Denmark plans to shorten university courses to save money 

Up to half of university students in Denmark could see their Master’s degree programmes shortened under an upcoming government proposal.

Denmark plans to shorten university courses to save money 
Aarhus University. The Danish government wants to cut a significant number of Master's degree programmes from two years to one. File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The government will next week present a plan to cut costs for some Master’s degrees by scrapping the second and final year, newspaper Politiken reports.

The changes would affect half of all Master’s students in Denmark and 70 percent of humanities and social sciences students.

The objective of the proposal is to funnel the savings into medium-term professional qualifications including nursing, teaching, and social work, the newspaper reports.

Currently, most university students in Denmark follow a three-year Bachelor’s degree followed by a two-year Master’s programme. Under the proposal, the Master’s degree would be shortened to two years, cutting the total time spent studying from five years to four.

The proposal would need backing from a majority in parliament to be implemented, and the government therefore needs the support of other parties on the issue. This means its realisation could depend on whether the government wins the next general election, which must take place no later than June 2023.

The government proposal comes after recommendations made by a 2020 commission, which suggested that savings from shortened university degrees could be funnelled into post-educational training throughout the careers of graduates.

In the proposal, some of the money saved by the cut to programme times is diverted to more intensive teaching. In other words, the compressed degrees will include more hours per week spent in lectures and seminars than current programmes, Politiken writes.

Around one in three young people in Denmark currently studies to Master’s level at university. Higher education in Denmark is free for Danish and EU citizens and Danish students are given a state student grant (SU) to cover basic living costs while studying. The grant is not repayable after graduation.

Up to 2 billion kroner could be saved by implementing the proposed cuts to degree durations, according to Politiken.

Labour unions and industry representatives have expressed concern the proposal risks turning out under-prepared graduates. 

“We are very concerned that university education will be degraded,” Sara Vergo, chairperson of the trade union Djøf, which represents students and workers in the social sciences, business and law, told news wire Ritzau.

Vergo said that there was little appetite amongst employees for graduates with shorter degrees.

“We have Bachelor [graduates] that try to enter the labour market and there is actually not a great demand for them, while there is a huge demand for academics,” she said.

The Djøf leader also questioned the idea of adding class time to shortened programmes.

“If [students] are going to have more classes, it will be harder to hold down a study-relevant job. That is actually one of the most important things for being able to go out and get a job later,” she said.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv) said it saw opportunities and warning signs alike in the upcoming proposal.

“The most important thing for the labour market is that there is focus on quality and relevance in the upcoming education reform. If some programmes are to be shortened, it must be ensured that they won’t be degraded,” the organisation’s head of education and research Mads Eriksen Storm told Ritzau.

READ MORE: How to save money as a student in Denmark

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Government drops plans to move welfare education to smaller Denmark towns

The new Danish government has dropped plans to move 800 places on welfare courses from big cities to smaller towns in Denmark, according to national broadcaster DR News.

Government drops plans to move welfare education to smaller Denmark towns

In 2021 the Social Democrats’ government proposed to relocate 25 higher education courses to smaller towns across the country, while cutting university admissions in the largest cities by 10 percent.

The agreement was that 60 percent of admissions to welfare programmes, including nursing, pedagogue, social work and teacher training, would be located in smaller towns. This meant 800 places moving out of the cities and 1000 new places created in towns. 

The Liberals party (Venstre) had supported the idea but the new coalition government of the Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates, now want the welfare departments to be excluded from the relocation plans. This is due to a concern over the current shortage of people working in Denmark’s welfare sector.

The number of students who enrolled in nursing, pedagogue, social work and teacher training, fell by 14 percent in 2022, compared to 2019, before the coronavirus. In the smaller towns, the number dropped by 21 percent. 

The 2021 relocation agreement meant the University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) in Aalborg had started planning a teaching course in Skørping in Rebild Municipality. But the Principal, Kristina Kristoffersen told DR she is relieved the plan can now be dropped.

“We feared that we would not get students to actually apply, and that we would therefore not be able to cover the labour market needs here in North Jutland”, she said.

Former Minister of Education and Research, Jesper Petersen, said the new plans were “deeply worrying”. He maintained that it was important for more education programmes to be located in smaller towns.

“There is nothing strange in the fact that when you get a new government, you also get a new policy”, new Minister of Education and Research, Christina Egelund told DR.

She added that they needed to make sure enrolment in welfare education did not continue to drop. 

Plans to relocate the other higher education programmes under the 2021 agreement will still continue. Educational institutions can also choose to relocate study places if they wish to, Egelund added.

Steffen Damsgaard, chairman of the Community Council of Rural Districts (Landdistrikters Fællesråd) told newswire Ritzau he believed the government was making a rash decision.

“You must take the long-view, when you make this kind of initiative, to create a better educational balance”, he said.

He pointed out that it was important for the municipalities to have welfare training nearby, as this is where they recruit from. But he added recruitment problems could not be solved by relocating alone and that a closer look was needed as to why young people were not enrolling on welfare courses.

“We should see what other factors come into play. It’s not just about geography”, he said.

READ MORE: How to save money as a student in Denmark