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Science, Innovation and Higher Education in Denmark

Denmark is in many ways a dynamic and sustainable knowledge society with a competitive knowledge infrastructure characterised by flexibility and the ability for fast readjustment of the labour force. In the emerging knowledge economy, the nature of knowledge and education has changed significantly. Knowledge is produced and applied by many different institutions, organisations and players and often in a network-based knowledge exchange. There is strong international competition for students and researchers, and the competition is ever growing.

As the number of students increase, universities and vocational higher education institutions are responsible for a far wider range of occupational preparation than before. People at all levels of the public and private sector now receive their principal qualifications from higher education institutions.

Various political measures have been employed to further the globalisation of higher education in Denmark e.g. the institutional reform of universities, university mergers and the development of a new grant scheme for international students studying in Denmark and Danish students studying abroad.

Of particular importance is the ambition to combine research-based knowledge with practice-based skills in university colleges. Exchanging ideas and sharing networks with public and private knowledge institutions will enable a new era of knowledge-based education.

The Danish higher education system on the move
Previously there were 25 universities and research institutions in Denmark. In 2007, that number was reduced to the current eight universities and four research institutions. The merger plan was realised in order to reap benefits from the synergies of fewer, but state-of-the-art universities. The universities are located in all regions of Denmark and vary in size and in student numbers. The universities offer research-based education in a three cycle degree structure – bachelor, master and PhD levels.

Danish universities are funded through two main sources: basic block funding and external income. The basic funding is state-sponsored and allocated for each university through the Government Budget. Other income is derived from research councils, the European Framework Programme, private foundations and commissioned research activities. In 2012, the turnover of Danish universities is EUR 3.3 billion.

Universities in Denmark are regulated by the national university act. Each university has a governing board with a majority of external members which appoints the rector.

Seven university colleges and nine academies of professional higher education are the main providers of vocational higher education in Denmark. The main political objective of the vocational higher education institutions is to ensure broad educational environments with a range of options for young people in all geographical regions of Denmark. The knowledge base of the academy programmes is business and profession-based. Work placement has been mandatory in all programmes since August 2009.

Furthermore, three educational institutions provide vocational higher education: two colleges of engineering and the Danish School of Media and Journalism.

The artistic higher education institutions offer bachelor and master educations for designers, architects and conservators and are based on artistic knowledge, practice and research. The artistic education field also includes the Royal School of Library and Information Science, offering university level education to approx. 700 students.

University colleges are self-governing institutions, while academies of professional higher education are independent institutions. Like Danish universities, each university college and academy of professional higher education enters a development contract with the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education.

The self-governing educational institutions have two sources of revenue: state grants and income-generating activities such as participant fees and fees paid for unemployed people in activation programmes, etc. State grants amount to approx. 80 percent of the total funding and are the primary source of revenue for the institutions. Of this amount, activity-level determined grants (teaching, building and mainte¬nance) constitute approx. 92 percent.

There are no tuition fees for full degree programmes in the Danish educational institutions. Students are supported by a monthly state grant – the SU (State Education Grants). Student support is available from the age of 18. Grants and state-secured loans are given to educations recognised by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education. Also, state education grants can be awarded for a study period abroad. Today, about 21 percent of young people in Denmark take a university degree and 49.4 percent complete a programme of higher education.

The internationalisation of education and training is high on the political agenda in Denmark. And the government, labour market bodies and educational institutions are active in the field of international cooperation. The goal is to enforce incoming and outgoing mobility and strengthen the participation of Danish universities in international cooperation within education and research.

An organisation designed to meet globalisation
The Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education is the ministerial institution responsible for research, innovation and higher education in Denmark.

The Ministry is composed of the a Department and three agencies: the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalisation, and the Danish Agency for Higher Education and Educational Support.

With higher education recently gathered under the remit of the Ministry, the institutional structure has been re-examined and focused.

The objective is to ensure a cross-education cohesion and solid administration of central areas of priority to the Danish Government such as research, innovation, education and educational grants. This requires close cooperation and strong institutional capacities across agencies and between the agencies and the Department.

By following the links below, you will find more information related to the fields of science, innovation and higher education in Denmark.