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Exchange — Can you study at a foreign university without a valid passport? Yes, according to the Danish government, which has just tabled a bill on virtual exchange programmes for Danish students. The University of Copenhagen supports the measure.
Danish students will soon be able to study in New York, Tokyo or London – without leaving home.
The Danish government is seeking a majority vote on a new bill which will amend universities legislation to allow virtual exchange study programmes.
The bill is to be seen in the context of growing interest in other types of student exchange, »including virtual elements as an alternative or a supplement to traditional, physical, student exchanges,« it states in the bill, which has just been submitted for consultation at the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
The new legislation is a reaction to requests from institutions of higher education that would like more flexible exchange agreements.
We have been pushing for virtual exchanges for a long time
Rie Snekkerup, Vice-Provost for Education, UCPH
The proposal is welcomed by Rie Snekkerup, Vice-Provost for Education at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), who says they have wanted a more flexible exchange programme for quite some time.
»We have been pushing for virtual exchanges, because it gives students more options. And they can, for example, follow courses that go beyond what the University of Copenhagen can offer. It also becomes more flexible when, for example, you can take a course at the Sorbonne or at Heidelberg while following three subjects in Denmark,« says Snekkerup.
She also believes that the virtual exchange programme will be able to create an international network of other foreign students.
»Virtual exchange ensures that students get much more flexibility in terms of putting their semester together, and in exchange opportunities at foreign universities, without having to travel. It also offers flexibility the other way around, so foreign students can follow selected courses at the University of Copenhagen,« says Rie Snekkerup.
According to the legislation, the ambition is to create flexible exchange agreements between Danish universities and universities abroad that can either be carried out completely, or just partly, digitally.
»Students can gain more knowledge and understanding of international conditions and of other cultures by completing part of a higher education programme at an educational institution abroad,« the ministry writes.
Proposed legislation on virtual exchange
● Through virtual exchanges, students can complete their degree programmes at foreign educational institutions either fully or partially.
● The proposal is not intended to change the options for physical student exchanges between Danish and foreign educational institutions.
● Nor is the proposal intended to change how educational institutions otherwise organize their teaching.
● The bill has been submitted for consultation by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
● The proposal covers all higher education programmes under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
Source: The Ministry of Higher Education and Science
The Ministry of Higher Education and Science stresses that new opportunities for virtual exchange should not replace traditional exchanges, but simply act as a supplement – especially for students who, for various reasons, are unable to take part in traditional exchange programmes.
»Virtual exchange would give students who — due to physical, health, or family circumstances — have difficulty participating in physical exchanges, the opportunity to complete parts of their study at foreign educational institutions,« the ministry writes in the bill.
The National Union of Danish Students welcomes the set-up of more flexible exchange agreements.
»It is really a good thing that we want to extend the opportunities for study in several different ways. And being able to take a digital course at a foreign university is an exciting supplement to that,« says Esben Bjørn Salmonsen, chairman of the National Union of Danish Students.
»It is, as a rule, really expensive to go on a physical exchange, so I think it’s particularly positive for students who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford a university study programme abroad,« he says.
He does not think, however, that a digital study programme should necessarily be classified as an ‘exchange’ in the first place.
»The traditional exchange is much more than just an academic one – and when all the cultural and relational aspects are cut out of it, I don’t know if you can still call it an exchange programme,« says Esben Bjørn Salmonsen.
And even though he is generally positive about the proposal, he is concerned if a new digital solution replaces the physical exchange.
»The physical exchange is, of course, administratively complicated for many universities. And even though the bill states that it is not the intention to replace physical exchange, I am still worried about whether they will continue to prioritize the resources needed to send students on physical stays abroad,« he says.
In response to his criticism, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science states:
»The purpose of the bill is to give higher education institutions the opportunity to enter into exchange agreements with more flexible exchange programmes than is presently the case. The purpose is not to limit students’ opportunities,« the ministry writes to the University Post.
The ministry proposes that the bill comes into effect from 1 January 2024.