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Danish business: Students are spoilt rotten

We are dirt poor, claims Danish Student Council. Nonsense, says Chamber of Commerce, that calls for a halt to excessive student ‘salaries’

Danish students hold the Scandinavian record in financial hardship among students, the Danish Student Council says in a press release, with reference to the Eurostudent survey, a comparison of student social and economic conditions. This is surprising, considering that Danish students are generally perceived to be pampered with large student grants.

However, only 44 per cent of Danish students find their funding to be sufficient to cover their expenses. In contrast, half of students from Norway, Finland and Sweden reckon they have sufficient funds.

Students are poor

»It is absurd that less than half of the students have sufficient funds to cover their costs. For many young people, tight finances are still a barrier to take an education. And it will only worsen if the period of state support of education is reduced with a year or if you cut the student grants in other ways,« argues the president of The Danish Student Council, Torben Holm.

»It is time to break down the myth of Danish students living in a whirl of pleasures. Our studies show that students in Denmark have an income that does not cover our monthly expenses. Our grant is not about living in luxury. It is about living at all,« Torben Holm claims.

The reason why many Danish students find their budget so tight in spite of the Danish system of state support for education is in the high cost of living in Denmark. »It’s really expensive to live as a student in Denmark. It is almost impossible to get an affordable student accommodation. Most of us live in the really expensive private housing market,« he says.

Students are too complacent

To many politicians and industrialists, such talk is pure nonsense. It just indicates that young people are all too complacent, the Danish Chamber of Commerce claims. Between 70 and 80 per cent of young Danes between the ages of 15 and 30 mistakenly believe that they spend either the same or more time on education and work than their European peers. This is according to a study by the bureau International Research conducted for the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

The truth is that Danes, in the most recent statistics for 22 European countries, are among those who spend the least time on studying and working in student jobs.

It makes The Danish Chamber of Commerce call for more humility – and a self-image in accordance with reality:

»Unfortunately, it seems that students are immersed in a leisurely culture that has devalued the value of hard work. Young people themselves must demand more and better education, because otherwise we risk being overtaken by other countries,« says Emilie Wedell-Wedellsborg, a political consultant at the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

A generous benefit system

In her opinion Denmark has one of the most generous benefit systems, and cites the fact that each and every year the government spends the staggering sum of almost DKK 17 billion on state support for education. Such money would be better spent on education by boosting quality rather than paying the students a ‘salary’,« says Emilie Wedell-Wedellsborg.

Almost 30 per cent of the cost of education in Denmark is spent on student living costs (primarily state support of education), and thus only 70 per cent is spent directly on educational institutions. And this is the cause of concern in the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

»At a time when finances are scarce and you have to invest in future growth, it is no good having a high standard of living for students, but a mediocre education,« says Emilie Wedell-Wedellsborg.

Proposals for cutbacks

Along with many economists and centre-to-right politicians she argues that only Bachelor students should be granted state support for education whereas Master’s degree students should be satisfied with repayable loans.

At the same time the Danish Chamber of Commerce calls on politicians to abolish the typically Danish, so-called, ‘messing about-year’ (fjumreår).

»We do not believe that it is reasonable that students can get six years ‘pay’ for five years of work,« explains Emilie Wedell-Wedellsborg. Calculations from the Danish Chamber of Commerce show that the introduction of repayable grants to candidates and the elimination of the messing about-year will save DKK 2.7 billion. Money that could be spent on improving the quality of education.

»It will benefit both young people and business if we begin to prioritize quality education rather than wages. This means that we move the SU-grant billions into more lessons and better educational and career guidance, as well as more flexibility in education and more study places,« explains Emilie Wedell-Wedellsborg.

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