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“I am locked into a study program that I don’t want to do at all”

A new law against double studies will hold back Caroline Bayer Frøhling from achieving her dream to study biology. She already has a bachelor in landscape architecture.

After the summer holiday, the government will no longer finance higher education for those who have already completed a study program at the same, or higher, level. This is the impact of a proposal which the government, Danish People’s Party and the Social Democrats have agreed on.

The new law has clipped the wings for 25-year-old Caroline Bayer Frøhling.

She finished her Bachelor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Copenhagen last spring, but dreams of undertaking studies in Biology. A dream which has now proved difficult to realise.

“I finished my bachelor in landscape architecture in 2015, and now I plan to study biology until the summer. I am actually currently taking a chemistry course so that I can get in after the summer. But I can’t do that under the new law. I have taken my bachelor under the old law, which is now being changed. I had no chance to see into the future and know that the circumstances would change,” says Bayer Frøhling.

Caught in the system

Bayer Frøhling is now confronted by the huge problem that she holds a bachelor in a field she does not wish to work with, but nor does she have the opportunity to change to a new field.

“The law means that I cannot study biology, but it also means that I am locked into landscape architecture. So it doesn’t just exclude me from biology, but from all bachelors. So I really don’t know what I will do. I am locked into a study program, that I don’t want to do at all,” she says.

“It is very frustrating for me. Now it is up to others to decide what I will do with my life, and I just really want to be the one to choose how I will spend the rest of my life.”

Held back by a finished bachelor

Caroline chose to complete her bachelor although she did not feel completely convinced that she was in the right program.

“I decided to get the paper for it. If I had known that it would close off opportunities I would not have done it. A bachelor should help open up opportunities and not close them off,” she says.

Bayer Frøhling is far from the only one with this problem. Figures from the Education and Research ministry show that 2,500 students which began a higher education in 2014 had already completed an education at the same or higher level.

“Our system is designed for those who can complete a study program within a stipulated time and who choose the right path right from the start. I don’t think you can build a system based on that because some of us simply need a little more time to figure out what we want,” says Bayer Frøhling.

Protest to parliament

Bayer Frøhling has recently written a letter of complaint to Parliament, where she explains her situation. She believes that there should be two years warning before the new law enters into force, so students can prepare themselves for the shift.

According to Bayer Frøhling, it is unreasonable that the law already applies from the next admissions round for study programs.

“I think that politicians see citizens as bricks, which they can fill in wherever there is free space. But there are so many feelings on the line when we talk about what a person wants to do for the rest of their lives. I do not want to be a brick, I want to be passionate about what I do and I also believe that ultimately makes you better at your job.”

The government and political parties are still yet to negotiate the details in the proposal. However it has already been set out that there will be individual exceptions from the prohibition against double studies, including for those people with obsolete educational backgrounds or people who cannot perform their job due to work injuries. A number of study programs will also be granted an exception due to a lack of employees in the field.

Under the new law, it will largely still be possible to undertake an additional study program if the student is willing to pay. However in practical terms, few programs are ‘open’ study programs, whereby students gain access by paying fees.

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