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Students surprised by what their education programme requires

Survey — New data shows that more than half of newly enrolled students find their study programmes more demanding than they expected.

For years now various assessments have shown that students feel more pressured and stressed than ever before. Now, the Danish Evaluation Institute (EVA) has asked a number of newly enrolled students about their experience of the study requirements.

This data

The memo is based on questionnaire data and data from Statistics Denmark.

The survey covers all higher education programs that enroll students through the Danish coordinated enrollment system.

Read more here.

In what EVA calls a mini-analysis, they asked if students experience it as more or less demanding to study a higher education programme than they expected before studying.

The memo concerns 10,229 students admitted to a higher education programme in the summer of 2016, who were still active students in February 2017.

Main results

• Half a year into the programme, a little more than every second student answered that their education programme was more demanding than they had expected before they started. Only 15 per cent responded that the education programme was less demanding than expected.

• No matter whether the students come to the programme with a high or low grade point average, it makes no difference: The study programme is experienced as just as demanding.

• Students with a high study intensity – i.e. those who spend more hours on classes and preparation – are more likely to experience their education programme as more demanding than they expected.

• Students who experience their education programme as either more or less demanding than they expected, are almost twice more likely to consider dropping out, compared to students who find that the study programme is as expected.

Students’ chairman: Make students better prepared for uni

High schools should be better at preparing students with university-related skills, like being able to take on a critical view of the material, says Jens Philip Yazdani, chairman of the high school student interest group Danske Gymnasieelevers Sammenslutning.

»Secondary schools have the task of preparing people so they not only can do what the teacher asks for, but can also become reflective, curious and critical,« he says. But this is not always the way the teaching is organized.

»You often end up with people who are very good at answering specific questions, but at university it is also about asking the good questions yourself.«

Jens Philip Yazdani says that secondary level schools can also better adapt to university expectations in other ways.

»It is often just a single trip to a study programme, and it might even be voluntary whether you go or not. Or maybe it is a tour of a study programme or a study day. This may not give sufficient insight into what it means to carry out a study programme,« he says.

»They should extend the student counselling and the internship courses, maybe even allow several internships.«

Widespread unhappiness

Whatever the reasons are, experts reckon that students’ problems with stress and unhappiness are getting worse.

At a conference on student stress problems held at the Danish parliament building Christiansborg in October 2017, chairman of the Danish Psychological Association Eva Secher Mathiasen said that children and adolescents are more unhappy today than 20 years ago.

»We continue to produce people who are not happy with their lives because we are doing something structurally wrong. There are greater things at stake than what an individual, a family or a university can fix,« Mathiasen said.

Both lawyer and economist trade union Djøf and the Danish Association of Master’s and PhDs DM have found stress to be an increasing problem among students. DM has concluded that every second student ‘quite often’ or ‘very often’ feels nervous and stressed.

According to Djøf’s survey, 59 per cent of students in the social science and business programmes report stress in their everyday life, leading to symptoms like heart palpitations and insomnia.

Stress is also a persistent problem for Djøf graduates.

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