Denmark Country Profile - Education System

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System Structure

Denmark has a high standard of education, which is free to all children and young people up to and including university. Schooling is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. The Danish education system is divided into primary and lower secondary schools (folkeskole), followed by an optional two to four years at upper secondary level. Students do not finish formal education in Denmark until the age of 20, when they can choose to enter higher education or the employment market. There are also a number of private international schools in Denmark which offer tuition in English, with the most exclusive schools being in and around Copenhagen. All state and private schools are regulated by the Danish Ministry of Education.

Academic Year

The academic year runs from August to June and is divided into two semesters, Autumn and Spring. Children have a six-week break from June to mid-August and a week in February, October and at Easter and Christmas.

A typical school day in Denmark starts at 8am and finishes at around 3pm, although the first three year groups (ages 6 to 8) usually end their day at 1pm. Most Danish schools run an extensive program of after-school clubs for children with working parents.

Higher Education

There are eight state-funded universities in Denmark and a range of technical and vocational further education colleges. Five of the eight main universities appear in the top 400 universities in the world (QS World University Rankings), with the University of Copenhagen leading the field in 45th place. Danish students must complete qualifying examinations at the end of upper secondary school in order to gain admission into university. Non-Danish students who do not hold a Danish entrance examination certificate can consult the Ministry of Higher Education and Science to see if their qualifications are suitable.


Higher education in Denmark is free to all students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. Students from outside the EU can expect to pay an annual tuition fee of around 6,000 to 16,000 euro (£4,205 to £11,215), depending on the course of study. State grants (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte) are available to all Danish students to support living costs, regardless of financial circumstances, however students from outside Denmark are not eligible to apply.

There are a number of scholarships and grants open to international students such as the Danish Innovation Scholarship, and Top Talent.


Danish universities offer a wide range Bachelors, Masters and PhD programmes in all areas of study. Most courses are taught in Danish, but there are currently over 1,000 degree programmes taught in English and some in German. An undergraduate degree takes around two to three years to complete and a postgraduate Masters around two years in Denmark.


Danish universities place great emphasis on research and work closely with businesses around the world to provide vocational internships and up-to-the minute research tools for their students. Universities at the forefront of research, particularly in the scientific and computing fields, are the University of Copenhagen, the University of Aarhus and the IT University of Copenhagen.

Primary and Secondary Education

Primary and lower secondary schools (folkeskole) provide free education to all Danish children between the ages of 6 and 16. From age 6, pupils follow a core curriculum of mathematics, Danish, science, history, geography, English and German. On completion of folkeskole, children have the option to continue into upper secondary education, which is divided by type of study (academic or vocational).

Upper secondary school takes from two to four years to complete - depending on the course of study - between the ages of 15 and 20. The most common type of upper secondary school is the academically-oriented gymnasium, or students can choose to complete practical training and apprenticeships in vocational schools (erhvervsuddannelse).


Denmark has a very flexible and generous attitude towards nursery and preschool childcare, with up to 80% of the cost being funded by the state. A number of Danish companies also have their own in-house day care centres.

All children under 6 in Denmark are entitled to attend a nursery (vuggestuer) and then preschool (børnehaver) with parents paying up to 25% of fees. There are also many privately run nurseries for children under 3, often found in people’s homes.

Most child care centres in Denmark have specially trained staff specialised in looking after foreign children, with most carers able to speak both English and German.

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