University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Comment: University cutbacks will come back and bite

Short termist government has panicked, and is not acting in Denmark’s interest, writes student of medicine

Recent cuts and savings by the Danish government have been widely criticized. But they also reflect a worrying development in the mind-set of political leaders.

In the current political climate, one marred by failing bipartisanship, a DKK 1.4 billion cut to research and education has met harsh criticism and has been under extensive scrutiny. This DKK 1.4 bn reduction (from approximately DKK 16,3 bn) is a 8.5 per cent cut in grants to research. The cuts include restricting the budget of the Danish Council for Independent Research (Den Frie Forskningsråd) by DKK 385,5 million.

The consequences of these budgetary restrictions will be a lower quality of research, quality of teaching and the ability of Danish universities to hire world-class researchers.

Less quality, less jobs

The consequences are actually already here. The University of Copenhagen is shedding staff after a hiring freeze, and has halted admissions to select groups of PhDs and students. This week it will announce staff dismissals, and it has said that researchers and students at the university can expect lower service.

The government cuts that set all this off reflect an increasingly nervous, uneasy and panicky state. Fundamentally, this would mean the prudent policies of the past have been substituted with rash short-term fixes.

It lacks understanding of growth, especially in a smaller state such as Denmark. With limited manufacturing capacity as compared to many other European nations, it is dependent on innovation and the development of creative ideas. The quality of teaching, research and innovation all contribute to the creation of new jobs, new products and new fields/sectors.

No more pioneering concepts

To quote the research director from Novo Nordisk, “Denmark has only one source of fuel, and it is no longer oil from the North Sea. Our fuel is young Danish people, the talent they possess, and the way they are cared for, so they can create growth and new jobs in Denmark. And it does not happen by reducing research by 8.5 percent”.

By emptying the pockets of university institutions, their capacity to innovate dwindles. Streamlining the transition from creative ideas to productive output is useless, especially when the capacity to generate pioneering concepts in the first place disappears.

The redistribution of the budget has a lot to do with the panicking of a government trying to make an impression. The failing coalition has strained the Liberal Party ‘Venstre’, and as such, they needed immediate results to appease critics.

Cancer treatments dependent upon research

Their faulty set of priorities, is a grave concern. Unlike the US, where private universities conduct the bulk of research, universities here are publicly funded; and as a result, the bulk of the research that is necessary for the advancement of Danish society can only be conducted with the support of the state.

Highly developed cancer treatments at Danish hospitals owe their development to the groundbreaking research that has taken place in the past couple of decades. Cutting the budget for these research institutions not only reveals a lack of foresight in terms of the economy, but it will come back to bite the politicians, in that vital research will stall. Future governments may require vast injections of cash to rectify these compromises in the future.

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