United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Greenland-EU Cooperation: Together we expand education opportunities for Arctic Youth (SDG 4)

European Commission (
Intergovernmental organization

    Greenland is, as part of Denmark, an overseas territory of the EU and the world’s largest island, which accounts for 20% of the total EU surface. It has globally the lowest population density (35 km2 per inhabitant), which, combined with limited infrastructure, poses formidable challenges for ensuring equal access to quality education (SDG 4). For this reason, the EU and Greenland joined hands through the “Greenland Education Programme”. This partnership combines budget support, technical expertise and policy dialogue aiming at a higher standard of living and quality of life in Greenland. Education is likely to continue being a priority sector of cooperation between the EU and Greenland.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    Since 2007, the EU cooperation in Greenland has been exclusively targeted to the education sector. Policy dialogue nurtured by the consecutive budget support operations has been regular and well structured. Around € 30 million have been allocated annually to this sector through the EU budget allocation (€ 217.8 million for 2014-2020, for a population of 57 000 inhabitants). The EU support has contributed to raising education level and to laying the foundations for further improvements in the future. Since the start of the programme, attendance has increased by 36.4 on average over all levels of post-elementary education. Subsequently, this resulted in an increase in the number of completions of 72.3%. 52.6% of the cohort that turned 35 in 2017 completed an education above elementary level. Better quality of education increased employability with about 84.5% of VET graduates and 99.3% of graduates having found a job within 1 year after graduation. The gender balance has also improved as women now count for 54% of VET graduates, 60% of High School graduates and 70% of graduates from Tertiary Education in 2019. Innovation and digital technologies are pivotal elements of this success. Greenland initiated a distance learning high school programme (eGUX) in 2018, which has proved especially valuable during the COVID-19 crisis, fostering resilience. Our policy dialogue informed a draft new Law on Higher Education which is inspired by international education quality standards and an education strategy to consolidate reform achievements. Greenland’s strong commitment to education is demonstrated in the budgetary allocations to the sector, which increased from 14.8 % in 2005 to 25% of the total budget in the last years.


    In line with the European Union's goal to support the sustainable development of Greenland, the objective of the Government of Greenland’s education plan is to raise the education level of the population through an inclusive and coherent education system from pre-school to vocational training and higher education. The successful increase of individuals attending and graduate education above elementary level is the main achievement of this programme. Young Greenlanders are better prepared for the life after graduation.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The current challenge is to limit the negative barriers to equal access to education and to a quality education created by the COVID-19 crisis. Greenland and the EU are long-term partners. Close cooperation and dialogue is key to ensure the on-going implementation of this programme so that the cooperation remains on track.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Higher education and vocational training are essential components of a strong and sustainable education system, and have therefore a direct impact on the development of every country/territory.

    Other sources of information

    • DG INTPA webpage on OCTs, referring to the overall cooperation framework with Greenland for the period 2014-2020 (notably the ‘Greenland Decision’): https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/where-we-work/overseas-… • Programming Document of Greenland for the period 2014-2020: https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/system/files/signed_pro… • DG INTPA webpage on the signature of the Financial Agreement with Greenland on education in 2019: https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/news/eu-reaffirms-its-c…

    COVID-19 Impact

    Education is crucial in promoting long-term sustainable economic development and welfare in Greenland, drivers that are crucial for resilience and the post-COVID recovery.

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    01 January 2007 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    European Commission
    Other beneficiaries

    The stakeholders of this programme are the Government of Greenland, the 5 Municipalities, the future employers, and the educators. The final beneficiaries of the intervention are the youth and work force. In the second phase of the programme, the target groups have been expanded as a consequence of the broader perspective of the Education Strategy to include children from pre-school age and elementary school pupils.

    Contact Information