DF's suggestion is akin to asking Aarhus University and other institutions to turn their backs on the world, critics said. Photo: Lise Balsby/Aarhus University
Offering university courses in English “makes no sense” according to the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF), which has once again called for Danish universities to abandon teaching in a second language.
“The rule of thumb should be that the teaching in Danish educations should be in Danish. Of course there should be foreign language studies and the opportunity for English-speaking guest professors, but having educations that have nothing to do with language taught in English makes no sense,” DF’s education spokesman, Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, told Metroxpress.
He said that eliminating English-language courses would put an end to foreign students coming to Denmark and receiving a student stipend from the government.
Thulesen Dahl’s statement comes at a time when English-language education in Denmark has exploded. According to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the number of students enrolled in English-language courses at the nation’s institutions of higher learning has gone from 4,653 in 2009 to 7,376 in 2014 – an increase of 58 percent.
DF’s suggestion was roundly criticized by the governing Social Democrats and Social Liberals (Radikale) as well as the left-wing Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten).
Niels Egelund, the head of the Danish association for business academies Danske Erhvervsakademier, also said it would be a terrible idea to stop English-language education.
“To the best of my belief, it would be like shooting yourself in the foot. We’ve had English-language education since 1992 and it is something that many young Danes want because it gives them the opportunity to study abroad,” he told Metroxpress.
“Worst idea ever”
DF’s proposal was also roundly criticized by readers of The Local over on our Facebook page. Despite Thulesen Dahl’s suggestion that it would cut down on the number of foreigners receiving student stipends, many said that eliminating English-language options would deal a harder blow to Danish students than foreigners.
“This is not a problem for international students as they will always have plenty of other places in the world where they can get a great education in English. This would be a real problem for Denmark – since when is isolating universities from the world an advantage?” wrote Sérgio Matos Dias.
Adnan Baranbo agreed that it would be Danish students who would get the short end of the stick.
“I am an Arabic speaker who speaks English and now living in Denmark. The universities in Syria used to offer all education in Arabic. The outcome: the majority of Syrians speak English at very low level. Danish people are well known as the best non-native English speakers in the world. Change the higher education into Danish and you will lose a lot,” he wrote.
“In my opinion it is a short sighted idea that in the long run would give Danes fewer opportunities in a global world,” reader Betty Chatterjee added.
Many comments were direct and to the point with several variations of “worst idea ever”, “bad idea” and “terrible idea”.
Others pointed out that Thulesen Dahl’s comment is merely a ploy in an election year.
While that may most certainly be true, DF has been riding a wave of voter support that has seen it grow significantly since the 2011 election. In November, for the first time ever, an opinion poll showed DF to be the nation's largest party. Although DF’s leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl (Jens Henrik’s younger brother) has said that he’d prefer his party not be part of a government coalition, that scenario may be unavoidable if DF’s support holds. An election must be called no later than September.