Day of reckoning for student hopefuls

Record numbers of students applied to university and college this year, though thousands didn’t have the grades to get into any of their preferred programmes

Tens of thousands of apprehensive applicants discovered today whether they will be starting at university or vocational college this autumn.

A majority can rest easy – of the 80,000 that applied for further education this year, a record 60,437 were accepted – a six percent increase on 2011.

However, 18,000 will have to delay their educational ambitions by another year, either because their grades were not high enough or because they weren’t sufficiently qualified for the programme they applied for.

The record number of further education applicants has led the minimum marks required for acceptance to some programmes to skyrocket. There were 52 courses this year needing an average of at least nine (out of a possible 12) this year, against 29 programmes in 2009.

The most difficult programme to be accepted into this year was molecular biomedicine at the University of Copenhagen, which required an 11.7 average, up from 9.8 in 2009 – 55 of the 351 applicants made the grade.

Entry requirements for medicine at the University of Copenhagen also increased significantly from 10.3 in 2009 to 10.9 this year, with 563 of the 2,609 applicants receiving letters of acceptance.

Several causes were given both to the increase in entry requirements, including the change of the grading system from a 13 point system to a 12 point system.

Students applying no more than two years after finishing gymnasium can also multiply their average by 1.08 as an incentive to get young people to complete their studies sooner, which was also given as a reason for the rising entry requirements.

The increasing numbers of students fits with the government’s goal of having 60 percent of school leavers complete a further education programme by 2020. Further education is not limited to academic pursuits at university, however, and also includes vocational programmes and job training.

But many have criticised the government’s plans. Among them the Danish students’ union, DSF, which is concerned that increasing numbers of students will only weaken the standard of education.

“The status at universities today is that they are coming close to breaking the law in terms of relevance and quality because not enough of the programmes are research-based,” Torben Holm, DSF’s chairman, told the Ritzau news bureau. “I think the government needs to slow the increase in places and rather focus on the content of the courses.”

The government has also been criticised for pursuing its plan at a time of record unemployment among graduates.

But the education minister, Morten Østergaard (Radikale), argued in Politiken newspaper today that higher levels of education will only benefit Denmark.

“The raising of educational levels is considered by many opinion shapers as leading to over-education because unemployment is high and graduates are being hired in positions other than what they traditionally have been,” Østergaard wrote. “This is a misconstrual of the facts.”

Østergaard added that unemployment among Danes that have completed further education is lower than it is for unskilled Danes and those that only completed secondary school.

“The answer to unemployment among new graduates is not to educate fewer but to better equip them to work and to also use them to create the conditions for creating jobs that will create jobs.”

Some 8,540 applicants missed out on starting further education this year because their grades were not good enough, leading the education spokesperson for the far-left Enhedslisten, Rosa Lund, to urge the government to create more places for prospective students.

Her demand was immediately turned down by MP Ramsus Prehn (Socialdemokraterne).

"It would be hard to accept more students when we are already stretched as it is," Prehn told Politiken. "Educational institutions also have to be able set a minimum standard for acceptance."

Only 26 percent of the 27,889 applicants to the University of Copenhagen, or 7,286 applicants, were accepted this year.

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