University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Humanities reel in the PhD’s from abroad

From zero to 25 pct. internationals in just a few years. The humanities have overcome Danish candidate favouritism

The enrolment of foreign PhD students at the Faculty of Humanities has increased from almost none to a quarter of the students who started their studies on 1 September this year.

This is according to Mette Thunø, Pro-Dean and Head of the Graduate School at the Faculty of Humanities.
Changes to the Faculty’s recruitment strategy have improved international applicants prospects, she says.

Favouritism could compromise quality

»A few years back, the vast majority of our PhD scholarship applicants in the humanities held MA degrees from our own faculty. Good applications were rare from other Danish universities, and foreign applicants were almost non-existent as our calls for applications were not translated into English,« Mette Thunø explains.

»I was afraid the quality of our future PhD students would suffer from increasing favouritism of our own MAs,« she says.

Redressing the balance

To redress the balance, the Faculty of Humanities has created a Graduate School and advertised on international websites in English.

Most importantly, the faculty now offers assistance in the Danish way of writing a research proposition, as part of its strategy to attract the best applicants regardless of where they have their MA degrees from.

»Non-Danish students need some guidance in writing their five-page project description. If they are not familiar with the Danish style in which the research question is framed, the assessment committee will not pay much attention to an applicant,« says Mette.

»Staff at our Ph.D. centre and potential supervisors have been instructed to pay attention to helping students with exactly this problem«, she adds.

Media and regional studies a hit

In the humanities, international Ph.D. applicants are interested in a broad field of disciplines, but especially Media and Area Studies – Asian and Middle Eastern Studies – attract much interest.

According to Mette Thunø, other faculties such as Life Sciences and Science have a higher number and proportion of non-Danish PhD students.

But with this year’s steep increase in numbers, the Faculty of Humanities may catch up, at least in the proportion of PhD scholarships going to non-Danish applicants.