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Denmark has been debating for a number of years the costs of educating foreign students for Danish taxpayers, having introduced already in 2006 tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students. Two recent developments add fuel to this debate.
First, following a February ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the eligibility of foreigners to receive student grants and loans in Denmark, Danish taxpayers now face an additional bill for foreign students of around DKK 200 million (approx. EUR 27 million) per annum. In line with the ECJ decision, the Danish Ministry of Higher Education announced earlier this month that the EU citizens who were granted the status of “worker” before having started their studies in Denmark were eligible to receive social welfare and Danish student grants and loans, under the same conditions as domestic students. Previously, several hundred EU students who applied for student financing in Denmark were denied this support, on the grounds that they had entered Denmark as “workers” and not as “students”.
The student support system, currently under review, costs Denmark about DKK 19 billion/year (approx. EUR 2.5 billion). The above mentioned figure spanning from the application of the ECJ ruling was calculated based on the number of EU students who had applied for this type of support, but whose applications were suspended until the court’s decision was taken, i.e. 342 students. While agreeing with the legality of this measure under EU law, many national actors fear that this decision will make the Danish student financial aid system simply untenable in the long run (at least in its present form), as it might lead to the country being flooded by EU students that want their education bill to be picked-up by someone else.
Second, the Danish universities have just been announced that they are facing fines totalling DKK 97.5 million (approx. EUR 13 million) for having accepted more foreign exchange students than they sent abroad. The Ministry accused the higher education institutions in Denmark of having thus breached the national regulations stipulating that the number of incoming exchange students should be equal to the number of outgoing students. As was to be expected, the institutions find the imposition of fines extremely unjust, especially when one of the nationally-set goals is to make Danish universities more international. The higher education minister, Morten Østergaard, announced that the goal is not to limit inflows, but rather to encourage the Danish universities to increase their student outflows. The minister has nevertheless announced that he is considering revising these regulations.