Educational reform in Denmark: more cons than pros…

Danish educators and academics are worried about the new coalition government’s plan aimed at reforming higher education system, generally, by prioritizing the needs of a modernized labour market and socio-economic transformations. However, some popular disagreements have been also heavily voiced…

Analysing educational reform in the EU member states needs at least a short preliminary comment. Of course, it’s good that the EU states are trying to adapt existing education systems to modern challenges, but it is to be remembered that “education and culture” –according to the EU law- is in the states’ competence. However, it’s not that simple: the EU institutions (mainly the Commission) provide valuable recommendations to the states concerning most vital directions and components of national education policies.
Besides, any reform in any state shall be oriented towards existing and future challenges and growth perspectives, at least through a decade period. These challenges, as a rule, serve as a “uniting” factor in formulation some common approaches in education policies towards urgent national priorities.
See more in: Eteris E., Sparitis O. Modern Educational Revolution: Challenges and Solutions. – LAP, 2022.-144 pp. In:
Book’s version in seven languages in:

On top of this, a recently published WEF’s Global Risks Report (2022-23), “refreshed” the main identified risks concerning the increasing cost-of-living and other short-term risks to the economy. These risks are familiar to national governance: e.g. in economic sector (inflation, slowed growth, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest and geopolitical confrontation, etc. Among so-called “old challenges” are also those connected to decision-making and education policy, such as digitalisation, circular growth, energy, transport, sustainability, and so on…
Among some new “global development trends and risks” are the following: unsustainable levels of debt, low global investment and de-globalization, a decline in human development after decades of progress, rapid and unconstrained development of dual-use (civilian and military) technologies, and a growing pressure of climate change impacts and ambitions in an ever-shrinking transition efforts to 1.5°C level.
Besides, “biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse” is viewed as a fastest deteriorating global risk over the next decade, coped with numerous environmental risks. Among top ten rankings (both in the short and long term period) are: “geo-economics confrontation”, “natural resource crisis” and “erosion of social cohesion and societal polarisation”, alongside two new “entrants”, i.e. “widespread cybercrime/cyber insecurity” and “large-scale involuntary migration”.


So, the global community’s professional opinion is that if educational reforms are to help national economies and societies in tackling the existing and emerging crises, they have to be progressive and oriented to solve main challenges; of course with the support of academic and research community.

Pros and cons in the Danish reform
In presenting the reform package, the Danish Prime Minister, M. Frederiksen noted, for example, that a revised education policy “will invest more in business education: hence, the so-called welfare education (teachers, nurses, social workers and pedagogical staff) will be concentrated in big cities, and the masters degrees will be reduced to one year (instead of existing two), while more resources will be used in teaching and supervision”.
There are the following main elements in higher education reform:
= Establishing 500 to 1,000 new study places in English-taught, business-relevant masters’ degrees economy sectors with a deficit of skills and experienced workforce.
= Making a profound analysis of main higher education institutions in Denmark in order to “better match” existing demand in the workforce.
= Suggesting a better ways of the “merits from work” contributing to academic competence.
= Establishing new flexible paths at universities so that half of graduates can complete master’s degree in one year.
= Better lifelong learning options for a one-year master’s degree.
= Active participation of country’s universities, industries, businesses and students in the reforms’ implementation that first “experienced graduates” can already appear in 2029.
= Future-secured government funding system, e.g. through state student grants, to that “new education” shall be completed during five years of full-time studies, instead of existing six.
= Seeking an increase in international students in certain economy’s sectors with a serious lack of qualified workforce and skills.
Source and reference to:

Education as a national priority
J. P. Myklebust in his article in the University World News “Is higher education set to become an economic handmaiden?” published on 8 January 2023, underlined some critical points in the announced reform (by revealing opinions of education community) and “uncovered” some vital issues of “rising” education to high levels of national socio-economic development.
Thus, at least three Myklebust’s points are vital to mention concerning Danish reforms’ pros and cons; thus some critical noted from the Danish academic and educational community includes:
a) that the proposal to reduce the length of getting a university degree to four years (from five at present) involves risks of “lower quality and poorer university graduates in the future” (argued Jesper Langergaard, director of Universities Denmark). Besides, he said, research “is almost absent” from the reform package with “substantial budget cuts in the humanities, social sciences and business education”.
The reduction in the study time by 50 percent for masters’ programs was a “huge loss for society”, said president of the Danish academic labour union (DM, the Danish Association of masters and PhDs), Camilla Gregersen. She also believed that the SU system should be preserved to maintain flexibility in the education system.
b) the government’s reform “makes it clear that the government treats higher and further education as the handmaiden of industrial innovation and a competitive economy, as the reform’s part on education focuses almost entirely on the needs of the labour market”, argued prof. Susan Wright, co-director of the Centre for Higher Education Futures (CHEF) at Aarhus University.
She noted that while it is “crucially important that graduates gain employment, education also has its own purpose, not least enabling people to get excited about exploring existing ideas and developing new ones, following a thirst for knowledge, and equipping them with the critical thinking needed to analyse what is happening in the world and the ability to conceive and act on alternatives”. She added that “these abilities were valuable for employees”, but also for engaging with all other aspects of society and democracy; this understanding of education as a valuable domain in itself is missing from current political discourse” she concluded.
c) some suggested that the educational reform would make Denmark poorer: the country “should invest in what it is dependent upon to be able to keep up the welfare and affluence in society, and not reducing productivity”, argued Lisbeth Lintz, president of Akademikern, the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations.
d) Students Union representatives are of the opinion that “choosing to cut the SU and cut the time for the masters degree, is not comprehensible”. Julie Lindmann, chair of the National Union of Students (with a membership of 165,000 students), said that “new government is attacking students hard”. “We are concerned because when too many young people are unhappy, we need politicians who understand that the straight path through the education system is not for everyone,” said Lindmann.
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