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Denmark: cut downs on study places for international students

Intense discussions are going on in Denmark, after the Ministry for Higher Education and Science decided to mandate universities to cut 1000 study places taught in English, as well as impose an indefinite cap that dictates that no more study places in English can be opened.

The Ministry’s actions are motivated by the fact that only one third of international students remain in the country 8 years after graduation and, therefore, have a positive contribution in the national finances. With this actions, the Ministry aims to reduce the number of international students in universities where there is a lower level of retention in the country after graduation.

Institutions, trade unions, the business sector and students are strongly against this reform. Their motivation is that international students do not represent a real economic burden to Denmark. In fact, recent numbers produced by the Ministry show that the average economic contribution of every international student is, in the long term, about 13.500 to 40.000 € per student. This is because, while it is true that two thirds of international graduates might not generate a direct return when it comes to -exclusively- national finances, the remaining third manages to contribute to an extent that makes having international students a valuable investment for the country.

“It is ridiculous that the Government has decided to go over universities’ autonomy to teach in English based on a false premise that international students are a loss for Denmark. We know international students represent an economic gain for the country and, most importantly, they represent an increase of quality in our institutions. We need universities where students have different perspectives and backgrounds” says Julian Lo Curlo, Executive Committee Member at the National Union of Students in Denmark (Danske Studerendes Fællesråd).

Opposers to the reduction on courses taught in English consider that the Ministry’s efforts should be placed on making it easier for international graduates to remain, instead of cutting down on the number of international students. In fact, tough Danish migration legislation represents a barrier for many graduates to remain in the country.

“We continuously meet international graduates who would like to remain in the country but that cannot do so given migration regulation. It is a paradox that on one side the Government wants more international graduates to remain, but at the same time, they build further barriers for them to do so. We need to ensure that remaining in the country after graduation is more accessible” says Julian Lo Curlo.


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