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. Unfortunately, many job centres do not have much knowledge or focus on education – they are just trying to get people into jobs as soon as possible, but it is a short-term strategy. A sort of stop-gap between school and work is the new IGU training.
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.
Unfortunately, education is not of the same merit as full-time employment when it comes to applying for permanent residency – but you may be able to do both 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 in training, you can live in a dormitory – 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 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 benefit. Only IGU training provides entitlement to unemployment benefit immediately. Read more about unemployment benefits and education here.
Education and municipalities
It depends on the individual municipality, how much focus there is on speedy employment and how much there is on education. Some municipalities are more concerned with the training of young refugees in particular, while in other municipalities it is perceived that it is up to the individual to acquire the skills required to be admitted to an education. But even if the municipality tries to get you into work, you can choose to apply for an education and apply for the SU.
According to the Integration Act, the municipality has to provide information about option to have any education papers who have with you assessed, and refugees or those who have been family-reunified are entitled to seek education if the person is:
• Between 18 and 25 years old
• Does not have a qualifying training in advance from his/her home country
• Is not providing for any children
• Is able to undertake, in accordance with the municipality's assessment, training under general conditions.
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 wants to take a master, it might be a godd 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 the Danes – you must be able to prove that you have the necessary competence 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 9th class exam, vocational training or upper secondary education in Denmark before you can study further. If you alreday 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 refugees and family-reunified 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 courses in English – so 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 studentrefugees.dk about admission requirements, application etc. The site contains plenty of good information for refugees who want to take an education in Denmark.
The more practical education as a craftsman or technician is easier to enter and often gives access to jobs afterwards. But in some cases, it requires a student 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. Read more here.
Income while studying
If an education is SU-eligible, as a refugee you are entitled to the SU (state education grant) while you are studying. It is at the level of integration benefit, but it has several other advantages: you can earn up to 12,000 KR before tax on top of it, and SU does not stand in the way of seeking permanent residence, citizenship or family reunification, as integration benefits does. In addition, you can join an unemployment insurance fund for free while you are studying, and you offset benefits afterwards. You apply here and ask for equality under Danish rules.
If you are taking an apprenticeship, you typically start on SU and then advance to student salary (higher, if you are over 25 years old).
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 with a humanitarian residence permit. 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
Experience or other acquired competencies can in some cases be used to apply for admission to some training courses via the Quota 2 system, where you send a motivated application in cases where you do not have the qualifying grades. The municipality can also provide guidance on this, or you can seek help from voluntary organisations working to help refugees with their opportunities to apply for admission to an education.
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 contribute practical help, for example, 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 studentrefugees.dk or on Facebook.
Read more about how many refugees are trained in Denmark in the chapter "How is the integration in Denmark?"