If you are studying a higher education, or you are about to study a higher education, then it probably hasn’t passed you by that the protests around the country have begun. But it can be difficult to navigate your way through what the relocation of the studies really means to your future. Are the politicians as unsympathetic as the protests suggest they are? Or does this regionalization plan really have a point that is beneficial to the future of the Danish education system? In this, slightly different, blog post, we try to create an overview of the Student Uprising ’22.
Let’s start by uncovering what political agreement has set the student uprising in motion. On the 25th of June 2021, the parties at Christiansborg (with the exception of the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Liberal Alliance) entered into a broad agreement in the field of education. The agreement is called ‘More and better educational opportunities throughout Denmark’, which at first glance seems to be a positive development of the Danish education system. The point, that has since become the focal point of the protests, is that some of the studies located in the four largest cities must be moved to the smaller cities, in order to increase the number of students taking a higher education.
Specifically, the universities in the country’s four largest cities have been asked to relocate or downsize 5-10% of their programs by 2030. And it is precisely the possibility of ‘relocating or downscaling‘ that has resulted in the country’s students merging and getting ready for battle.
MSc in Business Administration and Philosophy
Cand. Soc. Politisk Kommunikation og Ledelse
MSc Soc – Management of Creative Business Processes
MA International Business Communication
When, who and how?
The students at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) were the first to call to action. Six of their educations were threatened with closure. CBS chose to solve the problem of the agreement by scaling down, rather than relocating the 5-10% of study places, corresponding to approximately 600 fewer enrolments. This led to the students blocking the management corridor on the 17th of November 2021. They even wrote an open letter to the management on November 26th. Here, they had collected over 2000 signatures which supported the Student Uprising at CBS. They believed that the studies threatened with closure were chosen, among other things, on the basis of unreliable data and gender bias. Speaking of which, the students at CBS managed to save two out of the six programs threatened with closure.
Students at other universities around the country quickly realized that a pattern was emerging. Universities are downsizing study places rather than relocating them. But who is really to blame for this? Is it the politicians, who make unreasonable demands towards the universities? Or are the universities too rigid in their way of resolving the conflict?
The Student Uprising’s position on the agreement
The student uprising is, as you know, strongly against this agreement on the regionalisation of higher education. They believe that the consequence of this plan results in fewer enrolments in the big cities and empty or not professionally sufficient studies in the provinces. They call the agreement “a cover for closure” and claim that 5488 fewer students will start at a university annually, and that 12 studies will close permanently without re-emerging elsewhere in the country. The students also stress that the agreement is not necessary at all. Here, they highlight a study conducted by the Kraks Fond Byforskning from 2015, which points out that students’ choice to take a higher education is based on their parents’ level of education and thus not the distance to their dream study.
Although the government and the other parties in this agreement have allocated DKK 210 million for a special 2030 development pool, the students believe that it is a crude underfunding. Therefore, their anger is directed at the politicians as the universities rightly do not have the resources to relocate the 5-10% study places. On the 12th of January 2022, they therefore protested in front of Christiansborg and other places in the country with protest signs that read: “Then move yourself!”, “ Preserve the Synergy ”,“ Dear Politicians, where did you study yourself? ”. This date marked the day on which the universities had to notify the Ministry of Education and Research which studies they would close or relocate.
Overview of study reductions at KU
Humanities = 40%
Science = 30%
Health and Medical Sciences = 16%
Social Sciences = 11%
Theology = 2,5%
But as previously mentioned, two parties in parliament are not part of this agreement. Namely, the Danish Social Liberal Party and the Liberal Alliance. Katrine Robsøe, who is the education spokesperson for the Danish Social Liberal Party, isn’t in doubt about which side she agrees with. She told Uniavisen:
It is so irresponsible. There is no one at the negotiating table who can claim that they were not warned. But they have chosen not to listen.
Does the agreement even make sense?
The politicians’ motivation for making the deal stems from some concerns about the education system of the future as well as the future labor market. The number of young people will decrease in the future, and as there are fewer people to fill the same supply, some universities will simply be left empty in the provinces – this implies that the trend of applying to study in the big cities continue. In addition, the agreeing parties believe that the creation of studies in the local areas will help to contribute to more students staying in their hometown and not settling in the big cities. This will benefit the growth, productivity and prosperity of the local communities and will ultimately create a more equal Denmark. In addition, a greater supply of education in the provinces will increase the number of people taking a higher education, the parties predict.
The agreeing parties are also saddened by the current outcome of the agreement. Victoria Velasquez, education spokesperson from the Red-Green Alliance, believes that it is a breach of the agreement when universities choose to scale down studies rather than relocate them. The University of Copenhagen (KU), in particular, is facing sharp criticism, as they have, so far, chosen to cut studies resulting in the humanities studies losing a quarter of all admissions until 2030. Velasquez writes to Uniavisen that:
We have, for example, agreed that there must continue to be diversity and diffusion in educational offerings, not just a rigid focus on employment, and this is not connected with the fact that the proposal would in practice slaughter the humanities studies
The agreeing parties are not the only ones who believe that the universities are using the agreement to win pity in the press. Henrik Dahl from the Liberal Alliance says to Uniavisen that:
The universities come up with very far-reaching proposals and implement the agreement in a way that really hurts, because then they are sure that there will be a reaction on Christiansborg.
So, who’s right?
Well, there is no definite conclusion. In politics, there are pros and cons to agreements, and not everyone can be satisfied. Politicians have been too one-sided with their plan and do not seem to have involved the parties who are affected by it – neither in the planning process or the economic process. On the other hand, universities are somewhat reluctant to compromise. At least one thing is for sure – closing down so many studies and enrolments, without an alternative, is not a sustainable solution. This will be everyone’s loss.