According to a study by the Ministry of Education and Science, 42% of graduates from English-language master’s programs have left Denmark within two years of completing their studies, with about a third remaining in the Danish workforce after two years.
“We cannot solve the educational responsibilities of other countries”
The study also revealed that “the majority” of those on English-language and Bachelor of Engineering programs were found to return to their home countries upon graduation.
An accompanying statement by the ministry explained that as these students’ education is funded by the Danish taxpayer and about half receive grants, by not contributing to the country’s labour market they represent a large cost to Danish society “as they are educated for the benefit of labour markets in other countries”.
According to the minister of Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers, a reduction of between 1,000 and 1,200 places on master’s and Bachelor of Engineering programs is desired.
“International students bring a lot to Denmark, they expand the horizons of Danish students and introduce an international aspect to the work being done in Danish companies,” said Ahlers.
“But we cannot solve the educational responsibilities of other countries. Therefore, we must do more to ensure that talented international students stay and work here following graduation, and we must adjust the number of places of programs where we see many graduates return home.”
The minister said he will contact institutions to discover what initiatives they have in place to ensure more students stay in Denmark following graduation and transfer to the Danish labour market.
Denmark has emerged as an attractive country to pursue higher level education; the number of English-language students has increased from 7,500 in 2004 to approximately 22,100 across all higher education programs.
The ministry’s decision follows a similar one made in 2017, when the previous minister reduced places on selected programs by almost 28%, citing the low number of graduates remaining in Denmark after their studies.
However, according to Danish media outlet, The Local, representative bodies including the Danish Society of Engineers and The National Union of Students have criticised the ministry’s latest announcement, pointing out that the economic arguments do not stack up.
Chair of Universities Denmark, Anders Bjarklev, added that the decision will “weaken the culture at [Danish] universities”.
“If we do not have as many international students around us, our networks will become weaker,” he said.