Copenhagen (Picture from Wikimedia)The level of education of the Danish people is one of the highest in the European Union. The Government’s aim is to have 95% of young people finishing their upper secondary education with a successful outcome and 50% following a course in higher education.

A further objective is to foster lifelong learning, so as to raise the challenges posed by globalisation and the prospect of changing currency and adopting the euro. With this aim in mind, vocational education and training (VET) has a key role to play. It is through a flexible, well-adapted training system that young people will be able to acquire the appropriate skills for the transition into the labour market.

Vocational education and training (VET) plays a key role in the Danish strategy for lifelonglearning and meeting the challenges of globalisation and technological change.

Two reforms have had significant influence on VET development. The VET reform (2014) established VET students’ minimum entrance requirements. Earlier, requirements for VET teachers were strengthened. Since 2010, all VET teachers must have a pedagogic diploma (60 ECTS) at EQF level 6. Both initiatives are expected to increase VET quality. Social assistance reform (2014) makes it mandatory for unemployed people under 30 receiving social benefits to participate in education and training. This will increase the number of weaker learners entering VET.


The Danish education system – 2014


Danish system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




The vocational pathway in Denmark


Secondary education

At the age of 16, when compulsory schooling ends, young Danes can choose between a mainstream education pathway and a pathway leading to a professional qualification giving direct access to the job market.

These pathways are divided into 4 streams:

  • technical and business education,
  • vocational training in the health and social sector,
  • agricultural training (Landbrugsuddannelse)
  • training for maritime professions (Søfartsuddannelse).

All the streams aim to develop the skills required in a specific profession, but also the social and personal skills necessary to enter the job market. They are organised as full-time or work-study courses. In the case of apprenticeships, there are both classes (1/3 of the time) and work placements (2/3 of the time), which are governed by a contract between the apprentice and the host enterprise.

To be admitted to higher education, applicants must obtain the studentereksamen (secondary school-leaving certificate). Students with a professional qualification can enrol in a KVU course in their subject, and if necessary, complete their previous education by following classes not included in the course so that they can enrol in the MVU or LVU (see below).


Higher education

Higher education courses are geared to transmitting professional skills and most of them prepare students directly for certain types of jobs on the market. Generally speaking, these courses are divided into levels depending on their duration and admission criteria:

  • Korte videregående uddannelser (KVU – short-term higher education) is a theoretical vocational course lasting for 2 years which takes place in vocational schools; the VET system trains students for jobs in trades and crafts such as carpenters and cooks etc.
  • Mellemlange videregående uddannelser (MVU – medium-term higher education): a course lasting 3 or 4 years preparing students for jobs such as teachers, special needs teachers, police officers, midwives or librarians and 3-year courses offered by universities leading to a Bachelor’s degree;
  • Lange videregående uddannelser (LVU – long-term higher education): a course lasting 5 or 6 years. Generally speaking, a 3-year cycle leads to a Bachelor’s degree, followed by a 2-year course, or kandidat (comparable to a Master’s degree), after which students can enrol to study for a doctorate. It trains students for jobs such as economists, doctors and lawyers.



Vocational secondary education courses can be taken under an apprenticeship. They include periods of learning at school (one-third of the time) and training in an enterprise (two-thirds of the time), this being governed by a contract between the apprentice and the host enterprise. The duration of apprenticeship varies from one and a half to five and a half years in secondary education, depending on the specialization and the host structure.


Key figures

  • Since 2000, there are more women than men enrolled in long-term higher education. There are also more women in medium-term university studies while men hold the majority position in vocational training. (Statistics Denmark)
  • In 1981, 15% of 25-64 year-olds had a higher education level. This figure rose to 37% in 2014. (Statistics Denmark)
  • In upper secondary education in 2011, 112,900 students were enrolled in vocational training courses, while they were 265,200 in general education institutions. (Statistics Denmark)
  • Between 2006 and 2016, the number of students choosing the vocational path increased by 9%, while the proportion of those who chose to continue their studies in tertiary education has increased by 36%. (Statistics Denmark)
  • Youth unemployment rate in Denmark: from 14.1% in 2014 to 11.1% in june 2017 (ycharts)
  • More students must enter VET directly from compulsory school; from 18% in 2015 to 30% by 2025; completion rates in VET must be improved; from 52% in 2012 to 67% in 2025. (CEDEFOP – 2016)

Last update : 19/03/2018

To find out more

The Danish Education system on Eurypedia

EURES (European Job Mobility Portal) : Living and working in Denmark

A portal for employment in Denmark, targeting foreigners

The Department of the Labour Market (Arbejdsmarkedsstyrelsen) |

Ministry for Education (Undervisningsministeriet), a description of the vocational training system |

Study in Denmark 

Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening) |

Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen Danmark) |