Copenhagen University announces drastic staff cuts

Copenhagen University – the largest research and education institution in the country – announced last week that it is cutting 532 jobs of professors, researchers and administrative staff, due to government austerity measures.

The job losses will amount to 7.4% of the total workforce at the university and will begin by terminating the employment of 209 people next week. There will also be 255 voluntary redundancies, and 68 positions not filled. In addition, some 61 jobs will be shortened in hours.

The university also announced that it will cut the number of PhD places by 10% in future years.

According to the Copenhagen University Post, the university has been forced to reduce costs by DKK300 million (US$44 million) as a result of government austerity measures in which funding for education and research in general has been cut, and building maintenance support funding specifically for Copenhagen University has been cut.

"Even if many of the layoffs are of administrative and service personnel, research and education will suffer long into the future," a statement from the university said.

Rector Ralf Hemmingsen said that it is painful to lose so many highly qualified colleagues and that the cut in PhD positions will be harmful for scientific growth.

"We are making cuts in the crucial food chain of research. Denmark's research quality is at risk of stagnation over the next 10 to 20 years," Hemmingsen said.

The largest faculties – natural and health sciences – together account for more than 330 jobs lost. In humanities, the figure is around 90.

Theology posts will be cut by 13%, humanities by 7% and central administration by 8.1%.

"In a situation over several years with strained public budgets, there has been a stable budget allocation to universities," Hemmingsen said. “This is now radically changed and the political uncertainties force us to cut drastically wherever possible."

He said that the largest portion of cuts will be in administrative and service jobs in an effort to spare education and research as much as possible. But it would mean that important support functions for students, researchers and teachers would disappear or be carried out to a lesser extent.

The rector said Copenhagen University is still due for a further budget cut of DKK200 million in the coming years, and how these cuts will be carried out has yet to be determined. The university has to save DKK500 million, or 6% of the total budget, by 2019, the university statement said.

“We are working on organisational and administrative issues to manage this," Hemmingsen said.

Associate Professor Leif Søndergaard, representing university staff, said it was likely that many administrative tasks would no longer be carried out and that teaching would be rationalised, with larger classes, fewer group lessons and fewer lab exercises, according to Danish news site

Staff would be expected to take over some of the administrative burden, he said.

Since 2010 the government has cut the teaching allowance by 10% per student. But the cuts in the 2016 budget have created “entirely new economic framework conditions for Danish universities” according to Copenhagen University’s statement.

The Danish government has cut DKK1.4 billion to research and education, representing an 8.5% cut in grants to research.

“The University of Copenhagen, despite many years of decline in education grants, has managed thanks to stable basic funding, a high level of research and by getting more external funding for university activities,” Hemmingsen said.

Cut to the bone

“This [situation] has unfortunately now been changed radically. We will therefore cut to the bone in some places. We are now reviewing the entire organisation's way of solving tasks. And we will see [how] faculties must make further adjustments,” he said.

The university, for example, is currently in the process of assessing how many minor languages can be offered in the future, and – like some of the health science programmes with expensive equipment, laboratories and animal housing – these will be reviewed in detail to see if they can continue to run in the future.

Last month the university announced that it will admit no students in 2016 in a raft of smaller subjects including Finnish, Polish and Eskimology – despite being the only place in the world offering a bachelor and masters degree in the language, society and culture of Greenland, where Denmark has a special responsibility.

There will also be no new students admitted in 2016 in modern Indian studies, Indology, Southeast Asian studies, Tibetology, Balkan studies, Hebrew, Turkish, Indian language and culture, and ancient Greek.