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Pathetic that the University of Copenhagen is dropping its physical master's diplomas

Disenchantment — In the future, newly qualified medical graduates will find their master's diploma between bank transcripts and letters from their local council in their electronic e-Boks. What an anti-climax.

From June 2020, the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) will replace its physical master’s diplomas with electronic copies in the e-Boks. This will be the culmination of five or six years of university education.

The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences’ student information service writes on 25 May 2020 that you can »look forward to the day you get your certificate in your e-Boks!«

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What an anti-climax to half a decade of studies!

It is problematic, for a number of reasons, that the physical master’s degree diploma is to be replaced by an electronic file. First of all, the master’s degree diploma is not just a bureaucratic document that you use in connection with job hunting.

The master’s certificate is also a diploma that embodies the culmination of many hard years of toil, sweat and tears. The diploma has a strong symbolic value, and reflects the pride in having completed a higher education programme of long duration.

An already weak university culture

When the university chooses to drop the physical master’s degree diploma, it is not just digitising another document. No, you communicate an unfortunate message to the students. And you undermine the symbolic value that the student attributes to their university diploma, their title, and their entire degree programme.

READ ALSO: Graduation has always been lousy at Danish university

Secondly, it is yet another dilution of the already weak university culture at the University of Copenhagen. We already have no graduation ceremony. The alumni network is much weaker than the universities that UCPH wants to compare itself with. And it is hard to find graduation and student traditions at the university, which is almost 550 years old.

A master’s title at the university cannot be equated with an online course on the internet.

By taking another step down this road of neglect, the university is allowing the relationship to its students to deteriorate further. Not least on a ceremonial level.

Can’t you just print out the document yourself at home? No, because the symbolism and the respect for the diploma is still lost when the institution just passes back responsibility to the individual student. The truth is, you are left with either a sorry file or a sad printout on a thin piece of A4 paper.

Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not because I don’t welcome digitisation. Send the diploma digitally to e-Boks as a supplement to the physical certificate. This will make it easier to use the diploma in your job search, as management writes in the announcement. But don’t let this turn into yet another austerity exercise gone wrong.

Need for more ceremony, not less

I suggest instead that you do the exact opposite and start holding graduate ceremonies with the awarding of diplomas and visiting speakers from business, academia and government.

I’m almost certain that UCPH with a little effort would be able to find funding for this through foundations or sponsors. Surely, someone will see the value of buying themselves a few minutes of speaking time to thousands of newly hatched students? It is a potential win-win.

A master’s title at the university cannot be equated with an online course on the internet. A pdf file of a diploma and a standard letter should not belong to the a historical university that has the calibre of UCPH.

Back to the drawing board, University of Copenhagen!

Translated by Mike Young

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