

Danish is the medium of instruction in schools. However, English is a compulsory subject in the Folkeskole (from Year 1) and in general upper secondary school. Most university-level institutions offer various courses and programmes in English.

The academic year runs from August/September to June.


Overall regulation

The education system is financed by the state and the municipalities. Some institutions, including the upper secondary education institutions, are independent and self-governing, while others are owned by the state or the municipalities.

National legislation covers the aims and framework of education, funding and in some cases curricula, examinations and staffing.

The Ministry of Children and Education is responsible for setting up the framework for curricula at primary and secondary level. However, the contents of the courses are finalised by the teachers themselves, with their pupils. The Ministry of Children and Education oversees the municipal primary and lower secondary school ("Folkeskole") in collaboration with the municipal councils.

In the field of vocational education and training, sectoral committees with equal representation of the labour market organisations concerned play an important role in defining and developing vocational qualifications and stipulating the training conditions. Technical colleges and business colleges are independent institutions under the overall authority of the Ministry of Children and Education.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Science is largely responsible for higher education. Some of the higher education programmes within the arts fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, e.g. the schools of visual arts and the academies of music. Specialised education programmes within the Danish Defence are managed by the Ministry of Defence.


Institutional autonomy

Institutions of higher education in Denmark have a long tradition of academic freedom and autonomy. The ministries lay down the overall regulations for all institutions of higher education. These include regulations concerning the admission of students, the structure of studies, programmes offered, awarding of degrees and appointment of teachers and academic staff.

The individual institutions draw up and update their study programmes, indicating the aims, scope and duration, form and contents of the courses, as well as a description of the syllabus.


Financing and ownership

The education system is financed by the state and the municipalities. Some institutions are self-governing, while others are owned by the state or the municipalities. The table below illustrates the main sources of funding and forms of ownership for selected groups of institutions. In addition to public financing, tuition fees are charged at private schools, and there is typically a user’s fee for a number of adult education and training programmes provided by educational institutions and adult education and training centres.

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State insti-tutionsState-
funded
/suppor-
ted, self-
govern-
ing institu-
tions
Institu-
tions
funded
by the munici-
palities
Tui-
tion fee
Public primary and lower secondary schools (Folkeskole)    No 
Private primary and lower secondary schools    x    Yes 
Continuation schools     x    Yes 
Preparatory Basic Education and Training (FGU) x x No
General upper secondary school (Gymnasium    x    No 
Commercial colleges        No 
Technical colleges        No 
Social and healthcare colleges        No 
Maritime schools        No 
Schools of marine engineering        No 
Business academies       No 
Specialised colleges and university colleges        No 
Universities        No 
Academies of architecture and design        No 
Academies of music, theatre, film and fine arts   x        No 
Adult education centres       Yes 
Adult vocational training centres        Yes 
Folk high schools        Yes 
Evening schools        Yes 

Taximeter financing

The central government’s system of financing education and training is mainly based on the so-called taximeter system, a comprehensive financing system based on per capita grants (cash per student) to educational institutions. The grants are calculated primarily according to the number of registered students who pass an examination. The taximeter rate varies depending on the field of study and level of education.