Minister signals openness to international students

Academics and students have welcomed recent public comments from Denmark’s higher education and science minister signalling plans to increase the number of international students accepted into Danish universities, in a move ultimately aimed at addressing talent deficits in some economic sectors.

In an interview with major Danish newspaper Berlingske on 21 October, Minister Christina Egelund said she is intending to open the doors to thousands of international students.

“We are seeing a new era,” she said. “When I sat down to examine the numbers [concerning demographic changes, with diminishing cohorts of young people], it was a wake-up call,” she said.

Egelund said the problem was at risk of tripping up Danish economic growth, the green changes needed and the future of Denmark’s welfare society.

A ‘new era’

“After several decades with a growing supply of highly educated people that has been continuously on the rise, we are now at the threshold of entering a new era and already today we are seeing a lack of people in businesses and in the public sector”, she said, using examples such as a lack of engineers, sustainability experts, as well as nurses, prison guards and welfare personnel.

Warnings about the acute shortages of skills by the Danish Chamber of Commerce and others have been reported by University World News and come in the wake of the scrapping of 4,000 study places in English taught degrees by the former government.

Calculations by Local Government Denmark (KL), the employers’ association of municipalities, have estimated that Denmark will lack 90,000 people in the workforce in 2030 and more than 40,000 of these will be in the public sector.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce has produced even more serious statistics which indicate that the gap between workforce supply and demand will be 130,000 people.

According to the minister, the 1,100 additional English taught study places each year from 2024 to 2028 and 2,500 each year from 2029 – a proposal made earlier this year – will not be enough.

“We are not ruling out the opening up of the higher education sector [for international students] in another way compared to what we are doing today,” Egelund told Berlingske.

“We are now at a point where we should be thankful every time a younger person from another place in the world looks towards Denmark. Our need is huge, and the competition for the qualified young and qualified workforce is hard,” she said.

Negotiation in parliament

Egelund said she could not provide a figure for the number of international students Denmark intends to target since this will be negotiated between the parties in parliament. However, she said some professional fields say they are short of tens of thousands of people.

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