Collaboration increasing with 'growth countries'

The appeal of Denmark as a destination for international students is steadily growing as collaboration and exchange increase between the country’s universities and higher education institutions abroad. Now the government is turning its attention to ‘growth countries’.

Thanks to the Danish Higher Education Ministry’s plan to increase internationalisation, and its focus on growing the numbers of exchange students, there’s been a marked surge in cross-country studies.

The ministry said it had now mapped out cooperation between Danish universities and colleges and in nine ‘growth countries’.

In January this year, it had sent questionnaires to all higher education institutions in Denmark asking about their collaboration with the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and the ‘second wave’ countries of Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam. The mapping asked for ongoing cooperation and future plans.

Of the 41 institutions surveyed, 40 returned the questionnaire, and a seminar on Danish collaboration with these countries was arranged in February. Afterwards, the universities and colleges were asked to send in supplementary information.

Student exchange

The mapping exercise revealed well-functioning collaboration, notably for universities and professional colleges. Of the 'growth countries', Turkey and China have the most extensive student exchanges with Danish institutions. The exercise also showed a scattered pattern of collaboration links, not concentrating on specific institutions or countries.

However, an imbalance was noted, specifically for incoming students from growth countries aiming for a full Danish academic degree: 1,595 degree-seeking students went to Denmark in 2011, but only 35 Danish students targeted a full degree in one of the growth countries – 11 went to Turkey, seven to India, six each to Brazil and China, and five to Mexico.

There were no Danish degree-seeking students in Indonesia, Russia, South Korea or Vietnam in 2011.

The majority of incoming short-term exchange students came from Turkey (302), China (264), South Korea (92), and Mexico and India (60). Most of the outgoing exchange students went to China (206), India (78), Mexico (74), Turkey (59) and South Korea (48).

Hence there was a considerable imbalance, for instance, with Turkey, South Korea and Russia sending 450 students to Denmark and receiving only 125 exchange students in return. With China there was a better balance: 264 in and 206 out.

Other collaboration

The recently published mapping report also aimed to determine the length of the study period abroad, the exchange of teachers, the extent of joint study programmes and degrees, strategic cooperation between higher education institutions, and involvement of the private sector.

Danish institutions have apparently signed 457 collaborative agreements with institutions in the nine growth countries, the majority in Turkey (36.5%), China (28%), South Korea (10%) and Brazil (9%).

Most of the Turkish agreements were with private institutions in Istanbul and Ankara, while the exchange agreements with China were mainly with institutions in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Joint study programmes or joint degrees were mainly found within the Erasmus Mundus programme in all nine countries, but most frequently in Turkey (33) and China (45). Joint degrees with Danish universities were found only in China.

Study fields varied, including chemical and biochemical engineering, public management, water and environment, China studies, international relations, nanoscience and technology, and neuroscience and neuro-imaging. Most of the joint degrees were in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Several of the universities said they had strategic collaboration with universities mostly in China, and 162 responded that Danish private companies participated in the collaboration, notably with China and Vietnam. The Technical University of Denmark and Roskilde, Aalborg and Aarhus universities reported collaboration in doctoral training.

More than half of the institutions were considering more collaborative arrangements with growth countries, with Brazil and Indonesia most frequently mentioned.


Chair of the Danish Rectors’ Conference Professor Jens Oddershede told University World News: “Our institutions are very interested in strengthening collaboration with the BRIC countries, and this increasingly takes place within research.

“Within higher education, languages are the main problem. As long as there is a limited offer of courses in English in the BRIC countries, it is not possible for Danish students to follow the courses. Therefore, the student exchange becomes one-sidedly towards Denmark, and we would like to reverse this.”

The ministry said the mapping exercise would be worked into its ongoing projects and its action plan for increased internationalisation, Enhanced Insight Through Global Outlook.

At the opening of Denmark Day at Peking University on 17 September, Science, Innovation and Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard said: “The recent survey shows that international students generally are very satisfied with the quality of the education and their stay in Denmark.

“By studying here, they acquire further skills and competencies that will improve their employability with a wide range of companies. Close to 500 Danish companies are operating in China. They are all looking to recruit new talent to further develop their businesses here in China.”

At the launch of three new masters programmes at the Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research, also held in China last month, Østergaard described the centre as “the most ambitious Danish educational venture abroad ever and an eminent example of cooperation between Denmark and China”.

Other Scandinavian universities watching

Other Scandinavian universities are now keeping a close watch on Denmark’s higher education sector and its internationalisation progress, and are putting pressure on their state apparatuses and higher education institutions to follow suit.

University of Oslo rector Professor Ole Petter Ottersen commented to University World News: “More than 99% of new knowledge in the world comes from outside Norway. At the same time, Norway is one of the countries facing enormous challenges with regard to knowledge: we need to restructure our economy [from being oil dependent] to meet the wave of the new generations.

“We need a high level of expertise in our products and services to survive being a high cost economy and must bring in knowledge from abroad. We ought to be world champions in internationalisation.”

He said the new government – the coalition of the Conservative Party and the Progressive Party, which was being formed after the parliamentary elections in September – should “meet this challenge by helping strengthen strategies of internationalisation at our universities and institutions of higher education.”