New scholarship programme for developing nations

Denmark has launched a scholarship programme for developing countries, initially targeting students from Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda. It is part of a comprehensive internationalisation of higher education strategy being developed by the government.

The scholarship programme, “Building Stronger Universities in Developing Countries”, was launched on 25 February and will support students from selected universities to study in Denmark. It will be run by the ministries of education and foreign affairs, and the rectors’ conference Universities Denmark.

After completing their studies, said Education Minister Morten Østergaard at the launch, the students will return home and “contribute to developing new solutions” by, for instance, helping to build capacity in the public sector or find solutions to climate or health problems.

“Today too few students from Africa and Nepal study at Danish universities. And too few Danish students go the other way,” Østergaard said.

“During the year 2010-11, only 116 students from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Nepal studied a full masters degree at one of the eight Danish universities. Even fewer Danish students spent part of their studies in these countries – a mere 66 Danes to be exact.”

The new scholarship programme will set out to change this. Within a few years, the minister said, the number of students from DANIDA – Danish International Development Agency – priority countries will rise by almost 50%.

The scholarship initiative is part of the internationalisation of higher education system that the Ministry of Education is working on and will present to parliament in the spring.

“The strategy will address how we get more students to seek experiences abroad and how we attract talented students to Danish higher education institutions. Mobility of students is a keyword here,” Østergaard said.

DANIDA has 25 priority countries, after phasing out Benin, Bhutan, Cambodia, Vietnam and Zambia in recent years.

The priority countries are: Nicaragua and Bolivia in central America; Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Uganda in Africa; Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan in Asia, and Iraq, Gaza-West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Yemen in the Middle East.

“It is essential to a small economy like ours that we expand our businesses and relations to African and Asian economies, because it will benefit both parties in the future. And this applies equally to economic, social and cultural relations,” Østergaard said at the launch.

Professor Jens Oddershede, chair of Universities Denmark, told University World News that Building Stronger Universities in the South started off around two years ago as a joint effort involving eight Danish universities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The purpose is to increase competencies at a selected number of universities in the South so that these universities may be instrumental in improving their home country's ability to be more competitive in the global knowledge society.”

“Lately, a new masters programme that allows students from partner institutions to take part of their education in Denmark has been added. The Danish universities hope that this addition will increase the number of well-qualified teachers and researchers at the partner institutions in the South.”

A call for proposals and eligibility criteria can be found here.