Universities blast reform delays

University of Copenhagen and DTU among the universities unhappy with reform delays

The government’s decision to postpone implementing university reform aimed at pushing students through their studies faster has come under fire from the universities.

According to the University of Copenhagen (KU) and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the delay will have no effect.

“The negotiations have in reality not been re-initiated. The current students have been given some breathing space, but the new students and the universities have not,” Lykke Friis, KU's prorector for education, told Politiken newspaper. “The financial framework of the reform has not been postponed by a year so the problems have only been pushed ahead to future students and university administration.”

READ MORE: Government agrees to delay university reform

Finish quicker with more exams
The reform, which resulted in mass student demonstrations last month and which universities themselves oppose, seeks to set minimum requirements for the number of courses students must be enrolled in each year.

The reform is expected to reduce the average time students spend in university by 4.3 months by 2020. Should the universities be unable to comply with the government's aims, they will suffer financially via reduced state subsidies.

The reform was due to take effect in September, but the higher education minister, Morten Østergaard (R), said he asked parliament to postpone implementation to early 2015 after it became apparent universities would not be ready.

READ MORE: University reform to be delayed

Postponement changes nothing
In their hearing statements, the universities criticised the increased administration that the reform will generate and they also contended that the time frame for its implementation was unrealistic.

“Many people are under the impression that we’ll have more time and that’s not the case,” Friis said. “From next year we must ‘forcibly enrol’ new students and we have to help current students adapt to the changes that will come in a year’s time.”

Claus Nielsen, the head of DTU, agreed and added that the new rules that insist that all students enrol in courses and for exams totalling 60 ECTS points a year will risk pushing many students out of their studies.

“The delay means absolutely nothing because the issues are still present. You put the students under massive pressure early on,” Nielsen told Politiken. “It’s not the top students who suffer, but we are afraid for the students who, for whatever reason, need more time to finish studying and may lose courage and succumb to the new rules. So we think there’ll be more drop outs in the future, to the detriment of society."

READ MORE: Students blockade Copenhagen University over proposals to speed up studies

Do as I say, not what I did
Enhedslisten, which along with Liberal Alliance were the only parties to not support the reform, wonder why the politicians didn’t make more changes to the reform now that they’ve decided to postpone it for a year.

“It’s a bit odd to delay something for a year only to implement the exact same thing,” Rosa Lund, Enhedslisten’s spokesperson for education, told Politiken. “Why is it that the reform is such a bad idea to implement today, but brilliant in a year? We don’t understand that.”

Meanwhile, Østergaard, who himself took nine years to finish his political science degree at Aarhus University, said that the reform would have helped him during his student days.

“I am convinced that a reform would have made me a better student, and it must be said that I was delayed because I worked full-time during my masters,” Østergaard told the University of Copenhagen’s newspaper, Uniavisen. “But I’m sure I would have written a much better thesis if I had done it full-time instead of doing it over a period of two years during vacations and in my spare time.”