Denmark has a good education system from which refugees can benefit greatly. For most, it's free, and you can even get support along the way. The chances of getting a job with something that interests you increase, and the salary will be higher. Young refugees under 25 years of age must have an education plan, but older ones are also entitled to choose education. Unfortunately, many job centres do not have much knowledge or focus on education – their task is to get people into jobs as soon as possible, but it is a short-term strategy. A combination of school and work is the new IGU education.

In June 2018, the Rockwool Foundation presented figures showing that in the long term, non-western refugees and family-reunified immigrants who are educated in Denmark, are better at finding permanent employment and with a higher salary than those who do not take an education here. Many other reports have shown the same.

Unfortunately, education does not count when it comes to applying for permanent residence – but you may be able to do both education and work 3.5 years within the 8 years that you have to wait for anyway, and perhaps education will one day count again as it did in the past. You can also take an education with you if you travel back one day.

As long as you are under education, you can live in a dormitory (kollegium) – small, inexpensive housing, where you share a kitchen with other students. This is a good way to get to know other young people. But there is usually a waiting list.

During education, you can register for free in an unemployment insurance fund and afterwards at some point, you will be entitled to unemployment insurance (a-kasse). Only IGU education provides access immediately. Read more about unemployment insurance and education here.

Education and municipalities

Even if the municipality tries to get you into work if you are over the age of 25, you can choose to apply for an education and apply for the SU (state education grant) yourself.

According to the Integration Act, the municipality has to provide information about how to get any education papers from your home country assessed after Danish standards. Refugees or those who have been family-reunified must be urged to seek education if the person is:
• Between 18 and 25 years old
• Does not already have a qualifying education from his/her home country
• Is not providing for any children
• Is able to undertake training under general conditions, according to the municipality's assessment.

Education and experience from your home country

It's a big challenge for refugees all over Europe to get an assessment and verification of an education or work experience from a non-Western country. Documents are often missing, and the education or experience can rarely be used directly in a Danish context. But a new project from the European Council aims at solving this problem: European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. It is free to apply for it, and it can be done in a number of languages. With such a passport you may increase your chances of getting a relevant job or add to your existing experience instead of starting all over. Read more on the project website.

Higher education

As a rule, education is free for refugees. But be aware that if you have an education from your home country, it's only free to study at a higher level than the education you already have (after language school). If, for instance, you have a bachelor and want to take a master, it might be a good idea to go to VUC to improve your Danish language – but then you must pay the full fee for VUC.

You apply on the same terms as Danes – you must be able to prove that you have the necessary competences to be admitted. There may be high demands for some educations. Some refugees may have lost their exam papers or cannot have them approved according to Danish standards. Then you may need to take a Danish 9th grade exam, vocational training or upper secondary education in Denmark before you can study further. If you already have what equals a Danish gymnasium exam, it might be a good idea to complete the 1-year GIF course which gives access to further education.

In addition, formal language requirements are in place for immigrants who are applying for higher education and do not have a qualifying education from Denmark. The easiest thing is to contact the place of education you wish to apply to and hear what specific language requirements they have.

There are also full educations in English – but then you need to have proof that your English is sufficiently good. This can be done by taking the TOEFL test, which costs a fee.

Read more at about admission requirements, application etc. The site contains plenty of good information for refugees who want to take an education in Denmark.

Vocational training

Practical educations as a craftsman or technician are easier to enter and often give access to jobs afterwards. But in some cases, it requires an apprentice placement that can be extra difficult for a refugee to find. However, some start an internship in a company and are fortunate to get an appointment as an apprentice if they want to learn the trade. There is also vocational training for adults over 25 years of age, and their wage is higher. Read more here.

Income while studying

If an education is SU-eligible, as a refugee you are entitled to SU (state education grant) while you are studying. It is at the level of self-sufficiency and return benefit, but it has several other advantages: you can earn up to 12,000 DKK before tax on top of it, and SU does not stand in the way of seeking permanent residence, citizenship or family reunification, as other benefits do. In addition, you can join an unemployment insurance fund for free while you are studying, and receive unemployment insurance afterwards.

If you are taking vocational training, you typically start on SU and then advance to apprenticeship salary (which is higher if you are over the age of 25).

Who can get SU?

In principle, refugees and family-reunified immigrants are entitled to free education and SU in Denmark, with the exception of persons on a humanitarian residence permit. You apply here and ask for equality under Danish rules. Those courses, which are also paid for by Danish citizens (e.g. private training as a beautician, pilot, therapist, etc.), also require refugees to pay for themselves.

Quota 2 and assistance in seeking admission to an education

Work experience or other acquired competencies can in some cases be used to access some educations via the Quota 2 system, where you send a motivated application in case you do not have the qualifying grades. The job centre can provide guidance on this, or you can seek help from relevant study guides or voluntary organisations.

Student Refugees is a voluntary network which aims to help refugees who want to apply for higher education in Denmark. The network consists of students themselves, who know the education system well. The volunteers help refugees to get an overview of and understand the education system in Denmark. But they also offer practical help, such as writing a quota 2 application in Danish. You can get help in their Application Café, which is held a few times a month and contact them via the website or on Facebook.

Read more about how many refugees are educated in Denmark in the chapter "How is it going with integration in Denmark?"