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Denmark passes controversial restriction on degrees & re-organises Ministry

Its official, Denmark has passed a new law that significantly restricts higher education students from taking more than one degree at the same or lower level.

This new law, when announced in spring 2016, had been much debated in the higher education community, triggered an array of student protests, saw a petition of 77 000 signatures representing relevant actors, a 24-hour sit-in at the Danish Parliament and cumulated in a demonstration organised by the Danish Student Union (DSF). With the passing of the new law students wishing to take a second Bachelors or Masters degree will no longer be able to do so. The reasons restrictions have been introduced are of financial nature and follow a reduction of the Higher education budget and probably also for fear of too high unemployment rates for graduates. The government will set aside some of the savings, estimated at an annual 300 million Danish Kronor (DK) (about 14 million EUR), for an annual pool of 105 million DK (about 40 million EUR) to be used for raising quality in higher learning. Gained funds are to also to feed improvements in the country’s unemployment benefit area.

Exemptions from the rule are possible for health reasons impeding execution of one’s current job or if an extra education is sought out in a field where there is a clear lack of graduates for the job market. The government will draw up a list of such educational areas every second year. Local media also reports on proposals  floating around to allow graduates the possibility of pursuing a second degree under the condition that they pay tuition fees, and the potential for recently appointed  Danish Minister of Higher Education to exempt from the law, students who began their degree in 2016 until 2019.  Breaking news on 31. January came through the Danish radio, reporting the government to announce that they will relax the ban so that it will be possible to take an extra education after six years.

Moreover, the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science is re-organising itself. From January 1, changes in the set-up result in two existing agencies being shut down- The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Danish Agency for Higher Education - while two new have been formed. The new Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education will take on tasks that require expertise in research and education across all sectors and lay the foundation for advancing research and higher education quality, as well as promote internationalization. The Danish Agency for Institutions and Educational Grants has primary responsibility for institutions under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science including such bodies as public research foundations. It will manage funding of institutions, run the Danish students' Grants and Loans Scheme (SU) and pose as the main contact point for monitoring institutional targets and inspection.  The stipulated objective for this move is to ‘’strengthen the management of the ministry's tasks, to improve cohesion between education, research and innovation’’ and to a draw clearer division of responsibilities. 

Although addressing tax payers fears of sponsoring those looking to ride the wave of free education, the new reform can be anticipated to continue to reap critique.  Unpopular for its short-sightedness, key concerns are it’s societal impact for a country where education is free, for fuelling a climate of insecurity in the student body, restrictive effects on the freedom to shape academic and flexible career profiles - many of which signify fears for the erosion of a generous Danish ideal of life long learning. 

Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science (Press release) – New law restricting number of degrees (only in Danish) Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science (Press release) –Re-organised agencies