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Danes slow to finish Master's

Danes that follow the exact same degrees as their Swedish counterparts are a year behind, data shows

Both Denmark and Sweden have low on-time graduation rates, but Denmark is lagging behind.

According to Niels Jul Nielsen, Associate Professor of Ethnology at the University of Copenhagen, the difference in completion time is attributable to a particular Danish culture surrounding the thesis.

»Students in both countries are following the same pace in the first year of their graduate programme, but they differ when it comes to their Master’s thesis,« says Nielsen, explaining that Danes consider their thesis a very serious matter.

»For Danish students, it’s not just a regular paper,« he says. »They see the thesis as a culmination of their studies, a dissertation.«

Swedes faster than Danes at Øresund Campus

Founded in 2008, the Øresund Campus initiative links nine Danish and Swedish places of higher education. The collaboration has created new academic possibilities like the Ethnology Master’s degrees in Lund, Niels Jul Nielsen says.

But Øresund Campus has yet to bridge graduation timelines between the Swedish and Danish Master’s candidates.

To date, only one graduating class has gone through the entire Master’s degree. The majority of the students in this class extended their programme, but much more Danes than Swedes, according to Nielsen.

»In Sweden, they don’t have a tradition of writing a Master thesis in Ethnology, so it is a new thing for them. It means that they consider the thesis nothing but a paper. They are not – as the Danes are – inhibited by the grand ambitions of writing a perfect dissertation.«

New efforts to speed up the students

To come about the low on-time graduation rates, the Danish Government is now offering financial incentives to Universities whose students graduate on time.

In Sweden, state money is allocated according to student registration and course completion, but not according to the number of students who complete on time.

On the softer side, many universities have intensified student counselling and created mentor-ship programs and career-focused initiatives to spur students forward. According to Niels Jul Nielsen, the University of Copenhagen also has various initiatives that attempt to change the idea that a good thesis requires years of work.

Read more about the Government’s efforts to have students complete on time here

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