Politics and Analysis
Adult and continuing education is mainly financed by companies
2. July 2023
Although often described as a ‘public-sector adult and continuing education system’, the truth is that most of the funding comes from private companies – a fact somewhat at odds with the political goal of lifelong learning for all.
Every year, millions of kroner are spent on adult and continuing education (VEU) for the general public. However, according to a report compiled by the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA), private companies cover the vast majority of the costs.
The DA report shows that in 2019, DKK 6.1 billion was spent on VEU for people in work (see Figure 1).
Private companies covered just over 60% of the costs, and the state paid the rest. Companies were responsible for salary top-ups, tuition fees and VEU allowances, while the state provided taximeter funding and the State Educational Support for Adults scheme (SVU).
- The truth is that private companies keep the continuing education system afloat. Plenty of politicians talk about the social challenges involved in lifelong learning for all, but the private sector bears the vast majority of the costs of adult and continuing education, says Jannik Bay, Head of Integration and Qualifications at DA.
- On top of that, the majority of the educational activity, up to two-thirds, takes place outside the public system, he adds.
Jannik Bay sees this as a clear sign of the need to rethink VEU in terms of both funding and structure.
- We need a well-functioning public-sector VEU system, and that requires modernisation and investment. Otherwise, there is a risk of the system imploding. If that happened, bigger companies could probably cope, but most Danish companies are small and medium-sized enterprises, and VEU training is crucial to their very existence, he adds.
Imbalance in vocational education and training
The picture is even more skewed if you dig a little deeper and look at vocational VEU, which covers Adult Vocational Training (AMU). Here, the state covers approximately 25% of the costs, corresponding to DKK 850 million, while companies pay the remaining 75% (approximately DKK 2.5 billion).
- The opportunity to send staff on continuing education courses is hugely important to companies, and they are keen to invest in skills development. We no longer live in a world where just going to school is enough. Lifelong learning is essential. But new initiatives are needed to ensure that more of the education and training takes place in the public sector, says Jannik Bay.
He points out that this will require both investment and political will.
- We’re looking forward to the next tripartite negotiations. The last round of collective bargaining in 2017 included a DKK 1.7 billion agreement for VEU funding, and much of the financial burden fell on companies. Only about DKK 600 million is left. If the government is to achieve its goal of lifelong learning for all, it must be willing to invest.
Adult and continuing education provided under public auspices includes general education and training (e.g. dyslexia programmes, general adult education, preparatory adult education, higher preparatory exam-single subject), vocational training (e.g. AMU courses) and higher VEU (e.g. academy and diploma programmes).
Our calculations include operating costs (taximeter funding and tuition fees), allowances and salary top-ups. We took the amount of taximeter funding and allowances from the national budget and based the figures for tuition fees and salary top-ups on a number of relevant assumptions, using register data from Statistics Denmark. However, since there is no comprehensive list of the contributions to adult and continuing education under public auspices, our figures should be considered estimates.
It is impossible to see who is responsible for paying the tuition fees for a specific course – the company, the employee or a combination of both. Mentions of ‘the company’ in the analysis refer to expenses paid by both the company and the employee. However, it is our considered opinion that companies pay the vast majority of these costs. In the general and vocational training area, the cost of tuition fees is relatively small compared to other expenses.