Business leaders oppose plan for one-year masters degrees

A recent survey by trade union Djøf suggests that 77% of its members believe that the proposed shortening of a masters degree from two years to one year for social science and business administration students will result in a significant reduction in degree quality.

The survey comes in the wake of government proposals to introduce reforms to masters degree programmes, which will reduce the period of study for up to 50% of masters degrees – mainly in the humanities and social sciences –from two years to one.

The reforms are ostensibly aimed at better preparing students for the transition to work.

The recent survey, which was conducted from 6 to 16 December 2022, found that 72% of employers would prefer a graduate of a two-year masters programme over a graduate of a one-year programme.

The survey further indicated that two out of three participants (64%) believe that employees with a one-year masters degree will earn a lower salary (typically 5-10% lower).

Djøf’s membership is made up of individuals who have studied or worked in the areas of law, economics, strategy, management, politics, business, communication and others in Denmark. Membership comprises 1,632 leaders in Danish businesses, 1,280 of whom are in the public sector and 465 in the private sector.

The survey suggested that a vast majority of employers (91%) relied on personality as a key criterion when selecting employees while 67% listed work experience as being the most important.

According to Djøf, the government’s proposal to halve the duration of the masters degree for the majority of those students taking social science and business administration degrees will reduce the opportunities for work experience and practice, which is highly valued by employers.

It said there is a significant demand for graduates in the social sciences and business administration and little demand for graduates with shorter degrees.

“The politicians are talking about work-focused higher education. But work-related study is not in opposition to basic academic knowledge. Only a few academic degrees are educating for specific professions. The strength of academic training is indeed that they are providing a set of basic competencies that can be used in a broad range of jobs. This is again and again confirmed by the panels that are hiring academically trained people and is again confirmed by this investigation,” Djøf said.

Camilla Gregersen, chairperson of the Danish Association of Masters and PhDs (DM), said on Twitter on 1 January 2023 that the reforms which will cut the length of the masters degrees are not needed. She said that ‘overeducation’, ‘educational snobbism’ and ‘academicising’ were part of the government’s ‘melody’, but Denmark “does not have more academics compared to other OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] societies”.

She said the Djøf survey confirmed that employers prefer graduates with a two-year masters degree. “Now [the government] has to listen!” she said.

On 18 January, the magazine Akademikerbladet 2023 reported that 16,000 people had signed a petition arranged by DM to protest the one-year masters degree. According to Gregersen a DM petition has never before received so many signatures.

“That illustrates that we are many who think that this proposition should be sent to its grave,” Gregersen said.