Copenhagen student dorm still not livable

A new student residence in Amager is behind schedule, leaving international students to live among exposed pipes and scrambling construction workers.

Copenhagen student dorm still not livable
A common scene: Students using wifi in the corridor and workers in a hurry. Photo: Agustin Millan
A new student housing option in the Amager district in Copenhagen was supposed to be a boon for international students dealing with the housing shortage in the capitol. But despite a number of students paying an advance deposit for an idyllic place to stay close to the beach, unfinished construction has led to some rough living conditions. 
More than two hundred disappointed students have moved in to the CPH Studio Hotel on Krimsvej to find that their rooms are still under construction, while workers scramble all over the building in an attempt to put the finishing touches on the project. 

Front of the CPH Studio Hotel in Krimsvej. Photo: Agustin Millan
“I’ve been here for just two days. I consider my room livable, but I know I’ve been lucky because I live on the first floor,” Kristina Barac, a student from Croatia, told The Local. 
The first floor has mostly finished rooms, but problems with the electrical system and wifi signal remain. Things are significantly worse on the upper levels, where some rooms don't have completed floors or heating.

Priorities list.
The general vibe in the students' dorm is one of resignation.
“At least we have something. Some of my friends are still in Airbnb,” Feral Daly, a student from Ireland, said. 
“We don’t have any other option,” explained computer science student Edward Marinescu. “I paid 12,000 kroner, equivalent to three months and the deposit”. 
Students are forced to work and catch up on their social networks out in the hallways. Photo: Agustin Millan
Students are forced to work and catch up on their social networks out in the hallways. Photo: Agustin Millan 
Most of the students are still struggling with internet connectivity issues. 
“I use wifi in my friend’s room or the corridor because I can’t do it from my room,” Jorge Flores, a pharmaceutical student from Mexico, explained when we met him in the hallway. 
David Olsen, a student from California, said his room is now finished but that's about it.
“I can live in my room now, but I can’t work from there because I have no wifi signal. And all the facilities simply doesn’t exist: no gym, no restaurant and the laundry has just opened today,” Olsen said.
“Things are getting done, but I don’t trust the company,” he added. 

This room was supposed to host a student from September 1st.  Photo: Agustín Millan
But some students still face exceptionally difficult situations, like Chinese biology student Lidangzhi Mo. Her room doesn’t have a door, floor or finished walls.
“I’ve been living with a friend so far but now her roommates have come and I don’t know where I’m going next,” she told us on her way out the door to attend class.
Jacob Mosgaard, the chief of operation and co-owner of the building, vowed that the situation would be solved as soon as possible.
“We don’t try to hide our responsibility. We will finish this within two months or even sooner. We regret it, but construction delays happen,” he told The Local. 

Exposed pipes and connections in the hall.
Students are getting two months' compensation for the money they’ve paid in exchange for the construction delays. 
Despite the rocky start, German student Julia Gaugeris is optimistic.
“It’s improving quickly. I know that it could be better but I’m not angry. My room is on the third floor and I know I have been lucky to stay the first few days with a friend, because I couldn’t even sleep in my own room when I came here,” she said. 

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English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.