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Denmark’s foreign academics face prosecution over visa technicalities

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Denmark’s foreign academics face prosecution over visa technicalities
Copenhagen Business School. File photo: Anders Birch/Polfoto/Scanpix
17:05 CET+01:00
Academics in Denmark have faced punishment for taking on extra teaching work.

Denmark's rules on work permit terms for foreign academics have come in for criticism after stories emerged of professors being prosecuted for teaching outside of their primary institutions of employment.

University professors have expressed their anger at authorities for punishing them for what they say is part of their job – sharing their knowledge outside of the academic sphere.

On Sunday, newspaper Politiken reported that Colombian professor Jimmy Martinez-Correa was earlier this year acquitted by the High Court of teaching illegally, an offence for which he faced a possible 15-year ban from applying for Danish residency.

Martinez-Correa, an economics professor, has worked at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) since 2012, having reportedly chosen to accept a position in Denmark ahead of offers from the United States, Australia and elsewhere in Europe. He received the Independent Research Fund Denmark award for talented young researchers in 2014.

The professor faced the charges for accepting an offer in 2013 to teach international students at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, according to Politiken’s report.

The Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (Styrelsen for International Rekruttering og Integration, SIRI) later reported him to police for breaching the terms of his visa.

Martinez-Correa was acquitted of the charges after the High Court found that SIRI’s guidelines over the issue were so confusing that the professor could not have known an extra work permit was required.

Last month, broadcaster DR reported that American professor Brooke Harrington was set to be fined for meeting with tax agency Skat, parliaments Tax Committee (Folketingets Skatteudvalg) and the Danish Business Authority (Erhvervsstyrelsen).

Harrington told DR that she had been told by police that she would be given a fine of at least 13,500 kroner (1,800 euros) for being in breach of her working and residency visa.

According to her visa, the economics professor is only permitted to work at her place of permanent employment -- also Copenhagen Business School.

As was the case with Martinez-Correa, SIRI reported Harrington to police for breaching those provisions, the professor told DR last month.

“It came as a big surprise, as a part of my job as a professor in Denmark in relation to Danish law is to share my expertise with authorities. But now the authorities are saying that I may not speak outside the walls of CBS,” she said.

Danish rules relating to employees of universities state that professors are obliged to share their knowledge with the public.

Harrington received a police summons to provide details of her work despite having been invite to Denmark’s parliament on a number of occasions to consult on tax havens.

The Tax Committee also received a fine from police for having used Harrington, according to DR’s report.

Immigration minister Inger Støjberg told DR that authorities had followed the law by issuing the fine.

“Fundamentally, it is necessary to have a work permit to work in Denmark, and it will continue to be so in future. On the other hand, I will also see whether (rules) can be made a bit more flexible in future,” Støjberg said.

CBS’ dean Per Holten-Andersen told DR last month that three foreign employees at the university faced fines over similar issues, while Politiken has reported that 14 such cases are known to Universities Denmark, the umbrella organisation representing Denmark’s eight higher education institutions.

READ ALSO: More must be done to draw international workers to Denmark: DI

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