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University of Copenhagen
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Ahlers, Minister for Education, to ease up on students (slightly)

Proposal — Minister for Higher Education Tommy Ahlers (V) proposes extending bachelor graduates’ legal right of admission to master’s programmes to three years, removing grade bonuses, and making it easier for students to design their own programme of study. He will not, however, change the study progress reform and cap on education programmes.

Being a student should be more flexible, according to Minister for Higher Education Tommy Ahlers (V). He is to end what he calls a rigid system, where everyone passes through university the same way.

We need to design a more flexible educational system, better suited to the different needs and the times that we live in.

Tommy Ahlers

This is what the minister said at a press conference held at the Copenhagen Business School, where he presented the Danish government’s proposal “Flexible University Study Programmes for the Future.”

“When I became minister, I did not know where to start. I know now. We need to design a more flexible educational system, better suited to the different needs and the times that we live in. There has long been a tradition of taking a master’s degree immediately after your bachelor’s degree, and only trying out the labour market after five years. I want to give people the opportunity to work a few years after their bachelor’s programme, without losing their right to start on the advanced-level programme. And I want to set up alternatives to master’s degree programmes,” Tommy Ahlers said.

The proposal does not address the goverment’s decision to cut a number of English-language programmes at Danish universities.

Opportunity for a break

Initiatives in the government proposal

The legal right to be admitted to a master’s degree programme after a bachelor’s degree is extended to three years. This allows you to try out the labour market between your bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes.

Part-time master’s scheme expanded to more master’s programmes, so the programmes can be followed in parallel to a job.

Option to take a one-year master after the bachelor degree programme instead of the normal two-year master’s degree programme.

There are to be bachelor degree programmes which are wider in their scope than the present ones. And the number of bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes are to be reviewed.

Students are to have better opportunities to approach other disciplines in their master’s degree programmes.

The 1.08 rule [which multiplies grade averages for starting university fast, ed.] is to be abolished

The current admissions system is to be improved

Source: Government proposal “Flexible University Programmes for the Future”

The minister proposes extending the legal right to enter a master’s degree programme to three years, so it will be possible to take a break and work after graduating from a bachelor’s degree programme.

The part-time master’s scheme is also to be extended to several master’s programmes, so they can be followed, part-time, in parallel to a full-time job. And it is to be possible to take a one-year master’s degree programme after a bachelor’s degree instead of the normal two-year master’s degree programme.

At the press conference, Tommy Ahlers was asked if it would be a requirement that universities set up these kinds of master’s programmes.

DTU has already said that they are not interested, and Ahlers stressed that it is to be seen as an opportunity, and not something that the universities had to do.

In addition, the Minister of Education wants fewer bachelor study programmes that are wider in scope than they are today. In this way the students can specialise later during their study programme. And it is to be easier to switch tracks and take your master’s degree in another subject area.

New admissions system on the way

Tommy Ahlers wants to change the admission system so that it de-emphasises the grade race and a culture of performance.

I don’t understand the need for this hybrid type of education, which no one has asked for.

Camilla Gregersen, Chairman of DM, about the plans for a one-year master’s programme

He will specifically abolish the quick start bonus, which multiplies your grade point average by 1.08 if you apply quickly to university after completing secondary education.

Instead, the minister wants to start using mini interviews and tests in connection with universities’ admissions.

“We are currently gathering experience from abroad and from Denmark and will later come up with a specific proposal for a new admissions system. But grades will still be the most important element. It will probably not be finished before 2020 – so you may have to be patient,” Tommy Ahlers said at the press conference.

Positive reception

The proposal was mostly received positively by the business community, universities, interest organisations, political opponents and the students.

The Universities Denmark interest organisation praised the extension of the legal right for admission to three years, the abolition of the quick start bonus, and the expansion of the part-time master’s scheme. But they also point out that the government’s ambitions on, say, increased number of teaching hours, feedback and supervision are hard to square up with the government’s perennial annual two percent cut to education funding.

Camilla Gregersen, chairman of the Danish Association of Masters and PhDs (DM), praises the proposal. But she is critical of the one-year master’s programme after a bachelor’s degree which the minister will introduce.

I don’t understand the need for this hybrid type of education, which no one has asked for. We have an important task in ensuring clarity for employers about what study programmes it is that the universities offer. And this programme can only lead to confusion, and will not have the same academic weight as a master’s degree programme,” said Camilla Gregersen.

What about the Study Progress Reform?

According to Ahlers some of the initiatives are about shifting the culture of the universities. And here he hopes to start a close dialogue with the university management teams. Other proposals – like the extended legal requirement and abolishing the grade average bonus – require amendments to existing legislation, so he will invite the parties in the Danish Parliament to a negotiation.

So far, the Danish People’s Party spokesman on education Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl has stated that he is generally positive about the proposal.

Caroline Maier from the Alternative Party is also positive, but also calls for the abolition of the Study Progress Reform. And she wants an answer on whether the government will finance more teaching and supervision time for students.

The Red/Green Alliance education spokesman Rosa Lund writes on Twitter:

“Many good things in the government proposal for higher education! Thanks go to the student movement for a long, tough battle to abolish the 1.08 rule! Now we just need the cap on education programmes and the Study Progress Reform.”

At the University of Copenhagen, the Study Progress Reform has meant that students have to pass exams corresponding to 45 ECTS credits for each academic year.