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Science minister wants to force students abroad

Minister opens an international can of worms by suggesting an obligatory semester abroad. Universities are not travel agents, says International Office

Danish Minister of Science and Technology, Charlotte Sahl-Madsen has suggested making study abroad obligatory for Danish university students.

A semester abroad should no longer be a choice, but a requirement, says the minister.

But the University of Copenhagen International Office and students are not in favour of compulsory travel.

Global awareness

With her suggestion, the Minister hopes to boost internationalisation. This is the way to economic growth and prosperity in Denmark she says.

»My great ambition is to educate graduates with a global awareness in Denmark. We must insist that the universities make sure the young people gain this awareness. They must travel,« says Charlotte Sahl-Madsen in an interview with the Danish daily Jyllandsposten.

More than just mobility

But internationalisation is not just about student mobility, says John E Andersen, director of international affairs at the University of Copenhagen’ International Office in an interview with the University Post.

»It is positive that the minister is highlighting the importance of internationalisation, but it is not only a question of mobility,« he says.

»Forcing people is not necessarily the most effective method.«

Internationalisation on Danish soil

There idea is to give students skills and knowledge that they can use in a globalised world, and this can be done in a number of ways that don’t involve leaving Danish soil, according to John E Andersen.

»We are not a travel agency. We feel that besides studying abroad, students can learn global skills in international companies or international study environments in Denmark, for example on courses taught in English where there are many international students.«

And for full-degree students from overseas studying in Denmark, it would be absurd if they were forced to go to yet another country for a semester, he points out.

Academic relevance is key

The Danish student organisation, the General Student Council are also sceptical of the minister’s suggestion:

»Forcing people is a bad idea. It is most important that it makes academic sense to go abroad,« says Mikkel Zeuthen, chairman.

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