Foreign students ‘sent from heaven’ – former minister

Sofie Carsten Nielsen, Denmark’s minister for higher education and science in 2014-15 and now a spokesperson for the radical left party, has proposed a grant order to encourage international students receiving Danish financing to stay and work in the country after graduating.

In a letter published in the major Danish newspaper Berlingske, she wrote: “Too many Danish firms today have to turn down new orders because of the lack of heads and hands. Therefore, foreign students are sent from heaven.

“We only have to get them to stay longer in Denmark. The challenge today is that too many of them go home after graduation,” Nielsen argued.

“We in the Radical party therefore are proposing a new grant order – foreign students that can get Danish SU [student financing] and higher education in Denmark on condition upon them working in Denmark for at least four years after graduation.”

Nielsen said the grant would be provided as a loan that international students would have to pay back if they left Denmark within a four-year time limit. “At the same time, we want to earmark these grants to those studies that have the lowest level of unemployment upon graduation.”

A counter-argument was that foreign students were a drain on Danish government funds, she continued. But Danish universities had demonstrated that foreign students contribute on average DKK799,000 (US$126,000) to the Danish economy.

“We in the Radical left party also want to attract newly graduated foreigners who have taken their degree in their home country. We therefore propose that a fast-track arrangement is established so that foreigners can more easily document their qualifications when applying for work in Denmark.”

However Sana Mahin Doost, chair of the National Union of Students in Denmark or DSF, told University World News: “If SU is granted as a loan on certain terms such as academic competences and graduate unemployment rates, we at DSF fear that it is the beginning of a slippery slope. It is a sign of an alarming tendency, where students may be discriminated against based on their nationality and academic competences.

“SU should not be granted based on graduate unemployment rates, because these challenges will not be resolved by impoverishing those students who are dedicated to professions with a higher unemployment rate.”

Instead, said Doost, students believed the focus should be on efforts to involve international students so that they would wish to stay in Denmark after their studies.

“We know that it may be difficult to really get to know us Danes, which consequently makes it challenging to build a network that is essential when looking for a job.”