International students are an important investment in the future of Aarhus

Get the best out of Aarhus as a university city – hold on to international students! In a debate piece in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, director of AU’s Enterprise and Innovation Lone Ryg Olsen along with Mathilde Bressum, political spokesperson for the Danish Liberal Party in Aarhus, and Poul Dalsgaard, director of Business Network Aarhus, explains why we should hold on to international talent in Denmark and Aarhus.

[Translate to English:] "Vi bør have større fokus på at gøre Aarhus til en inkluderende og mangfoldig by, hvor internationale studerende og udenlandsk arbejdskraft kan trives og bidrage til vores samfund". Foto: Lars Kruse
“We should focus more on making Aarhus an inclusive and diverse city, where international students and the international labour force can thrive and contribute to our society”. Photo: Lars Kruse

Aarhus is a popular university city. With more than 50,000 students, the city has Denmark’s highest concentration of students in relation to its population. Among them are around 6,500 international students, who have travelled a long way to study or train in the city – attracted by Aarhus’ educational institutions and their international reputation.

We should not just be pleased about this. We should take advantage of it. Because as soon as international students decide to settle in Denmark, they become a billion-kroner business for society.

Between 2007 and 2020, international graduates contributed more than DKK 26.7 billion to the Danish social economy – as shown by an analysis conducted by the Danish Society of Engineers.

This contribution corresponds to DKK 2 million per graduate when all expenses such as SU and social benefits have been deducted, including public expenses for those students who didn’t stay in Denmark.

At a time when the business community is thirsting for labour, we should make an extra effort to hold on to the international students who come to Aarhus.

This initiative would be welcome. Today, half of international students leave Denmark within three years of graduating. One of the main reasons for this is that it’s difficult for international students to build an affiliation with the Danish labour market during their studies.

An obvious solution to this would be to build a stronger ecosystem around student jobs for international students. Because international students who work alongside their studies find a job more quickly after they graduate. The more hours they’ve worked per week, the stronger the trend, as shown by figures from the Confederation of Danish Industry.

The majority of companies would like to get international students on board, but if we really want to accelerate this process, we need to work with both students and companies to break down cultural and linguistic barriers.

We’re already making progress on this. Aarhus University is striving to develop career paths that promote local job opportunities for international students. Among other things by offering free Danish courses and helping students develop useful contacts with business and industry during their studies. In the future, we will also provide tailor-made courses with local business mentors and a customised job fair to help shape career paths for international students at the university.

Business Network Aarhus is working closely with Aarhus Municipality, Aarhus University, Vestas, Grundfos, IFF and VisitAarhus to help companies in Aarhus attract international employees and their families. This collaboration is part of the International Community’s initiative to make Aarhus an attractive place for career development and to meet the needs of business and industry to recruit and retain international staff. The HEADSTART programme, which offers support and advice to the international labour force in Aarhus, is now also a part of Business Network Aarhus. This means that local business and industry can find all the support they need under one roof.

The key word for this initiative is collaboration. The internationalisation of Aarhus affects everyone from the small business or theatre to the large company and Aarhus University – so everyone has a role to play.

The call from us is therefore to focus more on making Aarhus an inclusive and diverse city, where international students and the international labour force can thrive and contribute to society on an equal footing with everyone else. This will benefit the economy, cultural life, and society as a whole.