Biggest talents must be challenged

In developing a new model, Aarhus University will ensure that the most motivated students have the best opportunities for honing their expertise and developing their talents.

The Liberal Party government has signalled that at some point it will introduce an elite programme to give the most talented students better terms and conditions to fully exploit their potential.

Aarhus University wholly supports this initiative. For a number of years we have experimented with different types of elite programmes and we have plans to establish more in the future.

When we mention the word ‘elite’ in Denmark, we often highlight top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge for their ability to challenge and develop their most talented students.

Danish universities obviously lack the financial resources to emulate the world-leading universities, but we do have the body of student talent and first-class research environments.  So we are ready to be inspired. For example by the international top universities’ thinking on systematising talent development very early in student study programmes.

For several years now, Aarhus University has focused on developing a model adapted to Danish university conditions.

The so-called Aarhus model must ensure that the most motivated students have the best opportunities for honing their expertise and developing their talents.

The Aarhus model is a track with extra activities offering students with the desire and ability to leverage academically the opportunity to follow a special honours programme and gain a diploma with ‘special distinction’. This track will run concurrently with the ordinary study programme, enabling students to raise their academic level through talent-based activities.

The elite tracks will be designed to an exacting standard in order to strengthen the overall educational quality and relevance of the programmes with regard to the labour market. An extra track might, for example, include study activities in the form of additional courses, selected research activities, case competitions, business collaboration, projects, etc.

The special talent activities must have a scope of at least 30 ECTS for Bachelor’s degree programmes and 20 ECTS for Master’s degree programmes in order to trigger distinction on the diploma.

Aarhus University strives for a broad range of talent which also includes those students who do not necessarily plan to pursue a career in research – e.g. young people with a talent for management, innovation or entrepreneurship.  In the different honours tracks, the students work alongside researchers, entrepreneurs, intermediaries, managers or other specialists who have undergone the same process. Students in the talent programme will also be closely linked to employers to ensure relevance as well as quality.

Regardless of the form of the model we opt for, talent development essentially means offering all students the opportunity to maximise their academic potential.

In Denmark, we have discussed the pros and cons of the historically high university admissions – and thus the transformation to mass university, which society’s highest educational institution has undergone. The discussion has, however, often focused on maintaining quality. We can not be content with this – and neither can our young talents.

The domestic university debate has not yet placed enough emphasis on the obligation we have towards the body of highly talented and motivated students. They also have the right to be academically and professionally challenged in the course of their studies. In other words, we see it as the university’s duty to raise the academic bar for those who quickly achieve the objectives set out in the ordinary course syllabus.