Social equality in the competition state? Danish education policy under the Thorning-Schmidt government, 2011-2015



This is a study of education policy in a specific context: A national government coalition, lasting 4 years, in a single European country. It asks how education policies of such a government are formed, negotiated and implemented, how they are influenced by national and trans-national structures, and how they mix priorities of economic competitiveness and social welfare.

The coalition government consisting of the Social Democrats, the Socialist People’s party and the Social Liberal party with Helle Thorning Schmidt as prime minister took office in October 2011, after a narrow election victory. The platform of the new government was characterized by tensions between on one hand ambitions to improve social equality and welfare, on the other hand to consolidate the Danish economy and competitiveness through a pragmatic economic policy. Education was a key element in the government platform, which emphasized investment in education both as a way to improve employment and competitiveness and as a way to reduce social inequality. Education policy was located mainly in two ministries, one focusing on primary and secondary education, another on higher education and, research and innovation.

The Thorning-Schmidt government led a difficult life. From the outset it faced accusations that the platform did live up to the promises given in the election campaign, and tensions between the coalition partners surfaced several times, in one instance with the consequence that the Socialist People’s Party left the government. At the election in June 2015 polls showed the social democratic coalition lagging far behind the liberal and right-wing parties. They lost, but only by a narrow margin, and were replaced by a liberal minority government.

In spite of its problems the government was still been very active, not least in the field of education. Two major educational reforms were proposed, negotiated and implemented; a reform of primary and lower secondary education (“Folkeskole”) and a reform of vocational education. Several smaller reforms were also introduced, including one in higher education.

The project attempts to investigate and analyse the education policy pursued by the Thorning-Schmidt government, including its general objectives, the main reform proposals and the impact of political struggles on the reforms. The role of transnational policy frameworks, especially the EU and the OECD, is part of the study. Theoretically the project draws on critical sociology of education policy. One aim is to contribute to general knowledge and debate about the possibilities and constrains of progressive education policy in present-day Europe.


En analyse af Thorning-Schmidt regeringens (2011-2015) uddannelsespolitik med fokus på spændingsforholdet mellem målsætninger for social lighed og for national konkurrenceevne
Effektiv start/slut dato02/03/201531/01/2017


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