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Comment: Responsibility – where did it go?

Ministers, instead of lashing out at young academics, should speak more about their own responsibility in creating jobs. So says the chairman and vice-chairman of the University of Copenhagen in this featured comment, where they also call for a broader definition of 'innovation'

Hurry up. Strengthen your academic skills. Be innovative. Get a job. And do hurry up, for God’s sake!

There is a new rather interesting trend in the Ministry of Science. If we want a job after receiving our degrees, we have to make it ourselves by being innovative, the minister argues. Certainly, it is vital that we be able to use the tools and knowledge we have learned and developed during our studies to create new solutions to the challenges we are facing today as well as tomorrow.

Thus it is exceptionally important that we as students insist on the fact that innovation is not just the idea of developing new products and open new businesses. Innovation is much more – and those of us who are active in the Students’ Union are consistently putting pressure on our university officials not to forget the broader definition of innovation.

Inside the walls of this university we see numerous examples of innovative thinking: The students organised in Students of Pharmaceutical Sciences have for example made their own cleaning enterprise, and every day active students are voluntarily contributing to the student environment in student-run cafés, revues or debate clubs.

Arrogant attitude towards graduates

These activities show that students take responsibility for their own and others’ well being. In the Students’ Union we claim that students are more innovative than ever. The concept of innovation just has to be acknowledged not as how many enterprises are being created but rather as the things that improve life in general – inside and outside the University of Copenhagen.

Though students are being more innovative than ever, the unemployment rate is 27.3 per cent the first year after graduating university. We are getting sandwiched between an unfavourable job market and the pressure of finishing education as fast as possible while time for absorption in our profession is not likely to appear. At the same time both the Minister of Higher Education and the Minister of Employment are saying that young academics should not be particular about their job and should take what is possible – for example a job in the supermarket chain Netto.

This is a rather arrogant attitude, especially because most groups have high unemployment rates. There are not many jobs to get in Netto, and it would be far more ambitious if the ministers, instead of lashing out at young academics, spoke about their own responsibility to create jobs and began acknowledging that innovative thinking needs the best kind of study environment and time for immersion in your chosen field of study.

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