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.
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