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A challenging education agenda for the new government in Denmark

The leader of the Social Democrats and head of the newly elected government of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, has made education at all levels in Denmark one of the top priorities for her cabinet. The ambitious goal is to make the Danish education system one of the best in the world and to create foundations for further growth by investing in knowledge, human capital and future generations. According to the new government’s plan, then, education will be supported at all levels, with several broad targets to be achieved by 2020, namely: 

  • 95% of all young people enrolled in basic (youth) education;
  • 60% of the relevant age cohort pursuing higher education of three years duration; and
  • as a longer-term goal, 25% of young people undertaking more extensive higher education.

The newly established Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education led by Morten Østergaard, together with the Ministry of Children and Education, will oversee the implementation of these goals. Other issues on the agenda include the creation of new student places, greater autonomy for universities, better quality of research and the support of university colleges, vocational training and adult education. Several competences relevant to higher education have been transferred to the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Higher Education from other ministries as a result of the government’s reshuffle, and the participation of this Minister Østergaard in the internal consultation bodies – for example on economic policy – has been enhanced.

Amongst the critical next steps, the government will have to coordinate and present a more detailed plan for the implementation of its large-scale social programme. In light of the country’s current tight financial situation and a substantial budget deficit – which has been apparent in the Danish higher education sector, as elsewhere – moving the government’s “alliance with the youth” agenda forward and the achievement of its ambitious education targets will be a challenging mission in the near future.

Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Government  of Denmark