New code of conduct to attract international students

New guidelines for higher education institutions aimed at making Denmark a more attractive destination for international students have been announced.

The Danish Agency for Higher Education under the Ministry of Education and the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment have, together with representatives from Danish higher education, worked out a new Code of Conduct on how to offer Danish university programmes for international students.

The previous version of the code of conduct was published in 2010 and adopted by only eight Danish universities, but the present version is applicable across all institutions in both the university and the university college sector.

Minister of Higher Education and Science Esben Lunde Larsen said in a press release from the ministry that the new guidelines would help international students get a better orientation of Danish higher education so that they would select Denmark as a study destination in competition with other countries.

“Danish enterprises have stated that they are going to lack highly qualified workforce in the future. Common guidelines are hence an important instrument to meet this challenge,” Lunde Larsen stated.

The code also responds to concerns raised over recruitment agents exploiting Denmark’s student financing system, regarded by the OECD as the “most favourable in the world”.

As reported by University World News, the number of students from European Union countries receiving government grants and loans grew more than tenfold between 2012 and 2014.

But there are complicated rules to abide by. Under 2015 regulations, for instance, students can be forced to pay back the money if they work too many or too few hours. Several Danish universities reported their suspicions that admissions to Danish universities from several Eastern European countries were now being handled by agents, claiming lucrative fees to guide potential students through the rules and regulations.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Science spokesperson, Sørine Mathilde Vesth Rasmussen, told University World News that the new code of conduct is expected to be used by Danish institutions when they engage in partnerships and collaborations with agents and international universities.

One paragraph in the code of conduct, paragraph 4.5, encourages more transparency. “A cooperation agreement between a Danish higher education institution and an agent must contain a clause stating who is to remunerate the agent, if relevant, as well as the scale of these renumerations,” the code states.

Easily accessible information

“The Code of Conduct was created by all the higher education institutions in Denmark. It is targeted towards international students who consider studying in Denmark. Subsequently, the focus of this Code of Conduct has been to provide easily accessible and understandable information as well as to establish a mutual understanding of the provision and requirements for higher education institutions in Denmark.”

According to Rasmussen, the code of conduct is a clarification of the existing laws, regulations and good practice.

“The particularly new aspect is that it is produced by and includes all higher education institutions in Denmark which are monitored by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science." This includes all Danish universities, university colleges, business academies, the schools of maritime education and training, as well as the higher education institutions within the fine arts.

She said the sections about agents are a preventive measure to ensure that international students are aware of the requirements and restrictions for representatives of institutions.

The code of conduct includes a section on language requirements for teaching standards in the specific language of instruction. However, unlike the earlier code of conduct adopted by eight universities in 2010, it does not specifically mention a requirement for staff to be able to communicate in English, and subsequently, it is not a requirement for professors teaching in Danish to have a specific level of English proficiency, or proficiency in any language other than the language of the course.

It does, however, say that institutions are obligated to monitor that international students meet admission requirements, including language requirements, for individual programmes.

The new code also contains a commitment to integrate international students academically and socially.

Helle Otte, director general of the Danish Association of Upper Secondary Schools told University World News: ”I find it commendable and relevant that Danish higher education institutions are taking on the role of ensuring that international students are getting correct information on the quality level and content of Danish higher education, so that the choice of Denmark as the country for their studies is made on a well-informed foundation.”

She said: “It is important that international students are selecting Denmark for their studies because we have studies of very high quality. Having a tradition for tuition-free higher education, I find this dedicated governmental authority useful.”