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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.

Education is largely the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

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

The Ministry of 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 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 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 or the municipalities. Some institutions are self-governing, while others are owned by the state or the municipalities.

The table below illustrates the 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 user payment for a number of adult education programmes.

State insti-tutionsState-
ted, self-
ing institu-
by the munici-
tion fee
Folkeskole         x   No 
Private elemen-
tary schools 
    x*     Yes 
Continuation schools      x**     Yes 
Gymnasium      x      No 
Commercial colleges      x      No 
Technical colleges      x      No 
Maritime schools   x         No 
Schools of marine engineering   x         No 
SOSU colleges      x      No 
Business academies     x      No 
Specialised colleges and university colleges      x      No 
Universities      x      No 
Schools of architecture   x         No 
Academies of music   x         No 
Adult education centres      x      Yes 
Labour market training courses      x      Yes 
Folk High Schools      x      Yes 
Evening schools         x   Yes 

* Public contribution to private elementary schools: 85% of the state’s operational grant per pupil, excluding expenditures for pensions.
** Continuation schools depend on a large degree of state funding. Pupils at continuation schools have to pay a tuition fee but the amount varies and is subsidised by the state, depending on parent income.

Taximeter financing

The central government's system of financing education and training is almost exclusively based on the so-called taximeter system, a comprehensive financing system based on per capita grants (cash-per student) to institutions.

The grants are calculated primarily on the recorded student activity measured on the passing of examinations. The taximeter rate varies according to subject field and level of education.