AU’s rector: The government’s latest proposal is still unacceptable and far too sweeping

A leaked memo, shorter degree programmes and shorter summer holidays. These are some of the ingredients in the latest development in the negotiations surrounding the government’s planned reform of Master’s degree programmes. Read on for an update.

Last week, a leaked memo provided insight into the Danish parliament’s ongoing negotiations surrounding a coming reform of the Master’s degree programmes in the Danish university system.

According to the online media Altinget, the sitting government coalition has proposed a revised model: instead of converting around half of Master’s student places to 1 1/4-year programmes or Master's degree programme for working professionals, 36% of these places would be converted. On top of this, five to ten per cent of Master’s places would be cut entirely. In other words, up to 46% of Master’s degree places are potentially in play.

The government is proposing to convert 16% of Master’s degree places to 1 1/4-year programmes and 20% to Master's degree programme for working professionals. But the event that the 20% target isn’t met, any shortfall places will also be converted to 1 1/4-year programmes. What’s more, some of the Master's degree programme for working professionals would be shorter 75 ECTS programmes, just like the 1 1/4-year full-time programmes.

AU’s rector: “Unacceptable”

There is general political agreement about the necessity of downsizing some university degree programmes, and this can be a necessary contribution to creating more balance in the Danish educational system as as whole, according to Rector Brian Bech Nielsen. But as he said in an interview with Dagbladet Børsen, the proportion of abbreviated degree programmes and Master's degree programmes for working professionals is still much too high in the latest proposal: “It’s unacceptable... This is a gigantic experiment. And we’re particularly opposed to the one-year Master’s degree programmes.”

The government’s plan could potentially mean that at least 35 - and up to 49 - percent of humanities Master’s places would be earmarked for one-year programmes, if the attempt to establish more Master’s degree programmes for working professionals in these subjects fails. The same applies to social sciences degree programmes, which could see up to 49% of places earmarked for shorter programmes, while natural sciences and health sciences face potential reductions of up to 30 and 10 per cent respectively. The five to ten per cent reduction in the total number of Master’s places would come on top of these cuts.

The opposition is standing firm

According to Altinget, the Denmark Democrats are engaged in independent negotiations with the government, while parallel negotiations with a bloc of opposition parties – the Socialist People’s Party, Liberal Alliance and the Conservative Party – are also ongoing.

These parties have previously proposed a more experimental approach: converting just five per cent of places to shorter programmes while retaining the increased enrolment cuts. And according to a spokesperson for the parties behind the alternative proposal, the government has not demonstrated a genuine desire to negotiate:

“I don’t think the government is at all willing enough to listen to our concerns and move to a place where we can see ourselves in this reform,” said Sofie Lippert, spokesperson for education for the Socialist People’s Party in an interview with DR. The education spokesperson for the Conservative Party has called shortening degree programmes “sheer madness”.  

Shorter summer holidays

Minister for Higher Education and Science Christina Egelund is still working to stitch together the broadest possible agreement, but she has refused to comment on the leaked memo in the media.

In addition to the new proposal to make how many Master’s programmes are cut down to one-year programmes dependent on the number of new Master’s degree programmes for working professionals established, the memo is also said to state in passing that the government now also intends for Master’s degree students to start their studies a month earlier, in order to increase the labour supply.