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.
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