University Post
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Will anything change? Yes it probably will, say analysts

ELECTION 2015 - Ambassadors, analysts and students talked about the future of the Danish welfare state at the University Post / Seven59 election forum

“Will anything ever change?”

This was the main question at the University Post / Seven59 election forum on Monday, and it was put to the panel of invited analysts by the Editor of Seven59 Howard Knowles.

After all, centrist coalition governments have been trying to maintain the welfare state as it is for a generation, or as the Social Democrats’ new slogan, “the Denmark you know.”

In attendance were ambassadors and diplomats from foreign countries in Copenhagen, analysts, researchers and students from the University of Copenhagen. And on the panel of analysts were Jakob Buksti, a former Social Democrat government minister, the director of the right-of-centre think-tank CEPOS Martin Ågerup and Casper Gronemann, a left-wing political analyst and blogger.

Much ado about … nothing?

Things will indeed change after the election, the panelists agreed.

Casper Gronemann argued that, if the Social Democrats continue to hold power, they will need to find a way to sustain the welfare state, and that this will be forever changing due to the forces of globalization.

The Election Forum drew a capacity crowd to one of the most beautiful University of Copenhagen halls

Martin Ågerup of CEPOS argued that the future for Denmark will likely, and necessarily, include a continuation of the cutbacks to the welfare state that we’ve seen over the last few decades.

Foreigners, foreigners, foreigners

Immigration, refugess and xenophopia were central topics in the University Post / Seven59 debate, just as they continue to be in Danish politics. But the analysts in the panel disagreed about the details.

Mike Young, the Editor of University Post who was one of the moderators, held up a full page advert by the Social Democrats to the assembly. On the advert a Social Democrat boast about the party’s tough-on-refugees policy.

Casper Gronemann: “The left parties have made their own beds, and have ignored their core voters … Denmark needs to work on how to insert immigrants into the system”

Jakob Buksti admitted that he was not in favour of the Social Democratic government’s new stricter asylum policy campaign. Casper Gronemann on the other hand praised it, noting that the issue of social dumping (employers using cheaper labour from abroad) in Denmark is something that needs to be addressed.

Swing voters tactics

Casper Gronemann said that “the left parties have made their own beds, and have ignored their core voters,” and that indeed, “Denmark needs to work on how to insert immigrants into the system”.

Martin Ågerup and the two other panelists then discussed the issue of different backgrounds, ambitions and motivations of different immigrant populations. It is all about Denmark’s role in integrating immigrants and incorporating them into Danish society and the labour market, the panelists agreed, with Jacob Buksti using the analogy of the Danes being a ‘tribe’ with foreigners fighting their way to acceptance.

“Swing voters are highly concerned with immigration issues,” Buksti noted. And it is precisely because it is the swing voters that parties are fishing for, that immigration issues continue to be part of the campaigns, Martin Ågerup added.

…Students keep “making it too far”. This results in students getting through two years and then dropping out. This is bad for the university, for the country, and for the student…

Study progress

Danish students get generous study grants, and are relatively slow to graduate through university. The Danish government is implementing a so-called Study Progress Reforms to amend this, but not without resistance from students and administrators. The moderator Mike Young asked the panel of analysts a rhetorical question:

“Are Danish students spoilt and lazy?”

The panelists were in agreement that some change to the present university system was necessary.

Jacob Buksti, the former Social Democrat minister, now teaches politics full time at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad which has predominantly American students, and is external censor at the University of Copenhagen.

Students keep “making it too far”, in the present system, he explained, to the agreement of the other two panelists. This results in students getting through two years and then dropping out. This is bad for the university, for the country, and for the student, he said.

Stop coming to class after two weeks

Casper Gronemann finished his own master’s thesis in March 2015. He recounted his own study experience to the audience: The last semester he attended class two hours a week. The rest was on his own time, he said.

The forum attracted both politics-interested students, scientists and diplomats

Jacob Buksti said that the question of attendance sheds light on some of the issues at stake. Attendance in American universities or America-style university programmes such as DIS in Copenhagen is mandatory – but not in Danish universities.

American students will keep coming to class, because attendance is important to them, said Buksti. But you won’t see Danish students after two weeks, until the exam, he added. In the end, the type of student that succeeds is different, he said: “American students can memorise the answers, and Danish students can come up with the solutions.”

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