25. June 2021 was a day that raised controversy among many internationals and Danes. Social media of international communities blasted with news about the new ruling: everyone sharing their for or against opinions, with the majority blaming the government for this decision and Danes showing support for the community of international students.
The new ruling implies that the majority of English-taught programs from academies and university-colleges will be reduced significantly starting summer 2022.
So how did this come to happen...again? To find out we have to take a look in the past.
It started in 2013
Did you know that Danish students receive around 6000 kr per month (before taxes) for just being enrolled in a higher education? This state student grant (or SU) acts as a financial support for a student’s living expenses. And in 2013 the European Union decided that EU/EAA students should receive similar treatment (equal status as Danes) when it comes to SU .
Thus, under the EU ruling of 2013, foreign students can now have a claim to the grant, provided that they work a minimum of 43 hours each month (or 10-12 hours each week). Apart from having a claim to SU grant, they are also entitled to receive the state student loan, or SU-loan.
Initially, the state expected that the SU budget for international students should not exceed 442 mil. kr., a rather realistic amount...or is it? (The Local, 2020)
In 2015, Denmark stepped up foreign student recruitment and established a new Code of Conduct that would encourage international students to choose Denmark for their higher education.
Danish higher education institutions wish to improve and strengthen international cooperation and promote Denmark as an attractive high-quality place of education for international students. - excerpt from the Code of Conduct (2015)
Surprisingly enough, cuts in the education budget came in parallel with the new Code of Conduct. (ICEF Monitor, 2015)
How it developed
Let’s see what has happened since 2013.
While in 2010 there were approximately 300 EU students that received SU, the amount skyrocketed with the 2013 EU ruling, until 13.900 foreign students claimed the grant in 2019.
Amount of EU-citizens considered as migrant workers and that thus have the right to receive SU (Danske Universiteter, 2020)
Remember the budget the Parliament agreed upon in 2013 for SU-spending for foreign students? It turns out that in 2018, 513 mil. kr. were spent on SU for internationals, while the amount increases every year with few more mil. kroner. (The Local, 2020)
And that is not a surprise given that the majority of foreign students come from European countries (45% in 2020!).
Something to remember is also that EU/EAA students do not pay for higher education in Denmark, while the ones outside EU/EAA area do.
Foreign higher education students in Denmark in 2020, by region of origin (Statista.com)
SU spending not the only problem
The mere SU-expenses for EU nationals, were not the only cause that nudged the government to reduce the number of English-taught study programs...and 2021 is not the only year it happened.
In 2017, almost 28% of study spots at certain English-taught programs in academies and university colleges have been cut down. This amounts to about 1700 study places.
In 2018 there were further cuts of English-study places in universities and Bachelor of Engineering programs, this time around 1200. (Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2018).
The Ministry of Higher Education and Science blames this on the fact that many international students (approx. 42%) return to their home countries after they graduate from their Danish education, while only about one third of them actually remain and become employed. This means that too many internationals do not contribute to the Danish economy and leave home with a degree “funded by the Danish taxpayers’ money”. (The Local, 2018)
Here are some statistics concerning employment status of English-speaking graduates in the second year after graduation. (Danske Universiteter, 2020)
Yellow-departed; Red-outside the labor market; Green-unemployed, Blue-employed
In this regard, the initiatives that ensure international students remain in Denmark after graduation were re-evaluated, as well as the quality of English-taught programs. (Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2018).
Reduction of English-programs in 2021
Now that we have some background information, let’s see what happened this time around.
The SU expenditures for EU/EAA students has increased considerably in recent years. From the original 2013 SU budget stating that the “SU expenses should not exceed 442 million kroner”, the amount has been way overspent and is now expected to reach 576 mil. kr. as early as 2025. And that is despite the previous attempts to reduce study spots for English-speaking students. It has, thus, been agreed that in order to reduce SU expenditure, the admissions at English-taught programs should be cut down.
The political parties involved in the agreement were the Liberal party, the Social Democrats, the Conservatives, the Liberal Alliance, the Danish People’s party and the Socialist People's party.
The focus of this reduction are the English-taught programs in business academies and university colleges. That is because 72% of students at these institutions are English-speaking, while out of these, only 21% manage to find jobs in Denmark after graduation.
Some programs will still remain, as the parliament has agreed not to touch those with a high employment rate after graduation, as well as unique programs or programs highly-relevant at a regional level. After the reduction, a total of approx. 650 English-study spots will remain available at these institutions. (Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2021)
Here are the programs that will still be available for English-speaking students.