OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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U.S. Denmark Partnership for Vocational Education

The Danish system of vocational education and training(VET) is a centralised system. All standards are laid down by the Ministry of Education in the form of regulations. These regulations are prepared by the social partners, then approved by the Ministry of Education. There is no regional level within the VET system, only the national and local level.

In Denmark there are about 140 vocational colleges maintained by the public in the Danish VET system. More than 100 of these are technical and business colleges, the others include agricultural colleges and social and health care colleges http://www.uvm.dk/eng/publications/factsheets/fact3.htm. The Ministry of Education is responsible for the vocational education at these colleges. Vocational education and training activities for adults also takes place at AMU-Centres, related to the Ministry of Labour.

The Danish vocational education and training system is more than 450 years old and can be described as a cultural bridgehead between the European (German) dual apprenticeship systems and the school-based models of the Nordic countries. The system is a further development of the apprenticeship principle, and there is more theoretical teaching (more time spent in school) in the Danish VET system than in German VET programmes, and conversely far more practical in-company training than in the Swedish system, for example, where this makes up 15% of the training period, compared with 60-75% in Denmark.

The VET system features three main characteristics:

  • It is based on alternating periods of school education and practical training in a company. In general, vocational training does not take any longer than four years. Students normally attend vocational college for a maximum of 80 weeks. A young person spends two thirds of his/her training period in one or more company/ies which have been approved by the Trade Committee responsible as training companies (appr. 20% of all companies are approved as training enterprises). Before the practical training starts, the student has to sign an apprenticeship contract with the respective company.

  • The training does not only convey vocational and technical skills within a strictly professional context, but also inter-professional and general knowledge. General education accounts for appr. 33% of the training period while a number of optional disciplines make up about one sixth. Moreover, the system is sufficiently flexible to provide various access opportunities and allows for changing from one level of education to another.

  • The social partners are able to influence the system to a large extent as they are represented at the national and individual college level. This extended role is rather unique in a pan-European context. The Danish model features elements of cooperation which could also be interesting for other countries. Many protagonists are involved in the VET system - companies, the social partners, the government, colleges and teachers - and share a joint responsibility and cooperate in order to ensure continuous innovation of the system. The national and local procedures ensure consensus-building among the protagonists. At the same time, the structure is extremely dynamic as many reforms over the past 20 years have demonstrated.

A new structure http://www.uvm.dk/pub/2000/newstructure/of the vocational education and training system was implemented in January 2001.

Besides vocational education programs vocational colleges offer vocationally oriented general upper secondary education programs http://www.uvm.dk/eng/publications/factsheets/fact4.htm that are primarily preparing students for business or technically oriented post secondary education. Vocationally oriented post secondary education (diploma programs) are offered at vocational colleges.

Further information on vocational education and training in Denmark is available on

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Last Modified: 10/16/2007