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Proposals: Convert Danish student grants to loans, cap grade requirements

A one-year master's degree programme, a new admissions system, and the famed Danish student grants converted to loans on master’s degree programmes. These are some of the recommendations that a commission presented Wednesday.

It is hard to determine what is the most sensational:

Is it the recommendation that the generous Danish student grants SU be converted to loans on the master’s? Is it the proposal that grade requirements for admissions may not exceed a ‘9’? Or is it that almost half of students should study a one-year master’s degree programme instead of a two-year one?

The commission for second generation reforms

Commission appointed by the current Danish social democrat government. Tasked with new reforms to address the challenges facing the Danish economy.

According to the government, the commission is to make proposals on increasing employment and reducing inequality. With a focus on training and upgrading qualifications.

Professor of Economics Nina Smith from Aarhus University is chair, and the Prorector for Research at the University of Copenhagen, David Dreyer Lassen, is also a member of the commission.

The other members are:

Philipp Schröder, economics professor, Aarhus University
Per B. Christensen, chair of the Accreditation Council
Jørgen Søndergaard, senior researcher at VIVE
Jon Kvist, Professor of European Public Policy and Welfare at Roskilde University
Agnete Raaschou-Nielsen, chairman of the board of Arkil Holding and Danske Invest


One thing is certain: The so-called Commission for Second Generation Reforms, which presented recommendations at the IT University of Copenhagen Wednesday will lead to far-reaching changes in the Danish higher education system.

Changes that will affect the pathways students take at university. Not least in the social sciences and humanities, where only about one in three students will be able to do the current two-year master’s degree.

The universities, on the other hand, will get more money to boost the quality of their programmes, and graduates will be given life-long opportunities to continue and further educate themselves – free of charge.

Here is an overview of the most significant recommendations from the commission:

·     A legal right to a two-year master’s programme should be abolished

·     A number of one-year master’s degree programmes should be set up instead. The commission proposes that around half of all students should take a one-year master’s degree.

·    In the social sciences and humanities, only 30 per cent of bachelor’s degree students will be able to take a two-year master’s programme. In other subject areas, 70 per cent of students will be able to take a two-year master’s degree programme.

·    Increased use of the four-year business master’s programme, where students can do a master’s degree programme in parallel with a job. It should be possible to do a one-year master’s degree as a two-year business master’s degree.

·    The Danish student grant SU is to be converted to a loan on the master’s degree programme. Students should be able to borrow up to approximately DKK 12,500 a month.

·    The universities get more money to improve the quality of the study programmes.

·    Lifelong opportunities for free further education

·    The admissions system is to be changed, so that grade requirements for admissions to a degree programme never exceeds 9.0 on the Danish grade system. There will, in other words, no longer be inflated admission grade requirements like the ones we have for example on the psychology and medicine programme at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). Instead, admission tests should be used, where the 9.0 requirement is not sufficient.

These are all proposals, not adopted reforms. The question is now to what extent the politicians in the Danish parliament share the commission’s views on the study programmes of the future.

If they listen to the recommendations, they will make a lasting impression on the Danish educational system.