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The University of Copenhagen was informed of plans to cut budgets over the next few years, says Danish Minister of Science. This is in response to a letter in which Ralf Hemmingsen, rector of the university, claims otherwise
While Rector Ralf Hemmingsen says that the University of Copenhagen has been wrong-footed by a political agreement entailing budget cuts, the Danish Minister of Science, Charlotte Sahl-Madsen says that it should not have come as a sudden surprise.
Rector Ralf Hemmingsen of the University of Copenhagen sent out a letter to students and staff on Wednesday 26 May, expressing his surprise at cutbacks the Danish universities are facing under a new agreement the government has reached with the Danish People’s Party to ‘reconstruct the Danish economy’.
»The new bill means that the universities’ education and research have a surprising and considerable reduction to look forward to in the years to come,« Ralf Hemmingsen wrote, estimating that the cutbacks will cost the University of Copenhagen somewhere between 400 and 700 jobs.
But apparently the surprise is mutual. According to the minister, the University of Copenhagen has known about the reductions for 8 months – the cuts were part of original negotiations for a new government budget.
She does not wish to comment on Hemmingsen’s estimate that up to 700 members of staff will be fired.
»Our aim to use one per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research will still hold true, and we stick to the agreement to give universities a lift of historical proportions by investing DKK 6 billion in laboratories,« she says.
A previous government decision to use one percent of GDP on research, even in times of crisis, will cost universities DKK 200 million in 2011 and DKK 748 million in 2012.
So will the universities get the money that was cut back if the GDP is reduced by less than expected?
»Yes, of course. If GDP increases, subsidies will rise again as well.« the minister says, stressing that the government is spending more than one percent of the GDP in 2011 and 2012 on education; that they are ‘more than meeting the target’.
Ralf Hemmingsen says to the Danish newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, that the university will be able save DKK 100 million by cutting the numbers of accepted PhDs by 200 people, but that this would be catastrophic for research.
»Why Ralf Hemmingsen wishes to close PhD positions is beyond me,« she says. »If the University of Copenhagen educates fewer PhD’s they will not receive as much funding.«
She adds that it won’t be possible to take money from the research account to stop leaks elsewhere.
It is the administration of the university that faces the cuts, Charlotte Sahl-Madsen emphasizes, adding that the university cannot feign surprise at cuts at this stage. To cut public bureaucracy has long been planned by the Danish government.
Her ministry is already in talks with universities about how to save money on the administration, the minister says.
»The government has no interest in messing with funds for education and research,« Sahl-Madsen says.
Jørgen Honoré, director of the University of Copenhagen has nearly finished completing the current administrative cutbacks of DKK 125 million, and says to our Danish sister publication – Universitetsavisen – that he finds it hard to see how they can get any more juice out of the lemon at this point.
The minister disagrees:
»The University of Copenhagen, like the 7 other universities (in Denmark… ed.) can find further ways to save money on administration,« says Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, who believes that there are many untapped options in digitalising administrative procedures.
»We are living up to our goal of using one percent of GDP on research,« Charlotte Sahl-Madsen reiterates. »The only piece of news is that we’ve added actual sums to an expected optimisation in 2011 and 2012.«
»I maintain that the university knew about all the other numbers in advance,« she concludes.