Danish colleges brace for impact of English-language education closures 

Danish colleges brace for impact of English-language education closures 
University College North Jutland (UCN) campus in Thisted. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix
As many as 4,000 places on 87 different English-language education courses in Denmark, primarily at business academies and on professional bachelor programmes, are to close from next year.

The closures are the result of a widely-backed political deal, passed by parliament in June, aimed at reducing Denmark’s spending of its state student grant, SU, on foreign students who can claim it through EU nationality or other eligibility.

The government and its left wing ally Socialist People’s Party, along with all of Denmark’s conservative parties, early this summer voted through the proposal to cut programmes taught in English.

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

Programmes where higher proportions of English-speaking graduates enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, are protected from the reduction.

Following parliament’s decision in June, educational institutions last week were informed which programmes, currently attended by as many as 4,000 students, must be closed.

READ ALSO: English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

The Confederation of Danish Industry, DI, spoke out against the decision in an report by newspaper Jyllands-Posten published on Friday, arguing it will cost Denmark money in the long term by making it more difficult for businesses to fulfil hiring needs.

“It’s a shame there was not a closer dialogue with the businesses community about what needs the future will bring and what must be done to make English-language graduates more attractive (for employment),” DI’s junior director Mette Fjord Sørensen told Jyllands-Posten.

“In particular in Jutland you could possibly see a good way to recruit staff from that route because companies there are battling to attract their workforces,” Sørensen added.

Sørensen and DI are not alone in expressing concerns about the cuts.

Harald Elmo Mikkelsen, dean of one of the institutions most impacted by the decision, VIA University College, told Jyllands-Posten that Denmark risks losing important labour resources.

“We talk about not have enough labour in this country and that we need young people in the technical professions where many of these programmes are actually being closed down. Just looking at the pool of Danish young people is not enough to fill these places,” he said.

“So it would have been good to have applied a more broadly-oriented perspective – instead of staring blindly at the maximum of 150 million kroner that is causing SU problems [state student grant spending, ed.] in this,” he added.

The VIA University College dean also admitted more could have been done by institutions to boost employment in Denmark amongst its graduates, including building Danish language classes into programmes. The colleges “should have been given some years” to prove they could deliver results in this area, he said.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have so many job vacancies?

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. 

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. 

VIA University College is set to see its turnover suffer a 100 million kroner reduction following the cuts while University College North Jutland (UCN) will have 10 percent fewer students, Jyllands-Posten writes.


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