Adult Education in Denmark

Michael Voss

What is meant in the country when you talk about Adult Education?
The target group of Danish AE is adults who has left the mainstream educational system from primary education to long cycle higher education (17th year of education)

What is typical for Adult Education in the country?

Danish AE is clearly divided into two subgroups:

  • Formal AE, comprising both vocational and general AE and concluding with formal exams
  • Non-formal AE, building on the traditions of Grundtvig, focusing on individual choice and characterised by NGO-organisation and no grades and exams.

Legal basis
Both formal and non-formal AE is based on a range of different laws, for example on vocational training, on residential folk high schools, on study associations/evening classes.

Responsible public bodies / ministries
Jurisdiction is divided between 5 different ministries. The municipalities are responsible for a part of non-formal AE as well as special education of adults, while formal AE centers are self-governing state institutions.

Relevant umbrella associations and national (service) organisations.
The VUC Leaders’ Association is an umbrella organisation of institutions for general adult education.:
Danish Adult Education Association is an umbrella organisation of non-formal adult education:

Providers of Adult Education
Formal AE:

  • Labour Market Training Centers (AMU)
  • Adult Education Centers, (VUC)
  • Language centres,
  • Technical schools, business schools, agricultural schools and basic social & health service schools, Center for Higher Education (CVU) and universities are all primarily for young people, but offers also AE. Most of them also self-governing state institutions.

Non-formal AE:

  • Study associations and their local schools exists in all cities and municipalities (about 700 all in all). They offer non-formal AE to increase the individual’s overall subject-related insight and skills. Local private institutions most of them part of 5 national AE associations of whom 4 are linked to political parties.
  • Danish University Extension: educative instruction and lectures by the extra-mural departments of the 4 Danish universities, organised by about 80 local committees.
  • Day High Schools (about 25) offer teaching with an educative or job-promoting aim for adults with little formal education and people in a personally or socially vulnerable situation. Private institutions.
  • Folk High Schools (about 70) offers residential short courses (less than a fortnight) and residential long courses (of over 12 weeks). Private institutions, some of them linked to religious associations, trade unions or NGO’s.

The self-governing state institutions are financed partly by the state partly by tuition fees, that may either be paid by a local public authority or by the participant himself. Participants may receive National AE Support (SVU) on different sets of conditions.
The finances of non-formal AE institutions are based on tuition fees.
Evening schools are supported, though, by municipalities with up to 1/3 of expenses for teachers and free premises and university extension with the same percentage by the state.
Tuition costs for the individual participants of day high schools are mostly covered by the municipality.
Folk high schools receive a substantial government grant.
In most of both formal and non-formal AE public funding have decreased over the last 12 years, leading to less activity in some areas and higher participants’ fees in most areas.

Participation rate
(These figures are approximate number of people participating in one course. For example: There are NOT 1 mio. Danish adults participating vocational training for skilled and unskilled workers, since many of them participate in more than one course.)
Formal AE:
Danish for non-Danish speakers: 40.000
General Adult Education: 130.000
Vocational training for skilled and unskilled workers: 450.000

Non-formal AE:
Study Associations/Evening classes: 800.000 participants per year
Danish University Extension:100.000 per year.
Day High Schools: 2.000 per year.
Folk High Schools: 50.000 per year

(approximate figures. Unfortunately it has not been possible to update these figures from 2009)
Formal AE
Vocational training is divided into a huge number of different topics. The most popular topics are:

  • Trade, administration, communication and leadership: 460.000
  • Basic industry: 160.000
  • Transport: 94.000
  • Building: 61.000

Non-formal AE
Participation in study associations/evening classes and University Extension lectures can be divided into these topics:

  • Basic topics (reading, writing, arithmetic and languages): 90.000.
  • Health: 220.000
  • Artisan: 95.000
  • Culture: 89.000
  • Creativity: 57.000
  • Musical instruments: 35.000
  • Personal development: 13.000
  • Communication: 20.000
  • Others: 72.000

The eight most popular main topics for participants in residential folk high schools are:

  • Athletics/sport
  • Art and creativity
  • Music, theatre, dance
  • Media, Society and politics
  • Language and literature
  • Preparation for formal education
  • Health, lifestyle and personal development
  • Nature and Science

(Unfortunately it has not been possible to update these figures since 2009)

Formal AE
At AMU and VUC what equals 2.200 full time educators are employed, but this covers a big – but unregistered – number of part time staff

Non-formal AE
The staff of study associations/evening classes is estimated at 50.000 persons – of which less than 1.000 are full time employed – with qualifications at all levels.
Educational staff at residential folk high schools is estimated at 6-800, mostly full time. The tendency is that more and more are qualified at bachelor level or above.
University Extension has no permanent staff. Lecturers are all scientific university staff.

Quality system / insurance
Formal AE
The two main institutions of formal AE (VUC and AMU) are established according to central decisions at the level of Ministry of Education. The courses at these institutions are integrated into a comprehensive National Qualification Framework. The formal exams are an element of the quality system.
Non-formal AE
There is a large degree of freedom from state intervention in establishing study associations, residential folk high schools and University Extension providers. But certain rules regulate the curriculum of residential folk high schools.

Latest developments / upcoming topics

  • Financing/Funding
  • Awareness Raising
  • Basic skills
  • Motivating and Qualifying young adults for formal education
  • Second Chance/bridging the gap for low educated citizens to education
  • Recognition of Prior Learning
  • Active Citizenship and volunteering
  • Integration
  • Health
  • Social cohesion

Relevant links 

Dansk Folkeoplysnings Samråd (DFS/DAEA) in English
The Danish Education System (Danish Agency for International Education)
EAEA Country presentation: Denmark
Euridyce: Structures of Education and Training Systems in Europe – Denmark 
EAEA Country presentation: Denmark
General country information: Wikipedia: Denmark