University students overlook studying in eastern Europe

While hundreds of Norwegians and Swedes head to eastern Europe to study, just a handful of Danish students do

Unlike their Nordic neighbours, Danish students who didn’t get into their dream study at home are passing up on the opportunity to apply for places in English-language courses in eastern European countries.

Only 35 Danes studied last year in Poland, the Czech Republic or Hungary while 2,569 Norwegians, 1,809 Swedes and 106 Icelandic students did, according to Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

According to Mia Eskelund, the deputy chairman of Danish Students Abroad, these statistics demonstrate a missed opportunity.

“It’s enormously sad that almost no Danes have noticed the selection of education available at eastern European universities, and they are missing out on some fantastic opportunities to experience and make a connection to a foreign culture,” Eskelund told Jyllands-Posten. “Danish students generally know very little about the opportunities of taking their full educations abroad.”

Go east
Thousands of students did not get accepted into a range of popular studies in Denmark including medicine, psychology and physiotherapy, which are all taught in English at eastern European universities.

Danish students might be put off by the cost, however – a medicine degree can cost upward of 75,000 kroner a year abroad – and whether their foreign education will be treated as highly as a Danish education upon their return.

The higher education minister, Morten Østergaard (Radikale), wants more Danes to study and complete their entire university education abroad, and argues that Danes are missing out by overlooking eastern Europe.

“That so many like-minded Nordic students choose eastern Europe is a stamp of approval,” Østergaard told Jyllands-Posten, adding that the government would focus on promoting eastern Europe as a university destination in the future.

Exchange support cut
But students in upper-secondary school are not being encouraged to look abroad, however, after the government proposed dropping economic support for those participating in exchange programmes.

Around 1,000 students under the age of 18 take a year of school abroad, typically in an American high school, and receive around 10,000 kroner in economic support from the government to do so.

The decision to drop the support has led critics to accuse the government of backtracking on its ambition of ensuring that more young people have international experiences, while also limiting the exchange programme to society’s most wealthy.