Universities limiting enrolment despite rising number of applicants

Demand will far outpace the supply this year as universities slow down the expansion they experienced over the past few years

Danish universities are not expanding their capacity to cater to a record number of applicants according to Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

The University of Copenhagen has increased the size of its student body by around 800 students over the last two years, but the trend will not continue.

“We are only slightly increasing the number of students this year by around 40 extra places,” the university's head of studies, Claus Nielsen, told Jyllands-Posten. “We think we have increased the number sufficiently over the past few years and we need to take into account the fact that students need to find work once they are done and that we need to give them a qualified education.”

The government wants 60 percent of the nation's young people to complete further education after finishing upper-secondary school and 25 percent to complete a five-year university education.

Both the number of applicants and those accepted to the nation's universities have risen over the past few years, both because students have applied to a wider field of studies than before and because capacity at the schools has increased.

Mette Thunø, the dean of education at the University of Aarhus, said that her school's strategy is not to increase its student body further.

“With the limited facilities and staff numbers we have, we cannot increase the enrolment numbers except for those study programmes which are not yet full,” Thunø told Jyllands-Posten. “Our focus is to increase the quality of education instead of simply accepting more students. But we also take into account the likelihood of students finding work, which is why we do not accept more students in some subjects where we could, such as history.”

Jens Oddershede, the chairman of the university rectors' union, expects a small increase in the number of university students enrolled this year as students apply to study subjects that had availability last year, such as science and engineering.

“Universities are cautious about increasing capacity as their expenses are only partially covered by the accompanying subsidies,” he told Jyllands-Posten. “[Taking on more students] does not result in more money for research or allow us to employ more researchers to teach.”

The University of Aalborg has increased its capacity by more than 100 percent over the past five years. Enrolment increased by 20 percent in 2012 alone, increasing total student numbers by 5,000.

The number of applicants rose by 16 percent this year but the university has decided to limit the number of students enrolling in its eight most popular study programmes.

“We can no longer finance the expansion,” the university's rector, Finn Kjærsdam, told Jyllands-Posten. “And it’s sad because I see our task as lifting the level of education in Denmark and especially in our part of the country.”

A total of 88,078 people applied for further education this year, a 7,312 increase on last year’s record number. Applicants will find out if they have been accepted on July 30.

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