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Minister proposes three new laws to promote study abroad

Danish Minister of Science, Innovation and Higher Education Morten Østergaard last week published three new law proposals aimed at increasing the number of Danish students studying abroad.

In 2009-10 there were 24,485 international students in Denmark, 62% studying for a full degree, while only 9,825 Danish students were studying abroad and only 35% of them for a full degree.

From 2006-09 the number of foreign students in Denmark increased by 40%, with 78% of incoming students being from another European country. In the same period, the number of Danish students abroad grew by 21%, with 47% of them studying elsewhere in Europe and 30% in the United States, Canada and Australia. Nearly 80% of Danish students taking a full degree abroad were studying social sciences and the humanities.

Østergaard – who when he was appointed minister a year ago told University World News that internationalisation was his highest priority – is not happy with this imbalance.

According to the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, he has discovered that only 26% of Danish students graduating had a study period abroad recognised as a part of their degree requirements.

“I have a vision that every student shall have an international part of their degree. We know that students having been abroad have better chances in the labour market,” Østergaard told the newspaper.

He said the ministry was working on a comprehensive strategic plan for internationalisation of higher education, to be published before the end of 2012.

The ministry has already presented three law changes as part of this strategy, outlines in press releases and a letter to higher education institutions.

The first measure proposed is increased study loan flexibility and quicker processing of student applications by the Danish Student Loan Board.

An extraordinary DKK100,000 (US$17,000) is proposed to be awarded to applicants admitted to tuition fee-demanding institutions abroad, to cover part of these fees as a low-interest loan with a long repayment period.

The second law proposed involves the academic recognition procedure, currently mandatory for all who apply for a study loan abroad. Academic recognition would be issued before studies commence and be automatically recognised by the home university on the student’s return. The minister want this law implemented by July next year.

The third intervention by the ministry, in a letter sent to all higher education institutions for comment, is the introduction of a new common institutional quality assurance system. The major function of this law would be to improve quality assurance, with a side-effect being strengthening recognition of study abroad.

“I am looking for a new mobility window for studies abroad for all Danish higher education,” Østergaard told Berlingske Tidende. “And this is conditioned on a more effective recognition system than we have today.”

Meanwhile, in Sweden the rectors of Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institute and the Royal Technological University wrote an op-ed article in the Swedish major newspaper Dagens Nyheter stating:

“Stockholm needs more foreign students. Since the tuition fees were introduced in 2011 [for students from outside Europe], Stockholm institutions have lost 80% of our international students.

“We are at risk of losing these important ambassadors in competition with the metropolitan cities of London, New York and Berlin”, they wrote together with the chair of the Stockholm Regional Council Administration.
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