Last August, the Danish government reduced the number of places on certain English language programmes at six of the country’s eight universities. International graduates were returning home to work after graduating, representing a loss for the country.
Almost one year on, the move appears to be repelling international students from applying to schools in the country.
According to the recent 2019 International Student Survey by QS, 42 percent of prospective international students said they would be less likely to study in Denmark as a result of the announcement. The survey also revealed that 40 percent had plans to stay in Denmark for six months or more on a post-study work visa or for further study.
International students from all higher education programmes contribute between DKK100,000 and 350,000 (US$15,222-53,2777) per student on average to the Danish economy in their lifetime. Master graduates contribute the most.
The move was based on a study by the Ministry of Education and Science which found that four out of ten students leave the country as soon as they have their graduation papers in hand. More than 40 percent (42 percent) of graduates from English language master’s programmes have left Denmark within two years of graduating. Only one third continued to work in Denmark.
“The majority” of those on English language and Bachelor of Engineering programmes were also found to return to their home countries upon graduation.
“These students’ education is funded by the Danish taxpayer and about half of them receive SU grants during part, or all, of their studies. However, not enough of them are using their education in the Danish labour market afterwards, and therefore represent a large cost to Danish society, as they are educated for the benefit of labour markets in other countries,” the government said in a press release.
The study also found that two out of three international students do not contribute to its economy in their lifetime, an expense for Denmark as its education is funded by the Danish taxpayer and about half receive grants.
To solve this problem, the minister then announced that the number of places on English language university and Bachelor of Engineering education programmes will be reduced by a total of approximately 1000-1200. Initiatives to retain and transfer students to the Danish workforce were introduced.
While this shows Denmark’s determination to retain skilled graduates, QS notes that cutting the number places may not have been the best move:
“As one of the top five countries in Europe that offer English language university [programmes], it’s clear that Denmark is determined to retain its skilled graduates, but they may see international student recruitment fall with these cuts.
Danish students studying these English language courses are paying the price for the move. Danish newspaper Information last November published these two headlines on the cut, resulting in several master degree programmes to close: Danish for stupidity, and Danish People’s Party wants fewer foreign students. Now universities are closing down these popular courses.
According to University World News, affected courses were in fields that were in-demand among the Danish workforce, such as climate change, biotechnology, financing and innovation and IT.
“Is it not much more costly [for Denmark] to reduce the number of both Danish and international candidates in fields for which there is a great demand in Denmark?” the newspaper asked.
Speaking to University World News, Director of Universities Denmark, the Danish rectors’ conference said: “This shows some very unfortunate consequences of the ministry’s actions. Instead of reducing the number of international students at Danish universities, our focus should be on how we can be better at retaining them in Denmark after graduation.”