New internationalisation proposal worries universities

The Danish Ministry of Education, which is working on an action plan for increased higher education internationalisation, is embarking on a new financing model for state support of study-abroad students that is worrying universities. If the new model is implemented, exchange funds for universities will only be provided for Danish students abroad – not for international students.

In a report titled Enhanced Insight through Global Outlook, the ministry recently proposed 31 ‘action lines’ that will enhance the internationalisation drive at Danish higher education institutions, as reported by University World News.

In recent months, the ministry has reworked some of the ‘actions’ and has presented a proposal for legislation with a totally new financing principle for exchange students entering and leaving Denmark.

The new model, being proposed as a change to the Danish university law, will reward institutions according to the number of European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System – ECTS – credits that Danish students have taken abroad, while enrolling foreign students in Denmark will not be rewarded in budget allocations.

Point 1.9 in the action plan stipulates: “Danish educational institutions currently receive an activity-determined education subsidy (taxameter principle) for the ECTS obtained by incoming students on an exchange programme.

“This initiative paves the way for providing the educational subsidy on the basis of credits earned in outgoing mobility instead of incoming mobility. This will increase the initiative for institutions to send students abroad.”

Minister of Education Morten Østergaard told Berlingske Tidende that the current model did not reward student mobility out of Denmark: “Maybe some universities think that it is best and regard it as a good thing to invite more guests in, but I do not think this is in Denmark’s interests.”

Universities respond

Several universities have highlighted problems that the new principle might create. Aarhus University said that “several decades of internationalisation work might now be undermined”.

The rectors' conference of Universities Denmark, an organisation representing eight Danish universities, wrote in a commentary on 16 September that institutions were “of the opinion that the ambition of 50% [of Danish students going abroad] cannot be reached, unless the number of incoming students increases to approximately the same level”.

Such a move would require expansion of reception apparatus to cater for more incoming students, as well as more student accommodation. “These factors have to be taken into consideration when formulating the strategy for student mobilisation.”

Universities Denmark was not against change in the budgetary principle, but said that “one could consider an alternative model – as proposed by Copenhagen and Aarhus universities – where governmental support is awarded based on activity, but where the size of the support depends upon how many Danish students have taken credit-giving courses abroad”.

The rectors also recommended that internationalisation be closely monitored in the coming years, with an evaluation within three to five years.

Spokesperson for the Liberal Party Esben Lunde Larsen told Berlingske Tidende that it could not vote in favour of the current position as every incentive to attract students to Denmark had been removed.

However, the party would support removing the balance principle “if we can find an alternative model, where the voices of the rectors are heard”, he said.

The second part of the action plan, dealing with incoming exchange students, is expected during the autumn, although the legislative proposal changing the budgetary reward model is expected to be presented at parliament’s next meeting.