Danish adult education has its roots in the concept of Folkeoplysning (general liberal adult education), which again has its origin in the 19th century’s religious and social movements. During the first decades of the 20th century, adult education was based upon general leisure-time education as the adult education associations offered it through their evening classes. However, the serious unemployment situation in the 1930’s and 1940’s created an incipient understanding of the low skilled workers’ need for improved qualifications.
In 1940, the low skilled workers’ unions, the employers’ associations and the technological institutes established 3-year evening courses in the winter season for low skilled workers. In 1950, the Ministry of Labour established five schools for unemployed low skilled workers offering 3-week vocational day courses. Ten years later, these activities came under one act - the Act on Vocational Training for Unskilled Workers. The present legislation, the Act on Adult Vocational Training (AMU) comprises both courses for low skilled workers and skilled workers.
Qualifying general education for adults was developed during the 1970’s and 1980’s when it became possible for adults to sit for the leaving examinations of the Folkeskole (AVU) in single subjects at the level of lower secondary education. At the same time, a programme on higher preparatory single subject courses at general upper secondary level was introduced. These two programmes are now provided by adult education centres (VUC). These centres also provide preparatory adult education (FVU) courses at the level of primary and lower secondary education.
After some experiments with Open University activities in the 1980’s, an Act on Open Education in 1990 opened up for vocationally and professionally oriented part-time courses and single-subject studies for adults at vocational colleges and higher education institutions.
In May 2000, a set of 10 acts concerning a reform of the adult education and continuing training area (the further education reform) was adopted. The acts took effect in January 2001.
The reform package comprised a new system of adult education and continuing training, a new form of educational support for adults as well as new grant allocation schemes for institutions offering adult education and continuing training.
Current policy priorities
In April 2013, the government published a strategy on growth; Growth Plan Agreeement. It is a political agreement setting overall strategy, objectives and financial framework. The strategy consists of five subsections on different issues aiming to increase growth in the Danish economy. The topic on adult education is addressed as “More and Better Adult and Continuous Education”. 1 billion DKK in the period 2014-2020 has been allocated for more and better adult education and training and is intended to raise the level of competence of the working force and support creation of jobs and more growth in Denmark. This includes 355 million DKK for new education opportunities and increased activity within adult education and continuous training with the aim of giving more skilled workers an opportunity to receive a higher education. For more information (in Danish): En milliard kroner til voksen- og efteruddannelse.
In April 2014, The Growth Plan Agreement from 2013 has been followed up with an agreement on Denmark's exit from the crisis, companies in growth with the social partners on concrete measures and actions to be taken promoting work force competences, especially targeting low skilled workers and quality and flexibility in the provision of public adult education and training.