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Study environment prize goes to Pharma

It is all about getting graduates to stay in Denmark. This year’s International Study Environment Award goes to the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences

The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is working to get more international graduate students to stay in Denmark. For this, Helle S. Waagepetersen, head of studies at the Master’s programme, has been awarded the International Study Environment Award at this years Commemoration.

She is doing an important job, if you ask Danish politicians. Denmark is desperately trying to keep international graduate students in Denmark. The number of international students taking a full degree in Copenhagen has more than doubled since 2004. More than half of them return home after their studies, according to an article on the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences website.

We managed to reach Helle S. Waagepetersen of Pharma, by e-mail.

How do you ‘sell Denmark’ to international students?
»Most of our international students would actually like to stay in Denmark after graduation, at least for a few years. Denmark pretty much sells itself, so we do not have to sell Denmark to them. During their studies they have often come to like it here. They like the flat decision structure in Denmark and that they are given a high degree of responsibility at the University and on the labour market. They like Copenhagen as a calm, clean and safe city and that there are so many interesting jobs in the pharmaceutical industry in Copenhagen.«

You started several initiatives in collaboration with the International Office at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Can you describe these?

»Three factors are important in getting a job in Denmark: 1. Having a good network. 2. Having relevant work experience 3. Learning some Danish. We launched an interlinked series of career and networking events for international students. The idea is to activate the students to create academic and social networks and to get relevant work or research experience while studying. We can not serve jobs or networks to them ‘on a silver platter’, so to speak, but we can urge them to do it themselves.«

»We started the initiatives in September 2011 so we still do not know what the effect will be.«

One of the nitiatives has been creating student jobs, and company visits in Denmark for Master’s degree students. How well have Danish industry and businesses received international students?

»The pharmaceutical industry is positive towards receiving students and graduates who are talented, bright, and motivated, regardless of their nationality. Many jobs, however, require a knowledge of the Danish language and many jobs are distributed through networks and this makes it more difficult for internationals.«

With your work you say, that you strive to create equal opportunities for Danish and international students after graduation. What exactly does this mean? What are the inequalities today?

»The inequalities are for instance that many international students and graduates do not speak Danish and that they do not have a large network. We help our students take the initiatives that will make them equally attractive for the Danish labour market. We also help them formulate what their strong points are in comparison with Danish graduates.«

Together with the honour of winning the ‘International Study Environment’ award you received a cash prize of 100.000 DKK. How will the money be spent?

»Over the next couple of years we will use the money for instance on food and drinks for networking events, remuneration of external experts for information meetings, and transportation for company visits.«

You work with international students at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Can you give some advice from your experience for international students in other faculties?

»Be active and persistent! Show motivation! Create a Danish and international network! Contact people who can help you! The worst thing that can happen is that you get a ‘No’.«

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