New measures developed for performance-related funding

If the number of statements published is a measure of activity, the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science is impressively busy, having published six statements in five days last week dealing with measures to improve quality, enable performance-related funding and gear higher education to the future job market.

At the end of the week, Minister of Higher Education and Science Søren Pind summed up the government’s goals.

He said: “Over many years we have had an ambitious goal that 60% of the youth cohort shall fulfil a higher education degree. Now [that] we have realised this objective, we will place a much greater focus upon quality. We shall have some of the best education systems in the world, but we shall educate wisely.”

He said the three main ambitions of the government are to achieve:
  • • A high academic standard and good learning outcomes that are advancing spirit, knowledge and critical thinking.

  • • Close correspondence between higher education and the competence needs in society, now and in the future.

  • • A highly educated people with many years in the workforce.
Statements published

In his first statement of the week, on 6 March, Pind advised young aspiring students to “choose your higher education carefully”. He said: “Future work will demand technical understanding but will also demand creativity, collaboration, empathy and human understanding. Therefore we need students that can acquire deep and cross-scientific understanding, but who also have the ability to transcend ordinary thinking and actively participate in a democratic society.”

On the same day, he issued a statement referring to a new Eurostudent analysis, comparing student behaviour in 28 European countries across several parameters, which found that only 9% of Danish students are taking a break after finishing their bachelor degree before commencing their masters. By contrast, the average across Europe is 21%, while in Norway 38% and in Sweden 30% of students graduating with a bachelor degree are delaying starting a masters degree by two years or more.

Pind said it is good that many students are now fulfilling the degree requirements on time but that a new challenge had arisen with too few students training themselves in the workforce before completing their studies.

He announced that in a new initiative the ministry would launch several masters degrees in the autumn that would be run over a four-year period to allow students to work 25 hours a week alongside their studies.

On 7 March the ministry announced a finding that “the academic level at universities is the most common reason for students dropping out”, referring to a survey which found that nearly 17% of students or one in six had dropped out of their studies during their first year of study – and those surveyed said that the academic level of the study of their choice was the main reason.

At Danish universities 81% of students said that the academic level of their study was too high and 19% that it was too low. Approximately half of the first-year dropouts were active in other studies the year after their dropping out. The ministry used these findings to underline the need to think carefully through the choice of further education.

Also on 7 March, the ministry announced that under a new funding system, universities will be assessed by a new quality measurement making use of questionnaires, which is to be developed in cooperation with expert panels, universities and students. The announcement was followed up with a detailed letter to each higher education institution spelling out how funding was going to be made performance-related.

The measures will be used in deciding the basic funding from the government from 2023 but will also be used by the higher education institutions to inform their work on raising quality.

The expert panel will develop methodology that will allow for comparisons across academic fields.

On 8 March the ministry announced that the “expert committee to improve university education” chaired by the top ministerial bureaucrat Agnete Gersing and established in April 2017, would present its work and recommendations after its first year on 12 March.

Finally, on 9 March, the ministry announced that recruitment to academic fields where demand is on the increase is to be strengthened and that recruitment to academic fields with high unemployment will be reduced.

Circling back to the theme of his first statement of the week, Minister Pind said: “During their education, students will be geared to the future labour market through a close link between theory and practice.”