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Second Cycle Programmes


7.Higher Education

7.3Second Cycle Programmes

Last update: 26 March 2024

Branches of study

One kind of second-cycle programme exists: the master’s programme. The Qualifications Framework for Danish Higher Education gives the following overview of the programme:

  Master’s programme
ECTS 120
Further education PhD and Master study programmes
Main institution type Universities
Knowledge base Research-based
European/National Qualifications Network Level 7

Length of the master’s programme

The master’s programme is an independent advanced level programme to the bachelor’s programme that consists of 120 ECTS credits corresponding to two years of study. Some master’s programmes such as medicine have a duration of three years.

Overview of branches of study for the master’s programme

The master’s programmes provide students with a broad academic foundation as well as specialised knowledge. The programmes are offered in all scientific fields, including:

  • Humanities (history, languages, rhetoric etc.);
  • Natural sciences (physics, biology etc.);
  • Social sciences (economics, sociology, etc.);
  • Law;
  • Theology;
  • Health sciences (medicine, biology etc.);
  • Technical studies (engineering etc.);
  • IT (software development, data science etc.).

Admission requirements

Admission to a master’s programme requires that the student has completed a qualifying bachelor’s programme or another relevant Danish or foreign education at the same level.

The universities stipulate the admission requirements for the individual master’s programme in their programme regulations. In addition, the universities determine the application and admission procedures, including the application deadline. The universities issue information about this on their website.

The university can admit applicants who have not completed a bachelor’s programme, if the university assesses that the applicant has completed other educational activities that can be given equal status as a completed bachelor’s programme.

A passed academic bachelor’s degree entitles the student to admission to a master’s programme that builds on top of the bachelor’s programme. The legal entitlement requires that:

  • The student is admitted to a master’s programme no later than three years after the student obtained his or her bachelor’s degree;
  • The master’s programme that the student applies for is completed at the same university as the bachelor’s programme.

If the student does not have a legal entitlement to admission and there are more applicants than available study places, the university prioritises the applicants according to criteria determined in advance by the university.

The responsible authority

In general, the higher education institutions are responsible for regulating the size of the student population, including the specific number enrolled at each programme.

However, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science can adjust the student intake at education programmes if, for instance, a programme has been assessed as putting future graduates at risk of unemployment.


The individual university draws up and updates their education programmes, indicating the aims, scope and duration, form and contents of the courses as well as a description of the curriculum. These appear from the programme regulations.

The universities can both offer courses and entire master’s programmes with curricula in English and instruction and examinations being conducted in English.

Teaching methods

Instruction in master’s programmes consists of different teaching methods.

The course descriptions specify the teaching methods and include lectures, smaller class lectures, group work and project work. In addition, some master’s programmes also include laboratory work and excursions. This applies for programmes such as molecular medicine, geology, biology etc.

Progression of students

Rules for examination attempts

A student has three attempts to pass an exam or test. The higher education institution may permit further reexaminations in case of unusual circumstances. The student cannot retake a passed test.

Completion of studies

The universities can determine the period students are obliged to complete their studies within. This will appear from the programme regulations. Many universities have determined that students are to complete their master’s programme of 120 ECTS within two and a half years or within three years.


Career guidance

Universities are obliged to offer academic guidance to students and subsequent guidance on employment opportunities. The universities are free to choose their methods and the appropriate staff.

Project-based courses

During master’s programmes, the students can study a semester abroad and/or participate in a project-based course. The project-based course is an unpaid learning course where the student is affiliated to a business or a public or private organisation. The project-based course can take place either in Denmark or abroad. The students put their qualified knowledge at the business or organisation’s disposal and try out their theoretical and methodological competencies in practice. The individual university determines the academic requirements for the project-based course, including learning goals, guidance, and form of exam.

In addition, it is common for university students to have part-time jobs while studying.

Part-time master’s programme

A part-time master’s programme is a 120 ECTS credits master’s programme organised as a four-year part-time education programme, where the student works while studying. The student is required to be an employee of a relevant public or private business with a minimum of 25 hours a week or be a self-employed entrepreneur.

The content of the four-year part-time master’s programme is the same as the ordinary two-year full-time master’s programme.

Student assessment

Mainly, student assessment consists of an exam/test at the end of each course. The student assessment can also consist of a participation requirement or ongoing tests during a course.

The master’s programme must contain a variety of exam forms that reflect the content and working methods of the programme. The university determines the exam forms in the programme regulations.

The university determines in the programme regulations whether internal or external examiners assess an exam. External examiners assess the Master’s thesis.

Student assessment is based on the seven-point grading scale or a pass/fail assessment. Students must be assessed individually, regardless of whether the examination is conducted individually or as a group exam/test.


The university awards the certification for completing a master’s programme. If a student leaves his or her master’s programme before completing it, the university issues documentation of the examinations passed at the student’s request.

The university issues a diploma for successfully completed master’s programmes. The diploma must at least state:

  • The name of the graduate and his or her civil registration number;
  • The name of the institution;
  • The name of the education programme in Danish/Latin and English;
  • The prescribed period of study indicated in ECTS credits;
  • The courses in which exams have been taken or which have been documented in some other way. The courses’ size is indicated in ECTS credits;
  • Exams and tests awarded credit for;
  • The examination language if the exam has been taken in a foreign language;
  • The achieved marks according to the seven-point grading scale and the equivalent letter according to the ECTS-scale;
  • A competence profile that describes the education programme.

Diploma Supplement

In addition to the diploma, it is compulsory for all higher education institutions to issue a Diploma Supplement in English to all students obtaining a degree. The Diploma Supplement contains information on the nature, level, context, content and status of the qualification as well as a description of the Danish higher education structure.



Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2008: Qualifications Framework for Danish Higher Education. [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Ministry of Higher Education and Science (Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriet), 2017: Project-based courses – bridge-building between university and business (Projektorienterede forløb - brobygning mellem universitet og virksomhed). [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Ministry of Higher Education and Science (Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriet), 2019: Part-time master’s programme (Erhvervskandidatuddannelser). [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2023: The University Bachelor's degree and the Master's degree. [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Legislation and Official Policy documents

Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2017: Ministerial Order on part-time master’s programme at the universities and higher artistic education institutions within the Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s area (the part-time master’s programme Act) (Bekendtgørelse om erhvervskandidatuddannelse ved universiteterne og de videregående kunstneriske uddannelsesinstitutioner på Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriets område (Erhvervskandidatbekendtgørelsen)), BEK no 1605 of 19/12/2017. [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2019: Act on universities (the university act) (Bekendtgørelse af lov om universiteter (universitetsloven)), LBK no 778 of 07/08/2022. [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2021: Ministerial Order on exams and tests at university programmes (Bekendtgørelse om eksamener og prøver ved universitetsuddannelser), BEK no 2271 of 01/12/2021. [Accessed 24 July 2023]

Legal Information (Retsinformation), 2023: Ministerial Order on access to university education programmes organised as full-time (Bekendtgørelse om adgang til universitetsuddannelser tilrettelagt på heltid), BEK no 69 of 26/01/2023. [Accessed 24 July 2023]