The u-turn comes as Denmark faces labour shortages that are costing the country billions, according to the Danish Chamber of Commerce.
In 2021, Denmark’s Social Democrats and several other parties entered into an agreement to reduce the number of courses offered in English at higher education institutions, after concerns that spending on foreign students was getting “out of control”.
But now the country’s education and science minister, a member of the Moderates party, has called for a policy reversal.
“The competition for qualified young people and labour is fierce”
“We should be grateful when a young person from abroad looks Denmark’s way. Our need is great, and the competition for qualified young people and labour is fierce,” Christina Egelund told Danish press.
Earlier this year, news reforms were introduced which allow universities to open 1,100 English language places each year until 2029, but Egelund believes these don’t go far enough. She stopped short of indicating how many places should be opened.
Rasmus Stoklund, leader of the Social Democrats party, commented that international students choosing working in Denmark is good for the country but that international education should not be used to “circumvent” immigration policy.
Egelund added that the focus should be on where labour is required most urgently.
Multiple labour associations have called for the government to change its policy on international students.
A report released by the engineering association IDA earlier this year found that international graduates contribute on average more than two million DKK (USD $282,312) to the Danish economy in the 13 years after they graduate, including those who leave Demark after studying.
Similarly, research by education think-tank DEA found the proportion of international graduates in Denmark working in STEM-related fields, where it is generally difficult to recruit talent, has “grown significantly” over the past ten years.
“There’s room for a concerted national effort to both attract and retain top-tier students, especially given the intensifying global competition for international students,” said Tobias Høygaard Lindeberg, deputy director of DEA.
He added that there is an “ambition” to encourage international students to take part-time four-year vocational Master’s programs designed for working professionals (known as “erhvervskandidater”).
“This would mean that international Master’s students would need employment, likely part-time, with a company while studying,” he said. “The feasibility of this arrangement remains a point of uncertainty in the proposed reform.”