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Universities, business surprised by Danish research cuts

With cuts in funding for research and education, the Danish government's 2016 budget proposal is unpopular with universities, students and even the business lobby

[Updated 5 October 2015]

Danish budget plans for the next year include cuts to research on top of already announced cuts to education.

The budget will cut research funding by DKK 1.4 billion annually off the DKK 22 billion research budget. Universities and schools are also to cut their annual spending by two percent for the next four years – a reduction of DKK 500 million compared to last year.

The government wishes to tighten up state finances and invest money in the health sector (especially medicine costs) and support agriculture and business. The government is also investing in removing the tax on the NOx pollutants.

“It’s a step in the wrong direction. We rely on our minds in Denmark and research is an investment in the future with guaranteed returns. Danish companies need research to develop the business models of tomorrow. The education sector can be optimised in other ways,” says Jens Klarskov, director of the Danish Chamber of Commerce to Danish-language university news site Uniavisen.dk.

Focus more on cancer treatment

The Danish Council for Independent Research will lose 30 per cent of its allocation, which is being reduced from DKK 1.2 bn to DKK 800m, and the Innovation Fund Denmark will lose DKK 650m or 41 per cent of its 2015 allocation.

The University of Copenhagen has said that when these cutbacks have full effect in 2018, the university will have suffered a 5 per cent cut to its total budget.

“In reality, this will mean mass lay-offs in Danish project funded research, in particular hitting postdocs and others in temporary positions,” according to magazine Forskerforum as reported on University World News.

The Danish Academy of Technical Sciences says that “the budget for 2016 is unmasking ‘research minister’ Esben Lunde Larsen as a very weak minister who has not managed to ring-fence his area,” according to University World News.

More cancer treatment, less foreign aid

The state already invests less per student than previously with funding per student falling by approximately 11 percent since 2010 from DKK 78,000 to DKK 69,200 in 2015. Now the question is whether or not the proposed 2016 cuts will become a reality. The government needs the support party, The Danish People’s Party (DF), to have a majority. So far, surprisingly, DF has argued against the proposal:

“I’m surprised that the government has announced cuts of this magnitude,” says Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, the party’s spokesperson for education and research to Uniavisen.dk. He believes it works against the government’s own aim to create a funding pool to stimulate growth and employment in Denmark by investing in research and new technology.

The government will set aside DKK 2.4 bn for health care in 2016 with a focus on chronic patients, cancer and dementia treatments, according to Seven59.dk. Apart from the cuts to research it will be funded by cuts to foreign aid from the current 0.87 per cent of GDP to just 0.7 per cent, the minimum UN requirement.

Minister: Economy in worse shape

It will also promote initiatives to promote growth in under-developed areas throughout the country.

Danish Minister of Finance Claus Hjort Frederiksen stressed there would be a tight rein on spending due to the previous Social Democrat-led government leaving behind an economy in a far worse state than it claimed ahead of the election.

He said it would have been a ‘catastrophe’ if Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her ‘friends’ had won the election as they would have been forced to backtrack on all their policies, according to Seven59.dk.

See the budget numbers in the fact box right.

universitypost@adm.ku.dk

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