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Denmark: new government, better times for higher education?

Announcements of the new Danish government have raised hopes in Danish higher education. The new centre-left alliance led by the Social Democrats is headed by Mette Frederiksen, at 41 the country’s youngest ever Prime Minister. Her government succeeds the conservative coalition of former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. The Rasmussen government had introduced annual cuts in higher education of 2% per year and taken measures to limit the inflow of foreign students in English-taught programmes.

The hopes of the academic community are based on an 18-page agreement outlining a “new direction for Denmark”. Even though the document covers different policy areas, higher education figures in it and, particularly, internationalisation. The document announces an end of the policy to limit the study of foreign nationals in English-medium instruction, particularly in areas where Danish business lacks highly skilled employees and it creates prospects for the retainment of international graduates from Danish higher education institutions. The annual cuts are also to become the snows of yesteryear.

University World News, on whose reporting this article is mainly based, quotes Jesper Langergaard, the CEO of Universities Denmark, the country’s rectors’ conference, as saying “We are now looking into a future where annual cutbacks are a thing of the past”. And he adds that “the parties have committed themselves to removing the regulation on international students coming to Denmark. This is very important to us. International students are a great asset to our universities and they contribute to the development of our companies after graduation.” However, Universities Denmark showed itself less happy with the apparent intention to leave spending for research and innovation at 1% of GDP.

The new Minister for Education and Science, Ane Halsborg-Jørgensen, will be in charge of implementing the new policies. The 36-year-young Social Democrat is a political scientist by education. She has been a Member of Parliament since 2011 and until now was the Social Democrats’ spokesperson for children and social affairs.  

Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science