The Ultimate Guide to the Danish Education System
"15 years of books" Photo: Kimberly Farmer
The end of every summer means the beginning of a new year in the education system. Whether its a young child starting in primary school or a senior citizen expanding the knowledge of a hobby, this period of the year marks a new future, immediate or otherwise, for many thousands of students all over Denmark.

The Danish education system, just like the society, is unique in many ways. All over the world the way of education is different, and Denmark is no exception. The Danish education system offers a lot of individual freedoms, this is great, but it does however mean that sometimes finding your specific way through the system, can be difficult. But fear not! We have decided to offer you the opportunity to get to get to know and bolster your knowledge of this wonderful system. This is why we are now bringing you the Ultimate guide to the Danish education system!

If this newsletter doesn't quench your thirst for information on the subject, then click the blue box below. This will take you to the website of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. They have made a page, dedicated to describing the Danish education system in a detailed but easily digestible way.
Pillars of the Danish Education System
"Important Pillars" Photo: Nick Page

The principle of education is one that is particularly important to the Danish belief-system. The Danish education system has been held in high regard since its inception, and the values of the Danish education system make Danes proud of their country. The Danish education system is built on six pillars. The pillars are waypoints for the institutions that provide the education, but they are also great descriptors of how and why the Danish education system is one of the best in the world.

Education for All

The Danish education aims to ensure that all people acquire knowledge and competencies that qualify them to take an active part in society and contribute to its further development. Education is open to all and generally free of charge. This also ensures that the school-system is in line with the democratic values of the society surrounding it.

High Standards

The quality of Danish education is assured in many ways. It is mainly regulated and financed by the state, and all public educational institutions are approved and evaluated on an ongoing basis.


Danish educational institutions must provide their students with knowledge and competencies for them to use in future careers and life in general. Accordingly, institutions seek to ensure that education programmes are of high quality, of relevance to society and oriented towards meeting the needs of the labour market.

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is a key principle in Denmark. The idea comes all the way back from the 19th century Danish clergyman and philosopher N.F.S. Grundtvig, who argued that a prerequisite for active participation in a democratic society is lifelong education for all citizens.

Active participation

Treating pupils and students as independent individuals with a right to form their own opinion and a duty to participate actively in discussions is a matter of course in Danish education. This also prepares students to become active democratically minded individuals who are engaged in society. Every child living in Denmark is protected by the compulsory education law. This means that whoever has custody of a child from they are 6 until they are 18, are required to engage the child in education on ground school level.

Project work

In addition to attending classes, pupils and students conduct project work, either alone or in small groups at all levels of the education system. Interdisciplinary activities are also an integral part of Danish education.

Throughout the many levels of Danish education, you will see these principles in work. But how do the different stages of education look in Denmark? The start of new semesters is coming, and thus we will take you on a journey through Danish school-life.
Your feedback on this newsletter is valuable to us so you're always welcome to send it to [email protected]
"Folkeskole" - Primary Education
"Children crossing the road" Photo: Colourbox
Danish children begin public daycare as early as 9 months, and by age 3 98 % of children in Denmark are attending public kindergartens. Staffed by professionals with training in early childhood education, these institutions teach basic academic concepts like letters and numbers, as well as social rules like taking turns and helping others. Most of the day is spent on "free play" and activities outdoors. 

Ground School

At age 6, Danish children begin their formal schooling. The most popular ground-school option in Denmark, is best characterized as public school. It’s free to sign your children up here and is usually from grade 0 to grade 9. The educational approach in Denmark avoids class rankings and formal tests; instead, children work in groups and are taught to challenge the established way of doing things. Teachers are called by their first names. The emphasis is on problem-solving, NOT memorization. Contrary to many other countries in the world, the public school in Denmark does not require their students to wear a uniform. This adequately describes the somewhat informal environment that the Danish ground-schools have compared to many other countries.

All children in Denmark have access to tuition-free government Folkeskole, until they are 16 years old, but some parents choose private schools because they are smaller, or because they have a particular educational approach.
Others choose private schools for religious reasons: Denmark is home to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim schools. English-language international schools and French and German-language schools are also available on a paid-for basis. All schools are required to follow the national government's basic requirements for primary education. 

If you want to know more about the Danish Folkeskole click the blue button below, which will take you to the website of the Ministry of Children and Education, who have written extensively on the subject.

After Folkeskole, and the first 10 years of school, the educational journey continues. There are multiple ways to fill the years immediately following the ground-school.

The Immediate Future

Two ways stand out, and those two ways, we have described in more depth in the section below.
Apart from the most popular ways of continuing from the Folkeskole, there are also the Frie Fagskoler, which translates into free vocational schools. Many of them have a specific subject that they teach within.
These schools can be useful if you, at an earlier age, have a specific interest which you want pursue skills within. It does not offer a license within the subject you are studying, but the Fri Fagskole can be useful for young adults, who want to test the waters of an interest, who want to specifically better themselves or young adults who want to know if their specific interest is something that they want to employ themselves with in their future.
From Adolescent to Adult
"The start of new friendships" Photo: Getty Images
The period from 14 to 18 years of age entails many things. One of the things that most Danes go through, is having to realize and act on account of your immediate and future interests. The public school represents a broad introduction to education in general, whereas the opportunities presented to the public school graduates, make it possible to independently choose which road you want to go down in the future.

There are many different ways to spend the years after ground-school. In this section of the newsletter, we will introduce the ones that set the Danish education system apart from others.

After the ground-school you have the opportunity to continue from the 9th grade to the 10th grade. Many students can continue in 10th grade at the school in which they are already enrolled. Others choose to spend their 10th grade at an after-school. Here you can also spend the 9th grade if you so choose.

Efterskole (After-School) - A Unique Danish Education

Efterskole, meaning "after-school" in direct translation, is a unique Danish residential school for students aged 14 to 18. Each Efterskole is a self-governing independent institution, and they all deal with both the educational and personal evolution of their students. They embrace a common educational focus on enlightenment for life, general education, and democratic citizenship. Compared to public schools the Efterskole offers substantial freedoms compared to other age-appropriate educational offers, both in Denmark and around the world. The choice of subject, the teaching methods and educational approach are some of the areas in which the Efterskole creates a unique environment for the young people attending. The students usually live in dorms or houses, where they can create and shape their own home for the duration of the schoolyear. Going to Efterskole in the year directly following Folkeskole, has been the most popular option. However, going to the Efterskole in 9th grade is also a viable option, and one that many young people choose as well.

This year 2022/2023 over 30.000 students have attended one of the 241 schools throughout Denmark. The popularity of these institutions has been on a steady rise in the last century, and more than a fourth of the ground-school graduates, choose Efterskole as a steppingstone in their further education. As the Efterskole is a self-governing independent institution, they require user-payment to survive and thrive. This payment is based on the income of the child's parents. The parents are not alone in paying the bill though. They are offered state aid to help the cover their financial deficit.

The schools are open to people from abroad as well, which creates a unique opportunity for children worldwide to come and experience a wholly different way of being a young adult.

As such, many young people use this opportunity to get to know themselves and their interests.
Most people attending Efterskole leave the school, having garnered lifelong friends, a new sense of direction, and thus an idea of how they want to shape their future.
If you want to know more about what Efterskole is, locations or how to enroll; click the blue button to the left below.

Preparation for Further Education

From the Folkeskole or the Efterskole or the like, you continue your journey through the world of education. There are different ways of doing so. Below we describe three options available in Denmark.

Upper Secondary Education

This term covers a handful of specialized educations for younger generations in Denmark. The academic gymnasium (short; STX) is one of them, and the term gymnasium is a term in various European languages for a secondary school that prepares students for higher education. Besides STX (the higher general education programme), the main ones are HHX ("Higher Commercial Examination Programme"), HTX ("Higher Technical Examination Programme"), and HF ("Higher Preparatory Examination Programme"). In an earlier edition (May) of our newsletter, which we encourage you to read if you haven't already, we described the very unique way that graduation from these schools is celebrated, the famous "studenterkørsel".

The Vocational Education and Training System

The vocational education and training system, also called the VET-system offers more than 100 different types of vocational educations. You can become many things. From a carpenter to a hairdresser, the VET-system offers the opportunity for you to indulge in both your personal and career-oriented interests at a younger age. It offers the opportunity to get access to a career as a skilled worker in Denmark. Access to professions which are in demand in the Danish labour market. You are however not required to be a young person to enroll at a VET. People above the age of 25 have access to VET-programmes designed specifically for adults based on prior learning and experience.

Each of the educations can lead to a number of vocational specializations and the majority of the VET-programmes is practical training in an approved company or organization. This means that you will have a foot in the door of your chosen industry from the start of your education. Furthermore, all VET-programmes provide full or conditional access to higher education programmes and further adult education programmes

The Danish VET-system offers a VET-programme, which combines a general upper secondary education and vocational education and training. This programme is called EUX and is one of the most popular VET-programmes. EUX qualifies students for jobs as well as giving them direct access to higher education in a wide range of programmes.

To read more about the VET-system, the admission requirements, and the programmes in-depth, click the blue button in the middle below. This will take you to a comprehensive guide on the website of the Ministry of Children and Education

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Denmark is a great place to study. This is also true if you come from a different country. Throughout Denmark and catered to different age-groups there are many educational offers available to English-speaking people. One of these offers is the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Just like Gymnasium (High-School), the International Baccalaureate (IB) is an upper secondary school. This means that it must meet the Danish standards for education and must be able to provide access to higher education. It is a school which is designed to give students an international diploma, that can be used throughout the world as an entry to further education.
The IBs mission is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who will help to create a better and more peaceful society through education that builds intercultural understanding and respect.
The IB is present in over 150 countries worldwide and one of those is Denmark. This education provides an opportunity for people to receive education in English, whilst still enjoying the educational standards that Denmark have to offer.
If you want to know more about IB, how to apply, locations and so on; click the blue button to the right below.
Further and Higher Education
"In class". Photo: Kenny Eliason
In Denmark there are three major types of higher education.
  • Erhvervsakademi - Business Academy
  • Professionshøjskole - University College
  • Universitet - University
These three categories each play a vital role in evolving and sustaining the Danish society.

Erhvervsakademi - Business Academy

The business academies offer higher education and further education related to regional areas of the country. They are independent institutions, with the main aim of offering and developing higher education in the region where the business academy is located. Like the university college they have a strong relation to practice. The business academies however focus more on the area of technical and mercantile educations.

They are to ensure a broad geographic coverage of educational programmes throughout the country and thereby helping to fulfill the political objective that at least 50 percent of 30-year-old people in Denmark have achieved a higher education.

The business academies offer academy profession programmes and certain higher educational programmes like the professional bachelor.

If you want to know more about the business academies, click the middle blue button at the end of the section. This will take you to the website of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, describing the business academies in-depth.

Professionshøjskole - University College

The university colleges in Denmark are independent institutions with the main aim of offering and developing higher education with a strong relation to practice. University college educations should meet both different students' interests in a variety of subjects and the need for a qualified workforce in both the private and public sector. Furthermore, the university colleges must ensure that the curriculum and teaching of the education is profession-based as well as development-based.

The university college offers professional bachelor programmes, which are professionally oriented, qualifying as higher education. They are offered at a level corresponding to that of university bachelor programmes but with a stronger focus on professional practice. Professional bachelor's degrees also give access to further studies (masters, etc.) within the same field.

If you want to read more about the university colleges in Denmark, click the blue button in the bottom left of this section. This will take you to the website of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, describing the university colleges in-depth.

Universitet - University

Denmark has eight universities which offer research-based higher educations at Bachelor, Master's (candidatus) and PhD level. Furthermore, the universities are responsible for the majority of all public research in Denmark.

The universities in Denmark are state-funded, autonomous institutions, and as key institutions in society, universities must also participate actively in the exchange of knowledge and skills with the wider community.

Apart from the universal degree-levels, the universities and a few additional university level institutions offer part-time degree programmes and single academic courses. One of these is called erhvervskandidat (business master), which allows you to combine studying with employment in a corporation.

The Introduction Week

Soon, most university students in Denmark will start a new semester after a - for probably all of them - well needed summer break. At many Danish higher education institutions it is common practice to introduce the first-year students to the university through an introduction-week containing a lot of different particularly Danish traditions.

The introduction week is mostly arranged by the senior students, who organize themselves in what is called a tutor-group. The group of tutors will take time out of their hard-earned summer vacation to organize and plan the week for the new students, so that they will have the best possible start to their foreseeable future. The specifics of the introduction week may differ between the different institutions, but there are however specific parts of the week that recur throughout the different introduction weeks. One of these events is called "rustur".

The "rustur" is an introductory trip for new students at the higher Danish educational institutions.
The trip usually lasts a couple of days and is focused on group activities for the new students. The "rustur" has the purpose of creating the basis for a good network in life as a student. It also introduces the way of the institution and the specific subject on a general level.

The "rustur" is organized by the tutors. By now it is customary to educate the tutors, so that they are aware of their responsibility and role on the "rustur". Furthermore, there is a focus on acquiring knowledge of group psychology, leadership and communication, so that the tutors can handle different situations should they arise on the trip.

The word "rus", which can be translated into intoxication, actually has nothing to do with alcohol and the like. In turn it pertains to the last part of the word 'depositurus', which entails leaving something behind. In this case it focuses on the old notion that the first-year student left their peasantry behind and started their academic journey.


The opportunities for international students to come to Denmark are a plenty, and not only does the educational system offer a lot of options for internationals, but it also ensures that you get an education of a high standard.

Politically the focus on education has also become more international. In June 2023, the Danish government and four other political parties in the Danish parliament (Folketing), agreed on implementing a reform settlement that will influence the higher educational system in general, but also specifically.
The involved parties will work towards boosting the availability of the Danish educational system for foreigners. This means creating room for 2500 new international students by the year 2029.

If you want to read more about opportunities for an international in the Danish education system, how to enroll, etc. click the blue button below to the right, which will take you to the website of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
Upcoming Events for You
Jutland (Aarhus area)

Click the link above to see more

The Stella Polaris Festival will take place in Vennelystparken, the oldest park in Aarhus. This includes green fields and water canals running throughout the site of the festival.

The idyllically green areas create a perfect scenario for indulging in a little bit of extra coziness - or as the Danes would call it - "hygge", when spending the day at Stella Polaris.

The festival will feature different musical acts and you will be sure to meet a lot of smiles and happiness at the event. So put on your sunscreen and join the rest of the festival attendees in having a wonderful time.

The event takes place on the 29th of July from 12:00 to 21:00 in Vennelystparken, 8000 Aarhus C
Funen (Odense area)

Click the link above to see more

Join the summer celebration in Odense by going to this free concert hosted by Social Shades.

Come and enjoy a lovey summer day in the name of music with lovely notes from the trio of the day who will play popular summer tracks from both jazz and other rhythmic styles. All this can be enjoyed in the lovely and intimate surroundings of Café ODEON.

Throughout the summer, Social Shades will host a number of free concerts, presenting hits from all genres in a "jazzy" version. There is no need for signing up. Just bring yourself and your lovely mood and listen in.

This concert will take place on the 27th of July from 16:00 to 17:00 at Café ODEON Social, Odeons Kvarter 1, 5000 Odense
Zealand (Copenhagen area)

Click the link above to see more

Enjoy a free movie in the lovely summer weather, when HUSET, hosts an open-air cinema in their backyard.

HUSET is Denmark's first culture house, founded in 1970. HUSET hosts daily events across 5 diverse stages and even has a cult cinema, a restaurant and a board gaming café. Experience alternative concerts, performances, movies, literature and more.

The open-air cinema will take place every evening from the 31st of July to the 7th of August. Every night will feature a different movie and it will take place at Rådhusstræde 13, 1466 Copenhagen from 20:00 to 00:00.