Denmark to cut places on English-language university programmes

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Denmark to cut places on English-language university programmes
Aarhus University. File photo: Kim Haugaard/Ritzau Scanpix

The number of available places on university courses from which graduates leave Denmark soon after completion must be cut, says Denmark’s education minister.


Between 1,000 and 2,000 fewer places on such programmes, which are primarily taught in English, is desired, according to Minister of Higher Education and Science Tommy Ahlers.

Ahlers has asked universities to cut the number of places on English-language programmes from which graduates commonly leave Denmark, the ministry said in a press statement.

That follows a decision in 2017 to reduce spots for internationals at business academies (erhvervsakademier) and university colleges (professionshøjskoler).

READ ALSO: Denmark cuts students on English-language programmes

The minister praised international students for “broadening the horizons of Danish students” and providing “highly qualified labour for Denmark”.

“But we cannot provide education on behalf of other countries,” he added.

“We must therefore do more to ensure skilled international students stay and work here after their studies, and we must limit the number of places on programmes where students are quick to return home,” he said.

Six of Denmark’s eight universities will reduce intake sizes, according to the ministry.

An analysis by Ahler’s ministry found that 42 percent of new graduates from English-language programmes leave Denmark within two years of completing their studies. Around one-third is employed in Denmark after two years.

A number of representative bodies have criticised the ministry’s announcement.

Engineers’ society IDA called the move a “regrettable desk job decision”.

The National Union of Students in Denmark (Danske Studerendes Fællesråd, DSF) said that the economic arguments behind the ministry’s decision did not stack up.

Anders Bjarklev, chair of Universities Denmark, a representative body for the eight Danish higher education institutes, was also critical.

“All things taken into account, this will weaken the culture at universities,” Bjarklev said.

“If we do not have as many international students around us, our networks will become weaker,” he said.

Bjarklev also said he did not believe the decision would achieve the ministry’s stated goal of excluding students who would leave the country soon after graduating.

“I must admit that I think the wrong model has been found. This would only be possible by seeing into the future, or with a model that takes all values into account,” he said.

Sofie Carsten Nielsen, education spokesperson with the opposition Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, called the idea that international students were a cost to the Danish state “a myth”.

“Those that stay provide so much value that they bring the overall account into profit,” Carsten Nielsen said via a written comment.

“But it is also clear that we must do all we can to retain them once they have finished their studies,” she added.

READ ALSO: Inclusion in Danish higher education 'a tough task': international students



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