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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Denmark scraps ‘redistribution’ plan for primary school students 

The Danish government has shelved plans to use a redistribution model to ensure more diversity in primary school classes.

Denmark scraps 'redistribution' plan for primary school students 

Plans to redistribute Denmark’s primary school students to ensure a more “mixed” learning environment have been dropped, the Ministry of Children and Education told newspaper Berlingske

“There are no plans for a state model to control student distribution [at primary schools] like at upper secondary schools [gymnasier],” the ministry said in a written statement.

The minister for schools and education, Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil, previously suggested that a model for redistribution at primary schools could be presented, mirroring a model put in place for older students at upper secondary schools.

From the next school year, upper secondary school pupils may be assigned a different school based on their parents’ salaries. 

READ MORE: Why Denmark has changed rules for upper secondary school allocation

This will not be the case at primary schools. However, municipalities will be asked to ensure school classes reflect the diversity in their local areas under a clause included in a June 2022 financial agreement between the government and the national municipalities’ organisation, KL.

“We have made an agreement with [municipalities] that they should strive to have a more balance mix of students. The tools individual municipalities use to achieve this should be up to them,” Rosenkrantz-Theil told Berlingske.