Opposition: Fees could improve education

Fees could improve the quality of education and encourage students to choose studies that are more likely to result in employment the opposition argues

The opposition has united to demand that the government look into the possibility of making students pay for their further education.

According to Berlingske newspaper, the four opposition parties, led by Venstre, want to establish a commission to examine the possibility of introducing fees as “an incentive to change student behaviour toward choosing educations with better employment outlooks”.

“You’d have to be blind not to see that fees create a positive incentive structure,” Venstre further education spokesperson Esben Lunde Hansen said. “Of course there is a risk that introducing fees could hurt some groups, but it could also ensure that students finish faster and are more focused.”

The government earlier this year completed a reform of the SU student grant system that was designed to find savings by encouraging students to complete their further education more quickly.

Danes and some EU residents are entitled to six years of SU payments, as well as free tuition, resulting in a generous system that Hansen argues should be the subject of discussion.

“We need to end the taboo of not talking about fees. We have the EU’s most lucrative education benefits. This has some incredibly good effects but also some pitfalls. As a society we need to have an unprejudiced debate about it.”

Liberal Alliance, Dansk Folkeparti and Konservative all supported Venstre’s proposal, as did business lobby group Dansk Industri.

“Our education system is not sustainable,” Dansk Industri spokesperson Charlotte Rønhoff told Berlingske. “There are some major problems including the fact that new graduates do not have the educations businesses need, and that can be blamed on the free choice of education. We can keep this system, but we also need to introduce incentives, such as fees, that can create the necessary behavioural change.”

Further education minister Morten Østergaard (Radikale) welcomed the debate, but would not guarantee that anything would come of the opposition’s proposal.

“I have no idea how fees are supposed to improve the quality of our further education system,” Østergaard told Berlingske. “For us it is absolutely fundamental that there is free and equal access to education and that a person’s wallet in no way plays a role.”

The opposition called for the commission to examine the drawbacks and benefits of fees, such as how any savings could be used to improve the quality of education.