Higher education system in Denmark

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The Danish higher education institutions are internationally oriented and offer a large selection of programmes and individual courses in English. The quality of Danish higher education is ensured by obligatory accreditation, the higher education institutions internal quality assurance procedures, and by external examiners. Over the past decades, the Danish higher education system has undergone a series of reforms. At the institutional level, reforms have aimed at consolidating programmes of higher education at fewer and more sustainable institutions. At the programme level, reforms have aimed at implementing a transparent and coherent system of qualifications at distinct levels and with distinct profiles.

A binary system – types of institutions

Danish higher education programmes are organised according to a binary division between research-based and professionally oriented programmes. The purpose of the research-based programmes is to educate students to the highest international level within and across the scientific disciplines, whereas the purpose of the professionally oriented programmes is to ensure education closely based on practice and at an international level to meet the need for well qualified professionals in the private and public sectors.


The research-based programmes are offered by 8 universities, educating approximately 121,000 students, and are regulated by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

University Colleges and Academies of Professional Higher Education

The professionally oriented programmes, with approximately 83,000 students, are predominantly offered by 8 University Colleges and 10 Academies of Professional Higher Education. The knowledge base of these programmes can be described as business and profession based, as well as development-based. These programmes and institutions are regulated by the Ministry of Education. A very limited number of professionally oriented programmes are offered at institutions under the auspices of other ministries, e.g. the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice, as well as by some of the universities.

Higher education institutions under the Ministry of Culture

A smaller group of educational programmes fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and encompass educational programmes in the arts, and provide education for approximately 5,000 students at 15 institutions.

Adult further education system

It is important to note that special programmes and degrees have been developed for further education for adults. This parallel system of further education is accorded great importance in the Danish system, with its long-standing tradition of lifelong learning for adults. The qualification levels correspond to those in the ordinary higher education system, but the adult further education programmes are distinct in terms of their content, profiles, etc. The content and delivery of these programmes shall permit adult students to utilise their professional and general life experience, as well as to combine education with a continuous working career. The adult further education programmes are offered by the Academies of Professional Higher Education, the University Colleges and the Universities.

Degree types

The Danish Higher Education System is organised into four qualification levels, with a number of both ordinary and adult further education degree types at each level.

  • Academy Profession level
    • The Academy Profession Degree (development based, part-time and full-time)
  • Bachelor’s level
    • The Bachelor’s Degree (research based and full-time)
    • The Professional Bachelor’s Degree (development based and full-time)
    • The Bachelor’s Degree in Arts/Fine Arts (research and artistic based, full-time)
    • Diploma Degree (development based and part-time)Master’s level
  • The Master’s Degree (candidatus, research based and full-time)
    • The Master’s Degree in Arts/Fine Arts (candidatus, research and artistic based, full-time)
    • Master Degree (research based and part-time)
    • Master Degree in Arts/Fine Arts (research and artistic based, part-time)
  • PhD level
    • The PhD Degree