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.


    The general objective of the “Greenland Education Programme”, in line with SDG4, is to contribute to a higher standard of living and quality of life along with sustainable diversification of the economy through improved education, skills development and knowledge. Inclusive growth must be rooted in an inclusive education system as quality education gives people the means to better contribute to, and have a share in, economic growth. In the first phase (2007-2013), the emphasis of the programme was on vocational training. In the second phase (2014-2020), the emphasis was on the pre-school and elementary school system besides a continuation of the support for vocational education and training and the post-elementary school system in general.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    In line with SDG4, access to quality education fosters equality and is an essential means of achieving sustainable growth and jobs. This is the rationale of EU education cooperation with Greenland.

    Implementation methodologies

    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.

    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.

    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.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 January 2007 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
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