Universities ready with their own reform proposal - avoiding the government's major risks

Danish universities presents a proposal for a master's degree reform that allows for maintaining the high quality of education while also creating job opportunities and revenue. The proposal includes shorter programs, enrollment management, and more vocational-oriented courses.

Press release from Danish Universities on May 30, 2023.

The country's eight university rectors are now proposing a more sustainable alternative to the government's master's degree reform. An alternative solution they believe provides both job opportunities and revenue on par with the government's proposal, without compromising the quality of education.

Brian Bech Nielsen, rector of Aarhus University and chairman of the Rector's Council in Danish Universities, says: "The government has expressed that their motivation for the reform is creating more flexibility for students, but they have also focused on increasing job opportunities and generating economic revenue. We can meet all of those criteria with our proposal, but we achieve the goal in a way that is far more beneficial for students, employers, and society in general."

The proposal's three main elements are:

  • Vocational-oriented programs (approximately 20 percent)
  • Shorter programs (approximately 10 percent)
  • Enrollment management (5-10 percent compared to the 2021 level)

(Digits in parentheses indicate the percentage relative to a year's intake of master's students)

Danish Universities' proposal encompasses three key measures. Firstly, Danish Universities suggest that 20 percent of master's degree programs become more vocationally-oriented through the introduction of additional flexible professional master's programs, as well as mandatory vocational elements within regular two-year master's programs. However, it is important that the academic content of professional master's programs still aligns with the current two-year master's programs and does not become a gateway to shorter programs for more students.

The rectors further propose that five percent of the available spots in university master's programs be offered as new short programs, lasting approximately 1 ¼ years, as part of a trial scheme. Additionally, the same model used for engineering degree programs (3 ½-year programs) is applied to five percent of students at universities, resulting in an overall 10 percent share of shorter programs at universities.

Brian Bech Nielsen, chairman of the Rector's Council in Danish Universities, says: "Shortening a significant portion of master's degree programs is a large and highly risky experiment. We need to gather experience with these new short programs before implementing them extensively across our educational system."

Lastly, Danish Universities propose limited enrollment management, ranging between 5 and 10 percent of university intake. Enrollment management is suggested based on the number of new students admitted to the university sector in 2021. Since the government introduced their proposal, universities have repeatedly emphasized that reducing spots is an alternative to shorter university programs. However, it is worth noting that the unemployment rate among academics is only 3.3 percent, the lowest level since 2008, and there is already a significant shortage of graduates in various university disciplines.

With these various measures, the rectors arrive at an economic bottom line that aligns with the government's proposal.

Brian Bech Nielsen, chairman of the Rector's Council in Danish Universities, says: "With our proposal, we outline a path towards a sustainable reform that provides both revenue and job opportunities on par with the government's proposal but does not entail the major risks involved in the government's extensive restructuring of education."

Read the full proposal (Danish only)