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University of Copenhagen
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Cutbacks are not drastic, insists minister

The university has painted too bleak a picture of the austerity package, says science minister

The university has been overly negative in its reaction to announced economic restructuring, said Minister of Science Charlotte Sahl-Madsen at a debate meeting on the cutbacks at the University of Copenhagen Tuesday.

With up to 700 jobs hanging in the balance over the next two years, it was a brave Minister of Science who met with university leaders and students in a packed Ceremonial Hall.

Rector Ralf Hemmingsen praised her for turning up on such short notice, and the meeting’s chairperson Martin Krasnik compared it to an Israeli foreign minister visiting Istanbul after the recent raid of the Gaza-convoy.

Dire straits

Hemmingsen started out by pointing out that the university’s research budget will be cut by around DKK 360 million in 2013 compared to 2010, as a result of the government’s austerity package.

This leaves the university in dire straits if politicians can’t find the money elsewhere, he said.

Specifically, Hemmingsen asked the minister about the so-called Globalisation Fund: DKK 2,4 billion of which universities hope to get a share of in 2013.

He wanted to know if the money is still there, and called for a decision to be made public as soon as possible, to allow for forward planning.

Look on the bright side

The money was there and will indeed be distributed, the science minister assured participants at the meeting, but said that »she could not say exactly how, or when.«

The media and the universities have painted far too bleak a picture of the austerity package and its consequences, she continued.

She reminded the audience that the government will live up to its goal of spending one per cent of GDP on research, and DKK 6 billion on new university laboratories in 2010-2012.

More effective admin

The only new development, she said, is that the university will be forced to cut back on administration costs.

»There are a number of work processes that we must have cleaned up, also in the Ministry. We will now enter into a detailed discussion with the universities on how these cuts can be carried out, but this is not a sign that I think people are sitting around doing nothing,« said Charlotte Sahl-Madsen.

Turning to Ralf Hemmingsen, she added, »the other universities do not seem to think that it is so hard to become more effective, so perhaps you could learn something from your colleagues there!«

Short-sighted, say students

Mikkel Zeuthen, representing The National Union of Students in Denmark called the cutbacks short-sighted and stupid. He pointed out that a Master’s graduate pays back nine times more to the state coffers than an unskilled worker.

Ralf Hemmingsen rounded off the debate on a positive note, saying that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

»It is positive that the lid has been lifted, and that we got a small peek at the DKK 2.4 billion Globalisation Fund inside; so there is perhaps a way through this in the short term. Perhaps there is a small gift on its way to us, as the university celebrates its 531th birthday today. We just don’t know what is inside the package,« said the rector.