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Master's reform — Negotiations are heating up over a reform to Danish master's degrees. But the government and the universities are still far apart. And universities have to make a choice between a rock and hard place if they want to make concessions to the government's ambitions, according to the UCPH prorector.
»We’re trying to tell the government that their goals for universities can be achieved in other ways than by radically transforming our entire educational system.«
This is the message from Kristian Cedervall Lauta, Prorector for Education at the University of Copenhagen, when he comments on the Danish Universities interest group’s recently published proposals for a master’s reform.
The universities do not want to shorten the master’s programmes
Prorector for Education, Kristian Cedervall Lauta
The proposal has been signed by all Danish universities and contains three specific proposals for a reform of universities which, according to the interest group’s own reckoning, »makes it possible to maintain the high quality of study programmes and at the same time create jobs and business.«
The proposals are for a restructuring of the master’s degree programmes so that approximately 20 per cent will be vocational, business-oriented, master’s programmes and approximately 10 per cent will be shorter programmes. And the Danish Universities group also proposes that the intake of new students be reduced by five to ten per cent compared to the 2021 level.
»We believe, fundamentally, that universities are already working well. But if it is imperative for the incumbent government to ensure a larger supply of graduates for the labour market and a greater contribution to the Danish treasury, the solution by the Danish Universities group is preferable to what the government itself has suggested,« says Kristian Cedervall Lauta.
The universities have always, fundamentally, been against shortening study programmes. Now, universities are suggesting it – how does this makes any sense?
»It is a choice between evils. The universities do not want to shorten the master’s programmes. But we acknowledge that we are part of a democracy, and if politicians insist that we need to reform our sector, then we appeal for a less intrusive agreement,« Lauta says.
DANish MASTER’S REFORM
In March 2023 the current government coalition presented the reform proposal ‘Prepared for the Future 1’ outlining significant changes to future master’s degree programmes.
The main points included a shortening of up to half of the current master’s study places, an expansion of the current vocational master’s degree programme, and an increase in the number of international students.
Since then, a number of stakeholders, both organisations and political parties, have come up with alternatives to the government’s proposal.
The negotiations on the master’s reform are currently in the final phase.
Even though the negotiations on the upcoming reform of the master’s degree programme are ongoing, not much has seeped out of the negotiating room.
A leaked memo on Monday 5 June revealed that the government has adjusted its original idea to shorten up to half of the current graduate education places. This is according to the news site Altinget.
According to the memo, the government’s new proposal is that 36 per cent of master’s degree programmes should be converted to either shorter study programmes or so-called business graduates. And the total admissions to universities is to be reduced by 5.5-10 per cent.
But these numbers are still far too high, according to Kristian Cedervall Lauta.
»The government’s new proposal is still far too intrusive. Even though we hear that they have adjusted the numbers slightly, it is still a very, very big reform that they are proposing. I hope that they will consider adjusting this downwards,« the prorector says.
The memo also states that the Danish government has already identified which subject areas have to shorten the most master’s student places. According to the proposal, 35 per cent of master’s degree programmes at the Faculty of Humanities are to be shortened, while technical master’s degree programmes have been left as they are.
The government’s new proposal is still far too intrusive.
Prorector for Education, Kristian Cedervall Lauta
»It saddens me that the government has already made a selection among academic fields. This eliminates all the space for us to be able to find good solutions across the sector. And it gives the impression that politicians do not trust us to implement the agreement in the most appropriate way.«
The universities and the government are still far away from each other. Do you think that the final reform will turn out well in the end?
»The universities are not a part of the negotiations. And if we were, I think it would be difficult to land an agreement that all parties would be satisfied with,« says the prorector, and adds:
»But right now, the fact is that a political agreement will be achieved within the next month. When it comes, we will, of course, make sure that as much expertise and quality as possible comes out of it, within the framework we are given. It is a responsibility that we, of course, take upon us.«