A large proportion of international students in Denmark leave the country immediately after completing their studies, according to figures from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science (Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriet).
Only one in five graduates from programmes taught in English at business academies (erhvervsakademier) and university colleges (professionshøjskoler) are working in Denmark two years after finishing their studies, according to the ministry.
Admissions to English-language programmes at the two types of institution have therefore been cut by 27.8 percent – the equivalent of 1,765 fewer students.
Minister for education and research Søren Pind said he was in favour of the reduction in study spots given the low number of graduates remaining in Denmark after their studies.
“It is a challenge for us, given that we spend so much money on our education system, that people don't stay in Denmark and use their qualifications here,” Pind said.
An interest group for foreign residents in Denmark has previously argued that skilled professionals often choose to leave the Scandinavian country due to its strict residency rules.
In May this year, parliament passed a billed increasing waiting times for foreigners in Denmark to qualify for permanent residency to eight years – a second tightening on residency rules in two years.
Prior to the bill being passed, Naqeeb Khan, executive member with the Danish Green Card Association lobby group, wrote in The Local that Denmark's immigration policies were having the effect of directly turning away skilled workers.
“Changes in permanent residency rules mean that expats must spend much of their time and energy navigating the amended legislations. It becomes so hard that expats sometimes choose to leave the country,” Khan wrote.
Pind, who instructed business academies and university colleges earlier this year to reduce their admissions by 25 percent – an order that has now been implemented – cited costs to taxpayers as justification for the decision.
“It is mostly foreign citizens that take their qualifications back to the countries they come from. In the end, there is no reason for Danish tax payers to pay for that,” he said.
Pind will discuss the debt owed by foreign citizens to Denmark for unpaid state student loans (statens uddannelsesstøtte-lån, SU-lån) with a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.
But the debt is not the reason for the cut in study places for foreigners, the minister said.
“[The money owed] is a side effect. The main issue is that Danish tax payers are paying for people who do not use the qualifications we are paying for,” he said.
Pind's Ministry of Higher Education and Science will now look at Bachelor and Master's degree programmes that are taught in English with a view to assessing how many graduates from those types of degrees remain in Denmark after leaving university.