Universities get extra cash as student numbers hit record high

The Danish government has announced a dramatic increase in spending on higher education in 2013 as student numbers hit an all-time high.

On Monday 27 August Finance Minister Bjarne Corydon published a budget proposal for 2013, boosting the spend on higher education by DKK3 billion (US$506 million) to cover additional expenses from a record intake of 60,000 students.

The plan also earmarks DKK6.5 billion for investment in new buildings and improvements to research laboratories and a strengthening of the taxameter – Denmark’s per capita allocation to universities for active students – in the humanities and social sciences by DKK250 million.

The injection of funds means Denmark would exceed 1% of gross national product invested in public research, Minister of Education Morten Østergaard said. At the same time the move would secure the long-term planning needs of higher education institutions when the 2006-12 Globalisation Fund, which has delivered a total of DKK40 billion, comes to an end.

Professor Jens Oddershede, chair of the Danish rectors’ conference, welcomed the signals given in the budget, saying that they fulfilled the long-standing wish among universities for stability and long-term budgeting.

“The budget guarantee from the government means that we now can start releasing some of our saved funds that have been set aside as a buffer against unpredicted budgets,” he said. “Now we can put into effect our long-term investment plans.”

Copenhagen University said it would receive DKK200 million to invest in buildings and infrastructure, to provide buildings for new students, upgrade laboratories and establish a plant science centre.

Oddershede said the extension of the increased level of funding per student in the humanities and the social sciences, introduced three years ago, was a positive step.

The government also intends to continue to invest in doctoral training, with an annual intake of 2,400 students – up from 1,200 in 2003 – which has been financed from the Globalisation Fund.

A government-commissioned analysis of the demand for doctoral candidates up to 2030 concluded there would be sufficient demand in industry and society to justify the higher intake.

But Torben Holm, chair of the student union DFS, said the budget failed to tackle the issue of improving university teaching.

“I am urging the government to solve the problems with [teaching] quality one way or another,” Holm told Metroexpress.

And Professor Jens Christian Djurhuus, chair of Det Frie Forskningsråd-FKK (The Free Research Council), argued there was a DKK200 million deficit in the budget compared to 2012.

“Over the last 10 years the research budget has increased by more than 50%, and the number of doctorate students has more than doubled," Djuurhus said.

“The Free Research Council has supported post-docs’ positions [by using more than 30% of the budget on them] and this year’s reductions will hit these post-doc positions hard,” he said.