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Model student may be forced to quit

He gets top marks as a master's student in Food Science. But the Danish government's reforms might force him to drop his studies this September

Follow your heart or listen to your brain – but choose wisely. If you have already completed one course of study, the Danish government’s study progress reform (fremdriftsreform) to be implemented this September will make it difficult to carry out a meaningful programme.

This is the lesson that Christopher Melin is about to learn the hard way. In 2010, he was trained as a school teacher with home economics as his major. Christopher has always been interested in food, and when as a recent graduate he became acquainted with a student from Food Science, it dawned on him that this was the training he really wanted.

Christopher only had two years of the Danish study grant SU left when he applied to study at the Institute of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). He completed his bachelor’s programme in the prescribed time and enrolled as a master’s student in Food Science and Technology. The previous two years of study he had done without receiving funding from the state.

But now, running out of money, and facing restrictions due to the new study activity requirements, Christopher Melin cannot complete his education.

Read also: Danish study progress reform: The 10 biggest issues

Parents without assistance

“I have to work in parallel to the study to make ends meet. Partly because I have no more SU grant money and also because I have a two-year old daughter with my wife, who is also a student,” says Christopher Melin.

“After I ran out of SU, neither my wife nor I are eligible for caregiver allowance. You can only get that when both parents receive SU. It has nothing to do with the reform, but the reform makes things much worse for me, and makes it even harder for people in my situation.”

Christopher Melin sought exemption from the requirement that he must be enrolled as a full-time student for the autumn 2015 semester, but was refused on the grounds that the requirement can only be waived due to illness.

“I would say that it is impossible to study full time when you do not get SU. You cannot get a student loan when you are not a receiving SU and you can only qualify for the finishing loan (slutlån) in the final year.”

“I’m not going to give up voluntarily. I simply cannot see what they get out of forcing me out of training now. All of the resources they have used to educate me would be wasted.”

Christopher Melin has previously read his master’s part-time and therefore lacks half a year of study (or 30 ECTS) before he can apply for the finishing loan.

“I’m not asking for more SU, but the opportunity to study part-time, so I can work and be able to afford to study,” he says.

Professors try to help him

Christopher Melin will be reluctant to drop out of his studies in food science, as it is a subject he is passionate about. This is reflected not only in his grades, but also in his hobbies.

In his spare time, he translates knowledge from his studies to his business. Along with a fellow student, Christopher started the company Æblerov, which brews cider that is sold to restaurants.

“The teachers are insanely happy to have students who have practical experience and use their spare time to improve their skills. They can see that students are passionate for the discipline and give something back. Also, I think that’s why I’ve gotten so much support from the professors,” he says.

He says that his professors have offered him the opprotunity to do projects or write so-called points tasks so that he can earn a certain number of ECTS credits instead of following courses where the compulsory lessons necessitates that he is in the classroom every day.

With up to 24 scheduled hours per week, Food Science is one of the subjects with the most teaching hours. Although Christopher Melin is pleased that so many hours are devoted to experiments in the laboratory, it also means that it is difficult to have a job on the side.

Compulsory enrollment

When a new semester begins in September, Christopher Melin’s name will appear on the list of enrolled students, but he is not going to attend the courses.

“I will be automatically enrolled in courses that I neither want nor have the time to follow. And that will eventually cause me to fail…”

Christopher has no intention of dropping out of the degree program before he is forced to do so:

“I still hope that the politicians become smarter and find a solution. I’m not going to give up voluntarily. I simply cannot see what they get out of forcing me out of training now. All of the resources they have used to educate me would be wasted.”

Perhaps Christopher will get his wish. Both the Social Liberals’ (Radikale) leader Morten Østergaard and Education and Research Minister Sofie Carsten Nielsen have just announced that the opprotunity for adjustment of the study progress reform would make it possible to study part-time at the Master’s program.

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