The master’s programmes that make you more employable

Committing to a master’s degree could feel like delaying the start of your career. That’s not the case at Linköping University (LiU), where the rigorous master’s programmes are designed to prepare students for life after graduation.

The master’s programmes that make you more employable
Photo: Linköping University

It’s been just three years since Natacha Klein graduated from LiU’s MSc in Science for Sustainable Development but in that time she’s achieved a lot.

Since 2015, the sustainability scientist has completed internships at the UN Environment Program, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Natacha believes it was her master’s degree from LiU, which is ranked among the world’s top 30 young universities, that opened doors to these prestigious global organisations.

“My background in multi-disciplinary sustainable development helped me get these opportunities. During the internship at the Ramsar Convention I wrote a publication and all of the research skills, like writing a report and collecting data, I had already done during my MA so it helped me land the job at the IUCN.”

Find out more about master’s studies at Linköping University

Photo: Natacha Klein

The two-year MSc in Science for Sustainable Development is tailored to prepare students for a career in the sustainability and environmental field. Even the structure of the programme, with its distinct lack of exams, mirrors working life as opposed to the typical academic setup.

“We had no exams, only reports or presentations. I think that was very good,” recalls Natacha. “My BA was only exams, learning by heart then forgetting everything straight after the exam. At LiU, you focus on writing something and critically thinking about a subject or problematic research topic.”

Natacha also appreciated being part of a small cohort that worked closely to solve real-world problems. Teaming up to tackle a broad range of topics from climate change and sustainability issues to resource and water management gave her a taste of life in a fast-paced research environment. 

“It was good that it was a small programme because we could work together more in-depth. You only have one course at a time. So you just focus on one topic for five weeks, do the coursework then move on.”

For Natacha, one of the most valuable aspects of the course was the opportunity to take a five-week internship before graduation. It gave her an insight into how her learnings could be applied in a commercial setting, expanding her overall understanding of the field and helping her to get more varied experience.

“A member of my family works at Ikea so I did a 5-week internship in the sustainability department. That was hugely useful for me to see how sustainability worked in a company like that.”

Natacha has now moved onto start a PhD on circular economy at Universidade Nova de Lisboa but still credits LiU with laying the groundwork for her future academic career.

“I’ve just started my PhD and I feel like all the proper academic areas and writing in a scientific way I practised a lot during my master’s.”

Multi-disciplinary master’s programmes

Much like the MSc in Science for Sustainable Development, LiU’s new MSc Computational Social Science programme is a multi-disciplinary master’s degree. Blending computer science, statistics and the social sciences, the programme teaches students to address socio-cultural questions using statistical and computational methods.

“It’s about trying to get students to become not just quantitative social science researchers but getting them to learn how to deal with large and complex data sets and answer very specific social science research questions,” Dr. Jarvis tells The Local.

Dr. Jarvis. Photo: Thor Balkhed, Linköping University

He explains that the field, while young, is becoming increasingly relevant for all sectors as they recognise the potential of ‘big data’. The new programme, therefore, is a career springboard for number-crunching techies with an interest in the social sciences…or vice versa. 

Find out more about master’s studies at Linköping University

“Social research is happening all the time; there are big companies doing social research but also governments who are trying to figure out what policies will best serve their constituents. There’s also huge academic interest in this stuff. And so wherever the students we get want to go, we are offering them something that they can take to any sector in the economy.”

He adds that, while the university trains the students to come up with good research questions, it’s up to the students to decide which sub-discipline to do their research in. It gives them more scope to tailor their own education and make them more employable following graduation.

“At the moment we have people doing all sorts of things from studying management and organisations to people looking into discourse online or how users on Spotify influence each other’s musical tastes.”

It’s still early days but Dr. Jarvis hopes that graduates of the programme will go on to make a positive contribution in whatever fields they enter. In the meantime, he says that he has high ambitions for them — the programme culminates with students submitting a piece of original social science research that, in some cases, he believes could make an impact outside the university.

“Most of our students should be able to do some kind of research that has either an impact in an academic sense, such as producing a published research paper, or they could have an impact in a private company or perhaps municipal government in terms of analysing data and coming up with a solution to a problem they have in those organisations.”

Choose a master’s degree at Linköping University and make an impact while you study. Click here to find out more about the master’s programmes offered at the university.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Linköping University.



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.