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Professor: Danish human sciences, a scandal

New to Denmark, Linda Maria Koldau was shocked by the level of teaching at Aarhus University. Exclusive to the University Post, she presents a scathing indictment of Danish universities in general that are »stealing the education from generations of students«

»When I first arrived in Denmark in 2009, headhunted to Aarhus University as an internationally recognised professor in historical musicology, I was at first enthusiastic about the friendly atmosphere.«

This is how Professor Linda Maria Koldau introduces a featured comment on the Danish-language daily newspaper Politiken. She continued:

»But after a couple of weeks I started to wonder. Now after 21 months at Aarhus University, I am deeply shocked by the top-down education strategy that has already stolen the education of several generations of students.«

Uncomfortable truths

In Politiken, she drew a picture of a University, Aarhus in fact, that undermines humanities students’ creativity, treats students like schoolchildren, devalues knowledge, and which dresses itself up with superficial buzzwords.

Now, in the University Post, she goes into more detail about what is wrong with the Danish university. For University of Copenhagen students and staff, her objections against Aarhus may be too close for comfort: Not surprising, as Linda Koldau’s colleagues in other universities assure her that the basic problems are not unique to Aarhus.

In her career, Linda Maria Koldau has worked between several disciplines, oriented towards cultural history, she explains. The position offered to her in Aarhus seemed perfect.

Reality was different

»I was told that all I could offer research in six cultural historical fields; teaching in ten centuries of cultural history, with special emphasis in music, theology, literature, and film; my activities in international networks; my interdisciplinary orientation; my experience in research administration – all this was highly desired at Aarhus University,« she says to the University Post.

»My work was to be an asset for a university that strongly displays its qualities as an academic institution with a strong emphasis on internationalization, interdisciplinarity and communication of knowledge.«

The perfect place indeed. Reality turned out to be quite different, she says.

Not just Aarhus

»As a professor with ample experience in administration and academic politics, I quickly began to perceive structures and methods that in fact blocked and precluded the very qualities that should be enhanced at Aarhus University.«

Her featured comment on the University Post here was used to introduce a lecture by two speakers, Lars Christian Lassen of the Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, and US professor Jeffrey Kurtzman in May 2011.

»In this article, I focus on one issue that is particular to Danish universities and strongly comes forth at Aarhus University: the aim to give our students an education that is both excellent and prepares them for a job outside academia, « she says.

»According to statements from colleagues at other Danish universities, the basic problems are not, in fact, unique to Aarhus, and this is why the University Post has offered to publish it.«

Read her comment on the University Post here.

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