International enrolment in bachelor degree rises by 43%

Programmes taught in English have seen an overall increase of 21% in international students compared to 2022, with this increase being particularly noticeable in university bachelor degree programmes, which have shown a massive 43% increase.

Unlike vocational academy programmes and professional bachelor degree programmes, bachelor degree programmes at universities were not affected by the closure in 2022 of study places in programmes taught in English.

The majority of the 1,835 international students admitted to the English taught bachelor degrees in Danish universities – 549 more than in 2022 – are from Nordic countries and the European Union.

Overall, across the country, a total of 61,382 students have been admitted to higher education institutions, an increase of 2% on last year.

Berlingske Tidende reported that the increase in international students applying for a bachelor degree in Denmark as their first choice had increased between 2019 and 2023 from 2,307 to 4,858, which is an 111% increase in demand. However, in the same period the number of applicants with a Danish passport fell from 1,939 in 2019 to 1,871 in 2023, a fall of 3.6%.

The rise in the total enrolments can be attributed, in part, to an increase (5%) in admissions to the so-called STEM programmes. Both IT (10% increase) and engineering programmes have seen higher enrolments compared to the last year.

Enrolments in three out of the four major welfare-related professional bachelor programmes – nursing, teaching, and social work – are at the same level as last year, indicating that the decline in enrolments for these programmes has been halted.

However, this does not apply to the social education programme, which has experienced a 5% decrease in enrolments from 2022 to 2023.

Priority skills areas

Minister for Higher Education and Science Christina Egelund expressed a positive view of the overall increase in admissions to higher education, especially given that increases have largely occurred in focus areas in which Danish companies need skilled workers.

Jesper Langergaard, director of Universities Denmark, said it was encouraging that more youths had secured a study place in higher education this year, even if there was still some way to go to reach the numbers achieved prior to 2022.

“There is a significant increase in enrolment in IT studies and engineering and there are more international students enrolled,” he said.

“It is good that many students still want to study at universities. We are in need of candidates from all academic areas, both in private businesses and in the public workforce,” Langergaard said. “We are entering a time with fewer youths and a lack of qualified workforce and therefore it is good that more international students are admitted to Danish higher education institutions.”

Camilla Gregersen, chair of the Danish Association of Masters and PhDs (DM), raised her concerns via Twitter about low application numbers for languages.

“Look at the enrolment in French: Copenhagen University 24; Aarhus 16. And in German: Copenhagen University 28, University of Southern Denmark 14, Aarhus 18+ 28. The death of languages is a threat. The enrolment in languages at universities is the food-chain for teachers to secondary schools. Soon there will be no teachers of languages,” Gregersen said.

Business academies

Mads Eriksen Storm, head of education and research policy at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, told University World News that business academies should be rigged to accept more international students.

“The business academies in 2021 admitted more than 2,000 international students while the number this year is only 200,” he said. “It is stupid not to admit more international students in those areas where we are not managing to fill the demand in the workforce.

“The professional degree colleges and the business academies should be rigged to accept international students in those areas where the students are retained for work in Denmark,” Eriksen Storm said.