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 evening classes. However, the unemployment situation in the 1930s and 1940s 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 three-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 three-week vocational day courses.
Qualifying general education for adults was developed during the 1970s and 1980s when it became possible for adults to sit for the leaving examinations of the public primary and lower secondary school (Folkeskole) 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.
After some experiments with Open University activities in the 1980s, 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 ten 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
It is tradition that the government and the social partners enters into tripartite agreement about the long-term plans for adult education and continuing training. The latest agreement is from 2017 and has subsequently been extended.
The 2017 tripartite agreement and subsequent extensions
In October 2017, the government and the social partners entered into a tripartite agreement on a strengthened and more flexible adult education and continuing training system. The agreement is in force from 2018 to 2021.
The agreement includes the following main elements:
- More than 400 million DKK for readjustment of unskilled and skilled workers at the labour market;
- Funds for reach out activities targeted the challenge at the labour market regarding lack of common competences;
- Increased use of screenings and improved opportunities for reading, calculation and writing instruction for the purpose of improving workers’ common competences;
- 420 million DKK to increase the quality of adult vocational training programmes;
- Increased allowances for all adults participating in adult vocational training programmes;
- Development of adult higher education and increased use of competence assessments;
- More professional adult vocational training programmes with increased flexibility, documentation of learning through tests, and more free access for institutions to offer adult vocational training programmes and adjust the programmes according to the businesses’ and employees’ needs;
- One entrance to the adult education and continuing training system, including one entrance to guidance, enrolment and application for allowances;
- Introduction of a more flexible adult education and continuing training grant and a repayment of 680 million DKK to the businesses.
In October 2021, the government and the social partners agreed on a one-year extension of the tripartite agreement.
In September 2022, the government and the social partners agreed on an additional one-year extension of the tripartite agreement. The agreement entails a complete continuation of the initiatives from the 2017 agreement that have not been completed.
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2023: Get an overview of the agreement’s objectives (Få overblik over aftalens målsætninger). [Accessed 10 May 2023]
Ministry of Children and Education (Børne- og Undervisningsministeriet), 2022: Tripartite agreement about strenghned adult education and continuing training is extended (Trepartsaftale om styrket voksen-, efter- og videreuddannelses forlænges). [Accessed 10 May 2023]
Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2023: Tripartite agreement on adult education and continuing training (Trepartsaftaler om efter- og videreuddannelse). [Accessed 10 May 2023]
Legislation and Official Policy documents
Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2018: Act on Adult Vocational Training etc. (Bekendtgørelse om arbejdsmarkedsuddannelser m.v.), BEK no 1795 of 27/12/2018. [Accessed 10 May 2023]