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Reform — According to the Danish Minister for Higher Education, thousands of international students will be on their way to the Danish universities of the future. Prorector for Education at UCPH Kristian Cedervall Lauta likes the idea. But it does worry him a bit.
Minister for Higher Education and Science Christina Egelund has just had what she calls a wake-up call.
Far more international students are to be admitted to universities than the government originally envisaged in the comprehensive master’s degree reform that was agreed in the summer of 2022. This is according to Christina Egelund on the media site Berlingske.
»We are at that point today where we have to be grateful every time a young person from somewhere else in the world looks towards Denmark. We have a big need for them, and there is fierce competition for qualified young people and qualified labour,« she said to Berlingske.
With the reform of the master’s degree programmes, a political majority agreed to increase the number of international students in Denmark. Specifically, the universities can set up 1,100 master’s degree spaces in English each year in the period 2024-2028. This number will then be increased to 2,500 from the year 2029.
But it is not enough according to Christina Egelund. She cannot yet put a number on exactly how many international students there will be.
It is gratifying that the minister now proposes opening the doors to even more international students, according to Kristian Cedervall Lauta, Prorector for Education at the University of Copenhagen.
I think the universities should be set free to admit all those who it is academically meaningful to admit
Prorector for Education, Kristian Cedervall Lauta
»More international students bring greater diversity to our student population, and they bring new energy to our teaching environment with all their new perspectives and backgrounds,« he says.
In addition to contributing positively to the teaching environment, more international students at Danish universities will also help strengthen international university collaborations, according to Lauta.
»We are working to ensure that more of the international students choose to stay in Denmark and work after graduation. And those who don’t will go home and tell amazing stories about Copenhagen and the University of Copenhagen,« he says.
Universities have for a long time wanted to open their doors to the international community.
If it were up to you, how many international students should we admit to Danish universities?
»I think the universities should be set free to admit all those who it is academically meaningful to admit,« says Lauta and adds:
»We probably won’t be allowed to do that. But we welcome the political promise to admit more international students, and this includes through the new vocational business master’s degree programme schemes.«
In the new master’s degree reform a total of 30 per cent of the current master’s programmes are to be reorganised. 10 per cent are to be converted into shorter master’s degree programmes of 75 ECTS, while 20 per cent are to be converted into business master’s degree programmes.
Christina Egelund says to the media Berlingske that she sees an opportunity to admit more international students through the new business master’s scheme programmes, because the students do not get the generous Danish SU study grant under this scheme.
»SU is the biggest obstacle. Today, there is a ceiling on the number of foreigners who can receive SU. And before they take a look at it from a political perspective, it will still be quite limited how many international students we can admit,« Lauta says.
As prorector I worry about how we in practice will be able to advertise cool jobs and business collaborations for so many international students in practice
Prorector for Education, Kristian Cedervall Lauta
Some say that the vocational business master’s degree programmes will be more oriented towards the Danish market than abroad. Will it be attractive for international students to do a business master’s in Denmark?
»This could be true, and the potential is therefore probably a little more limited than the minister suggests,« says the prorector.
»But you can only hope that you make it attractive for international students to work in Denmark by offering them a vocational business master’s degree programme,« he adds.
Time will tell whether this will be the case. Approximately one in three international students choose to stay in Denmark after graduation. This was according to the media Berlingske in January 2022.
It will be a huge practical task to incorporate thousands of international students into new business master’s degree programmes, according to Kristian Cedervall Lauta.
»As prorector I worry about how we in practice will be able to advertise cool jobs and business collaborations for so many international students in practice.«
But according to Lauta, there are also advantages in offering international students the vocational business master’s degrees:
»You ensure that international students are integrated into the Danish labour market right from the start and thereby contribute to the Danish state [as taxpayers, ed.]. In return, they get a free education and a good job. There are good things in this, so we have to hope that it can also be done in reality.«