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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of general upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.1Organisation of general upper secondary education

Last update: 24 June 2024

Types of institutions

The institutions offering academically oriented general upper secondary education programmes vary in relation to their educational focus.

  • STX/hf/: The Upper Secondary School leaving Examination (STX) is offered at 146 Gymnasiums of varying size distributed all over the country. There are approximately 100 institutions offering full-time programmes leading to the Higher Preparatory Examination (HF). Most of them are attached to Gymnasiums (approximately 70) and mainly offer full-time 2-year programmes. Some are attached to vocational colleges and adult education centres. The STX and HF programmes consist of a broad range of subjects in the fields of the humanities, natural science and social science;
  • HHX: The Higher Commercial Examination Programme (HHX) is offered at business colleges, of which there are 60 distributed all over the country. The HHX programme focuses on business and socio-economic disciplines in combination with foreign languages and other general subjects;
  • HTX:  The Higher Technical Examination Programme (HTX) is offered at technical colleges, of which there are 38 distributed all over the country. The HTX programme has its focus on technological and scientific subjects in combination with general subjects.

All schools are self-governing institutions with their own history and academic profile with the exception of Sorø Akademis Skole (a state school). The schools finance the implementation of one or more upper secondary education programmes by means of grants from the Danish Ministry of Education provided on the basis of student numbers.

For an overview of the programmes, please see the Danish Ministry of Education's description of the programmes. For further information about the number of institutions involved, see The Danish Ministry of Education's register of institutions (in Danish). 

Geographical accessibility

The five regional councils cooperate with the institutions regarding the provision of upper secondary education programmes and the allocation of students to the institutions in each region. Students are admitted to the institution of their choice, if the capacity of the institution makes it possible.

The Minister of Education has the authority to approve the establishment and approve the closure of upper secondary institutions.

Admission requirements and choice of school

All students who have received relevant teaching and passed prescribed examinations of the lower secondary education can generally continue in an upper secondary programme of their own choice.

However, access to the general upper secondary programmes is not completely open. In order to be admitted to the STX, HHX or HTX programmes, the student must have:

  • Completed nine years of Danish basic education (Folkeskole) or other corresponding teaching;
  • Completed the compulsory leaving examination of the primary and lower secondary school;
  • Completed two to four years of preparatory studies in French or German;
  • Obtained a minimum mark point average of five in the student’s end of year marks at the end of the school year;
  • Been assessed as ready to continue an upper secondary education by the previous school level. The assessment is based on an overall judgement of the student’s personal, practical and social skills.

If the student continues to Year 10 in Folkeskolen, a free school or a boarding (continuation) school following the completion of Year 9, the student needs to study and sit for exams in Danish, English, German/French, mathematics and science/chemistry unless they have already passed the compulsory exams in Year 9. If the compulsory exams were passed after Year 9, the tests for the students in Year 10 are optional.

If the above requirements are not fulfilled, the student can apply for admission after a concrete assessment. In that case, the leader of the school decides if the student can be admitted, in order to make the decision the school leader can ask the student to take an admission test in one or more subjects.

In order to be admitted on a two-year HF programme, the student has to be found qualified by the previous school level for general upper secondary education. Additionally the student must fulfil the following requirements:

  • Completion of nine years of Danish basic education;
  • Completion of the compulsory Year 9 leaving examination test of the primary and lower secondary school;
  • Completion of two-four years of preparatory study in French or German. If the Ministery of Education decides that the subjects are a part of the examination by the end of Year 9 the student must take the leaving examination;
  • A minimum mark point average of 4 in the student’s end of year marks at the end of the school year.

For all programmes an admission test is needed if one or more of the compulsory exams have not been taken. The details on the rules of admission is described in the act on the General Upper Secondary Education Programmes. For more information (in Danish): Bekendtgørelse om de gymnasiale uddannelser.

Age levels and grouping of pupils/students

The majority of students in the general upper secondary education institutions are between 16 and 19 years of age. The HF programme attracts both young people and adults.

Organisation of the school year

It is up to each institution to decide:

  • When the school year begins after the summer holiday;
  • The number of school days;
  • The holiday dates.

Usually, the school year starts during the second week of August and ends on 30th of June, with the exams taking place at the end of the school year.

Organisation of the school day and week

A five-day week from Monday to Friday is in place in the upper secondary education programmes. The weekly workload should be distributed as evenly as possible over the whole week. How the daily workload is distributed over the day is decided at school level. Lunch break normally begins at 12:00 and lasts 30 minutes.

The number of lessons the students must complete in their secondary education depend on the education programme:

  • In the STX and HHX programme each student must complete a minimum of 2470 hours of in-class study time;
  • In the HF programme each student must complete a minimum of 1625 hours;
  • In the HTX programme each student must complete a minimum of 2630 hours.